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Wargaming the Spanish Civil War with Bolt-action

¡Arriba España!


Inspired by the lovely figures and models from Empress Miniatures I embarked on a new lockdown project of collecting both sides for a Bolt Action Spanish Civil War. So far, the Rebels/Nationalists are now done and dusted and work is progressing on the Republicans. At the start of the project, I knew very little about the SCW but thankfully, Antony Beevor wrote an excellent book on this topic and there is a plethora of Osprey books on the same topic. I was surprised to learn that when four nationalist columns were advancing on Madrid, their leadership boasted on a “fifth” column, ready to rise up in the city as they approached – a phrase that has been used many times since. I was also surprised to learn that the Marquess of Bute (he of Caerphilly Castle restoration) sold all his freeholds in Cardiff to raise funds for the Nationalists. ( Standard Oil – now known as Esso, bank-rolling the treasury too! Editor)



The Nationalists were a real hodgepodge of groups; there were disgruntled officers from the armed forces, Bourbon Monarchists, Carlists (for a different branch of the Royal Family), orthodox Catholics and the Falange fascist groups. Through luck, help from overseas and a propensity for political opponents to die in air crashes Franco managed to unite these groups under his control to bring down the Republic. Bolt Action was our chosen set of rules. I found a useful set of lists online and set about building a list – based on leadership from the Spanish Foreign Legion.

The website allowed me to organise the following as a fairly representative force for the period.



Officer, sergeant and standard-bearer. All SFL Veterans. The SFL were based in Morocco and Franco (with help from the Luftwaffe) brought them over to SW Spain with the more effective units of the Spanish Army. This included large numbers of Moorish Colonial Troops whose exceptional field craft easily turned numerous Republican Militia positions on the road to Madrid.


First Squad above

Ten Legionnaires with LMG and SMG, rest rifles


Second Squad above

Twelve Falange Militia men, inexperienced, with rifles. The Falange political leader was executed by the Republicans at the start of the revolt; a power vacuum that Franco exploited.

Third Squad

Twelve Falange Militia men, inexperienced, with rifles.


Fourth Squad below

Twelve Civil Guards, with rifles and one SMG. Regular. The Civil Guards were the rural para-military police force that was really the tool of local landowners to supress dissent. The bulk of the Guards joined the rebellion. Their urban equivalent, the Assault Guards went the other way and largely supported the Republican Government



PAK 36 – free in this list. Much needed given the Republican superiority of Soviet armour.

HMG – Regular army Hotchkiss machine gun

Panzer I / Breda. Empress Miniatures supplied turrets for both options.


Why did the Nationalists Win?

They were more united that the “democratic” forces. Having the Army of Africa shipped over right at the start of the rebellion gave them a huge advantage, as the domestic army was ill prepared and riven from top to bottom. The German and Italian governments sent huge stocks of weapons, troops and advisors over to Spain, but their air forces were decisive, time and time again Republican forces were forced to operate under constant air attack. The Germans learnt some lessons from Spain, whereas Stalin had his advisors shot when they came home!

Thanks for reading

James ‘the Moor slayer’ Churchill

 Our thanks to James for this illuminating guide to the period. Those figures are truly awesome! Hopefully we can see them in action in the very near future! Editor


  1. Very nice minis and sounds like you’re enjoying the project! I’m lucky in that my long time wargaming opponent has boatloads of SCW figures in 20mm that he’s collected over the years, so I just need to turn up and play (OK, the “turn up and play” bit is a problem at the moment, but you know what I mean)! And you know you just want some Republican armoured lorries!

    Liked by 1 person

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