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"Artillery Ranges In AWI Miniatures Games" Topic

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Rawdon11 Aug 2017 8:52 a.m. PST

As I work on polishing and refining my home-brew rules, I am still struggling with artillery ranges.

On the one hand, the historical record is pretty clear, both from battle reports and numerous field trials by multiple nations.

To wit, a 6-pounder had a maximum range of at least 1,200 yards even though the accuracy at that extreme range was low. Nonetheless, what might be considered usable long range was 900 yards:

80%+ hits = 150 yards
50% hits = 450 yards
25% hits = 900 yards
10 – 15% hits = 1,200 yards

This data is my best estimate of the mean reported by Muller (who himself cites multiple sources), the British Royal Artillery, Scheel, and modern secondary analysis such as by B.P. Hughes, plus some allowance for battle conditions versus test conditions. The hit percentage is the percent of balls hitting a 6-foot-high target and thus does not allow for the percent of those hits that would fail to actually hit a soldier (much smaller, BTW, than for musket balls).

There are plenty of examples in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars (same technology in terms of range and accuracy) of sustained artillery fire at ranges of 1,000 to 1,200 yards> What about the AWI? Northern theater versus Southern theater?

It does appear that, even cutting it off at 25% hits, the maximum range of a 6-pounder should be 6 times the maximum range of musketry. With most fire tables (certainly including mine) this datum would suggest a maximum 6-pounder ball range of at least 6 feet.


cavcrazy11 Aug 2017 10:24 a.m. PST

In the "Home Brew" AWI rules my group uses for a six pounder gun it has a range of 48 inches with a four inch bounce through which hits on a five or six. You get an automatic two dice and two more for the bounce through if the unit is in double ranks or column.
Example:A continental unit is coming across the field in two ranks, The British fire off a round and because they are in two ranks they throw four dice. fives and sixes are hits.
Under 24 inches is short range and you get kills on 4 or better.
canister is anything under 15 inches and you roll four dice and kill on fours or better.
Considering one man equals 20, killing one or two guys is pretty good.

Rawdon11 Aug 2017 10:52 a.m. PST

Cavcrazy, you make a good point that some rules overlook and of which I am vigilant in my own fire tables: actually removing a figure represents (with most ratios) a goodly number of casualties – 20 men in yours, 15 in mine.

What is your musket range? Because it is the ratio between artillery and musket range that I think most important.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2017 11:52 a.m. PST

Don't overthink things. Don't strive for absolute accuracy because you won't get it. The data isn't there, and if you have it, it might be Shots that aren't typical.

Just make range longer than musket range. Make the range so it would take an infantry regiment in line at least three marches to get to it.

Don't attempt to get absolute numbers at the beginning. Think out the results you want and go backwards from that.

Personal logo optional field Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2017 11:56 a.m. PST

While those are interesting (and useful) facts in some contexts, there are some other points to consider when examining the effectiveness of 18th century artillery.

It is rather easier to hit a body of formed men than an individual "6-foot-high target." Also round shot tend to continue onward, either flying, bouncing, or rolling for sometime after initial contact with any object (either a man or the ground). Given that soldiers of the 18th century tended to stand in large, densely packed formations the resulting casualties can be significantly greater than one might expect as the shot flies through those densely packed bodies of men.

It is also worth noting that regular soldiers of the period were discouraged from showing individual initiative (in almost all situations). Thus even if a soldier were aware of the incoming shot, he would seldom consider any attempt to take cover or even dodge the shot (such stoicism haven literally been beaten into him in training).

There are some exceptions to that, and soldiers taught to skirmish (i.e. Native Americans and most soldiers designated as "light infantry") would be less likely to form such dense targets (although my understanding is that most light infantry would be trained to fight in both dense and loose formations). Likewise such troops would also be more encouraged to show individual initiative and less likely to simply stand die.

This last point is probably something most readers of this post will also have considered, but I'll include it for the sake of completeness; Weapons firing canister will have radically different effects than those firing roundshot.

Supercilius Maximus11 Aug 2017 12:37 p.m. PST

@ Rawdon,

Not sure if this duplicates what you have already found, and it is based on tests done after the AWI but using the same calibre guns and technology, so make of it whatever you wish.

Slightly after our time, but using similar calibres and equipment (minus the block trail). Infantry and cavalry were both assumed to form up at 1,200 yards; the infantry advanced at a notional rate of 100 yards per minute (3-4 mph), exposing them to 12 minutes of artillery fire in total, whilst the cavalry were considered to "walk" (3 mph) for the first 800 yards, "trot" (7 mph) for 150 yards, then "gallop" (14 mph) for 170 yards, and finally "charge" (up to 20 mph) for the final 80 yards. Total exposure time to fire from one gun for the infantry was 12 minutes; for the cavalry, it was 9 minutes (walk), 44 seconds (trot), 25 seconds (gallop), and 8 seconds (charge), or 10 minutes 17 seconds.

Allowing for time to "run up" ammunition from the limbers, smoke to clear, the gun to be run back up, and the barrel elevation adjusted for (decreasing) range, a 6-pdr was expected to fire 28 rounds against infantry and 11 rounds against cavalry. A 3-pdr was expected to fire 37 rounds at infantry in 12 minutes, or 15 at cavalry in 5 minutes (round shot taking longer to load than case). Ammunition used was round shot down to 350 yards, and common case from 350 yards to point blank; with the introduction of spherical case, this was fired from 1,200 yards down to 650 yards, then round shot to 350.

In tests conducted in Hyde Park (1802) and on Jersey (1805) – both before the introduction of "spherical case" – a dragoon commenced his "attack" at 600 yards, walking 200 yards in 95 seconds, trotting 150 yards in 28 seconds, galloping 170 yards in 13 seconds, and charging 80 yards in 8 seconds. During this transit the 6-pdr fired 13 times in Hyde Park, and 14 on Jersey; it fired 14 times at infantry attacking from 250 yards out (both attacks took 117 seconds).

Franklin also cites Muller (A Treatise on Artillery – London, 1780), who gives the following casualties for a 6-pdr against (a) cavalry and (b) infantry:-

(a) 1,600 – 800 yards: 4d, 2w
800 – 400 yards: 6d, 4w
400 – 0 yards: 9d, 23w

Total casualties: 19 dead, 29 wounded

(b) 1,600 – 1,200 yards: 4d, 4w
1,200 – 800 yards: 8d, 2w
800 – 400 yards: 16d, 10w
400 – 0 yards: 30d, 90w

Total casualties: 58 dead, 106 wounded

During the Hyde Park operation, tests were also carried out to discover how often infantry could fire on approaching infantry and cavalry, but these are not reproduced in Franklin's book.

Hope that helps.

Personal logo Ironwolf Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2017 12:52 p.m. PST

thanks for the detailed information!

Timmo uk11 Aug 2017 1:29 p.m. PST

What you then need to add into the mix is the effect of terrain. Even quite shallow dips and folds in the ground can effectively hide units and mask them from the effects of gun fire. Consider smoke. Then look at what really happened and consider how different it is when somebody is firing back at you and how much this reduces effectiveness.

Generally the issue with the results of 'field trials' is that were they accurate for the conditions of actual combat both armies would have been destroyed several times over.

In game design the real arbiter of how successful the rules are comes in the results and if they ring true with what really typically tended to happen.

One aspect that rarely gets addressed in H&M is the weapon ranges relative to unit/battalion frontages. Rules will typically work on a premise that with say, 28mm figures 12" looks about the right distance for a musket to fire as 'any less just looks daft with 28mm figures'. However, if you know how many men your model unit represents you can work out the frontage of a given unit and then adjust the musket and artillery ranges to reflect the typical distances that units opened fire. If a battalion had a frontage of 100 yards but held fire until say 60 yards, then they should be firing at a range of about half the model units frontage. Depending on your figure to man ratio that distance might be very small on the wargames table.

Equally you can then work out your artillery ranges and it may well be that the guns can fire right across the table. Again that's a tricky thing with wargames especially with larger figures when our 5' or 6' table only represents say, half a mile. So you then have to introduce rules that govern when and how artillery fires as real guns in H&M battles weren't always firing all the time, for good reason(s). You may also want to restrict the ammunition that artillery batteries have they didn't always an endless supply that would allow them to blast away at long range and doing so might waste ammunition and tire the crews too rapidly.

Going back to dips and folds in terrain, if you don't model these specifically and have a largely flat playing surface then you might want to assume the flat model landscape represents undulating real terrain that will mask units from gunfire at times when they advance. The outcome of that is that your gunfire will be less effective.

Finally when all is said and done morale may be the real arbiter of victory.

Doug MSC Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Aug 2017 1:47 p.m. PST

"Just make range longer than musket range. Make the range so it would take an infantry regiment in line at least three marches to get to it."

I agree with Winston.

Personal logo StoneMtnMinis Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2017 2:23 p.m. PST

100 yards in 1 minute – are you sure? At a fast walk(30 inche pace) over level ground I averaged 12 yards in 10 seconds. Over normal ground with even minimal obstacles I think the average would be less than that. But, maybe I am just slow and am willing to let the rest of the line get stuck in before me. grin

Rawdon11 Aug 2017 2:34 p.m. PST

All good comments. Timmo, I agree that the unit frontage in line determines the ground scale. In my case, and wishing to keep to round numbers, it comes out to 1 inch equals about ten yards.

Minor dips in the ground are hard to model unless one is going to create unique scenery for each game (not me). Smoke is a challenge to simulate, too. Both unquestionably affect target selection.

I don't have a problem with the maximum artillery range being long. As Timmor suggests, my group has always limited a gun's artillery supply based on the known load-outs and the approximate mean number of times that a gun will fire in a turn. In the Napoleonic era, re-supply is possible though time-consuming. I'm not aware of any occasion in the AWI when artillery was re-supplied during a battle.

Supercilius, good stuff and thank you, but I have seen it or similar. I know you are just a reporter on this, but the theoretical estimated hits by a 6-pounder are obviously way too high; a battery of 6-pounders would therefore inflict 288 casualties on a cavalry unit and 984 (!) on an infantry unit.

In all wars the difference between theory and battlefield for weapons effectiveness is enormous.

RudyNelson11 Aug 2017 2:53 p.m. PST

strictly AmRev, it is hard to find maps of battles where target visibility exceeded 600 yards.
I had done many similar calculations decades ago when I did the "Fire and Discipline: the Americas". We all do research so I will say no more about that. This was a 1:10 scale set of rules so units of many sizes could be played.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2017 3:11 p.m. PST

It's not really the maximum range that the gun can reach that matters. It's the range at which the crew would open fire.

Rawdon11 Aug 2017 3:38 p.m. PST

Winston, I agree. Unfortunately the record on this for the AWI is somewhere between sparse and non-existent. As noted, in the Revolutionary / Napoleonic wars firing at ranges of 1,000 yards or more was commonplace. It is true that many AWI battlefields did not have that great a line of sight, but some did.

Supercilius Maximus11 Aug 2017 6:40 p.m. PST

I think another problem was that few (if any) AWI battlefields had (a) the number of guns, or (b) enough ammunition, to be able to afford to engage at longer ranges (even where they could see that far).

cavcrazy11 Aug 2017 8:10 p.m. PST

Rawdon, If you send me your email address, I can send you a copy of our rules.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP12 Aug 2017 9:01 a.m. PST

I think that there is a huge difference between "I've seen cannonballs carry to that range!" and "There. Now they're close enough we can do some real damage."
Random dips in terrain and smoke are adequately taken into account by random die rolls.
The main determinant was at what range can you assure yourself of doing damage AND having enough ammunition on hand if the enemy closes.

RudyNelson12 Aug 2017 4:39 p.m. PST

I assume that you have a copy ofvArtillery Through the Ages:emphasize no the types used in America published in 1949 and later 1962. It was available through most battlefield souvenir shops in the east.

This does an in depth analysis of many aspects and tests for artillery effectiveness. The restriction of ranges in early battles of the AmRev and 1812 are mentioned.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP13 Aug 2017 4:59 a.m. PST

I guess I missed it somehow, but who is the 'Franklin' being referred to by SuperMax?

Supercilius Maximus13 Aug 2017 12:53 p.m. PST

Carl Franklin – British Napoleonic Field Artillery.

Rawdon13 Aug 2017 6:24 p.m. PST

Hello Rudy Nelson,

Thank you for your comments.

Although I do not have a hard copy of Artillery Through The Ages, I have read and noted the PDF available on-line from the Gutenberg Society. There actually is no hard data in that article on ranges in the AWI.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2017 12:03 p.m. PST

Thanks SuperMax.

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