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"Back to Quarrie - Napoleonic's 1970's style" Topic

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IanKHemm Inactive Member31 Jul 2016 6:58 p.m. PST

Some friends and I at Nunawading Wargames Association in Melbourne have gone back to our Napoleonic roots by delving into Napoleons Campaigns in Miniature – That great set of Napoleonic rules released in 1978 by Bruce Quarrie.

Our goal is to play the rules, highlight problem areas, iron them out and and modernise them to make them playable. So far we've only had a few small games whilst I build my Prussian forces. The first couple of games started off slow but as we've come to grips with the rules they've started to flow better and the games have sped up.

You can see some of our progress over on my blog and I'd bee keen to hear what others think.

(By the way- The first thing to go was the bookkeeping. Casualty charts were re-done and relegated to a dice roll similar to Empire).


photocrinch31 Jul 2016 7:05 p.m. PST

That's too fun! Can't wait to read your battle reports and see how you have tweaked the system.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP31 Jul 2016 7:20 p.m. PST

Old school cool.

normsmith Inactive Member31 Jul 2016 10:06 p.m. PST

Great stuff. I played these a lot when they came out. In those days, I just played all my rules as given and never questioned them and seem to remember for the most part enjoying them all – fascinating to look back with a 'different eye'.

look forward to this as it moves on.

(Last year I set up a board game that I had really enjoyed 35 years ago and instantly met with errata type questions that I could not resolve and had to pack the game away – that tells it's own tale).

Black Hat Miniatures01 Aug 2016 1:23 a.m. PST

I played the rules a lot when I was 14 and then when I started playing wargames again in 1995 I used these rules again for a couple of years.

I did like a lot of aspects of them apart from the maths of dividing by 33!


davbenbak Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2016 2:28 a.m. PST

Lots of great info in that book but the rules were too cumbersome. I remember rebasing all my armies by company as suggested with the suggested frontages. What a pain. Could never find someone to play them with me back then. Have fun and good luck.

IanKHemm Inactive Member01 Aug 2016 4:00 a.m. PST

Thanks for the mostly positive feedback.

And davbenbak:
I said above that "The first thing to go was the bookkeeping."

Now that you mention it, it was the figure basing that was the first thing to go. We already had troops based the same and decided to stick with that (12.5 mm per figure or 25mm/1" for two).

flipper Inactive Member01 Aug 2016 8:15 a.m. PST


The combat resolution as noted was a PITA – what made it worse was then having to further modify by the portion of a move you had moved prior to contact/firing.
Simultaneous movement and all the national characteristics further complicated things and were time consuming.
I wonder if a streamlined version of these rules would actually become something so far removed as to be unrecognizable from the root – in which case they are merely an inspiration.
Love the book (for it's general info – the rules should have had a chapter of example/explanations), but along with Empire/WRG and a few others – I certainly do not miss the headache/slowness/ambiguity of playing them.

David Manley01 Aug 2016 9:26 a.m. PST

We used these for all our Napoleon ice games ato our school wargames club back in the 80s, games often running over several days and involving thousands of figures. Awesome times and a lovely set of rules.

pbishop12 Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2016 11:32 a.m. PST

This was where I was weaned. Had the original Airfix edition in the mid 70's then graduated to the hardback version later on. The math always irked me, and after a visit to Gilder's WHC, I was hooked on basing in 2 ranks.

Been through a zillion rule sets, finally settling on GdBde. However I frequently referred to Quarrie on much of his chapters referring to campaigns, recruitment, supplies, etc. The rule chapter I eventually disregarded.

Still, it was my initial staple and I had fun with it for many years.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2016 10:24 a.m. PST

These were the rules I grew up and I never found a reason to move on.

They do need tweaking / interpreting of course. You need a convention as to where movement starts (we settled on left to right); you need to not bother writing orders (I never did). A simple arithmetical check shows the effect of artillery to be overstated if you fire eight 12-pounders at a 2-deep line from its front, that's 24 rounds per move which at a 100% hit rate and in perfect should take out no more than 96 men in real life. Using the rules you would take out far more, so reductions are required.

In some cases, rules are there but not used. So at ranges above a certain point hit probability declines, a rule which is usually ignored, and after 3 moves' fire, gunners become tired and then exhausted. You are also supposed to show smoke as an obstacle, so if you applied all three of those rules properly, the artillery would be a lot less devastating.

You can simplify the rules for broken troops by having them rout to 250 yards then Retreat, then Retire, then Halt. They can then reform and get their breath back, 400 yards from where the rout started.

The main issue I find is that 25mm figures didn't fit the frontages and still less do modern 28mm, although it's interesting that Le Feu Sacre rules use the same 8mm and 11mm as Quarrie. If you rebase bigger to fit the bigger figures (3 figures per 40mm base works for me, or 2 British), then you should also change the ground scale, so that a longer line can wheel in the same time as the rules intend.

There is a heinous error in the casualty tables too in that Bruce thinks a 2-deep line would have 33% more muskets firing than a 3-deep. Leaving aside the current thinking, this would be 50% more not 33%, so his tables under-reward the fire of a 2-deep line. You use the 2-deep fire table for 3-deep lines in melee, but this is a double-count as their smaller frontage reflects their depth advantage.

I set up a Yahoo group for Quarrie fans 4 years or so ago but I have never had the time to give to it.

Toronto48 Inactive Member02 Aug 2016 9:58 p.m. PST

A group I belonged to used Quarrie's rules for years We had our own house rules to clarify issues. I umpired a game once with 8 players ( Figures ranged from 20mm Airfix to massive Hinchcliffes ) It involved a French attack on a walled city with an allied army marching in relief

We finished the game in one evening and it was close right until the end. The key moment was when the Prussian defender fired artillery into a melee just as the French were coming through a breech The losses broke the Fench charge forcing them to retreat

Timmo uk03 Aug 2016 3:00 a.m. PST

I used to play it and can recall loosing entire battalions in a move as the casualty rates were very high too high in fact. We had to limit the number of guns deployed. Minifies 25mm fit the basing the defines.

It was this rule set that set me onto path of liking the aesthetic of single rank basing and rules that recognised the differences in frontages between 2 and three rank basing.

Dexter Ward03 Aug 2016 3:06 a.m. PST

Timmo wrote:
It was this rule set that set me onto path of liking the aesthetic of single rank basing and rules that recognised the differences in frontages between 2 and three rank basing.
Just shows – it was this set of rules that made me realise I hate the look of single rank basing, and that varying frontages for different depths only matters if you have a fixed man:figure ratio. If you just model the correct frontage of each battalion, it doesn't matter how many model soldiers are in it, or whether they are in one rank or two. Two battalions with the same frontage have exactly the same number of muskets firing, whether in two ranks or three. So the number of ranks makes very little difference.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2016 4:19 a.m. PST

If you just model the correct frontage of each battalion, it doesn't matter how many model soldiers are in it

The trouble with that is that it means you might as well just buy the bases and play with those. Wargaming for me has always been about a pretext to play with my toy soldiers =)

Two battalions with the same frontage have exactly the same number of muskets firing, whether in two ranks or three.

If so then one is 50% more numerous than the other, which has implications of its own.

Timmo uk03 Aug 2016 8:09 a.m. PST


Fortunately we don't all think alike otherwise we'd have nothing to debate and all our games would look the same, which actually wouldn't be at all interesting.

As 4th Cuirassier writes relative strength and thus relative frontage has significant implications. Enjoy your gaming.

yarkshire gamer03 Aug 2016 3:54 p.m. PST

Lovely set of rules that will always bring back great memories of great games with long lost friends.

A National Characteristics table is an essential part of any set of rules.

Regards Ken

Ben Avery Inactive Member03 Aug 2016 4:13 p.m. PST

I never actually played these, but bought the book for the pictures and a sense of completeness in the Airfix series.

Single rank feels okay in 25/28mm, but I prefer double rank in 15mm.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP04 Aug 2016 12:52 a.m. PST

The depiction of ranks is probably the most troublesome thing for any set of Napoleonic rules to model. Some armies fought in two, some in three. Some doubled up from two ranks to four for square and some stripped the third rank away to skirmish.

None of this would matter if all armies were the same but where you have a two-rank army versus a three-rank one you risk giving an advantage to one or other if you don't reflect it properly.

Then there is what pleases visually. I am personally baffled by the fashion for two ranks of figures per base even for three-rank armies, but I can't talk because I like one rank of figures for all armies, which is never literally correct.

You pays yer money.

As for national characteristics, I agree that they're indispensable. I think this because a/ the people of the era thought they were real and acted accordingly, and b/ the differences in doctrine, training and leadership that existed between the various armies can conveniently be described as national characteristics.

Timmo uk04 Aug 2016 1:59 a.m. PST

I agree it's a tricky one but ultimately I was very happy with the solution that I arrived at. Single rank basing at 1:33 so back where I entered the hobby and the relevance to this thread. I know folks tell you that the line is still too deep and they are right but they may also say depth of the model units is so far out that it also doesn't matter. However, I've found the space saving of single ranks over double does actually make a difference and it gives a less 'traffic jam' appearance.

Single rank basing solves quite a few issues on the table top however, I do think it's more commonly accepted in the US than in the UK. Perhaps the UK hobby is more traditional and less experimental or open minded than the US hobby, dunno.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP04 Aug 2016 3:06 a.m. PST

I do 2 ranks of 15mm, at 8mm spacing, to represent a 3 rank line. I know, why not go whole hog and do all 3 ranks?, – well then a line (even with 16 files) looks to much like a divisional column, and the footprint is WAY too deep.

The Brit's- I haven't painted mine yet since I'm not doing that side-show theater yet. I imagine that I will still do them as a double rank, but take off 1.5 casulties per hit and only count 2/3 of the figure numbers after the first round of melee. Any suggestions?

Skeptic06 Aug 2016 5:21 p.m. PST

I used to play them long ago. Quarrie wrote at least one short erratum article in the older (smaller format) Airfix Magazine.

Munster07 Aug 2016 1:17 a.m. PST

My first Napoleonic set of rules, though we also used WRG, New Hope Design and a few others which grew on from these rules.

They were fun, and the results relatively predictable, which made playing interesting as a precocious teenager who was good at mental math!

kevanG10 Aug 2016 12:00 p.m. PST

My amendments were longer than the rules….

but eventually I realised they were completely off the wall…Combat resolution was awful…..Morale was awful.

but I loved playing them.

Maxshadow13 Aug 2016 8:19 p.m. PST

Inspiring project! Look forward to reading how it develops.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2016 4:02 p.m. PST

Interesting blog although I am struggling with the upgrading of Prussian fusiliers to make them the best light infantry in any army. Their battlefield performance suggests they were average on a good day. Then again I tend to want to equalise all these factors anyway.

Also, Brucie reckoned (I think) that you could use the medicine + casualties rules with percentage dice to determine personality figure casualties. In effect, if a unit loses 3 figures of 24, that's a 12.5% loss rate. So the general has the same odds of becoming a casualty, with a 40% chance of it being him who is hit and a 60% chance of its being his horse. So you roll a percentage dice and if you score 5 or less he is killed, 6-13 his horse is killed, and so on.

Your way is probably simpler, as is expressing the casualties in fractions of a figure.

Personal logo vonLoudon Supporting Member of TMP30 Oct 2016 11:41 a.m. PST

I thought 1:33 to be ideal after reading quarry and seeing 1:33 formations elsewhere. I have never played them and wonder how much you can dress them up and make them playable.? But the covers of the Quarry paperback version with Minifigs French versus Spanish are two of the neatest wargame photographs I have seen.

The Wargaming Company02 Nov 2016 7:45 a.m. PST

Curiously, we just added recommendations for converting the Unit Combat Ratings from our ESR Campaign Guides to Quarrie's Rules:

ESR Conversion Recommendations

There are a lot of scenarios in our first two Campaign Guides: Roll up that Map, 1805 in Germany and Master of the World, 1812 in Russia that would be great for Quarrie's Rules.


Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP02 Nov 2016 1:15 p.m. PST

Blimey, must revisit RutM and find out what that's all about!

The Wargaming Company02 Nov 2016 7:45 p.m. PST

Blimey, must revisit RutM and find out what that's all about!


RutM has a lot of smaller scenarios in it prior to Austerlitz, lots of division vs division and corps vs corps engagements.

Conversely, we are on the eve of releasing We shall meet in Vienna, 1813 in Germany which is nearly all major engagements.


Marc at work03 Nov 2016 1:08 a.m. PST

Always good (if rare) to see a thread with TWC adding something about ESR rules grin

Going back to something 4th said about two ranks. I have been through many iterations of basing, from triangles (for 3 rank – anybody remember those rules?) through WRG etc, ending with GdeB and BP.

My 2p worth – part of my love of Naps is from seeing Peter Gilder's set ups. And he used 2 deep. And it stuck with me. So now I do it as a matter of course. Frontages I run at approx. 2mm to the yard, but accept my depth is out.

But it means that, FOR ME, I end up with units that look like troops in line firing. Single lines just never gave that visual image to me. So I accept the depth issues, and the need to paint twice as many figures just so I can have two ranks, but I end up with what I wanted – a Peter Gilder style game.

Of course, everyone is different, and I respect the views of the single rankers – just doesn't work for me.

Dexter Ward03 Nov 2016 2:23 a.m. PST

I'm with you there – two ranks looks like a formation.
That's how the troops were in the books by Don Featherstone, Charles Grant, Brigadier Young, et al.
One rank looks like a skirmish line.
Looks are everything, otherwise why play with miniatures at all?
So we end up with the wrong depth, and don't care how many figures are in the unit so long as the frontage is right.

I think the only way to get something which looks good and has the right proportion is to go for small scales like 6mm.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP03 Nov 2016 2:33 a.m. PST

Agree two ranks look nice, but it's still wrong for most armies, which is how I rationalise liking a single rank. It's no more wrong than the alternatives but it looks slightly more like the flimsy formation, optimised solely for delivering firepower ahead of itself, that it was.

Essentially, I like to see columns, lines, squares, skirmisher screens, grand batteries and cavalry charges by brigade.

TWC are right though re their guides in that the level of information provided works with any set of rules. It is battalions, squadrons and gun troops on terrain measured in yards, so unless one's rules are unable to absorb such concepts, they will work with the TWC campaign guides. If your rules can't do so, then presumably they would have a hard time staging any battle if you have only a piece of military historical writing to go by.

I gather some ancient rulesets have no idea what formation they are approximating, and are essentially just an arbitrary game using ancient miniatures. But that is a function of the dearth of information for the period. I'd personally be bewildered by a ruleset that could not be used to play out their scenarios, unless it's a skirmish set that intentionally doesn't deal with large units.

le Grande Quartier General Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member12 Nov 2016 7:03 p.m. PST

I too have the little red book- first rules I ever used :)

battleeditor Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Nov 2016 10:40 a.m. PST

Fantastic as a schoolboy, these rules dominated our wargames club for years and we became expert at the 33 times table! Instill like most of the concepts and as long as you've got an entire weekend to spare, the give a good game. I still have my equilateral triangle artillery bases.


Field Marshal16 Feb 2017 4:22 p.m. PST

Absolutely adore that book…its what got me into Napoleonics many years ago…mainly the potted history and photos

pbishop12 Supporting Member of TMP24 Jan 2018 11:04 a.m. PST

I started with the little red book in the 70's when I was stationed in Athens Greece. Later I was posted to UK and got mixed up with a group from Milton Keynes. Probably just ignorance on my part, but I thought Quarrie rules were the gospel. A trip to Peter Gilder's WHC changed it all Two ranks, 20:1 scale, gave me the aesthetics I was looking for. Quarrie still sits on my shelf, but its not my first choice of rules.

BOOFER25 Jan 2018 4:25 a.m. PST

I've also used these rules since the 70s and agree with the comments above.

My wargaming group is having an 1812 Russian v Austrian trip down memory lane battle this weekend using these rules.

I should get them out and have a read.

John Edmundson25 Jan 2018 6:12 p.m. PST

My first encounter with "real" rules was the Airfix Napoleonic Wargaming. I had various home written attempts at rules (mostly WWII) and then in 1976 (I think, since it would have been the US Bicentennial) my father took me to see a wargame of the Battle of Guildford Courthouse. I have never forgotten that moment. I stayed through the entire thing. They used Bruce Quarie's Airfix book and I had to get a copy. We started using Airfix French and Brits but my brother was more interested Russians.

Always loving the underdog, I took offence at Quarrie's "national characteristics" where he claimed that the Austrians were the worst troops in Europe (apart from the Spanish). From memory both Spanish and Neapolitans were Austrians -1 on everything. My love for Napoleonic Austria has never gone, despite huge breaks from actually playing.

I loved the games we had but his ignorance of some things was appalling. The Austrians, he declared, had no horse artillery! There was a mea culpa on that in "Napoleon's Campaigns in Miniature". I don't think the Grenz existed (unless they were the generic "light infantry" which I took to be the actual Light infantry that were disbanded in about 1801. I don't think he mentioned Aspern-Essling as Austrians were there only to be disparaged. MAybe he called it a 'setback' in NCIM.

Austrian (and Prussian, Spanish and Neapolitan) troops were poor and painfully slow to change formations, Russians were tough and IIRC Poles got to be Russian +1! I think we do need to be able to "grade" troops for quality but I think his approach simply gave him a forum for his own prejudices.

We had some pretty bloody encounters and I agree with the posters who commented on the lethality of artillery. I also remember us kids just throwing more unpainted Airfix figures into a pile to add troops to melee – hilarious in retrospect. Some of the most fun wargames of my life.

I still have my copy of NCIM (my Airfix Napoleonic Wargaming long since disintegrated) and I'm glad I do. Just the other day I was recalling his statistics for converting casualties into wounded etc. I don't know how accurate it all was, but it seemed very erudite at the time.

Finally we got frustrated with aspects of the rules, tried Newbury (just a more complicated version in the end, WRG didn't grab me and Napoleonics had gone into decline in Christchurch, NZ so I moved into Ancients mainly. Contradictory results between control tests and morale tests, the exaggerated differences between national characteristics, exaggerated power of artillery and skirmishers are the things I remember as the problems. Having to do complicated calculations wasn't the issue for me – I just took it as a necessary element of good rules – so we have progressed.


Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP26 Jan 2018 2:44 a.m. PST

@ John

I would say the Prussians were the worst troops in Europe apart from the Spanish, but that's by the by. I've been through much the same 40-year arc as you and in many areas I think Quarrie was right after all.

In recent threads we have determined that his 8mm and 11mm for French and British figures were in fact correct. Le Feu Sacre uses them too.

The lamentable marching rates he gave the Austrians are wholly fair. In 1809, they stopped their advance after two days in which they had managed 12 miles, according to Thunder On The Danube. What explains that? It doesn't cut it to argue, as some have, that the roads were bad; they managed a respectable old clip in retreat, and the French managed to advance perfectly well over the same roads.

It has to be said that in the mid 1970s there was no good book on the Austrian army unless you happened across the W Rawkins title which, had Quarrie read it, would have dispensed with his various errors. He notes Aspern-Essling and Sacile as Austrian victories. The final (1992) edition of NCIM corrects most of the errors re the Austrians and also adds US troops and Indians.

A number of people who inhaled their diversity awareness training in the 1990s mistook national characteristics for racial ones and decided they couldn't be real. In fact they are just doctrine, leadership and state of training. When people question them I always invite them to consider whether the sides at Rorke's Drift should have different national characteristics; if so, all others are just a question of degree. Anyone who'd read Hussey's books on Waterloo would rate the Prussians poorly. For my money they lucked out in 1813-14 by having Russia and in 1815 by having Wellington on their side; absent those, they'd be speaking French.

If you use all the artillery rules it's not that lethal. Nobody in my experience applied the fatigue, accuracy or smoke factors.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member26 Jan 2018 4:18 a.m. PST

I had the 1st edition and they were my second ever purchase of Napoleonic rules (the first being "Bayonet" by the Tunbriddge wargames club). All I can remember of them now, apart from the annoying 1:33 figure:man ratio, are his comments that Bavarians "behaved like Highlanders" (never found anything that substantiates this) and that the annual cost of the Russian army was equal to the annual income from the export of vodka.

Actually, thinking about it, those two factoids might have been from the "Napoleon's Campaigns in Miniature" book. Which means that the only lasting impression of the rules is the 1:33 ratio. And the triangular artillery bases.

John Edmundson26 Jan 2018 8:43 p.m. PST

I didn't see the final edition because mine (which is in a box in the garage somewhere . . . ) doesn't have the US and Indian troops.

I think the problem with the Austrians was not that they were "slow", and "animated by the desire to avoid defeat" as he quotes from Petrie. At battalion, regimental and divisional level, they were more or less as good as anyone. Their problems were at higher level they were often strategically outmaneuvered and often fought numerically disadvantaged, such as at Eckmuhl, Ratisbon etc.

Even at a battle like Raab, where they were outnumbered, they fought well (Insurrection excepted of course). There are occasions where Austrian battalions are destroyed, virtually (or actually) to the last man, fighting to hold their position. At Aspern-Essling, Austrian infantry fought incredibly tenaciously, room to room and door to door, storming, holding, retaking lost buildings, as did Prussian infantry at Ligny. Furthermore, despite many defeats, they did not disintegrate. They ultimately came back stronger. The troops themselves were not second rate. Napoleon recognised this fact, hence his "It is evident that you were not at Wagram" comment.

I agree that we need in our rules, grading systems of some kind. I like that in Sam Mustafa's rules, for instance, some Austrian line troops are graded better than others and that in Lasalle, Prussian Landwehr are even rated as unpredictable, so the player won't know until the last moment how well they'll fight. I'd probably use that sort of rule for the ADK Legion of 1809. These are national characteristics in a sense, but more flexibly applied than in NCIM.


John Edmundson26 Jan 2018 9:39 p.m. PST

I always played the smoke/fatigue etc rules. I liked therm at the time. It would be fun to play a game using them again.

John Edmundson27 Jan 2018 1:48 p.m. PST

I think the issue with rules of this era is that command and control was not really factored in, so it was reflected through things like "national Characteristics". The fact is that the Prussians and Austrians were often poorly led at higher levels so often came to battle in a poor situation and often outnumbered. They were no better or worse necessarily than their opponents at battalion, regiment, brigade or divisional level but the absence of a mechanism for command and control in the rules meant that "national characteristics" became a substitute.

Even under Archduke John, the Austrians (Insurrection excluded) fought hard at Raab, and the fighting was intense at Aspern and Essling. The Austrians fought well enough in 1809 to prompt Napoleon's "It is evident that you were not at Wagram" remark, and the reintroduction of battalion guns.

Yorck's handling of the light infantry in the aftermath of Jena and Auerstadt makes clear that the Prussians were far from "the worst troops in Europe" if they were well led.

What Quarrie did was conflate these things – he downgraded the troops themselves in the absence of a command and control mechanism. Assigning generals ratings for skill or inspiration value only magnified the problem by giving the troops already downgraded for their leadership, poor leaders. I think in this area too, it was very subjective, so Austrian and Prussian commanders tended to get very low ratings, British, French and to a point Russians, were good. It wasn't all Quarrie's fault; few if any rules took account of command and control back then. The focus was all on the minutae of combat – the same as other period rules, where WWII rules for example were all about armour thicknesses and armour penetration statistics.

Some variation in troop quality is important, but the variation within one nation's line infantry is probably at least as great as that between different nations.

I like the way that in 'Lasalle', or is it "Blucher"?, Prussian Landwehr are unpredictable, so you as the player don't know until they get into combat what rating they will have.

I will reiterate though that my memory of games using the Airfix and NCIM rules is really positive. That rules have changed doesn't change that. In fact if they hadn't been fun, I would have lost interest in the period, or wargaming as a whole. So I owe Bruce Quarrie a huge debt of gratitude for introducing me to "real" wargaming.


Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2018 7:13 a.m. PST

John, good post! Especially the command and control part.

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