Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Consciousness Journal of a Wargamer

Napoleonic Play Test Yesterday

A handful of HAWKs got together yesterday to game.  We ran a scenario with 1813 Prussians.  Actually I ran it twice, because the first run was a blowout after less than two hours, so we reset and started over.

French chasseurs and infantry advancing toward Prussian columns (photo by Chris Palmer)

French chasseurs and infantry advancing toward Prussian columns (photo by Chris Palmer)

In this play test, I wanted to try out three things:

  • A new artillery rule
  • Command and control for the Prussians
  • A lot of cavalry in a battle.
Masses of Prussians advancing (photo by Chris Palmer)

Masses of Prussians advancing (photo by Chris Palmer)

Artillery rule:  Napoleonic rules design requires a careful balance between infantry, artillery, and cavalry as well as column, line, and square to get the proper “paper-scissors-rock” feel.  I was feeling that artillery was under powered and didn’t seem to have a large impact on the game.  I couldn’t figure out why the artillery seemed fine in the ACW version of Look, Sarge, No Charts, but that it felt wrong in the Napoleonic version.  In conversations with Sam Fuson and Dave Wood, I finally realized that it was about “formations.”  Neither the WWII version nor the ACW version have explicit representation of formations.  In the ACW version, a hit at long range merely accrues a morale check, not a hit.  I added a rule that says that long-range artillery (only!!) fire against columns or squares results in a hit as well as a morale check.  The math was okay, but I wanted to see how this worked on the tabletop.  I tried to test this two weeks ago at HAWKs night, but the way the scenario developed there was little long-range fire.  Yesterday we had a chance to really try it out.  The consensus was positive, so that’s how the rules will be written.

Prelude to a swirling cavalry engagement with Prussian and French lights (photo by Chris Palmer)

Prelude to a swirling cavalry engagement with Prussian and French lights (photo by Chris Palmer)

Those of you familiar with the Napoleonic Wars will know that the structure of the late-war Prussian army was three battalions to a regiment and three regiments to a brigade.  This gives a Prussian brigade nine battalions, closer to a French division.  This means that pitting a French division against a Prussian brigade involves about the same number of battalions, but the French have three order dice and the Prussians only one.  If the number on the Prussian order cube doesn’t come up on a card before the end of the turn, nothing in the whole brigade (division) acts.  That seemed okay, but on the other hand if the card is drawn, the whole brigade (division) acts at the same time.  This had two outcomes in the game: 1) in the attack, it was easier for the Prussians to manage their forces and 2) it took a Prussian player a long time to complete his activation.

French brigade retreating up and over a small ridge (photo by Chris Palmer)

French brigade retreating up and over a small ridge (photo by Chris Palmer)

In our second game yesterday, we added a regimental commander for the Prussians.  I was afraid this would give them too much tactical flexibility, but it didn’t seem to do so.  In fact, by having four dice for the brigade (division), one for each regiment and one for the brigade commander, it actually seemed to reduce the synchronization of the Prussian attack.   I’m pretty sure that’s how I’ll write the rules; however, while a Prussian brigade commander has a morale rating of 4 (typically), I think that I’ll make commanders of Prussian line and reserve regiments 4’s but landwehr regiments 5’s.

French guard cavalry never really got into the fight (photo by Chris Palmer)

French guard cavalry never really got into the fight (photo by Chris Palmer)

Finally, since I had finished a lot of Prussian cavalry recently, I wanted to put a lot of cavalry on the table and see how that worked.  I think the effect was about right.  When the French launched their brigade of six hussar and dragoon regiments at the French cavalry division of three chasseur regiments, there were a couple of turns of swirling melee before the Prussians broke through.  It seemed about right.  in the second running, the French cavalry was stymied by a line of Prussian squares.  A couple of French artillery batteries caused some damage, but there was no infantry to send forward to break the squares.  The effect was good, I think.

Aerial view of the retreating French brigade (photo by Chris Palmer)

Aerial view of the retreating French brigade (photo by Chris Palmer)

In summation, I’m pretty happy with the rules the way they are shaping up.  The play test games have been fun.  It is most gratifying to hear people who have sworn off Napoleonics games say they really like these rules.


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