Leaders of Indian Empires
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
August 2018

As with our other Gunpowder Strategy games, play of Indian Empires revolves around proper use of leaders. With smaller armies in play than in the European version, Soldier Emperor, a general can make an enormous difference in battle. And the extra movement afforded by a general is also vital on the India map.

While most of Soldier Emperor’s leaders are probably at least somewhat familiar to those familiar with European military history, it’s doubtful many gamers know about those in Indian Empires. Here we take a look at some of the more colorful personalities of that game.


The sepoy general himself, the future Duke of Wellington went out to India in 1796 as Col. Arthur Wesley of the 33rd Regiment of Foot. When his brother Richard acquired three extra letters for their name and the governor-generalship of British India, Arthur’s star rose as well.

Eyre Coote

The elder Eyre Coote served in India from 1754, playing a key role at Plassey in the Seven Years’ War. In 1770 he became commander-in-chief in India but came home almost immediately after a personal dispute with one of his generals; he returned to the post in 1777. He defeated Haidar Ali of Mysore in several battles, but was forced from the field by poor health. Coote was a noted military eccentric, mentioning Indian sepoys and British private soldiers in dispatches, behavior considered scandalous by the British upper classes.

His nephew, also named Eyre Coote, did not serve in India but held commands in Holland in 1799 and Egypt in 1800. He later became Governor-General of Jamaica and is claimed as an ancestor by the American diplomat Colin Powell, and holds the distinction as the only member ever permanently expelled from the Order of the Bath (for molesting young boys).

Left: The first Sir Eyre Coote,
by Henry Robert Morland.
National Portrait Gallery.


Madhav Rao Narayan,
Maharaja Scindia,
Maratha Warlord

A “dynastic” rather than individual leader piece, this represents two men who headed the Scindia clan of the Marathas.

Madhav Rao Narayan, Maharaja Scindia of Gwalior, first came to prominence fighting the Afghans at Panipat in 1761, when he was 34. He seized Gwalior in 1768 and greatly expanded his clan’s influence in the Maratha Confederacy. Greatly impressed by his experience in the Seven Years’ War, he imported European officers, drillmasters and arms to modernize his forces.

In 1792 he conquered Delhi and made the Mogul Emperor his puppet. Despite nine wives, he found none of his sons satisfactory as heirs and instead adopted his great-nephew, Daulat Rao Scindia Bahadur, who succeeded him upon his death in 1794.

The younger Scindia oversaw the destruction of Maratha power and subordination to the English, despite stout resistance.


Pierre Cuillier deserted from a French frigate in 1780 and spent the next decade as a soldier of fortune in upper India. By 1790, he’d risen to prominence as commander of the second brigade of De Boigne’s Maratha corps, and taken the nom de guerre of Perron. He played a key role in the victory of Kardla over Hyderabad, and commanded Maratha forces at Malpura against the Rajputs. But he deserted Scindia in 1803 and returned to France a rich man.

Madhav Rao

Peshwa (Chief Warlord) of the Marathas, not to be confused with the similarly-named Madhav Rao Scindia. The first Madhav Rao represented by the counter became Peshwa after his brother was killed in action at Panipat in 1761 and his father died of grief. Madhav Rao defeated both Hyderabad and Mysore, but died in 1772 at age 27.

Madhav Rao receives British supplicants

Maratha vs. Afghan
at Panipat, 1761

The counter also represents the later Peshwa, Sawai Madhav Rao, who took office as a small child in 1775 and would in turn die young, but prove a capable leader before his premature end in 1795. During his minority, the capable Nana Phadnis led the Marathas to victory over the British in 1784 and is also represented by this piece.


A title rather than a name, this counter usually represents the wily Nizam Ali Khan, ruler of Hyderabad. The fourth son of the dynasty’s founder, the Nizam-ul-Mulk, Ali Khan skillfully guided his kingdom through a bewildering patchwork of war and alliance with the British, French, Marathas and Mysore. He died in 1803 and was followed by his son, Akbar Ali Khan Sikander Jah. The Nizam dynasty kept Hyderabad’s semi-independence through the 1857 Sepoy Rebellion and into the 20th century. In 1947 the last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, declared Hyderabad independent of the new India and soon saw his “Army of Allah” crushed by the Indian Army’s 1st Armored Division.

Tippoo Sultan

The forward-looking Sultan of Mysore, brilliant son of Haidar Ali. Born 1750 or 1753, and succeeded on his father’s death. Tippoo (sometimes rendered Tipu) sought to modernize Mysore and free India of foreign rule, but was killed by the British in 1799.


The Tiger of Mysore

Haidar Ali

Sometimes rendered Hyder Ali; a vigorous former Naik (general) of Mysore who overthrew Mysore’s ruler Krishnaraja Wodeyar II and worked to convert Mysore into a modern state capable of standing up to the Europeans. After his death, his son Tippoo took up the cause.


Admiral Pierre-André de Suffren brought a naval squadron to Indian waters in 1781. Over the next 18 months he fought six naval battles against the British, helping force them to seek peace in the so-called “American War.” Suffren never lost a battle.

Suffren greets Haidar Ali of Mysore.
Color engraving by J.B. Morret,
Bibliothèque Nationale


Herman Willem Daendels arrived in Java on New Year’s Day 1808, determined to clean up what he saw as a corrupt and inefficient Dutch colonial government. He crushed the native princes and strengthened central rule, and fought off British invasion attempts. King Louis of Holland made him a Marshal and when Napoleon annexed the Netherlands in 1810, Daendels happily became French. Recalled to Europe in 1811, he served in the 1812 Russian campaign. He later died in Surinam, serving the new kingdom as colonial governor with equal zeal.

Daendels (center) during the 1795
Dutch Revolution; his defection to
the revolutionaries finished the
House of Orange

Zaman Shah

Emir of Afghanistan in the later 1700s, Zaman united the warring tribes into a temporarily united state. The thought of thousands of Afghan warriors pouring through the Khyber Pass terrified Indian princes. He defeated the Marathas at Panipat in 1761.

Ranjit Singh

The wily Ranjit Singh founded the powerful Sikh kingdom in the Punjab and imported modern weapons and experts to turn its army, or Khalsa, into the most efficient in Asia and one of the best in the world.

Lal Singh

Ranjit’s successor, Lal Singh proved indecisive on the battlefield, losing to Gough in repeated engagements in both Anglo-Sikh Wars despite numerical and qualitative advantages. Probably influenced by East India Company bribes, he left the battlefield more than once and later became a submissive client of the Company.

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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.