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"Column, Line, and Square Napoleonic Rules by Vietmeyer" Topic

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MarescialloDiCampo20 Mar 2015 8:27 a.m. PST

Fred Vietmeyer's Column, Line, Square is listed as published in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1966 according to Paddy Griffith's Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun.
In reference to Fred Vietmeyer:
1963 – Fred Vietmeyer reports basing his figures on historical tables of organization rather than having all units of all nationalities on bases with the same number of figures.
1964 – Fred Vietmeyer introduces the concept of unbalanced equality for Napoleonics. Each nationality has some positive aspects and some negative ones.
1965 – - Fred Vietmeyer releases battalion level Napoleonic organization charts.
1966 – Fred Vietmeyer introduces idea of historically balanced armies; privately publishes first edition of Column, Line and Square for Napoleonic games.
1968 – - Fred Vietmeyer releases 2nd edition of privately printed Column, Line and Square -- $15 USD then, now original copies have gone at auction for $100. USD

2015 CLS versions available at link

And discussion at yahoo group: link

skipper John Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2015 9:42 a.m. PST

French; 36 figures to a battalion, 12 battalions to a division. 432 foot figures to start, (one side!)….. plus you will certainly need some guns and mounted. Scary!

Robert Burke20 Mar 2015 11:50 a.m. PST

CLS was my first miniature wargame (if you don't count chess). I started playing it in 1970 (when I was 15). I was lucky that my high school had a wargaming club.

Sadly, no one in my area plays it anymore. While other rules may be more realistic, I consider CLS the wargaming version of the original Star Trek series. Without it, would we have all these other rule sets today?

MajorB20 Mar 2015 11:55 a.m. PST

Without it, would we have all these other rule sets today?

Yes, of course we would. Wargames rule writing in the UK was hardly influenced at all by CLS.

Skeets Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2015 12:01 p.m. PST

CLS was my first wargame with miniatures when I was introduced to it by Dick Bryant and NEWA. There is a small group, 6 or so, in my area that still play regularly. We also have a group of 24 or so players that get together for an all day game twice a year and play on a 24'x5' table in the garage. When we get together for this we have 4,000 plus figures on the table.

Personal logo StoneMtnMinis Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2015 12:52 p.m. PST

This was the standard rule set for Napoleonics when I joined my first club back in 1978. After several years I renamed the rules Column Line and Squabble(the club had a lot of rules lawyers). I remember the joy of bounce sticks and canister patterns.


GoGators20 Mar 2015 4:56 p.m. PST

Great game. I wish more rules had simultaneous movement.

tuscaloosa20 Mar 2015 7:08 p.m. PST

First Napoleonics game I ever played, at a convention in Massachusetts about 1982. Groundbreaking and a lot of fun.

We called it Column Line and Submachine Gun, due to the high casualties.

Personal logo edmuel2000 Supporting Member of TMP21 Mar 2015 1:35 a.m. PST

So what?

If you want to advertise, buy a banner.

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP21 Mar 2015 6:39 a.m. PST

The Colorado Military Historians are doing a huge Waterloo game using these rule next June in Denver.

daler240D21 Mar 2015 8:19 a.m. PST

Edmuel2000, he doesn't need to advertise. They are free. I am appreciative of the post, so I would say…"THAT'S what."

Major Bloodnok21 Mar 2015 8:43 a.m. PST

I first started with Column, Line & Slaughter, and while I enjoyed the die to the last man melees, I thought the artillery rules a bit odd. It semed as if the gun was behaving as a single gun rather than multiple guns. I used to have 1500 pts of Austrians. There were mostly 15mm minfigs where the infantry came on a 5 man strip and the cavalry were a three man strip (I think). When I strated they were 75 cts. a strip and then they went up to a 1.00 a strip.

daler240D21 Mar 2015 8:53 a.m. PST

I can't believe anybody could ever play these rules.

Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP21 Mar 2015 9:35 a.m. PST

This was my first organized war-game if you do not count Little Wars with high school buddy shooting cannons are original Britains. Discovered it in 1967 from Bob Corey, co-developer with Fred. He met a premature end in a shoot out with police :( and so is mostly forgotten.

After introducing Dick Bryant to the game, we, and group in New England played weekly for 2 years. Then I came to Michigan and had limited colleagues to play with. I did celebrate my 40th anniversary with the game

I plan to bring out my 10,000 25mm min fig army for Waterloo in June (minus the Russians and Austrians)

I have one of those original privately printed 2nd editions and a one inch thick sheaf of revised referee rulings.

What I really want is the FIRST EDITION. This seems to have vanished.

Czar Alexander II22 Mar 2015 3:43 p.m. PST

Our local group (Jacksonville FL) has been playing CLS since the early 80s. There is also a group in Melbourne (even older as they got the Jax group interested in the game) There is also I think a group in Orlando although I haven't heard from them in a very long time.

One of our early converts gave over the use of his garage to just CLS so we have a 16' x 7' table (reinforced for when you have to reach the middle). To date between the 6 active painters we have over 24000 25mm figures mostly Minifig but with a decent amount of newer 28mm and some plastics.

2nd Edition Battle Manual are the rules in use I've heard of the mythical 1st Editon but have never seen a copy.
(If I did I'd scan it and put it in the rules repository so kindly provided at the Deep Fried Happy Mice site ..)

A sizable game of CLS is also run at the Rapier Game Convention every year that enough of us can make it to carry in the 5000+ figures……alot harder as we get older :)

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2015 12:34 p.m. PST

I have a 1970's version of the rules from michigan. These are the real napoleonic rules. Everything else is a cheap, scanky imitation.

Captain Gideon25 Mar 2015 1:17 p.m. PST

One other thing you can say about CLS is that it really favors the British more than it should.

I would prefer a more balanced set of Napoleonic rules but sadly there's not many of those.

IrishBrigade69th26 Mar 2015 10:22 a.m. PST

The unbalanced equality of these rules are what I think makes it great. With that being said I would say the French are favor a lot more then the British.

Czar Alexander II26 Mar 2015 4:34 p.m. PST

I would agree that the French have quite a few more "advantages" in the rules and even in their game organizations
….I even recall (or at least I think I do) that the French
favoritism led to the split in the gaming group that Fred
once belonged to….

The unbalanced equality features are pretty good imho

Rick7820 Dec 2015 1:47 p.m. PST

I was in that Melbourne group. Our group in Satellite Beach started playing CLS in 67-69 time frame. I was only 15 back then. We went over to a fellow's house in Melbourne to play CLS. This guy knew Fred V. from doing reserves with him in Miss. and got the rules from him. I moved out of the area to Daytona Beach in 1970, but I'm not at all surprised that it kept going. It was a good group. The thing that I remember about CLS is that you need masses of figures, because they die very quickly. I agree that the French and British have all the advantages, but for some reason, I like the Russians.

Ottoathome21 Dec 2015 5:39 a.m. PST

I remember "Column, Line, and Square," very well. We played it for a few years. along with other rule sets. I also recall the evaluations of it and comments of it in Jack Scruby's Table Top Talk, and other magazines. The plan was NEVER TO have whole divisions or armies. Such megalomania was never part of it. It was always envisioned each side would be a couple of battalions with supporting guns and artillery, out of scale, and out of proportion they may have been but the emphasis was on the game not on the ego.

The fact that so many games were pitched and played under that idea, that the battalions were historically unequal and had differing advantages and almost no one said a peep testifies as to how unimportant these questions were back then. The games were a lot of fun. However they were one of the first "All French are +3 in everything" and "All British have assault rifles" in everything rules which grated after a bit.

It can still yield a good game, provided you are willing to accept it for what it is and have fun.

"Column Line and Square" was quite influential in that the idea of historically proportioned battalions for each country hung on for a long time and was adapted and adopted for many rules and individuals. The only criticism that can really be leveled against it was the idea that somehow the organization of the battalion in some way gave the various nations their advantages and were causal factors on the battlefield.

When you contemplate those old days and the rules we have had throughout the life of the hobby you see how "faddish" war games are.

chriscoz23 Dec 2015 10:24 a.m. PST

First game for me too. We used to play at Waterloo Hobbies in Stony Brook, Long Island 1978-82 (that's when I was around) I had 1500 points of Turks We had a stilted multi-year campaign, but mostly it was going up on Saturdays and having a couple of massive battles.

Played lots of other rule sets since, and the game is flawed. But it was FUN!

I sold my Turks for money to go to the prom.

MiniPigs12 Jul 2018 2:24 p.m. PST

For tactical, Column Line and Square are a lot of fun. A lot of players dont like them so much because they dont want to take casualties off the board. But it is good for a nice congenial game that gives both a sense of involvement and completion.

The rules bog down over a division per side or if there is too much crowding. I remember one game where due to morale rolls, one players Austrian army all fell back or routed off the board. Mustve been twenty units that their side had just placed on the board and he and his mates spent more than two hours rolling morale and taking units off the board. Although amusing, it was a stupendous waste of time.

There were rules lawyers with egos bigger than their knowledge and they made the evenings uncomfortable.

Historical pedants dont like CLS because they are concerned with something other than gaming. The intellect of the hobby and the playing of it, are divorced. It's a game.

Actually I wonder what ever happened to the grand tactical rules we play-tested in the NYC group I was a part of. They were very good rules. I still have a hand typed copy of them and need to transfer them to MS Word. I wonder if they were ever published. I was like 10 years old but Im pretty sure the rules were fun on a scale of 1:40 and no more than 4 or five divisions to a side. I am going to recheck them this weekend.

Hey You12 Jul 2018 6:12 p.m. PST

I think it was with Czar Alexander II's group that I learned to play. I played in the late 70's to early 80's in someone's garage in Jacksonville. We played the ACW variant if I recall. I also remember playing with the group in the CLS game at GenCon there one year.

We have a great group of online supporters (FB, Yahoo Groups) that still discuss the game, and try to collect all the old rules and papers. Hopefully one day the 1st edition will show up and then it can be shared with all.

Czar Alexander II16 Jul 2018 2:34 p.m. PST

Well we are still here…..I came into this group in the mid 1980s …I've heard your name but I don't recall ever gaming with you.

We are still in the same spot – Mikes garage – long ago we insulated it and put in a good AC unit – July in Florida can be a bit warm.

Mike also does a 25mm ACW game from time to time – Rally Around the Flag rules.

We are currently starting to do a series of the 1813 battles
that one of the players has decided to set up and run.

Mike and Steve are the only holdovers from the 1970s & early 1980s….the rest of us are "newbies"….late 80s and 90s.

Blutarski18 Jul 2018 11:27 a.m. PST

Just played in one of Skeets' big games last month.

A lot of people criticize the casualty rates. They need to stop and consider two things -

1 a six turn game is intended to represent an all day battle.

2 the apparently sky-high "casualty rate" arguably reflects unwounded soldiers who choose to drop out of the fighting as stragglers. I recommend DuPicq's ("Battle Studies") commentary re MacDonald's grand column assault at Wagram to anyone interested in appreciating the effects of straggling.

Just sayin'


SalTony Supporting Member of TMP19 Jul 2018 5:09 p.m. PST

Some people call it" Conga Line Slaughter". I only played it twice very intense (throwing fist full of dice) and very crowded table. But people who made their bones on this game remember it fondly.

Blutarski20 Jul 2018 6:05 p.m. PST

Greatest nightmare CLS scenario – a melee between two armored cuirassier regiments. Two players throw dice; everyone else goes to lunch.



HappyHussar Supporting Member of TMP21 Jul 2018 5:49 p.m. PST

Played that rules set once. My lone (French) battalion I commanded sat for most of the battle taking the occasional loss now and then. I was not terribly impressed with the game but my friend Mike Cavanaugh loved to play those rules.

They may be one of the longest running commercial set of rules still in use.

Blutarski21 Jul 2018 6:09 p.m. PST

Hi HappyHussar -


It's not possible to really "play" CLS commanding a single battalion of infantry. IIRC, the minimum command our club would assign to even the rawest noobie (as I myself once was) was a regiment of infantry + foot battery + squadron of light horse.


AICUSV23 Jul 2018 3:12 p.m. PST

We use to play these "back in the day", but 36 – 30mm figures per battalion was too for a high school kid to afford. I know of at least one gamer who still uses the organization for his armies and after 50 plus years he is still building his armies.

marshalGreg26 Jul 2018 6:36 a.m. PST

Yes remember fondly in Michigan. Received a copy ( still have and need to check which edition it is- its in a black ring binder)from Fred after I played in his game at Con in Ann Arbor ~ 1976. I was 14.
Was given a French Regiment of 3 battalions on the "near right flank". I managed to the take the hill from an experienced player more than twice my age. Knew French battalion organization and use of the Volt co. I leveraged that advantage for several turns before the final assault with the one fresh battalion.
Those were the days!
Built Army of French and Brits with airfix for it.

Garde de Paris03 Sep 2019 1:24 p.m. PST

I just found this on the internet! Back in the day, my group organized on the Vietmeyer system, but used 1:40 instead of 1:20 for ratio. A French battalion was 3 gren; 12 fusiliers; and 3 voltigeurs all mounted 3 to a stand 2" wide, 1" deep, except the voltigeurs single stands of 17mm wide 1 deep for skirmish use.

We mounted the British 3 to a stand, 5 stands (15 figures) to a battalion. For a brigade, we would have one battalion with 3 grenadier figures and no light company. Another with the same facing colours would have 3 light company men, no grenadiers. As with the French, we could combine those 2 battalions of 15 into a single battalion of 30 figures. Two French of 18 (1:40) would form a battalion of 36 figures (1:20).

This all allowed us to build our "armies" from a modest 45 British infantry (brigade of 3 battalions); 1 gun with 2 gunner figures (a section of 2 guns); and perhaps 6 mounted figures as a "squadron." We could add 3 95th of 60th Rifles for extra skirmishers.

Our French could be 3 or 4 battalions of 18 (1:40); 1 gun with 2 gunners; and 6 mounted figures – preferably Dragoons.

As our units grew, some would add to the cavalry from the same regiment. I preferred 6 figure of the 2nd Hussars for the French; then 6 figures of the 10th Chasseurs; and then 8 figures for the Westphalian lancers to form a composite regiment.

Lots of flexibility and variety.


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2019 3:15 p.m. PST

CLS wasn't just my first grown up miniatures game, I started out gaming at the Vietmeyer residence. Still do, actually. I've got a game slated for November--not CLS, due to some time and space limitations. But there will probably be a CLS game here ahead of that. Still a nice game for commanding a brigade to a division, but it did tend to gum up a little when we put 4,000 castings on the tables.

oldjarhead16 Sep 2019 5:46 p.m. PST

learning to game in my late teens, CLS was referred to as, Conga Line and Slaughter

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