Saturday, 28 March 2015

Cavalry in Napoleonic Wargames



Throughout my long experience in Napoleonic wargaming (almost 50 years) I have always struggled with representing large bodies of cavalry.   I have used many rules over the years, both commercial and house rules, but have never really mastered how to use them.

I am well aware of the historical use of cavalry, particularly in the French army.   I know that the heavy cavalry, in particular, was grouped together in large bodies of divisions or even corps.   I have read many, many books about the use of cavalry on the battlefield.  Yet I have never been able to incorporate it into my wargames.

The rules I used over the years never really seemed to take cavalry tactics into account.   Or perhaps I was just reading them wrong.   Whatever the reason I have always used cavalry, but only in brigades or divisions.

In fact when I did my last reorganization of my wargame armies I deliberately reduced my numbers of cavalry.   In terms of model soldiers each of my armies has just 16 cavalry to 128 infantry.  

The above photo shows one of my Armies.  Each Army has four corps.   Each corps has four infantry and one cavalry brigades, plus corps artillery.   32 infantry figures and 4 cavalry figures.

The cavalry play a vital role, and the rules allow them to skirmish or attack.   But they represent corps cavalry only – not cavalry corps.

I am now playing with the idea of grouping two or more cavalry brigades to form a division, or even a corps.   I suspect that there would never be more than two brigades together.  This is because our table is wide enough for three corps side by side, with a fourth in reserve.   So it would make sense to combine the reserve corps cavalry and the forward corps which they support to provide an independent cavalry division.

I could well be opening a real can of worms.   I decided about ten years ago to replace all of my 25mm wargame figures with 28mm, mostly Front Rank.   I planned it all carefully, and the result has stood the test of time.   I painted my last figure about eight years ago, and since have wargamed with the planned orders of battle.

If I now find that I can use larger bodies of cavalry, the temptation would be to reorganize my orders of battle to include a cavalry corps with each army.   I could do so by removing the brigades from each corps.   But it would make more sense to leave one brigade of light cavalry with each corps, and add a corps of heavy cavalry to each army.

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