The two Napoleonic rule sets we play regularly are Blucher for Corps, and Lasalle for Division level games. I have most recently bought Absolute Emperor for really big battles. The latest rules on the block are Soldiers of Napoleon, another Division level game. I prefer a historical scenario where possible and have uploaded a small selection below from 1809, 1813, 1814 and 1815.
Scenarios for Soldiers of Napoleon
Soldiers of Napoleon was published in Spring 2022 by Warwick Kinrade, author of the WW2 rules Battlegroup which I particularly enjoy (he was also associated with the excellent Epic 40k rules in another lifetime!). These are a division level game, using cards to moderate events. So far, I am really enjoying them.
Scales for Soldiers of Napoleon
The SoN rulebook doesn’t provide a ground scale or figure-to-model ratios. Instead it uses a notional ‘pace’ and leaves it to the players to decide how long that should be, depending on existing figure collections and basing conventions. This should save a lot of re-basing and I’m sure more people will try the rules because they won’t need to overhaul their armies. I’m less sure that somebody wanting to start their first Napoleonic collection with these rules will know where to start!
Our own approach is as follows:
One base is 40mm wide. It holds four 15mm infantry figures in one line, three cavalrymen or one artillery piece and crew (but the figure size doesn’t affect play: the same 40mm base could as easily hold two 28mm infantry or six 10mm ones. Also, the infantry could be based in two lines of four. This seems to be the main fashion these days but I just prefer one rank per base).
One ‘pace’ is 1”. This works well with a 40mm base width and keeps measurement simple.
The following information isn’t necessary to play a game but we use it when writing scenarios based on historical actions:
One infantry base represents 130 men; a cavalry base represents 100 and an artillery base 4 pieces. This makes the 500 man battalion, which was the average strength of an infantry unit on campaign, 4 bases strong. It allows a full strength Austrian or Prussian battalion to be the full 6 bases while an understrength battalion like many Russians in 1813 begins with 3 or even 2 bases.
When lifting the battlefield from a map, we consider that one pace in the game equals 20 yards on the ground. This means that using our measure of 1 pace to 1”, a 6 x 4 foot table can depict a battlefield segment, 1,440 yards by 960 yards.
While we try to be accurate with unit strengths and scenarios battlefields, there are limits. Even the best known battles have multiple variations in orders of battle, strengths and locations on the battlefield. We often have to go with our best guess based on thin or contradictory data. As it happens, I really enjoy trying to work this out. It’s not for everybody but I find scenario research one of the most enjoyable parts of the hobby.
After reading some positive reviews, I picked up Osprey’s new Napoleonic rules, Absolute Emperor by Boyd Bruce. I plan to use these for the big battles where even Blücher groans under the weight of units. The basic manoeuvre element is a division and the mechanics are straightforward. Like some other Osprey rules I’ve read, the rules could have been better edited and some information is hard to track down. But for a tenner, I’m not going to quibble. The book includes the author’s explanations behind his design decisions and he concludes by encouraging players to adapt and amend the rules as they see fit. That’s a refreshing position to encounter! He is also active on the AE Facebook page, answering questions promptly and generally encouraging players to get involved.
AE 1. The Battle of Leipzig: Wachau, 16 October 1813: the morning. The Allied assault
This scenario was written to introduce new players at the club to the Absolute Emperor rules. It worked well with two players a side. Experienced players would easily manage it one-to-one.
AE 2. The Battle of Leipzig: Wachau, 16 October 1813: the afternoon. Napoleon’s last chance of victory
This scenario covers the French attempt to break the Coalition centre south of Leipzig on the afternoon of 16 October 1813. It is a big game, suitable for multi-player. In our game, we had 4 French and 3 Coalition players. See the report of our game on my blog here
AE 3. The Battle of Leipzig: Wachau, 16 October 1813: short afternoon scenario
This scenario is smaller than the one above, designed only for a 6 by 4 foot table at the standard AE scale. It fits into this space by omitting the opposing forces at the eastern end of the line (French XI and II Cavalry Corps; Coalition 4th column). It is fine for one or two players a side.
Lasalle does not provide a fixed ground scale, but Sam Mustafa mentions in the explanatory notes that 3 Base Widths are roughly equivalent to 100 yards. While strict application of ground, figure and time scales doesn’t generally feature in Sam’s rules, I do find a ground scale useful when starting to write a historical scenario. I have therefore taken the scale to be 1BW to 33 yards. This means a standard 24 x 36 BW table represents an area roughly 800 yards by 1200 yards.
Lasalle scenario 1. The Battle of Leipzig: Markkleeberg, 16 October 1813: Prussians and Russians versus French and Poles
We played this scenario in our first face to face game after lockdown and we greatly enjoyed it. It is reported in my blog post here. After our game I tweaked the scenario a little bit, by removing the sudden death victory conditions. In our play through, the Allied player chose to go for the sudden death route to victory and completely ignored the village. This gave a great game but it didn’t feel much like the actual engagement, where Markkleeberg was the focus of much of the battle.
Lasalle scenario 2. The Danube Valley, 21 April 1809: “Bristling with guns”. St Hilaire assaults a hilltop position
This scenario concerns a part of the combat between Davout and Rosenberg on the day before the battle of Eckmühl. The whole combat is covered in the Laichling scenario for Blücher, attached below, while this game focuses on St Hilaire and Deroi’s attacks on the hilltop position that anchored the Austrian left wing.
Lasalle scenario 3. “The Duke of Ligny”: General Girard at St Amand la Haye, 16 June 1815
This scenario concerns the fight for St Amand la Haye during the battle of Ligny, Napoleon’s final battlefield victory. I have uploaded it before playtesting so can’t vouch for balance yet. However I am hopeful as the points totals fit the standard ‘weighted’ scenarios in the rulebook almost exactly.
Our group has played some great games using Honour Games' Blucher rules. Like so many sets by Sam Mustafa, they are deceptively simple: even small rules elements can have an important effect on play.
I produced the attached prompt sheet to help our new players get into the rules as quickly as possible. The notes on it are not immediately visible in the quick reference sheets in the rulebook. When we play with 15mm figures we use 80mm-wide units and a 1BW to 3" playing scale. With 6mm figures we use 60mm-wide units and 1BW is 2”.
This scenario is relatively small for Blucher and plays out in two to three hours. The challenge for the Prussians is to keep up the pressure on the French left. The French should try to keep reserves to hand to regain lost real estate before the Prussians dig in. The French player should not take risks with his resources: however tempting, he is better advised to keep his reserves in check rather than go looking for trouble in the Prussian lines. Aggressive cavalry commanders should beware!
This is a scenario for Blücher using the small scale in the rule book. I wrote two blog posts about it, one on planning the scenario and one battle report. Small numbers of high quality French Guards take on greater numbers of Russians and Prussians. A chance to get stuck in with the Old Guard for once.
Blucher scenario 4. Battle of Leipzig. Wachau 16 October 1813
This is the Blucher version of the afternoon fight on the first day of Leipzig. For over 20 years, I have used the Leipzig order of battle as a guide for steadily growing my 15mm Napoleonic armies, first for Napoleon’s Battles and now for Blucher. Having recently completed the French Allied units for Macdonald’s XI Corps, I now have figures for every brigade that was present on the Southern Front on Day 1.. I hope to run it as a multiplayer game during 2022.
This is the order of battle and reinforcement schedule we used for our Blücher refight of Waterloo, described In my blog posts on planning and playing the game. The starting point for the Unit strengths are Sam Mustafa's 100 Days cards. I did not produce my own map at the time, so don't have one to share I'm afraid. I based the measurements (at 1BW to 300 yards) on the Waterloo Companion by Adkin.p