Goonhammer Historicals: Getting Started – the Mexican-American War Part Two

In our last article we looked at the history, politics, forces, and media related to the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. The war is often seen as just a training ground for officers of the American Civil War and a last hurrah for officers from the War of 1812, but as we said in the last article it was so much more than that – it changed the geography of North America immensely and made the sectional conflict over slavery in the USA much worse. It is also one of the last wars fought with flintlock smoothbore muskets and one of the first with modern mobile artillery.

This time we’re going to take a look at how to game the war, what minis to use, what terrain to use, and eventually – why is it compelling? Find more at Part One via the link below:

Goonhammer Historicals: Getting Started – the Mexican-American War Part One

How to Game the War

There are many rulesets available for the black powder era – I will split them between large skirmish and big ranked up battles. This is not meant to be the entire list of any rules that offer Mexican-American War options, just the ones I’ve found.

Mexican line troops hold the town. Credit: Michael O “mugginns”

Sharp Practice

We’ve talked at length about Sharp Practice by TooFatLardies on this site. It’s an amazing ruleset, easily my personal favorite of any wargame I’ve played. You can start with 60-80 minis total on the board – what TFL calls ‘large skirmish’. I love the activation style – using cards or chips to activate leaders semi-randomly, with resources you can use to activate or boost your troops. I also really like the size of the game – you don’t have to paint hundreds of minis before you hit the table.

There is a Mexican-American War specific supplement for version one of Sharp Practice (we’re on version two now) called So Far From God that still works for version two. I wouldn’t use the lists or v1 rules in it – I’d use the background, history, scenarios, and conflict specific special rules that you can apply down to scenarios. There is a version two force list available here.

Muskets and Tomahawks

M&T has been around for a long time, written by the studio that created SAGA, an enormously popular Dark Age / Arthurian / Crusade ruleset. It’s about the same size as Sharp Practice and offers much of the same in terms of activation, with cards that you can use to activate units based on what cards they are. There are currently supplements for Redcoats & Tomahawks – covering the French and Indian War, Revolutionary War, and War of 1812. There is also Shakos & Bayonets, a Napoleonic Wars supplement.

Mexican light infantry move up to take shots at the advancing regulars. Credit: Michael O “mugginns”

While neither of these are specific to the Mexican-American War, I think you could use 1812 Americans for sure and perhaps use the French army from the Napoleonic supplement as a shell, giving them some different special rules. I think if you try the ruleset and really like it you could create a list.

Black Powder

Warlord Games’ big battalion ruleset that we’ve talked about before at Goonhammer – as far as I know there isn’t a specific list for Mexican-American War, but you could likely figure it out using ACW / Napoleonic lists. With Black Powder you’d be using brigades of infantry, cavalry, and artillery – lots more models than the previous two games.

The thing to know about Black Powder is that it’s fairly basic, focused on brigades taking orders from their leaders and either doing what you want them to or not. Firing and combat are fairly easy to learn. The rulebooks are beautiful.

Blood & Steel

Based on the excellent Blood & Plunder rules system, this rulebook includes force lists for the Mexican-American War with some excellent special rules differentiating the units.

Other Big Battalion Games

I haven’t played these rulesets or really researched them – but they come highly recommended on some sites. Santa Anna Rules is available on WargameVault and Gone to See the Elephant is available at The Virtual Armchair General. I haven’t tried GTSTE rules but I have read through the rulebook and there is a lot of great supplementary info such as campaign settings, uniforms, etc.

The Mexican overall commander leads his troops from behind a building. Credit: Michael O “mugginns”

What Miniatures are Available?

Fortunately the Mexican-American War has been gamed for so long with all the interest in how ACW leaders started their careers that there are tons of miniatures available. There are also a lot of Alamo / Texas Revolution minis out there that can be used if you choose the right ones. I might miss some – if you see something missing let me know in the comments and I’ll add them in!


Good Ground Miniatures produces pretty much everything you’d need in pewter minis to run a game at 10mm. The line is called So Far From God miniatures. If my math is right they’re 38 cents a mini.

10mm Mexican infantry from Good Ground Miniatures.


Old Glory produces another comprehensive line of 15mm minis that look very well sculpted. Again these are pewter minis that you’d likely base three or four to a base for a big battalion game. These are 67 cents a mini but if you join their Army discount club ($50 a year) you get 40% off – if you buy an entire army it’ll save a bunch.

15mm American Officers from Old Glory Miniatures.


Eureka has a line of (again, comprehensive) 18mm minis for Mexican-American War that are extremely nicely sculpted. I like that they went for some of the more niche minis too, like US sailors, Texas Rangers, Dragoon dismounts, and Mexican mounted rifles.

18mm Americans for the Mexican-American War from Eureka Miniatures. Credit: Andrew Frantz


Old Glory also produces a 25mm line that includes everything you’d need to do a game. I’d recommend these for Sharp Practice or M&T at least to start; the smaller scales are easier to get on the table for big battalion games. These are around $1.35 a mini but again if you’re buying an entire force you can get their Club discount and likely come out ahead. You can check out their page for photos.


Company D Miniatures produces a smaller line of miniatures that you could definitely use for something like Sharp Practice – choosing a few units to paint and play with as opposed to an entire army – they’re about $2.12 a mini.

American infantry for Mexican-American War from Company D Miniatures.

One of the most comprehensive ranges of all posted, 1st Corps has a huge number of minis available for this conflict. Almost all of my minis are 1st Corps minis – I like them a lot. In the USA they’re available from Scale Creep Miniatures, in the UK from 1st Corps themselves. They have specific packs available for Sharp Practice that definitely help you get started. If you get a supplemental pack they’re about $1.75 a mini – if you get a Sharp Practice force they’re about $1 a mini including cavalry, but you have to pay for shipping from UK.

Mexican Light Infantry from 1st Corps, painted by Mugginns.

Boot Hill (now owned by Brigade Games USA) makes some of the best sculpted minis in the business – unfortunately for us they’re Alamo minis. The Mexican infantry will work, though. They’re gorgeous and cost about $2.35 a mini.

Mexican infantry from Boot Hill Miniatures.

What Terrain Should I Get?

I would start with a battle mat, something scrubby / plains sandy in your chosen size. After that, you need brush (chapparal) scatter and trees – for this project, I had my trees 3D printed to try something different. I was tired of the foliage ones falling apart. Some rivers or streams would definitely work, which you might already have. Make sure to match your basing schemes with your mat and tree bases etc.

28mm pre-painted terrain from Empires at War.

I chose to set my games in or on the outskirts of towns so I have purchased a bunch of buildings. There are a lot of available options, since so many companies make buildings for Spain / Italy for Napoleonics. Personally I would suggest:

Why is the Mexican-American War Compelling?

Overall, I think the best part about starting a new hobby project like this is just doing all the reading and learning about the forces involved. I already knew a decent amount about the US forces involved but next to nothing about the Mexican forces involved. A lot of the American sources of information that most people see is biased toward America; actually reading first person accounts and historian written books about the conflict really informs you as to what really happened. There is a lot to learn here that isn’t really a part of our national knowledge, especially when it comes from Spanish-speaking sources.

Regulars in line by 1st Corps. Credit: Michael O “Mugginns”

I like it as a Sharp Practice game as it’s somewhat asymmetric but not entirely; there will likely be more Mexican infantry on the board, but not something like 3 to 1 or 4 to 1. As devoted as the Mexican soldiers were, their equipment, powder, and leadership were terrible.

The main other thing that makes the conflict interesting are the visuals. It’s a much different climate from something like the Civil War, and the uniforms are much gaudier – especially on the Mexican side, where they were mirroring French Napoleonic uniforms. I love the US regular uniforms – plain as they are – because the forage caps really slap.

All of this has really piqued my interest hard on the history of Mexico, especially in the 1800s. It’s very likely I’ll be doing a 2nd French Intervention in Mexico game in the near future using a lot of the same terrain but a ton of different models.

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