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"Artillery Ammunition Supplies" Topic

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Defiant28 Feb 2007 5:38 p.m. PST

Artillery Batteries in many rules systems can fire off rounds turn after turn after turn without ever running out of ammunition, does this happen in your games?

Also, as all of us have read, batteries ran out of ammo rapidly in some cases, and had to retire to the rear and replenish stocks before they could return to the firing line if at all. Do any of you reflect this in your games and if so how?

We have what we refer to as "Firing Turns" where during any given turn a battery can fire at full effect, knocking off 2 points of ammo or fire at reduced rate and knock off one point of ammo. Each battery, depending on nationality and design has a limited amount of "Fire Turns" available to them before they must retire to replenish ammo. This causes the players to try to conserve ammo and not waste it so much on mostly useless counter battery fire and instead wait for the big fat juicy targets to show a front and produce much better results for the ammo spent.

I would be very interested in what some of you do in this regard; someone might have a very novel and realistic way to portray ammo problems which others including myself could use.


Phillipaj28 Feb 2007 5:46 p.m. PST

My rules Elan Deluxe have an optional rule, that seems to work quite well without bogging down players in bookkeeping:

At the start of play they roll 2d6 per battery- that tells them how many phases they can fire that battery. The number is written down and kept secret.

To replenish supplies, the limber stand is moved to the rear of the table and stocks up (another 2d6 roll) and moves back to the battery.


Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP28 Feb 2007 7:42 p.m. PST

In my own Napoleonic rules, I usually limit each gun model to 4 rounds of ammo. There is no distinction between ball and cannister, just total rounds. Once you run out of ammo, you can replenish 3 rounds by moving a model of a caisson to the gun or battery. It takes a full turn of inactivity to resupply the ammo. After that, you can resupply again, but only 2 rounds, then 1 round. We rarely get beyond the first resupply of 3 rounds in a normal game.

I've also been playing many SYW games with Bill Protz as he has developed a new set of rules in the 1:10 scale. His rules distinguish between cannister (2 rounds to start) and ball (4 rounds). The ammo wagons have a predetermined number of cannister and ball rounds. So when you resupply, you can pick and choose the type of ammo that you want. As you can imagine, the cannister goes fairly quickly, by choice. We pre-print little 1x2' tags that have the rounds (circle for ball, and square for cannister) on the tags. As you fire a round, you mark the round off with a pencil. When you resupply, you erase the marks. The tag is glued onto a piece of balsa wood and travels around the table with the gun model or ammo wagon. It's been a good system for us. One always seems to run out of cannister at the worst time.

Defiant28 Feb 2007 11:07 p.m. PST

very interesting, I like that Alte

Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP01 Mar 2007 3:13 a.m. PST

With respect, Shane, running out of ammunition was not that frequent in reality.A decent supply generally went with the territory.
Mind you, gunners were fairly cautious in firing (eg British artillery was stopped from wasteful counter-battery fire).
I think what the problem is in wargaming is stopping players firing at anything & everything in even remote range.
I think by having a 'run out' factor you do address the problem but its round the wrong way if you get me.

Defiant01 Mar 2007 4:49 a.m. PST

Sorry ochoin but I have read many cases of batteries running out of ammo and having to retire to replenish. However, the rules we use don't make you run out of ammo that quickly. In the rules you can fire up to several hours before your ammo begins to run low so please do not get the impression we show ammo as some kind of runnig tap, we don't.

In our games a battery could fire like I said for many hours before runnig low or out of ammo, but many of our battles can run for 6-10 hours and if your the kind of player who shoots at everything you are going to waste ammo and run out probably at a critical moment.

I disagree with you that what we have done is "the wrong way" I can't see what you mean by that ? In reality if a battery is firing constantly for several hours and is say wasting ammo with long range counter-battery fire it is going to run low on ammo or even run out just when it should not. A wise battery commander (player) will understand this and try to conserve ammo for the critical occasions when he is going to need it, how can that be the wrong way ?


Defiant01 Mar 2007 5:02 a.m. PST

adding to what I have said I look at this from a realistic angle…

Meaning, if an action can be carried out in reality physically then why should a rule be placed which stops a player from doing that action ? regardless how stupid, ill conceived or wrong that action might be…. Realistically you should not tell a player he has limitations on what he can and cannot do if physically and realistically he can perform that action. It would be more realistic to penalize that player for his actions which means suffering consequences for his actions.

So in the case of a battery commander (player) firing at remote (long) range in counter battery fire it is obvious to most of us this would be a wrong action or foolish to say the least…telling him he cannot do it or limiting him from doing it with a rule is not the answer. Reminding him with ammo supplies dwindling is…when the enemy come bearing down on him and he has no ammo left he will soon learn to conserve ammo next time.

Yes many nations had doctrine in place to avoid wasting ammo and even some commanders forced battery commanders to stop wasting ammo but this is where study comes into play and a good war gamer will search for this information and use it in the system they use. But the point is in these real battles battery commanders did waste ammo in long range counter-battery fire and did run out of ammo and have to retire to replenish, you can't disclaim this when so many books show it.

A gamer can only be taught the wisdom of being a commander with experience and understanding of actions and reactions, simple physics. Actions and consequences which create reactions etc…

Jacko2701 Mar 2007 7:09 a.m. PST

Is it right to say that batterys when low on ammo always had to retire?
Didnt the caissons come to the gun position so that actually running out of ammo could be sorted out on the spot ,assuming that the artillery train had good communications with the battery commander and was able to get to it.
Another thought I have on your suggestion is that it doesnt really reflect the difference in game time and real time that is always inherent in any or most rule systems that I have played.
How quickly could battery exhaust its entire supply of ammo in reality I wonder and how does this translate to the number of game turns that you wish to impose some kind of restriction on the ability to fire continously.
It just doesnt seem right to me worry about this if you play a game where there are no more than say 20 game turns.
Having said that I play General de Brigade in which throwing a double one on artillery fire makes the battery go low on ammo-whether that is an attempt on the rule authors part to reflect the possibility of wasting ammo or whether it is a more artificial game mechanic, I dont know

Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP01 Mar 2007 12:43 p.m. PST

Hi, Shane,
I know Napoleon said re: the Campaign of 1813 that if he'd had enough artillery ammo he'd've won it.
I really can't think of that many more 'low ammo' events though so feel free to enlighten me.
As for wasting ammo you have a different game philosophy: don't rule against an action that will harm the player who does it.
Fair enough. I'll go away & think about it.
regards, donald

Kevin F Kiley01 Mar 2007 2:51 p.m. PST

There are different ways of resupplying batteries/artillery companies in the field.

The French did it on the battlefield utilizing a shuttle service forward from the parcs.

If you have an 8-pounder artillery company, for example, each 8-pounder had three caissons for ammunition, and the two howitzers had five each. One caisson of each was with what would now be called the 'firing battery' in the field. The other caissons were running the shuttle service to their company, probably under the command of the train company commander. So, 20 caissons would either be on the road to and from the gun company, empty going to the rear, full coming forward, and if any were at the parc, they were being replenished. If this gun company was assigned to an infantry division, there would be four more caissons assigned to it that carried infantry ammunition for the regiments. It was an efficient and effective service, and the only time that Napoleon even came close to running out of ammunition was at Leipzig, because his trains had been cut off in Eilenberg to the north of Leipzig.

Napoleon insisted on a 'double issue' of artillery ammunition for each piece with the Grande Armee. The division artillery companies and parcs had 170 rounds per gun; the corps parcs had a further 85 rounds per gun. The mobile section of the army parc had an additional 85 rounds, and the forward depot had 250 rounds per gun. This is a total of 590 rounds per gun, 340 of which were 'on wheels' at any one time.

So, if you're wargaming the French, you shouldn't run out of ammunition. You shouldn't also engage in counterbattery fire unless the enemy's artillery is hurting your infantry more than you are hurting his. Counterbattery fire took up a lot of time and ammunition. The French and British forbade it, except under the above conditions. When it was used, 4-, 6-, and 8-pounders were used, as they had a higher sustained rate of fire than 12-pounders. All of the available guns to be used in counterbattery fire were massed against the offending enemy artillery, one gun at a time. When that gun was disabled, then they shifted fire to the next one, and so on until mission and rounds complete. Merely being on the receiving end of that and guessing the reason could force a battery/company commander to displace, effectively silencing the enemy artillery anyways.


Luke Mulder01 Mar 2007 3:00 p.m. PST

I think that what Kevin says applies to the eighteenth century as well, in that they kept a circuit of caissons moving from the park up to the batteries, and back again.

Kevin F Kiley01 Mar 2007 3:20 p.m. PST


Great to see you back. You were missed.


donlowry01 Mar 2007 5:08 p.m. PST

>"…telling him he cannot do it or limiting him from doing it with a rule is not the answer. Reminding him with ammo supplies dwindling is…"<

I agree that this would be more realistic, but counting ammo adds complexity, and complexity slows the game. Is it worth it?

Defiant01 Mar 2007 7:31 p.m. PST

Thx for the info Kevin,

don, your right, it does add complexity but some players these days are pushing towards this kind of play more and more. In the circles I am in at least, people are desiring more and more detail but you have to draw the line eventually I guess.

I find that Rules systems like anything humans do is no different to a pendulum swinging; one day people prefer detailed complex rules then after a period of building the whole thing collapses and people swing back to more simple systems and then later it goes back to complexity…

I guesss the point is to draw a happy medium.

patrick76602 Mar 2007 9:47 a.m. PST

I had always thought dice pretty well represented these issues. I have had many instances where I rolled poorly on a close shot at an exposed target and barely hurt them. One explanation, among others, could be a moment of low ammo for the battery.


mashroomca02 Mar 2007 1:19 p.m. PST

In my home made rules, 1:20 ratio with turns representing 20 minutes of time, artillery can fire for 8 turns, since a game will last longer then that, player is free to fire as he wishes, but there is only so much ammo to around. after that gun is done for a day. Simple and it works.

Andrew Wellard03 Mar 2007 6:08 a.m. PST

I would think there is an argument for limiting canister ammo at least especially if you differentiate howitzers in the rules being used. This is because most armies gave their long guns twice as much (roughly) ball as canister and also because canister could be fired faster (less recoil). As for howitzers, they seem to have been provided with very little canister. In the British service shrapnel replaced half the canister (except with the howitzers which had plenty of shrapnel) so that should be restricted too. I am relying here on Nafziger's figures which may be questionable in detail but I think give a resonable general picture.

jeffreyw303 Mar 2007 6:47 a.m. PST

I believe canister could be fired faster simply because the crew would not have to lay the gun again after firing due to accuracy not being as important to the result as shot.


MichaelCollinsHimself03 Mar 2007 2:01 p.m. PST

Further to Kevin`s information on the French supply system, I wonder if one should only start to limit ammunition to artillery companies or batteries if the lines of supply are broken; if units/commands become isolated or disjointed or the distances between artillery parks become stretched?

Defiant03 Mar 2007 5:38 p.m. PST

I honestly don't think so, I have read too many cases of batteries even on the great battlefields running out of ammunition and having to retire for more. Don't ask me to cite these cases ;p I would have to re-read every book I own to do that lol

I wonder if smaller battles away from the main lines of supply might be a factor, for instance Napoleon would make sure that the bulk of the supplies would channel to his main army, would this create supply problems to wing formations etc ? For instance the main French army under Napoleon in 1813 might have full complements of ammo while Oudinot's – Ney's and MacDonald's wing formations could be in a worse situation ? I don't really know but worth thinking about ?

I think it is a case of how long can the ammo last in the battery rather than will it last…but I am open to all suggestions on this matter.

One thing we do when faced with situations like Michael Collins has just put up is that each battery when it first fires rolls on an Ammunition's Supply Table – this gives a % of ammo available at the start for each battery. Sometimes (rarely) it might not have any ammo at all while other tiles (rolls) it might have full caissons.


donlowry03 Mar 2007 6:03 p.m. PST

I've just been reading about the 2nd day at Gettysburg, when at least some Union batteries had to be pulled out of the line due to having fired off most or all of their ammo. Part of the supply problem might have been due to the fact that batteries from 2 different corps plus some from the army's general reserve were involved. Maybe the supply wagons didn't know how to find them. Or vice versa.

Maui Jim04 Mar 2007 12:02 p.m. PST

After reading the postings on this thread, I recalled that there were some very interesting and related writings about artillery ammo consumption in Scott Bowden's new book "Napoleon's Finest." In looking these up, there are indeed detailed after-action reports from 3rd Corps artillery guys concerning Davout's epic fight at Auerstadt. One of those reports, I think it was the chef de bataillon in command of the artillery in Friant's Division, details all the aspects of battery composition, deployment, etc., as well as which guns were dismounted from Prussian counter-battery fire, and finally how much ammunition was consumed during the day's fighting.

Wanting to know more, I then emailed Scott about what other after-action reports from other artillery guys might be in his upcoming projects, and he said that in "Napoleon's Apogee," he has all the available French artillery after-action reports from Saalfeld, Jena and Auerstadt, and that these will be included in the book and that these often give details concerning artillery consumption.

Bottom line is that this-type information seems to be becoming more available to us through books like these, which should help us in playing whatever rules we play.

Just my two cents worth.

Me ke aloha,


Baztay04 Mar 2007 12:43 p.m. PST

I think Maui Jim has hit the nail on the head with our problem in wargaming. It seems we will never have enough information as new writers like Scott and Kevin etc keep producing these excellent resource books. Wargamers appetites for info is enormous and the data just doesnt come quick enough.
So in the absence of more data we poor wargamers must do what we have always done..improvise.
Whether its by die or by some self styled regulation, artillery ammunition does seem to have great relevance to gaming.
With the greatest respect to Kevin, I feel that what he describes "feels like" to me to be an ideal situation; I wonder if its the norm though.
I prefer something along the lines of what Shane suggested, ammo points for battery and supply caissons, then whether ammo supply is the norm or not, players will find out the only way they can, as it happens. What is worse if they got the ammo mix wrong they only have themselves to blame.
Thus far I am going to try Shanes idea on ammo issues out, Im less inclined to try a dice as to me that leads to too many imponderables, for example deploying a battery only to find it has no or very little ammo. Surely no Battery commander would bring a battery onto a battlefield with no ammo or only enough for one or two salvoes.

Well thats my two cents as MJ would say.


Kevin F Kiley04 Mar 2007 3:56 p.m. PST


I gave a brief overview of the system and how the caissons were used in the field. Whether or not it worked should be judged by the result that the Grande Armee never ran out of ammunition. The closest it came to running out of artillery ammunition was at Leipzig because the trains were cut off.

Seems to me the system was quite efficient and that it worked very well. The thing to look for is the failures. You might find them in Spain, or in other secondary theaters, but I haven't found any yet.

At Eylau, Davout was resupplying his ammunition on the front line when the shooting stopped. Ammunition was brought forward. Units were not sent to the rear to replenish, the exception to that being in a firefight when infantry units would be passed to the rear and their place taken by the second line. Lannes did this at Jena, conducting the difficult passage of lines under fire.


Kevin F Kiley04 Mar 2007 3:59 p.m. PST


Here's an interesting opinion of Napoleon's on ammunition:

'Crack the head of an artillery officer who supplies shells of the wrong caliber…An officer of artillery who runs out of ammunition in the middle of a battle deserves to be shot.'


Defiant04 Mar 2007 5:01 p.m. PST

From memory the cases I read on Artillery batteries running out of ammunition were not actually French batteries, so Kevin I feel is absolutely correct here. I do wish I could remember each case but to do so means re-reading every book I own.

What I think might be possible is that batteries that did run out of ammo would tend to be horse or mounted batteries more so then Foot due to the more advanced positions they took ? Could this be a factor in running out?


Kevin F Kiley04 Mar 2007 5:56 p.m. PST

The Russians had problems with artillery batteries running out of ammunition as well as being worried about losing guns. They were so obsessed with not losing a gun or risking one to gain an advantage that their artillery was handicapped on the battlefield.


Kevin F Kiley04 Mar 2007 5:58 p.m. PST

There is one occasion that I do recall a French Guard foot company ran out of ammunition. It was at Waterloo's ending, and the company commander called for one more round and the company went through the motions of loading non-existent rounds. They then went through the firing motions which caused British cavalry coming off the ridge to halt suddenly. When the portfires touched the vents and nothing happened, the British were somewhat embarrassed and quite angry. They continued their charge and overran the company.


MichaelCollinsHimself05 Mar 2007 11:09 a.m. PST

Just a brief read of the sections on artillery in vol. 2 of Zhmodikov`s shows how the Russians were at first concerned the loss of thier guns, but later instructions were to fire until the last opportunity and escape with the limbers and caissons and passed the responsibility of the saftey of the artillery companies to their supporting infantry.

The smaller amount of ammunition available with Russian guns made their generals & their commanders cautious of a waste of ammunition and the various advice was that artillery fire was quite ineffective beyond 600 – 850 mtrs.

This question is really down to how players in games use their artillery – keeping a record may therefore limit a possible abuse of long range fire in games.

Hopefully, long range firing isn`t very effective in my rules and is, in itself, a discouragement to players.
Also I`ve been working out different ammo expenditure at different ranges (for deliberate aim and slower rates of fire at longer ranges).
What I have at the moment is up to 40 boxes to record the shot used and about 10 for canister (using two diagonal strokes of the pen to cross the box to record two sections firing). I`m testing this in a small game right now which is one corps per side.
I`ll let you know how it goes.


jeffreyw305 Mar 2007 2:35 p.m. PST

Thanks Mike--saved me some typing.


Defiant06 Mar 2007 8:20 a.m. PST

>>>>What I have at the moment is up to 40 boxes to record the shot used and about 10 for canister (using two diagonal strokes of the pen to cross the box to record two sections firing). I`m testing this in a small game right now which is one corps per side.<<<<

That is exactly what we do in our games, 2 points (2 diagonal strokes) is for firing at Full Effect while 1 point (1 diagonal stroke) is for Reduced Effect.

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