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"Peninsular War: National Characteristics" Topic

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2,001 hits since 14 Mar 2012
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Alyxander100 Inactive Member14 Mar 2012 4:53 p.m. PST


I am currently trying to gather info for a Napoleonics miniatures rule set I am making. The game is played at Division level – Basic units for the game are Battalions. Each player commands a Division with up to 5 Brigades. Each brigade is made of 1-5 Battalions.

I am trying to incorporate National characteristics to make the game a little more flavorful. For each country I am trying to develop 6 traits, 4 positive traits including qualities, unit types and distinct national advantages as well as 2 negative qualities such as poor leadership, inferior troop qualities etc.

Qualities range from -4 to +4 in terms of how effective they are – -4 being extremely crippling, +4 being extremely advantageous. Each nation should only have 1 "+4" trait that really sets it apart.

Here is what I have so far:

Positive Qualities:
1: Better quality horses, affects outcome of melee (+1)
2: Improved fire discipline, affects outcome of fire resolution (+2)
3: Spanish Guerrillas, allows the British to harass enemy reinforcements, causing disruption to when and where they enter, possibly causing casualties to the enemy battalion (+4)
4: Stubborn defenders, Infantry in cover have added morale bonuses. (+2)

Negative Qualities:
1: Impetuous Cavalry – Charge without command (-2)
2: Cavalry difficult to recall after charge, they run the risk of pursuing at their peril (-2)

Positive Qualities:
1: Superior leadership, Improved morale benifits to French Divisional leadership (+2)
2: High enthusiasm, Leaders may re-roll the first failed morale roll. (+2)
3: Grande Batterie, French artillery batteries can combine fire if all units are touching (+4)
4: Grenadiers of the line, special grenade attacks in place of firing. (+1)

Negative Qualities:
1: Poor skirmishers, affects casualties caused by skirmishers (-2)
2: Delayed reserves for Imperial Guard troops, Commanders were hesitant to use them (-2)

Spain – A work in progress – open for suggestions here
Positive Qualities:
1: Gutsy commanders, confers a morale bonus to men (+1)
2: Provincial Grenadiers, Cheap to field, militia grade grenadiers (+2)
3:Provincial Militia, Good quality militia units, improved drill training and morale (+2)
4:Guerrillas, Units able to launch ambush and then disappear if they remain out of Line of sight, able to launch ambush again.

Negative Qualities:
1: Poor fire discipline, Diminished effects of firing (-2)
2: Poor Cavalary, diminished ability in Melee and poor morale (-2)

Portugal – A work in progress – open for suggestions here
Positive Qualities:
1: British Drill Doctrine, Improved Fire discipline (+2)
2: British Leadership, Can use British commander lists (+2)
3: Torres Vedras, Significantly improved morale and defensive positions when defending
4: ? Need help to find another point here. ?

Negative Qualities:
1: Poor Cavalry, diminished ability in Melee, poor morale (-2)
2: Infantry commanders lack imagination, difficulty in successfully ordering Bayonet charges (-2)

I put the rules about the Spanish being poor in fire resolution because I have always been told that they were inferior in shooting. I also put in the lines that Spanish and Portuguese cavalry were not at the same level as the British or the French – but on all three accounts, I don't have a lick of evidence…anything to back these statements up would be greatly appreciated.

I am a young dumb kid and any comments on any of these rules would really help me to nail down a historically accurate idea. When you comment, if you could please try to include a specific Battle reference. If you have a book reference that would be even better.

thanks for your feed back!


DeanMoto Inactive Member14 Mar 2012 4:58 p.m. PST

Did the British really have better quality horses? I read they sort of neglected them; except for the KGL. Also, I would think most of the French skirmishers were good – both in experience and morale. I like to give Guerrillas something for hand-to-hand too – at least initially. Dean

Sparker Inactive Member14 Mar 2012 6:37 p.m. PST

I would respectfully disagree with you there Dean, I think it was the French who neglected their mounts, they could be smelt coming owing to the sores on their horses. There are stories of trooper actually sleeping on their mounts to avoid sleeping on sodden ground! And of course their supply situation was tenuous at best.

Thanks to the Royal Navy the Brits had a ready supply of wonderful Irish hunters and plenty of corn and fodder, and the adage 'Horses first, Men second, Officers last' was in force then as much as now.

You may have read that British Regiments were not as assiduous in care of their mounts as the superb troopers of the Kings German Legion, however, but surely not as bad as Johnny Crapaud?

DeanMoto Inactive Member14 Mar 2012 7:12 p.m. PST

No sweat, Sparker – I was only going on a few accounts. At least there's some feedback to the OP grin Best, Dean

ochoin deach Inactive Member14 Mar 2012 9:39 p.m. PST

I think Sparker's correct.

One source claimed you could always tell if French cavalry were near by the smell of suppurating sores on the horses' backs.

Discount a certain amount for anti-French bias & this is still a pretty telling criticism.

As for the British with their absurd love of animals, it's hard to think of them wilfully mistreating any beast.

nsolomon9914 Mar 2012 10:14 p.m. PST

Ok, some feedback:

- Grenadiers in this period did not throw Grenades!! Not ever. They were the largest, boldest, bravest men in the battalion but they didn't throw grenades. They would lead assaults and were good with the bayonet. In Legere Regiments they were called Carabiniers and the same modifiers should apply.
- The French were actually excellent skirmishers, had a fully developed tactical doctrine for skirmishing, a voltigeur company of trained skirmishers per battalion and whole regiments of light infantry trained as skirmishers. Wellington's clever use of reverse slope positions and strong British skirmish troops meant the French brigade and divisional commanders got their tactics wrong when attacking.
- There were very few Imperial Guard formations ever present in the Peninsula so this modifiers would be used extremely rarely.
- With a couple of notable exceptions the Spanish commanders were anything but gutsy and, usually incompetent. That the Spanish rank & file often fought as well as they did was no thanks to their commanders. Spanish commanders should be the key negative modifier for Spanish formations in your rules, inhibiting the ability of the Spanish battalions to manouver and be in the correct formation. The Spanish rank & file were frequently quite good troops but their officers lead them into such atrocious circumstances they often could not succeed.

I wouldn't worry about getting the number of modifiers per nationality all matching. Focus on getting qualities and characteristics right and you'll have better rules.

Wont hurt to read some more – David Gates book "The Spanish Ulcer" amongst others, is a strong recommendation for a balanced, overall view.

Garde de Paris15 Mar 2012 6:42 a.m. PST

I will be intersted to see how this goes for you. It looks incredibly complicated to calculate all these factors into a game.

Is it true (perhaps found in Oman's multi-volume history of the Peninsular war?) that the British cropped their horses tails? This left them essentiall defenseless against biting flies and other such insects. It is common to see two horses in a field, side-by-side, facing in opposite direction, each switching its tail over the other's face and front to "shoo" the flies!

TMPWargamerabbit15 Mar 2012 7:41 a.m. PST

Maybe some ideas from our gaming group's national characteristics. Our games are battalions, cavalry regiments and batteries so the unit scaling is similar.

French Imperial: PDF link

Britain: PDF link

Spanish: PDF link

Franco-Spanish "Afrancasados": PDF link

Portuguese: PDF link

Common national rules: PDF link

Main site: link


pbishop1215 Mar 2012 10:20 p.m. PST

The Spanish Ulcer… excellent recommendation. This book has been in my library for years and read countless times.

wrgmr116 Mar 2012 9:15 a.m. PST

Napiers Peninsular Battle and Sieges is quite good as well, however my version has no maps.

T Andrews16 Mar 2012 10:04 p.m. PST


Thanks for the links to your site. What a great collection of information! Very much appreciated by Napoleonic newbie.


imrael17 Mar 2012 5:08 a.m. PST

Would there be some justification for a French artillery bonus? If we were talking other fronts I'd think so, but maybe less obvious in spain?

Conversely, high level co-operation was a bit off for the French – if your game has reinforcements or flank marches could penalise that

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP21 May 2012 3:34 p.m. PST

Reading the "Spanish Ulcer" right now. Great book for anyone considering this conflict. Look forward to gaming this campaign in the near future. The biggest issue I have is how to rate the French? I can already hear the French players in my club howling at the mediocre rating some of the French units will have.

Alyxander100 Inactive Member21 May 2012 4:57 p.m. PST

I appreciate all the posts from everyone – I am currently reading the Spanish Ulcer and totally agree that the Spanish generals were incompetent at best – however I included that they were gutsy (though stupid, in that they stood when they should have retreated and retreated where they should have stood firm) and that they were able to get their men motivated as a way to show their leadership ability within the Spanish nation. I feel that they were able to properly motivate the troops, the breakdown comes in that they did not chose the right ground or formation for their troops. I think where I will make the change is to make it harder for the Spanish formations to change from one to the next.

Great to know about the Grenadiers bit – I did not know that they stopped using grenades – Any idea when that stopped? My rules cover from the start of the 7 years war through the Crimean war and Mexican American War. So for Grenadiers, if they still used grenades during the 1760-1790 period I would just date the rules to only apply to a specific time period.

The links are beautiful! I will take a look at them and see if I have any questions.

Alyxander100 Inactive Member21 May 2012 5:03 p.m. PST

The rules do cover many fronts – I would be interested in any Prussian, Austrian, Italian, Neapolitan and Russian characteristics as well

thanks again for all the help!

Seroga Inactive Member21 May 2012 7:31 p.m. PST

Russians 1811-1815

Positive Qualities :
1. Formed infantry does not rout – they may die, but they won't run (+4 or more)
2. "Cult of the bayonet" – infantry aggressive in bayonet attacks (+1 or +2)
3. Irregular cavalry reconnaissance and harassment (+4)
4. Elite units ….
- Combined Grenadier battalions (+1)
- His Majesty's Life Cuirassiers, Military Order Cuirassiers, Ataman's Cossacks, Guard Jäger, Guard Dragoons, Guard Uhlans, Guard Foot Artillery, Chevalier Guards, Grenadier regiments (+2)
- Guard Hussars, Guard Cossacks, Guard Horse Artillery, Guard Equipage (naval), Horse Guards, Guard Infantry (other than Jäger), Life-Grenadiers (+3)

To compare or give scale to my ratings, I would rate French Guard ….
- grenadiers ā cheval de la garde, gendarmes d'élite (+4 or more)
- Old Guard infantry and artillery, Polish lancers, Mameluks (+4)
- marins de la garde, chasseurs ā cheval de la garde, Dutch lancers (+3)
- Middle Guard, dragons de la garde (+2)
- Young Guard (+1)

Russian Jäger skirmishers should be equal to French light infantry or skirmishers.
Russian artillery should have "grand battery" like French (Russians had so much, their normal artillery was pretty always rather a grand battery, e.g. 36+ pieces of artillery with each infantry division).

Negative Qualities :
1. Artillery offensive doctrine poorly developed (-1 or -2 when advancing)
2. Opolchenie/Militia/Volunteer/Partizan units (-3 for most units for most tasks – but not all units and all tasks)
3. "Infantry" (former "Musketeer") regiments usually not too practised in skirmishing (-1 …. but Guard, Jäger and Grenadier units not included in this)

MikeKT Inactive Member22 May 2012 12:09 a.m. PST

Nice, WargameRabbit!

BTW the Common National link does not work unless the last digit 5 in the URL is replaced with 6.

National Characteristics were how people of past centuries stereotyped themselves and others, whether on a factual or fictional basis, and certainly add historical flavor to the games.

However don't mention "National Characteristics" away from the game table or your local thought police may get you.

boomstick86 Inactive Member22 May 2012 7:38 a.m. PST

My understanding is that grenadiers stopped using grenades before 1700.

boomstick86 Inactive Member22 May 2012 7:38 a.m. PST

After 1700 it was time to punch out and get a beer.

Jemima Fawr Inactive Member22 May 2012 8:58 a.m. PST

Grenades were still used in naval boarding actions, sieges, naval raids, etc. However, the only example I've ever found for grenadier companies using grenades in the field during this period was in the deposition of Lt Barry St Leger of the 2e Legion des Francs, at Fishguard in 1797. There he describes equipping the 200 men of the legion's combined grenadier companies with grenades in preparation for an ambush in close terrain.

Alyxander100 Inactive Member22 May 2012 9:01 a.m. PST

Sounds like grenade rules should be thrown out then! I'll do some research into it and see if they were used any later than 1700 – I thought they were used in the American Revolution, but it may have been a "few and far between" type deal.

Seroga, thanks for the Russian characteristics. I have some fun Russian rules in place many of the items that you mentioned are there – the Grand battery bit, is in there – or is going to be included in my first round of revisions (cant remember if its on the slate or already done) also the "cult of the Bayonet" is in there in a form as well. For your 3rd Point, the Irregular cavalry recon and harassment, would you play this the same as the Spanish guerrillas? Just a harassment force that affects reinforcements of the enemy? or would you make their cossack type cavalry have special characteristics making them better at dealing with skirmishers and infantry in Open Order?

Again to all, Thank you very much for your input.

Seroga Inactive Member22 May 2012 5:09 p.m. PST

Irregular national cavalry were more like hussars than partizans. They were essentially full-time soldiers, guarding boarder areas when not called to serve with the Army.
In defense, they should always be able to "step away" from a shock attack, if they choose, with no loss of men or morale.
In the attack, they were really good at false retreats, unexpected flank attacks and similar. Depending on the game scale, you might abstract this (for example : in a frontal attack, roll 1D6 and if the Russian player gets a 1 or 2, resolve the attack as if from the flank). Or, you can make it more explicit : let the Russian player make 1/5 or 1/6 of his cossacks invisible until they are in contact with an enemy or within a close distance in clear terrain, this will also pick up their ability to to disperse in very small numbers and then re-assemble on call or per a plan. There should be few/no hidden French units or other fog of war for the Russian player, and if you have pre-set orders or "written" dispatches, the Russian player should have a some chance of intercepting them. Delayed reinforcements is not really right, as a formed French unit would attempt to fight through all but largest Cossack swarms. Instead, the units should have some chance of arriving hungry, tired or lowered in morale in some way.
Cossacks will not charge home an infantry unit formed in square or even a dense column. They will not charge home against heavy cavalry from the front. Instead they will stop and shoot for a while (not too effective, but annoying) and "step away" if attacked. They also will not stand and accept attacks from such units, even if you want them to do so (they owned their horses, by the way – unlike Army and Guard cavalry which had government mounts). Exceptions to these limits are the Guard Cossacks and the Ataman's Own regiment (but the latter only if within line of sight or under orders of Ataman Platov).
These characteristics applied to all the national irregular horse (Kalmyks, Bashkirs, Teptyars, Mescheryaks, etc.)

imrael23 May 2012 12:02 a.m. PST

Something that might be a fun idea for flank marches and Cossacks. If your rules allow flank marches which enter on a roll, when playing against Russians

The French player rolls 3 dice before the game
Concealed from the French player, the Russian player picks one and puts it in a container
At the relevant turn the Russian Player will reveal the dice to the French.

The net effect is that the Russian player knows when the French Flank force will turn up, but the French player doesnt.

MikeKT Inactive Member24 May 2012 12:06 a.m. PST

The net effect is that the Russian player knows when the French Flank force will turn up, but the French player doesnt.

I do like that idea and the mind games involved.

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