Sunday, 4 June 2023

Wargame Rules Review – First Wargame

Start of wargame


The only way to really test the rules is to play a full length wargame.


The two armies started off 18” apart; this was well out of maximum artillery range which is 12”.


Counter artillery fire should have been ineffective, as the firer needs a roll of 6 on 1D6.   12 pounder guns add plus 1, 6 pounder guns minus 1.   Two of the three Russian guns are 12 pdr, so they had a considerable advantage.   They put it to good use by causing 3 casualties to the French gunners.   This allowed the Russian guns to dominate the game.

In the north the Russian gunners prevented a frontal attack by the Polish corps.  Instead they had to concentrate on the farm, and failed to take it by nightfall

In the centre the French cavalry won the opening melee and allowed their infantry to take the woods and break the Russian centre.   We tested skirmish, musket and infantry melee rules, all worked well.   All gave a much faster and cleaner out come.

In the south the Vistula lancers lost their melee, but their artillery drove off the Russian cuirassiers.   The artillery was ineffective on the woods, and the fighting was mostly infantry skirmish and melee.  Again the rules worked well.

By the end of move 8 the Russians had lost 12 infantry and 4 cavalry, and five brigades were in rout.   The French had lost 2 infantry, 2 cavalry and 3 artillery casualties and had one brigade in rout.

With four moves still to go the French had clearly won the battle.   The Russians still held their right flank and the town.   But they had lost their centre and left flank.

It is still early days, but I am very pleased with this first game using the new rules.   They are much easier to remember, having only 1D2 instead of 2D6.   This does give extreme results with 1 or 6, but that is what I wanted to achieve.

It is also easier to rally shaken or routed brigades.   This is a good thing, because it allows the losing side to rally a second defensive line.   But in this particular game the Russian casualties were so much greater than the French that the winner was obvious.

Brigades defending farms or woods tended to do better than with my previous rules.   This was largely because it was so much easier to rally them when casualties were received.  It was also because Jan used her three elite grenadier brigades to hold the farm and both woods.   I only took them because I had taken care to position my best skirmish brigades to lead the attack.   In both wooded sections this worked.   However both elite defenders and most effective skirmishers took casualties.   So it will be interesting to see how both perform in the next game.   Both will retain at least 10% casualties, which will reduce the elite grenadiers to trained troops.  And the A class skirmish brigades will be reduced to B class.  

End of wargame 

The Russians hold at the top, but are in retreat in the centre and bottom


White stars indicate where fighting has taken place during the last two moves.  

Green stars indicate Russian brigades in rout

Blue stars indicate French brigades in rout

Sunday, 28 May 2023

Wargame Rules Review – Build Up Areas



In my campaign wargames there are three types of build up area (BUA).

A city is four scenic squares

A town is two scenic squares

A village, farm or fortified building is one scenic square

Each scenic square contains one brigade of infantry.

All of the campaign games involve either a city or town, because that is always the campaign objective.   The BUA is always occupied with the defending army deployed either side or in the square in front. It is very unusual for the attacking army to have sufficient time in the maximum 12 moves to actually take and hold the BUA.  

In future the town or city will always occupy the three squares nearest to the defending player.   The defending army will deploy in the three squares in the middle of the table.   The attacking army in the three squares nearest to the attacking player.    The battle will be decided in the centre three squares.   If the defender loses he will retreat and abandon the town or city.

This leaves villages, farms or fortified buildings.   Each will hold a maximum of one infantry brigade.   In the practice game I have only used infantry, cavalry or artillery would make it much more complicated.  I wanted to determine whether it is possible for an equal number of infantry to capture a BUA.

In the practice game four Baden infantry brigades attack a farm defended by four Russian infantry brigades.  The elite Russian grenadier brigade is the garrison of the farm.   Two conscript brigades are deployed either side and a trained brigade is in reserve behind.

Only one brigade can attack each side of the BUA.   And it soon became obvious that such an attack was doomed to failure.   The Russians have plus 2 for defending and plus 1 for elite.  

To decide the outcome of a melee 1D6 is rolled.   Combat factors are added or deducted, particularly the ones quoted above.

1or less – winner 20% casualties

2, 3, 4 or 5 – both suffer 10% casualties

6 or more – loser 20% casualties

It soon became obvious that one brigade would be very unlikely to succeed.    If the attacker could attack two or three sides at once his chances greatly improved.  But to do so he would have to defeat the supporting brigades either side of the BUA.

The best plan was to pin the garrison with the two conscript Baden brigades, and attack the Russian supporting brigades with the elite and trained Baden brigades.   When the Russian reserve was committed one of the four Baden brigades would engage them.  The remaining three Baden brigades, including the elite and trained brigades, would concentrate on the BUA.

All would still depend on the luck of the dice (as always).   And in a normal game cavalry and artillery would also play a part.   This would make it much more difficult for the attackers.   First they would have to win the cavalry melee.  Then they would have to inflict at least one casualty on the garrison, whilst avoiding the enemy artillery.  

I also found that skirmish fire would play a more important part in attacking a BUA.  Once more it would be decided by 1D6.   Trained attackers and defenders would both need 5 or 6 for a hit.   Conscripts of those with 10% casualties would need 6.   So skirmish fire was unlikely to be enough on its own, but it could play a significant part.

The new rules seem to be working well so far.  It is now time to play full wargames and put them to the real test.

Sunday, 21 May 2023

Wargame Rules Review - Hills



Some rules are more difficult to write than others.   Defending and attacking hills is one of them.   In particular how to attack infantry which have been positioned behind the crest.  This was a favourite tactic of Wellington, and proved very effective.  It protected the defenders from artillery fire.   It also provided a tactical shock to attacking infantry when they suddenly found them deployed and ready to fire when they finally reached the crest of the hill.

I have often wondered why this tactic was not used by many more commanders during the Napoleonic Wars.   I think Blucher’s comment just before the start of the battle of Ligny may provide the answer.    Wellington had joined Blucher to coordinate their strategy for the Waterloo campaign.   He commented that the Prussian infantry were very exposed on the forward slope of a nearby hill.   Blucher replied “my lads like to see the enemy”, or words to that effect.  

I suspect what he was really saying was that he could not trust his infantry to hold their ground behind the crest as the shouts of massed infantry columns approached out of sight below the hill. 

I translate this to my rules by having a morale test for infantry hidden behind the crest.   When the attacking infantry come within 4” they must roll a 1D6.   British require 4, 5 or 6.   All other nations require 5 or 6.

I have never been completely happy with this rule.  I wanted something which reflected the overall morale of the defending infantry, such as a normal morale test. 

This test game used only infantry and artillery, cavalry were an unnecessary distraction.   There are four infantry brigades per side.   All are different combinations of class, musket and skirmish ability.

The photo shows the initial deployment.   Attacking French are all in column of attack, with the artillery in the centre.  Defending Russians have two brigades on the hill and two in reserve.   The white card template shows the range of the Russian artillery.   On a hill they are unable to angle their guns, so can only fire along this narrow corridor.

The French artillery can redeploy.    They can fire on any infantry on the hill, providing that they are close enough.  They roll 1D6 and require 5 or 6 at long range, the same as firing on towns or woods.   The Russian gunners require 3, 4, 5 or 6

Once more we used a dice roll of 3 for all combat and morale tests.  This was to see how an attack would work, without the “luck of the dice”.   It is a good way to get used to the new combat and morale factors.  It is also very boring.

So how did the attack go?

The Russian gunners concentrated on the brigade to the right of the French guns.   They caused 20% casualties, leaving the brigade shaken, and therefore unable to initiate an attack.

The French gunners concentrated on the brigade to the right of the Russian guns.  They were less successful, only managed 10% casualties and the Russian infantry passed their morale test.

It was necessary to maintain a wide gap between the two groups of French infantry to allow their artillery to continue to fire as the infantry approached the hill.

As the French infantry approached the Russian infantry on the hill deployed into line, which is more effective for firepower.   The left hand reserve brigade moved forward to the left of the hill.   The right hand brigade formed column of attack and moved up closer to the right hand brigade on the hill.

The right hand French brigade was an elite unit.   They moved to the left of the hill and attacked the left hand Russian brigade, which was conscript.  They won the melee and routed the Russian brigade.

The left hand Russian brigade on the hill was an elite grenadier brigade.   They formed left and charged the French brigade.   The melee between two elite brigades, with both rolling 3, was a draw.  Both eventually lost 20% casualties, both were non effective.

So the battle for the hill was decided by the Russian brigade on the right.  They were B class infantry (veterans).  The two attacking French brigades were conscript.   The Russians routed one of the French brigades, but themselves lost 20% casualties.   The remaining French brigade deployed into line and routed them.  The reserve Russian brigade passed their morale test as the routed infantry broke through them.   They then exchanged fire with the last French brigade, who now had 20% casualties, won the firefight and routed them.

The Russians held the hill.

But had we used normal dice rolls the combat could easily have gone either way.  This is exactly what I wanted to achieve.  So I am very satisfied with this first test play.

Next week attacking a town or farm.

Sunday, 14 May 2023

Wargame Rules Review - Combat


This week I have play tested normal combat, which should be the easiest of the three situations.

Each side has one corps commander, four infantry brigades, one cavalry brigade and corps artillery.   Each side also has the commander in chief.   Normally he would have to supervise three corps, but I wanted to see just how useful he would be.   Each CinC has taken command of half of a corps.

I still use poker chips to identify each commander.   I also use them to decide the sequence of play.   A duplicate chip for each commander is placed in a bag.   One if drawn and that commander is activated.   So in this test game there were four chips, one for each CinC and one for each corps commander.

The sequence of play for each commander is

Command – rally disordered brigades and issue orders


Firing – artillery, skirmish, musket

Melee – cavalry and infantry combat

Morale – test for any brigade which received casualties or is shaken

The French were attacking.   They were deployed just outside of artillery long range.   This ensured that the fighting would commence with the first move.  

Remember that all dice throws were assumed to be a 3.

Long range artillery fire was ineffective against enemy guns, but very effective against infantry.   Each time they fired they achieved a hit.

Morale tests would result in a pass for one casualty, but fail for two.  However by ensuring that there was a formed brigade within 4”, and also a general within 4” meant that a brigade with two casualties would also pass their morale test.

The C class Cossacks charged the B class dragoons.   The first round of melee was a draw, but the second was won by the dragoons.   The Cossacks routed with 20% casualties, the dragoons were shaken with 20% casualties.

Infantry combat is more complicated.   A column of attack can move 6”.   Or it can move 3” and deploy into line.   Or 3” and volley fire.   Or it can skirmish without any movement penalty.   Skirmish range is 4”, musket range 2”.   Depending on the class, skirmish ability and musket ability the method of attack can be chosen.   If the combat is one brigade on one, a line is much more effective than a column.  However two brigade columns against one brigade in line is far more effective.   The choices are easy to understand, and add a new decision making requirement to infantry combat.  The play test proved that a brigade with better combat ability always won in melee or firing. 

I would say that this play test achieved the first requirement.   The balance was right; the difference would be the 1D6.   This is what I wanted to achieve.

So far, so good

Sunday, 7 May 2023

Wargame Rules Review – Commanders

At present there are four commanders on each side.   There are three corps commanders and one Commander in Chief (CinC).

Each corps has one 2x2 foot scenic board to deploy.  This equates to one map square on the campaign map.   In my current rules each commander has a “command range” of 8”.   All six brigades must remain within that distance from the corps commander for them to issue orders.

This creates a lot of command problems.   For example if a corps has to defend a town it is impossible for the corps commander to be within range of the garrison and the supporting brigades.   I have overcome this problem by allowing the CinC to take command of part of a corps.   In addition a brigade gets a morale bonus if there is a commander in base contact.

My first change of rules is to increase this “command range” to 12”.   If the corps commander is in the centre of the scenic square he will now be able to issue orders to all of his brigades, providing that they remain within the square.   I have also created a new “morale range” of 4”.   Any brigade within that distance of either their corps commander or CinC will gain plus one on morale tests.

At present the CinC can create a command by concentrating any brigade within his existing 8” command range.    This is done before the battle starts, so the wargame would start with four command groups rather that three.  It is usually done to created a reserve, or concentrate artillery or cavalry into an independent command under the CinC.

Under the new rules the CinC can take command of any brigade(s) within 4”.   This represents the CinC taking personal command of a portion of the battlefield either to rally shaken brigades, or exploit a sudden advantage.   Once he has taken command he can then issue orders to the same brigades up to 12”.  

Finally the CinC can issue orders to any brigade within 4”.    The corps commander can only issue orders to brigades of his own corps within 12”.   The CinC can add the morale bonus to any brigade in the army, within 4”.   The corps commander only to brigades of his own corps within 4”.

This will increase the ability of commanders to bolster the morale of individual brigades, whether they are in combat or trying to rally after a rout.   In particular the CinC will now play a vital role in increasing morale by moving to inspire or rally the required brigades..

Sunday, 30 April 2023

Wargame Rules Review – New Rules


To play test the new rules I have set up a table with the three types of objective which I want to improve.   On the left a hill.   In the centre open combat.   On the right a farm.   The white card is artillery long range.  I will test play new rules for each of these combats using just one corps v one corps.

As always the outcome will be decided by a dice throw.  However I have decided to simplify how this will work.   First I have replaced the use of 2D6 with 1D6.   I have also greatly reduced the list of plus and minus combat factors.

During the rule testing period I will always use a dice throw of 3.    This will allow me to test each new rule without the complication of high or low dice rolls.   In general terms a roll of 1 or 6 will produce extreme results.   2 and 5 will favour one side or the other.   3 or 4 will produce the same result for both sides.  

I have given up on trying to make wargames “realistic”.  It has long been obvious to me that moving model soldiers around on a table will never reproduce the conditions of a real battle.  The best we can hope for is to get a feel of what it was like to command a Napoleonic battle.   This is done partly by well painted models and nice looking scenery.   It is enhanced by adding a campaign background to the wargame.   But what it should feel like is always going to be a very personal thing.

Combat factors are the means of getting “the feel right”.   However too often players try to cover every possible factor.   This results in very long lists of plus and minus factors, most of which then just add a lot of time to reaching a solution to a combat or morale test.

I have reduced them to quality of troops, current morale, supports, casualties and command bonus.  The total is then added to the 1D6.   This removes the need to consult the lists.   It also prompts the player to position generals and supports carefully.   If the result proves not to achieve what I want, I don’t need to add more factors.   I just need to adjust the dice result.   This is much easier using just 1D6 rather than two or more.

I have written the first draft of the new rules.   The next step is to play test them.   By next week I should have a much better idea of whether I can achieve what I want with what I plan to do.

Sunday, 23 April 2023

Wargame Rules Review – Current Rules

Battle of Merida on the campaign map 

First thanks to everyone who commented on my last post.   Your observations and suggestions are very welcome.   Thanks in particular to Bob Cordery who sent me a copy of his rules with permission to use them as required.   My new rules, like the previous ones, will eventually be published  as part of my 1813 campaign diary blog.   They will of course be free, and be available to anyone who wants to use them.

All of our wargames fight battles from our 1813 Napoleonic campaign.   It is important that the battles are easily moved from the campaign map to the wargames table and back.   To this end my campaign maps are a series of squares, which can be reproduced using the 2x2 scenic squares which make up my 6x6 foot wargames table.

Just before we moved to Spain in 2006 I started using Le Feu Sacre wargame rules.   As a commercial set of rules they were not ideal for my campaign concept.  But I really liked them and wanted to continue to use them.   This required considerable alteration over the years, but I have always been reasonably happy with the result.

17 years is a long time to use the same rules, particularly when you actually play most days for a couple of hours.   It says much for the design of LFS that they have lasted so long.   However over the past year or so I have become increasingly frustrated with them. 

To work with the campaign each wargame lasts a maximum of 12 moves, which equates with 12 hours in the campaign.   It has been obvious for some time that this is not long enough to reach a satisfactory conclusion to the wargame. 

Battle of Merida on the wargames table

Each wargames table represents a district in the campaign.   Each district has a town or city, and that is always the campaign objective.   Far too often a game results in a draw, mostly because the winner has beaten the enemy, but does not have sufficient time to take the town or city.

I have always been reluctant to create a new set of wargame rules.   I would rather adopt a commercial set.   However I have now decided that I will give it a go.

I will keep the current orders of battle, and the current campaign map system.   The one map square equals one table scenic square will remain.

When I created the campaign I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve.   The key was one square on the table to one square on the map.   So I recreated a series of maps which would reflect this.   

Now I want to create a set of wargames rules which are designed to achieve the game objective within 12 moves.  

By next week I hope to have an outline of how to achieve this objective.