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Action Log

08 May 2018 11:23 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "Napoleon's Battle's: Impressions? Reviews?" to "Napoleon's Battles: Impressions? Reviews?"


1,037 hits since 7 May 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Codsticker07 May 2018 7:53 p.m. PST

Just played my first game of Napoleonics and the rule set used was Napoleon's Battles (not sure what edition). My host tends to lean toward 'simulation' as opposed to 'game'. As I have no knowledge of the period, I have no idea if they give an "accurate" picture of the time. Anyway, as we plan to use these rules for a large game on the 20th I am interested in hearing thoughts/opinions of the game.

Neal Smith07 May 2018 8:09 p.m. PST

Interesting that he prefers "simulation". IMO, Nappy's Battles was more game than simulation.

The first version was a pretty decent game. At the time it was best way to do really large battles quickly.

Never really got into the second version. We just kind of stopped playing it. I do remember it having a little more and probably unnecessary detail added to the basic system from before. That was a long time ago, so I could be not remembering correctly… :)

Captain Avatar07 May 2018 8:45 p.m. PST

It is a grand tactical ruleset, so the emphasis is on command control and corps commanders being able to direct units down to the brigade level. Many of the battalion level tactics such as the deployment of skirmishers ahead of the columns are not applicable at this level.

Great set of rules for large games if that is what the intent is. One of my all time favorites.

Mister Tibbles07 May 2018 8:51 p.m. PST

I agree with Capt Avatar. Remains one of my favorites for large games

nickinsomerset07 May 2018 10:44 p.m. PST

For large battles it is an excellent set of rules. There are other sets but bookkeeping, drawn out orders processes etc tend to slow them down.

Tally Ho!

nsolomon9907 May 2018 11:41 p.m. PST

Agree with comments above. Even after all these years it is still a solid set of rules for playing out the large battles in a reasonable period of time.

Timmo uk08 May 2018 4:34 a.m. PST

I'd agree for the central European big battles I still think it's a good option as it'll enable you to play many of the epic actions of the period on an 8' x 5' table, assuming you use the basing defined in the rules.

I have the first version and I don't think it models the Peninsula battles well because the divisional artillery is built into the brigade fire factor. Nothing wrong in that per se but it does mean that you don't get any British artillery batteries in the Talavera scenario they give. To me that's not terribly engaging.

marshalGreg08 May 2018 5:03 a.m. PST

It was a great intro to Napoleonic figure gaming, especially at a time when board games were very popular.
I to am surprised on the Friend and desire for simulation. NB is much more game than simulation.
It does allow play of a large battle but again you could use most tactical rules , play your battalions as regiments or brigades and have a similar game. That is the unfortunate case with many of the rules at this level. Brigades did not operate and fight like a battalion, when addressing command and control at that level.
There are some rules better for Grandtactical "simulation":
ESR, Grand Armee, and Empire as well as some others I have yet to play. AoE is an improvement but still very much towards to the "battalion representing a Brigade" mechanics in play as with NB.

MG

coopman Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2018 5:09 a.m. PST

I would probably go for something like "Blucher" or "Volley & Bayonet" for grand tactical rules these days though.

Personal logo Stosstruppen Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2018 5:18 a.m. PST

Definitely my favorite set for Napoleonics. Unfortunately its poor second edition, and poorly managed 3rd and 4th editions have killed much interest in it.

smltptac08 May 2018 6:00 a.m. PST

I have all 4 editions which all have the same basic elements. The 4th edition has some nice improvements that I include when playing. The optional rules allow you to tailor how much detail you want to include in the game. I enjoy the flavour of the national characteristics and command and control system. My favourite set of Napoleonic rules for almost 30 years. We play it on a regular basis at the club. Cheers Anton

holdit08 May 2018 6:05 a.m. PST

I remember the first time I read the NBs rulebook, and being horrified at the idea of no on-table skirmishers, no representation of divisional guns, no difference between lancers and other light cavalry, no flank attack bonus, dragoons are light cavalry etc. It was big shock to someone coming from Bruce Quarrie's rules and WRG 1685-1845.

Yet it made a kind of sense, given how the authors explained it in their introduction, and how Bob Coggins (RIP) explained things further in many various posts in the NBs Yahoo Group. It's aprocess of unlearning the stuff you learn with the more tactical rulesets.

If you like how NBs plays, then don't be put off by comments about it being a game. There are no Napoleonics sims they are all games. I've found that there is a surprising depth to NBs, desite the simple mechanics.

What I like about these rules:

Speed of play. The rules are comprehensive, but the game flows quite quickly when you know them, and there are few tables to look up.

Personalities. Generals are rated for command range, inspirational ability, tactical nous and initiative, giving a wide variety of truly individual leaders.

Feel. Different armies feel and play differently at different times and the waxing and waning of fortunes of all forces between 1792 and 1815 are represented in the unit stats. In addition, commanding a Prussian 1815 army feels very different to commanding a Prussian 1806 army, for example.

More feel. The optional "All-Out-Attack" allows attack using elite troops to occur separately from other movement, representing (according to the authors), the pause that falls over the field while everyone waits to see how the attack turns out. I don't doubt that this claim is debatable, but I find the rule adds a nice bit of flavour and doesn't do any historical damage. Likewise with optional rules for certain generals: the French have more staying power when his nibs is around, Wellington can save his move and use it later to be in the right place at the right time, Blucher can get stuck into close combats without affecting Prussian command and control and the Russians get a bonus when operating in column under Suvorov.

Dynamic turns. With cavalry (and optionally, elite infantry) reaction movement, and reaction movement possible in more than one phase, both sides often end up moving during one side's move, and this to me makes for a more "flowing" battle.

I've owned the 1st, 2nd and 4th editions I never bothered with the 3rd. The 1st edition will still give you a fine game, but the 4th has introduced the most change, particularly with regard to scenario design. The reduction of the minimum unit sizes together with the introduction of "abilities" (different attributes that can differentiate a unit from others in its class) allow for NB orders of battle that are a closer match for their historical counterparts.

I've never found that brigades behave like battalions, and there are a number of easy fixes for the lack of divisional guns. And yes, Talavera does look a bit weird with so few, but I'll either live with that or fix it rather than dropping NBs.

laretenue08 May 2018 6:16 a.m. PST

Interesting post, Holdit.

Since we've discussed AoE elsewhere, would you care to contrast and compare the two? I've no experience of NB, so I'd genuinely like to get your assessment of their relative merits.

If, like me, you've also had some brushes with V&B and Grande Armee, these would also make useful points of reference.

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2018 6:19 a.m. PST

Battlegames 25 has an interesting multi-rules review https://payhip.com/b/pWaq

It compared:
Volley and Bayonet
Grande Armee
De Bellis Napoleonicus
Age of Eagles
and Napoleon's Battles.

21eRegt Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2018 7:21 a.m. PST

I played it a few times but didn't care for the "feel" so went back to my rules of the last 30 years, Empire.

Neal Smith08 May 2018 12:08 p.m. PST

Personally, I like Grande Armee (Sam's original version) most for large battles.

I also liked Empire, but haven't played either in at least 10 years! :)

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2018 3:42 p.m. PST

I'm not a fan, but I think that's just me and the level of representation. I've played with a group which thinks it the end point of Napoleonics rules, and I'm sure the right game master can produce a quick-moving and balanced game.

Do be warned that in my experience it doesn't require enough dice, by which I mean that you often can't recover from even a short run of bad luck. Cast one die a turn to see whether your troops can move. Cast one die to resolve a battle. Throw four bad numbers in a row under some fairly common circumstances, and no amount of cunning can salvage the situation.

Mind you, that is not necessarily unhistorical. But it's not something I'll travel 100 miles each way to do.

smltptac09 May 2018 6:47 a.m. PST

"Do be warned that in my experience it doesn't require enough dice, by which I mean that you often can't recover from even a short run of bad luck."

Was it Napoleon that said he preferred lucky generals?😁

holdit09 May 2018 3:00 p.m. PST

Laretenue,

Since we've discussed AoE elsewhere, would you care to contrast and compare the two? I've no experience of NB, so I'd genuinely like to get your assessment of their relative merits.

Glad to help, although I'll point out the differences between the games rather than discuss relative merits, because I don't believe I'm qualified to do so, and while there are often arguments about the merits of various rules over others, I think it often really comes down to "what we like". Apologies if I've ventured into TLDR territory, but I hope you'll see it through to the end…


Command and Control

Unlike AoE, the command ranges of generals varies according to ability and command level. Here is a sample general's stats: 3"G(6)+1, the format being range/quality/response/combat. An army commander might have a range, say of 18", a corps commander 10", a division commander 3-5", 3" being the most common. This is one thing I like a lot compared to AoE, where there are a few charismatic commanders, and then "everyone else". I have worked on a house rule for importing some of the individuality of NB generals into AoE while maintaining maximum simplicity, but I was never able to settle on a definitive way of doing it

In the command phase, any wing/corps/division commander within the army commander's range is automatically in command. For division commanders (the only generals who can command combat units without being attached), any of their subordinate brigades or batteries that fall within their range are also automatically in command.

Taking Waterloo as an example, let's pretend that Durutte has moved further west towards the Bois de Paris and that Jacquinot as taken up position behind the Guard heavy cavalry, to the left of the Brussels road. Let's also pretend that Reille has moved his whole corps 1 km to the west and that one of Pire's brigades is at Braine l'Alleud (this is off the top of my head so I'm not basing anything on precise measurements).

I Corps: d'Erlon is within range of Napoleon and so is in command. Allix, Donzelot and Marcognet are within range of d'Erlon, so they are also in command as are those subordinate brigades within their relative command ranges. Durutte is within command range of neither Napoleon nor d'Erlon and so is out of command. He rolls 1D10 against his response number. The roll is less than or equal to his reponse number his infantry brigades can only move half their allowance in that turn, and are marked accordingly. If his roll exceeds his response number, his infantry may not move at all during that turn. Jacquinot is out of range of d'Erlon, but within Napoleon's range, so he is also in command. If he was out of Napoleon's range too, he would also have to roll against his response number. A pass would mean his cavalry move normally, a fail would mean they get a half move.

II Corps: Reille is within range of Napoleon and so is in command. Bachelu, Foy and Jerome are within range of Reille, so they are also in command. Pire is also in command; he is outside of Napoleon's range but is within the range of Reille, who is in command. Pire's brigade at Braine l'Alleud is not in his range and so is out of command.

Lastly, let's pretend that Lobau is outside Napoleon's command range and his division commanders are within his own command range, and their units are within their own command ranges. He tests against his response number. If he passes he and everyone below him is in command. If he fails, all combat units in his corps are marked with a half move marker. Pass or fail, there is no subsequent check for Lobau's division commanders. As long as they are within his command range, they "inherit" their commander's status.

The army commander never has to test his status as his response number is always "10". Some players have a house rule whereby the commander uses his actual reponse number as per the NB generals list, and most roll against it on each turn. Some generals' response numbers drop when commanding at higher than divisional level.

(*Version IV has an optional rule where out-of-command-range combat units may try a saving throw to turn a no-move into a half-move if infantry or heavy artillery, or a half-move into a full move if cavalry or horse artillery.)


Orders of Battle

Infantry brigades can be between 3 and 7 bases in size, with each base representing 480 bayonets. The same numbers for cavalry are 2, 5 and 320. Artillery bases represent one battery of horse or heavy artillery. Medium divisional foot artillery is not represented on the table; their fire is factored into the fire of infantry brigades.

NBs doesn't mix types and average out unit types like you can with AoE. Instead a brigade is considered the be whatever the majority of its battalions are. With the smallers unit sizes allowed in NBIV, and the possibility for a brigade to have its own particular attribute (e.g. more skirmishers giving a plus for firing), it's possible to have orders of battle that are a closer match for the real thing.

For those players who must have their divisional guns, there are a number of ways to skin the cat, including one from Bob Coggins himself, but adding divisional guns has never been officially approved, not even by optional rule. I don't tend to add them, but I will add foot artillery guns that are corps or army reserve guns, even if not 12-pounders. All you need to do is use heavy gun movement numbers with the appropriate horse artillery fire numbers.

NB also uses its own identifier code at each level to represent the order of battle hierarchy. Historical names are used down to divisional level but not below. Using the Waterloo example above, II Corps will be identified by name and code (code: "II"), and also Foy's division ("9/II"), but brigade commanders don't get a mention, so Gauthier's and Jamin's brigades will just be "1B/9/II" and "2B/9/II". Which is efficient and unambiguous, but some might find it a little…detached and boardgamey. Similarly, a unit type's identifier is a combination of its nationality code and its unit type code, e.g. FrLN, AsGRZ, BrHC.

As with AoE, "brigade equvalents" are used, but with the above maximums applying, unlike AoE. For example, an 18 stand AoE brigade would be represent by two NB brigades, one of 7 and one of 6 bases.


Formations

Formations are called "column", "line" and "square", but Bob Coggins said a number of times that this was both a convenience and a nod to period flavour and it shouldn't be assumed that all of a brigade's constituent battalions are in whatever formation it's called. What the designers had in mind was more like "optimised for movement", "optimised for combat" and optimised for "anti-cavalry", which aren't anything like as catchy. Column and line, of course, look the same as AoE's double and single echelon formations.


Movement

Movement allowances varies by unit type and (sometimes) by year. Linear armies tend to be quick enough in line, but slow in column, and vice-versa for columnar armies. Linear and columnar are not NB terms, however the stats just are what they are for whenever they are. For example, early Prussian troops lumber along in column but become more brisk in column after 1810. British infantry can move very quickly in line. Artillery can prolong and infantry can move in square.

With regard to disruptive terrain and obstacles, NB units seem to suffer more hinderance and disorder than their AoE counterparts.

Fire

Fire is very simple, and represents skirmish fire, divisional artillery fire and long range volley fire. Both players roll against each other and if the firing player wins he causes a single hit on the target, or two hits if his roll is double the target players. Various modifiers apply, of course and also the firing unit's own fire modifer, which can be anywhere between -2 and +2. Artillery batteries fire in the same way as infantry brigades, and there is an (optional) range effect chart which modifiers for fire at various ranges. Bob Coggins always swore he never bothered with it.

The effect of skirmish screens is not simulated.

Casualties and effects

Each unit type has its own Disorder and Rout numbers. The nears thing to a standard would be "2/4", meaning that the unit is disordered if it suffers 2 casualties and routs if it suffers 4 5 if it has 6 or more bases. Each unit also has a dispersal number that comes from its dispersal rating, A through E. A 16-figure C-class unit, for example, would have a dispersal number of 8, meaning that once it is reduced to 8 figures it is permanently removed from play, representing its departure from the field or becoming completelty combat-ineffective. There is no equivalent of the AoE brigade effectiveness levels. Our example unit will fight just as effectively with 9 figures as it did with 16.

Higher command levels (the levels immediately below the army commander), have a Fatigue Number. When a formation's routed and dispersed units reach the Fatigue Number, that unit may not take any further offensive action until enough routed units are rallied to get the total below the Fatigue number again assuming that is possible. The Morale Number for the army as a whole works in a similar way, except that once it is no longer possible to rally enough units to get back below the morale number, the army is consider broken. Not a million miles away from the system brought in with AoE2.


Combat

Combat represents close range volley fire and melee, or the threat of it, with the two sides rolling off against each other, applying appropriate modifiers and with casualty hits equalling the difference up to a maximum of the losing unit's rout number. If one side is disorder but not routed after a combat round, it must attempt to withdraw, which involves another competitive roll and this may result in an esacpe from a dangerous situation, or even more losses and subsequent rout.

Combat with infantry and cavalry combained against infantry can be devastating (think Kellerman at Marengo), and perhpas a little too easy to bring about so there is an optional rule that makes it a bit less likely.

Cavalry that fails to rout an enemy unit will "bounce" out of contact, disordered. Cavalry that does break its opponent may have the option of continuing against another with a new move there and then. With good cavalry and a good general, this can continue a frightening number of times, so some players put a limit on the number of times it can happen. I played one game of Medina del Rio Seco where an early French Guard cavalry charge effectively ended the game there and then, not stopping until the charging unit had reached its dispersal number.

I hope this helps and is along the lines of what you were looking for. Again, apologies if there is too much of it, but it all seems relevant at the time of writing… I can't help with regard to Grande Armee or Volley and Bayonet. Some years ago I did look into both, but I didn't see anything that made me want to change.

laretenue09 May 2018 3:15 p.m. PST

Thank you, Holdit. Most gentlemanly of you to pen such a full description.

I think – I think – I can see the genesis there of some elements which later transformed F&F into AoE, plus elements of greater granularity which could be borrowed if you were sad or irritating enough to want to try. This is not actually an ambition of mine, but I'm always curious about the ancestry of rulesets.

(I guess that's pretty sad too.)

Darken9210 May 2018 4:34 p.m. PST

When Napoleon's Battles first came out I really liked them and still do. My single biggest issue was the use of combined arms was too powerful, and by combined arms I might hitting units with elite infantry and a cavalry unit at the same time.

I twas pretty mush an instant win which made all the other great elements fall away

Codsticker10 May 2018 8:25 p.m. PST

Hi Guys, thank you all for your responses. BTW, when I said "my host leans towards simulation as opposed to game" I meant that mostly in relation my own tendencies and our experiences with other rules in different periods.

holdit, that is an excellent rundown. I think were doing casualties incorrectly though as I seem to remember taking bases off equal to the difference in the opposed die rolls, but I may be mis-remembering.

As an aside can provide some clarification regarding assaults on BUA's. We had a situation where defenders had repulsed an attack; the attackers were pushed back and the defenders automatically vacated the BUA to continue the fight, despite being outnumbered. Did we play that correctly?

holdit11 May 2018 3:06 a.m. PST

Darken92,

My single biggest issue was the use of combined arms was too powerful, and by combined arms I might hitting units with elite infantry and a cavalry unit at the same time.

This is (at least partly) addressed with an optional rule in NBIV. With regard to this, and the cavalry recall rules, though, I wonder sometimes if it's the rule that's to powerful or if it's the fault of players for letting it happen. Maybe the generals of the period were more competent commanders than we are…

Codsticker,

As an aside can provide some clarification regarding assaults on BUA's. We had a situation where defenders had repulsed an attack; the attackers were pushed back and the defenders automatically vacated the BUA to continue the fight, despite being outnumbered. Did we play that correctly?

Casualties are in figures, not bases but I imagine you would have been doing it properly, because if you weren't, your units would have evaporated away in no time. :-) Also, apart from failed withdrawal attempts, casualties are only inflicted up to the unit's rout number. If your unit and my unit (rout # of 4) are in a combat, and my modified DR is 3 vs your 9, my unit takes 4 hits, not 6 (and routs).

Regarding the BUA, the 1" forward occupy after combat rule (which I assume is what you're thinking of) only applies to the attacker, not the defender, and can;t be used to maintain contact anyway.

Your defenders remind me of that solider in Zulu: "There they go boys, after 'em!" before his NCO pulls him back..

Codsticker11 May 2018 8:09 a.m. PST

Casualties are in figures, not bases but I imagine you would have been doing it properly, because if you weren't, your units would have evaporated away in no time. :-) Also, apart from failed withdrawal attempts, casualties are only inflicted up to the unit's rout number. If your unit and my unit (rout # of 4) are in a combat, and my modified DR is 3 vs your 9, my unit takes 4 hits, not 6 (and routs).

Ok, I think you are right. I may have been confusing these two aspects of the rules:
Both players roll against each other and if the firing player wins he causes a single hit on the target, or two hits if his roll is double the target players.

Combat represents close range volley fire and melee, or the threat of it, with the two sides rolling off against each other, applying appropriate modifiers and with casualty hits equalling the difference

cavalry4713 May 2018 1:54 p.m. PST

I have played them since 1993 and have all four versions, version 4 is excellent, ironing out some of the issues that people have mentioned above.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP13 May 2018 8:28 p.m. PST

Interesting that he prefers "simulation". IMO, Nappy's Battles was more game than simulation.

Bob Coggins wrote on the TMP that NB was not designed to be a simulation. According to Bob, that term was added by the publisher because they thought it would sell more rules sets.

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