Sunday, 6 May 2012

Thoughts on rules.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about what I am looking for from my future Napoleonic wargames. I have now reached the point where I have sufficient figure bases painted for a small test game and I need to be clear in my mind as to the sort of game I want to play.

I'm not a Napoleonic purist, I'm not well read in the period and so I am not looking for a game that ties me to the minute details of Napoleonic warfare. I could say that my knowledge of the American Civil War in particular is based upon many years (30+) of dedicated research and reading along with several enjoyable years spent re enacting that period  as a member of the 42nd Pennsylvania 'Bucktails'. I could also say the same of the English Civil War, as I spent a couple of seasons with the Sealed Knot as a pikeman in the 'Blew' Regiment, London Trayned Bands. Both of these periods I also extensively wargamed, having some cracking games with fellow period enthusiasts. In both cases I eventually found a set of rules that were right for me, and fueled my enthusiasm for gaming the period. In the case of ACW it was Johnny Reb II, and in the case of ECW it was 'Forlorn Hope', both of which gave accurate representations of period warfare along with a fast moving and fun game.

So now I have to do the same for Napoleonics. Like many I started way back using John Tunstills 'Discover' sets of rules, then progressed through numerous other sets, but I too often found myself bogged down in overly complex sets that I simply could not get to grips with. I have found this in other periods too, for example I recall the 'Newbury' ACW set that were probably the worst example of this for me. I read and re read them, I even took them away on a weeks holiday on the Norfolk Broads, thinking I would return home with a good understanding of them, but try as I did the complexity of the rules defeated me! I gave up.

So now I have studied Polemos, and I think I have a good grasp of how they work but something about them does not grip me as I think it should. I've looked at so many sets of free rules in addition to the sets I have bought. But I keep on coming back to the set written and used by Paul Leniston. I know that they are the result of many, many years of gaming the period and development, and that they were influenced by Le Fea Sacre as Paul has said. I really enjoy reading his game write ups and they seem to flow very well with mechanisms that are not overly complex. I like them a lot and I have play tested them myself in the past and I enjoyed using them. The only possible downside, and I know others have said this too, is the use of small units to represent large troop formations. Just 8 x 28mm figure representing a Division for example is not for everyone. But the aim of Pauls game is to represent independent all arms 'Corps' maneuvering over large areas of terrain, which he does very successfully in my opinion. But is this just a question of approach, maybe the result of many years of being used to large battalions of 28mm figures that we find it difficult to accept small units representing large troop formations, or is it just a question of aesthetics? I was pondering all this as I walked my dog this morning, so I offer a few thoughts on how I might use the rules with 6mm bases.

What if I break out of the mindset of figure scale and instead approach it more from the ground scale point of view. One of my 60 x 60mm bases is just an area of ground occupied by troops and it does not really matter how many model soldiers are on that base, it could be 50 or 60, it could be just a single representative figure, indeed it could be merely a board game 'marker'. Infact there is absolutely no reason why one of my bases should not represent a brigade or even a division of troops , beyond  the traditional use of strict figure ratios  such as 1:33 1:50 1:100 etc. This goes against the 'modern' approach, but if 'I' am happy with it then why not? If I adopt Pauls approach with my 6mm bases, then 4 infantry bases, a cavalry base and an artillery battery base can represent a combined all arms Corps. Thus 4 Corps is represented on the table by 16 infantry bases, 4 cavalry bases and 4 artillery bases plus numerous command bases. I reckon that would give a great game, with plenty of bases to move around in this scale. The command structure is established, CinC issuing orders to Corps commanders who in turn issue orders to Division commanders by the use of 'Command points' based upon a D6 roll with basic modifiers for the quality of the Generals. Order of moves is decided by drawing cards or chips so is unpredictable, which I like. Different numbers of CP's are required according to the order issues, and Poor commanders require more CP's than good commanders. In combat, formations can fight skirmish actions before engaging in close combat volley firing or charging in for melee. Outcomes are based on simple results table and morale is dice based with good old fashioned modifiers. The game flows along nicely.

I'll leave it there for the time being as I have rambled on a bit already! But within the next week or so I am going to place a 'Corps' on the table and play an action under pauls rules, with a detailed move by move write up. In the meantime I will label the bottom of my bases and make some suitable discreet markers as the game requires.

Any thoughts or comments on the above so far are most welcome.


  1. Hi Lee - I've looked at Paul's blog from time to time but the small units just don't do it for me. I think though that you may have the right idea trying his rule concepts combined with a more visually satisfying display of figures. I personally have a bit of a problem with Napoleonic games that don't "look" Napoleonic, I like to see lines, columns and squares and this is a stumbling block when trying to represent units at higher than battalion level. That said though, you have to up scale if you want the feel of a large scale battle with multiple corps. The key to enjoyment for me in my 6mm ACW games is a good system of command & control although I think this is harder to achieve in a solo game. I'll be looking forward to your blow by blow account of the test game!


  2. Morning Ian :-)

    Yes, I think you have hit the nail on the head there, I can fully understand why most gamers should want to see lines, columns, squares etc when fighting Napoleonic battles with nicely painted figures in larger scales. Thats how I have always seen it with larger figures. But in using 6mm figures on square bases and thinking outside the box, breaking away from the traditional approach maybe we can get closer to the 'boardgame' system which I kind of like. I would still need to mark my bases when in square, while assuming that at other times they are in the standard battle formations for the army represented, ie shallow lines for Brits, deeper lines/columns for French etc. This cuts down an awful lot of time spent shuffling units into different formations When moving on roads, they are in March column etc. Same with casualties, as Paul begins with 8 figures I could record an 'combat strenght level' between 6 and 8 and mark casualties rather than remove them. In Pauls games a unit reduced to 5 or 6 figures does not really work for me.

    Anyway, lets see how the test game goes/looks in due course.


    1. Yes, I think if you could make some nice looking markers to place behind the units in square that could work. We use small cardboard "strength point" counters (liberated from an old SPI game) placed behind each brigade replaced with yellow ones for shaken units and red ones for broken units. Artillery ammo is tracked with tiny dice placed behind each battery. Strangely this does not interfere with the look of the thing for me but may not be to every ones liking.


  3. Thanks for that Ian, I've been giving some thought on to how to create markers. In due course I may even produce unit bases in square formation to replace those in line, all possible in 6mm of course! I'm going to experiment with markers this week and will order some casuatlies from Baccus.


  4. Why don't try Grande Armee from Sam Mustafa? It uses bases like the yours.
    It is now available from

  5. Hi Rafa,

    I have read a lot about Grande Armee and I have a copy of the 'fast play' version, I like them from reading through them at least. Just so many sets in this period to choose from and so many different approaches to recreating the warfare of the period. There was a recent thread on TMP that you may have seen where a guy asked for suggestions for a set of Napoleonic rules and the replies offering different opinions was staggering! I think I am slowly getting more focused on the type of game I'd like to play.

    Thank you for your thoughts,

  6. Rafa was faster than I off the mark in mentioning FPGA.

    I have also been examining the potential for 6mm armies, though I have a vision of mounting the minis into company formations, then assembling them onto magnetic or sheet steel with magnets (as I do with my current 25/28mm ones) so that the formations take on that linear or off-set linear look.

    I understand the Baccus infantry is 3/4" or about 19mm wide (frontage), is this accurate?


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