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"Rules Differences FIW. AWI. NAP. ACW. " Topic

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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Lee49407 Jul 2018 10:04 p.m. PST

Rules design philosophy question. If you break rules mechanics into 3 broad areas: command, movement, combat (including both firing and melee) what really changes between 1760 and 1860? Obviously Combat & Results, but regarding movement and command? I'm specifically talking about tactics on the battlefield not strategic considerations like railroads and logistics. Asked another way, from the point of view of issuing orders to your subordinate commanders as Napoleon at Waterloo or Meade at Gettysburg, how much difference was there? It's a great time of year for Fireworks, let them begin. Cheers!

PS. I consider morale as combat results.

Major Function08 Jul 2018 1:12 a.m. PST

I think as the period moves towards the 1860's the infantry tactics change and battalions train more in open order styles.

Glengarry508 Jul 2018 1:31 a.m. PST

A great deal had to do with the environment and terrain for one thing, fighting in the forests of North America in the FIW called for different tactics then Napoleon's Europe, for example the almost total lack of cavalry in the FIW. One thing that tends to get overlooked is how in the late 19th century armies got HUGE compared to previous eras, battles where fought over larger areas which complicated command and control which was still generally at the speed of a mounted messenger on the battlefield. In the ACW it was almost impossible to achieve a truly decisive battle in the Napoleonic style so beloved of the ACW generals simply because there always seemed to be more enemie troops to block your breakthroughs.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 3:04 a.m. PST

Movement, including formation changes, becomes faster with improved drill and the use of columns for battlefield maneuver. Command becomes more articulate with corps and divisions replacing wings. But most of that was earlier. Meade has no advantages in these regards over Napoleon at Waterloo, but both are ahead of Frederick or Washington.

I think the big change we sometimes fail to appreciate is corps structure off table and the resulting "march divided, fight united" but that shows up in scenario design. Pre-Napoleonic commanders could and sometimes did divide their armies to outflank a position--Brandywine, say, or Zorndorf. But it was a deliberate giving up of available resources. It isn't until the Napoleonic Wars that generals commence a battle with inadequate forces, counting on more forces to arrive later. Antietam Creek and Gettysburg are workable "disguised scenarios" for the Napoleonic or Franco-Prussian Wars, but they weren't how things were done in the Seven Years War.

BillyNM08 Jul 2018 3:30 a.m. PST

Marching divided and fighting United was practised in the SYW but mainly in the West. Savory's history is full of independent columns seeking to combine on the field of battle.

Lascaris08 Jul 2018 6:05 a.m. PST

I think marching divided was typical in all of SYW Europe. Look at Hochkirk or Torgau for examples. I often think the SYW gets a bad rap for being nothing more than lines of infantry walking up and firing at each other.

Oldgrumbler Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 6:17 a.m. PST

There were no major technology changes over that time period that would affect battlefield command. That is, battlefield communication was unchanged. There was an improvement in strategic communications which affected battles. Battlefield Movement was unaffected by technology. Probably SYW troops were better drilled than ACW troops!

MiniPigs Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 6:47 a.m. PST

Although a lot of people will swear up and down that SYW, AWI and Napoleonic combat were very different, the truth is it has been very hard to reflect this in a set of wargaming rules. It's one of the reasons Napoleonics suck all the oxygen out of the surrounding periods. I myself adore the SYW but find it isn't that radically different from a mechanics POV from Napoleonic battles. The SYW rules i use are just modified Napoleonic (or horse and musket) rules.

ACW was different, if only because the firepower could be that much more deadly.

Thus, one can niggle all day long over the huge differences between the periods 1760-1860 but reflecting that in rules is another thing. If you look at the vast number of rules for the period out there, you'll find that most of them proclaim they're not the same old, same old but when you read them, they really are the same old, same old, just with different typos.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 7:27 a.m. PST

There are certainly plenty of rules sets out there that think the differences are in the scenarios and army/weapon lists. Black Powder, for example, works quite well for armies from the SYW up to the Zulu War.

Recent research even suggests that the ACW wasn't that different because even though the weapons *could* fire a lot further, they rareley were used that way. It required a lot of training in using the sights. So a rifled musket is really just a slightly better smoothbore musket in practice.

In any case, there are scads of rules that cover the entire "horse and musket period" in one rule book.

MiniPigs Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 8:26 a.m. PST

Hi Crispy,

You're right that most horse and musket rules can be used or tweaked to include ACW. My point was that if there was a period that could offer a break from the others from a rules mechanics POV, it could be ACW because the weapons could be deadlier which is one of the characteristics that drove them into earthworks and trenches more than in previous periods. That, and the fact that every unit could basically skirmish (Warning: Pedant trap).

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 8:54 a.m. PST

I'm standing by my earlier claim. Hochkirch and Torgau are forces detached from the main body, not--to my thinking--the same thing as Antietam, Gettysburg, Sadowa or pretty much any FPW battle. (I'll grant you that Chancellorsville is much like the SYW examples. It's an expanded range of possibilities, not the elimination of old ones.)

One thing we're missing here is that this makes the Size Humongous wargame interesting throughout horse & musket, though perhaps more interesting with the onset of the corps, while I think the authentic tactical game peaks with AWI and Napoleonics and loses some of its appeal later on. AWI infantry have a more limited tactical repertoire, but we've got lots of nice small battles with a very wide range of troop types. Napoleonics has enough small battles--a smaller percentage of many more battles--while there are more cavalry types and the infantry have a wider range of tactical options. But you seldom see wargamers doing brigade-size Marlburian battles, and FPW games of that size are almost as rare. Myself, I think it's because the tabletop general doesn't have as many good choices as he does in those peak periods.

Now I'll duck, and everyone can throw rocks.

MiniPigs Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 9:18 a.m. PST

The OP also asked about command and communication during a battle.

If memory serves, at Blenheim in 1704, both sides had messengers taking orders and requests to various brigade commanders and the orders got misinterpreted, disobeyed, messengers got lost, etc.

I think this is something you find in all armies of the horse and musket period, no matter how well or underdeveloped the system of command and control.

Thus, the mechanics on the table would be the same for each period, that is if you want to fight a sensible, fun game and not prove a point.

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 9:34 a.m. PST

Look at how technological improvements between SYW and the Napoleonic era make artillery more mobile. Before the Gribeauval system, there would be no point in Napoleon having his beloved artillery reserve, because the older heavier less accurate shorter-ranged stuff would never trudge into place in time.

Faster drills for formation changes, as mentioned by Robert above, are an important technological change from SYW to Naps. They make it easier for infantry to respond in time to an enemy cavalry threat on the flank, ergo, infantry need worry less about flanks and can spend more time in faster-moving columns. Prior to that, they had to avoid any risk to flanks by having a continuous infantry line of battle, with their own cavalry guarding the flanks. I know, it's the 'linear warfare' stereotype, not without exceptions, but there is some substance to and reason for that stereotype.

Increased infantry mobility and reduced concern for flanks affects how reserves can be deployed. SYW, your reserves are in a second or third line, same as your first. Napoleonic, you see more depth to the battlefield, as reserves can be held more concentrated and further from the first line, and respond more effectively.

Improved inf and arty mobility also enables the corps system of combined-arms mini-armies. As against the Austrian regulations of 1769 which IIRC dictate that although they shall march in separate columns by different routes to combine on the battlefield, a la Hochkirch, the artillery shall all trundle along in a central column, protected by columns of infantry on the routes to left and right, with the cavalry in the outermost flanking columns.

Naps to ACW/later C19, the big change is firepower, as commented on – rifled muskets but also rifled artillery. Cavalry disappears as a shock arm as it just dies too quickly. Battle lines become linear again, not because they are concerned about flanks as in SYW but because the importance of firepower means battles tend to bog down in protracted firefights between extended firing lines.

I suppose a simple characterization would be:

SYW – shock dominates (in that I include infantry fights of the couple of short-range volleys and charge variety);

Naps – mobility dominates (yes, the infantry fights with the same technology, but who can get to which fights where has changed, as has what artillery they can bring to support them)

ACW/C19 – firepower dominates.

But these are gross characterizations and really things happen much more incrementally – and not at the same pace in every army. In 1796 the Austrians are playing by SYW rules while the French have got the new edition. In 1866 and 1870 you see similar mismatches because armies are getting to grips with new kit and working out how the rules have changed.

Caveat: the further back we go from my preferred late C19 period, the less I know and the less weight my comments should carry! But I think there is the germ of an answer in what I've offered above.

As for the implications for rules, well, since they often have to accommodate different technologies in the same war, it is plausible that some game mechanics at least can survive from era to era with tweaking/applicable modifiers rather than transformation to a whole different mechanism.


Bloody Big BATTLES!

MiniPigs Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 9:45 a.m. PST

That's the whole thing Chris, changes are many throughout the period but what does it all really mean for a wargame? It seems it's always a dynamic which sees Napoleonics as the center and every other period up and down the time scale as a derivative.

Now, I have a thread somewhere about 40mm scale miniatures not catching on. The reasons and excuses for not using 40mm are legion. I could do a similar one about Seven years War. I love that period, and yet before spending a lot on the period, I have to ask, what exactly am i getting from SYW that I dont get from Napoleonics? Aside from the fact that I love reading about the period and the uniforms all one can do before one starts to lose their minds during a 3-4 hour wargame seems to be tweaking incentives to use line or column and make the artillery less mobile.

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 10:00 a.m. PST

Interesting discussion and in some ways I agree but in others I dont

I think European warfare changed differently than American warfare – some based on terrain, some of commanders (Think Raglan from Waterloo to the Crimea – Versus the ACW where most of the experience was from the Mexican American War – though I suspect the book learning at West Point still covered the maxims of Napoleon and Frederick to name two.

On the American side, to start with the telegraph, rail and other logistics certainly affected the strategic – which I would argue led to some changes in tactics based on that knowledge – either to benefit from or to protect.

The telegraph certainly had an impact during the civil war with a commander in chief being able to reach out to Army Commanders. Shiloh is perhaps a good example of an enhanced way of bringing forces to bear. – an interesting article about the telegraph used both strategically as well as more operationally to give orders – the first example they give relates to McClellan using it to stay in touch with his various units. The picture below gives some credibility to the idea of the telegraph being used toward the end of the war at least in the field; perhaps at the corps or division level.


On the cavalry side I think we see the largest difference. Rarely do we see an infantry square being formed or massive cavalry charges against infantry. In the Americas, they revert to more a role of scouting and mobile infantry. Between the French and Indian Wars and Civil War there are huge differences in the number of cavalry if nothing else.

The Battle of Franklin showed Hood what a frontal assault on an entrenched position could result in – even with hasty works. As a reaction to the increase in firepower with both rifled artillery and rifles the way defensive positions were developed and attacked began to change.

For me – as history has shown there are only so many ways to move people tactically. One example is Plutarch wrote about infantry squares, the ancient Chinese, the Romans etc all used forms of an infantry square. The manner and composition of it changed based on types of weapons they were faced with. I certainly would not expect to use the same set of rules to cover formation and use of the infantry square from Cesar to Napoleon – yet one could – The Art of War is still valid today. West Point still teaches tactics using lessons of yesterday and today. There was an article I read years ago that showed a direct correlation between Eisenhowers D-Day Plans and Sam Grants Vicksburg Plans.

For me – I expect my rules to have a flavor of the time where period generals learned to adapt and adjust military maxims to fit the terrain, situation, their armies pros/cons as well as the enemy. A period is all about the history, the culture, the generals and the troops and so on – otherwise – I have a Chess game – cheaper for me and just as enjoyable

MiniPigs Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 10:39 a.m. PST

Of the myriad types of pedants this hobby seems to breed, the most curious of all is the technician. You know, the one that tells you that due to a lack of shoelaces, the Timberlands of the 14th came off in the mud at the battle of Giacomo's Ford not allowing them to go into skirmish order. Technicians might be amazing at making sure your plane doesnt come apart in flight but they're not exactly the life of the party.

Every battle, in every period has lots of exceptions that only happened once and have nothing to do with the skeleton of how the combat of the time worked.

Now, a word about "flavor" or zeitgeist of a time. It is true this exists but it isnt true that it stays the same even during one period. The Seven years War had different flavors at different times. This is true for so many wars. Are the campaigns of 1940 the same as the ones in 1944?

Someone once said that they were astonished that so many books and movies exist about the Old West because it was such a short period, some 35 years between the Civil War and 1900. However, some gamers game the three months of the Normandy campaign or the three days of the Waterloo campaign ad nauseum with nary a twinge of boredom. Thus, though zeitgeist is powerful, it can be contained in a sub campaign as very different from the rest of a connected war.

It's true that the Ancients were using columns and lines long before Frederick the great ever played his first flute. It is also true that the zeitgeist of Peloponnesian War combat lines and Frederician lines are totally different. The question is how to reduce it to a tabletop game without making your life miserable? I dont want to learn 20 different sets of rules, I just dont. I have other interests in my life. And further, how does one find enough like minded fools who thoroughly know all the same rules one is wasting their life muddling through?

Chess doesn't have variables such as terrain or an added level of chance with cards and dice. Miniatures offer color and some degree of thrill and gambling that Chess could never offer. But, that is what it means to be a technician, the apparatus either runs perfectly or it is not worth doing.

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 11:31 a.m. PST

That is the beauty and challenge of our miniatures gaming – we range from rules where we can use different armies from history against one another to rules that are geared to a single conflict. Different rules also allow for Tactical versus Operational versus Strategic decision making and gaming.

Nine pound round08 Jul 2018 12:24 p.m. PST

A good set of rules captures the range of solutions commanders were conditioned to apply to military problems within the technological context of their weapons and force sizes- perhaps "tactical culture" is a term that covers it. A good rules set does something to put boundaries around the decisions players can make as commanders. It also constrains the actions the units- as playing pieces- can undertake. In real life, with all of its complexities, units and commanders sometimes punched holes through those constraining envelopes, and did things rules couldn't account for. Those exceptions are, in the aggregate, the thing that make rule-writing hard: you wind up like Thomas Pynchon's Brigadier Pudding, who sat down to write a book called "Thing That Can Happen in European Politics": it just keeps growing.

Nine pound round08 Jul 2018 12:28 p.m. PST

Another challenge: Wargames don't just have to simulate- they have to entertain. Pure simulations for campaigns are dry as dust, with lite entertainment value.

MiniPigs Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 2:28 p.m. PST

Wargaming is part way between Chess and Historical realism.

We should have a set of Omni-Rules for the era which allows the gamers skill and personality to shine through.

But it seems this omni-rules set eludes us all.

Tell me if this is familiar, someone is looking for a recommendation on a good set of 18th century gaming rules and he gets a dozen different answers, each one of them swearing to capture the "flava" of the period. The names are changed to protect the incompetent but here is a sample list:

1.Flute and Fiddle- Rules for gaming the Wars of Austrian Succession while the gamers play classical music as loud as possible to recreate the fog of war.

2. Age of Gluten- An army marches on it's stomach, give each soldier an extra loaf and hope your unit doesnt break out in hives

3. They Died with their Diapers on- Self explanatory and do open the windows.

4. For I am a Rogue and Peasant Slave- Rules that seek to encapsulate the spirit of the philosopher prince in all his maudlin glory. Rather than move your troops, a player writes the most sentimental love sonnet he can muster using a feather quill pen. First commander to make the other side well up with tears, wins.

5. The Thistle and the Tattoo- Skirmish Rules for Highlanders vs American woodland Indians using a figure ratio of one figure = 1/3 of a real person.

6. Yankee Doodle Dummy- Put yourself in the boots of Commander Frederick G. Von Sanford (The G stands for Generalissimos). The best insults/slanders and other calumnies launched at the other side wins. One even gets authentic period feathers with the rules to put in your cap and call…

Does anyone really know what reality was like? Or do we all just think we do. We could all have separate ideas of what was real because if there was a collective historical reality, where are my omni-rules so we can all play each other and dispense with assertions about what was and wasnt done back in the day.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 5:12 p.m. PST

MiniPigs, you forgot to mention that if you ask for rules recommendations, at least half the replies will come from someone selling the rules--sometimes without the slightest regard for what the OP said he was looking for in the rules.

MiniPigs Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 6:16 p.m. PST


Good point. Hey, I cant think of everything, that's what youre here for!

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2018 2:21 a.m. PST

Thank you, MiniPigs.

"Period Flavor." I'm a simple soul, myself. I figure that if the rules are set at the right level for the battles I want to fight, and the mechanisms turn my decisions into plausible results for the period, the rulesmith has done his job. It's the scenario writer's job to make sure the armies, terrain and situation are right for the war, and the players' job to create period armies and use tactics which reflect the rules. If that combination doesn't yield "period flavor," someone's going to have to explain it to me again.

TacticalPainter0109 Jul 2018 2:58 a.m. PST

If I'm confronted with the same types of decisions and situations as my historical counterpart and my possible solutions are limited to what was historically possible and plausible then I'm playing out something with a feel for the period. That idea, to me, is challenging and enjoyable. It falls on the rules writer to distill those historical factors and constraints into a set of rules that balance historical flavour with a rewarding and enjoyable gaming experience (ie playability).

Within that context it should be possible to demonstrate how a technological change like the rifle altered the tactical and command options from those of a preceding period. If the commanders of the day thought those relatively small changes made a difference then our games should be able to reflect those and have games play out differently as a result.

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2018 7:12 a.m. PST

Back to Lee's OP "how much difference was there?" and follow-up "I have to ask, what exactly am i getting from SYW that I dont get from Napoleonics?":

I suggest that in SYW you're getting armies with significantly less flexibility, more limited tactical options, and therefore fewer viable choices available to you as player-commander than a Napoleonic army.

Depending on your view, that either means games that are limited and dull, or challenges that are different and therefore interesting. I have always inclined toward the first view but at some point perhaps I will happily find myself espousing the latter instead. See my blog post about this stuff (you'll need to look up 5 April 2016):

Using a rules family for both SYW and Naps in which the core mechanics are the same could be helpful for highlighting how the historical differences in technology and doctrine play out, and giving a game with a different feel because of those rather than because of different rule mechanisms entirely.

Just to use BBB as an example (other brands are also available), for me the change from C18 linear warfare to Napoleonic impulse warfare is a significant enough one to put me off going back any further than 1796, while roaming happily all the way from there through Crimea, 1859/64/66/70, Boer War and Balkan Wars to dip a toe into WWI. Having said that, others have used BBB for English Civil War with just a few tweaks. Games from these very different wars all have a very different shape – or flava if you prefer – despite using the same ruleset for them all.


coopman09 Jul 2018 9:19 a.m. PST

You can play this whole 200 years of history, 1700-1900, with Bloody Big Battles, Piquet: Field of Battle or Volley & Bayonet. Maybe some others too.

MiniPigs Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2018 10:45 a.m. PST

You can indeed take a set of Napoleonic rules for tactical battles and tweak them for SYW.

A more interesting question is not how the SYW is different from Napoleonics but rather how are SYW battles different from AWI ones? I love the uniforms of both periods but really, what is the major mechanical change in tactics?

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2018 10:52 a.m. PST

Actually, coopman, I'll go further than that: as far as I can see any horse & musket set can be used for battles between Western powers--not necessarily "colonial" battles in the sense of seriously different cultures or tech levels--from Marlborough to Moltke, if you keep making adjustments for changes in drill, firepower and the mobility of artillery. The catch is that certain levels at certain times don't yield interesting games.

Go forward to late WWI or back to the Wars of Religion, and there is enough shift in what's important that I grow suspicious of rules which claim they can bridge those gaps.

Zhmodikov09 Jul 2018 11:26 a.m. PST

Higher organization and higher tactics of the armies had changed significantly between 1760s and 1800s.

Jomini on the 18th century armies:

Before the French revolution, all the infantry, formed by regiments and brigades, were found united into a single battle corps, subdivided into first and second lines which had each their right and left wings. The cavalry was ordinarily placed on the two wings, and the artillery, yet very heavy at this epoch, was distributed upon the front of each line (they dragged sixteen pounder guns, and there were no horse artillery). Then the army always encamped united, put itself in march by lines or by wings, and as there were two wings of cavalry and two of infantry, if they marched by wings they formed thus four columns. Then they marched by lines, which was especially suitable in flank marches, then they formed but two columns, unless, through local circumstances, the cavalry and a part of the infantry had encamped in a third line, which was rare.

This method simplified logistics, since the whole disposition consisted in saying: "You will march in such direction by lines or by wings, by the right or by the left." They seldom deviated from this monotonous, but simple formation, and in the spirit of the system of war they followed it was the best way they could do.

The French determined at Minden, to try a different logistical disposition, by forming as many columns as brigades, and opening roads for conducting them abreast upon a given line, which they could never form.

If the labors of the staff were facilitated by this mode of encamping and marching by lines, it must be owned that, applied to an army of a hundred and fifty thousand men, this system would produce columns without end, and that routs would often occur like that of Rosbach.

The French Revolution brought about the system of divisions, which broke the too great unity of the old formation, and gave fractions capable of moving on their own account upon all kinds of ground…

Jomini, Summary of the art of war. New York, 1854, p. 284-285.

Marshal Marmont on the 18th century armies:

The infantry, organized formerly in brigades, was under the orders, when in was formed [in battle formation], of two or three generals, who commanded the centre and the wings respectively. The cavalry was in the same manner divided and placed upon the wings, and the appointments to subordinate commands were given only upon the day of battle. … It is asked how, with such a system, an army of any size could be moved, could form [battle formation] and fight?

They employed whole days at a time, simply to put the army in line of battle. The least movement often produced confusion, and the heavy artillery, leaving the park for the battlefield, and put in battery sometimes the evening before, went into park again immediately after the action.

This barbarous and absurd system has been changed since our earlier wars; and all the armies of Europe soon adopted, from our example, the new organization, which gives mobility to the troops and renders them always ready to fight. A general has thus the means of making with facility such combinations as circumstances and his genius may inspire in him.

In an army, the constant unit, which should never vary, but the numerical strength of which may be greater or less, is the division.

Marmont, The spirit of military institutions. Philadelphia, 1862, p.143-144.

So, in the 18th century armies, there were no permanent units higher than brigades. The whole army was organized in one large corps d'armée and a few smaller units such as the advance-guard, the reserve, and a few temporary units detached from the main army to carry out some minor missions. At a battlefield, the corps d'armée was usually formed in a continuous battle formation, the infantry in two lines in the center, the cavalry – either in two groups at both flanks of the infantry, or all cavalry at one flank, if on the other flank the terrain was ill-suited to cavalry, each group – in two or three lines. The infantry was divided into two or three parts (the center and two wings, or just two wings). The reserve was usually weak, and consisted of infantry and cavalry. It was usually formed in one line some distance behind the center of the second infantry line. There were no permanent artillery batteries, temporary batteries were organized only on the eve of a battle and were different in quantity of guns, in their kinds, and in their calibers. On campaign, all artillery, except the regimental guns, was organized in one "park", which marched as a separate column along the best road available. While on the march, the army was not able to fight effectively, because the infantry, cavalry, and artillery marched separately in several columns along different roads, except the advance-guard, which was composed of several infantry battalions, several cavalry regiments, and a few light guns. The army was able to fight effectively only after it was put in the battle formation.

In 1800s, the army was organized in several corps, each of two to four divisions. Each corps and even each division was able to fight on its own. The cavalry was usually positioned behind the front infantry divisions, except small cavalry detachments at the flanks of the army. The reserve comprised 1/5 to 1/3 of the total army force, and was the most important tool of the new higher tactics.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2018 12:38 p.m. PST

Some rules that are useful for covering the period in question are published by Sergeants3 and are based on the original rules developed decades ago by Larry Brom are "To the Sound of the Guns" and "Chassepot and Needlegun." With them and their variants, such as "Disperse, Ye Damned Rebels!" (AmRev), one can fight battles where the battalion is the basic maneuver unit from the FIW/SYW period all the way through (and beyond) the FPW.

For small unit tactical battles, "The Sword and the Flame" with its variants for FIW ("The Sword in the Forest") and ACW ("The Sword and Secession") contain weapons statistics for everything from just melee weapons through flintlock and percussion cap to magazine rifles. We've used them for games from FIW all the way to 1920s/1930s Back of Beyond.

All of the rules are written for a fun, convivial game.


MiniPigs Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2018 2:31 p.m. PST

TSATF are a lot of fun primarily because they tried to capture an experience rather than accuracy. That experience ,which is not nearly as politically correct as it once was, was tribal hordes going after the Imperial/Colonial invader

The Sword and the Flame was a ground-breaker. I think i took a look at chassepot and needlegun but Brom's legacy is TSATF. It's tweaks for skirmish in other periods are mostly alright to accommodate for the odd armored car (Although. The Flame in Gaul for Ancient Skirmish is a bit of a reach)

Disperse Ye Damned Rebels besides having an incredibly cliched and corny title seems to have been reviewed by one of the author's friends…you might know him Col. :):


Maybe theyre more fun or less fun, who knows? Everyone comes out with the same mess of Infantry in light cover -1 or flip a card, any card system. It's always someone saying theyre tired of the old step, step. kick step and then they go on to develop step, step, kick, step in different colored boots.

Where is the next true innovation in wargaming rules? Pushing these units around on tabletop is mind numbing enough without having to remember that one rules set's -1 is another's +1.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2018 5:49 p.m. PST

Why do we need an innovation? grin
I'm doing a variant for TSATF that is basically the vanilla game, with little regard for the differences wargamers find so vital.
I've gone from the ‘45 up to Whiskey Rebellion.

MiniPigs Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2018 6:28 p.m. PST

We dont necessarily need innovation. I myself am happy with the rules I used as a lad.

However, if someone comes up with a system that's revolutionary and fun, I'd like to know about it. I tire of seeing rules writers claim (and receive acclaim) for innovation which turns out to be ersatz.

There is a small minded, controlling strand in this hobby that it dsoesnt want to play someone else's rules because they have a blue cover on them and thus they place their own red cover on the same rules and proclaim them to be new. Why
so many gamers love one die roll for casualties over another's is beyond me.

Maybe the hobby just has a higher percentage of idiots than other hobbies? That might include me; I just bought a set of rules that many were raving about because they gave "That period feel" and I say, after reading them, that they could be for any period.

Thus, to rules writers if you have a true innovation, unveil it, if not, stop claiming you do when it's just a litany of plus and minus modifiers.

FlyXwire10 Jul 2018 4:33 a.m. PST

We had a question recently on the board here, something like what made the AWI different from other wars of the period. My take away from all the answers given – it was the predominance of the heavy forestation of the N. American environment itself.
I think this question can also be applied here, with this broad period of wars it contains, that the battlefield environments themselves exerted influences on the tactics employed, as much as the organizational structures or weaponry initially employed.
To an extent, gamers often focus on the building of their period armies first, before they can render the period environments these armies fought within – and soon, there's little difference from one war's battlefield to another, and convenience has encouraged presentations and periods to become almost "generic".
Also, an observation, but the higher the battle scale presented becomes, the more generalized the terrain effects become too.

MiniPigs Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2018 7:25 a.m. PST

The broader question: Can you really understand the zeitgeist of an age unless you live through it?

Wargaming is an odd hobby because you have the research/reading/intellectual facet which doesnt really need the miniatures. The miniatures are a desire to manifest the intellectual interest and when painted to take in the spectacle and somehow place yourself in that time in history.

Issues arise with worries over time and scale, behavior and organization. At the same time some wargamers argue over reality and period feel, just as many do not like randomness, or even thinking for themselves. Further, at what level should the controls stop and the gamer's skills come into play? I see it's the fashion now to come up with highly restricted command and control, just da way it was in Vaudeville.

Why would gamers want to frustrate themselves in the pursuit of imagined simulation/realism? Do i want to command a slow moving Austrian Corps every time because historically, the french ran rings around them? Or do I want a basically equal army with a few differences in their character to basically let my talents shine through and have a good time?

Halfway between chess and simulation. It's why the Column Line and Square rules appeal to me, theyre just a kit of the abilities of the troops and you bring your own skills to the game. Although, it's true that CLS does have a lot of situations that need some common sense to resolve. I understand the history of CLS, may be the history of some of the biggest arguments in wargaming. But that's because the simulators constantly attempt to reconcile their love of simulation with a desire to win all the time and the two desires are at odds.

I see too many gamers say things like, "I love these rules because they have a period feel" but when examined, these rules are all similar to each other. Why the disconnect? Why dont people see their favorite rules are just replacing one sort of chart with another? Waving you dice in your palm side to side vs up and down is hardly innovation.

Someone said earlier, why is innovation necessary? Well, why is this plethora of mediocre rules necessary? How many rule sets would you all say exist for 18th century wargaming? 100, 200? None of them really clever or focusing on ease of play or entertainment but rather satisfying some odd obsession over ground scale.

FlyXwire10 Jul 2018 7:32 a.m. PST

Maybe there's a plethora of mediocre presentations waiting for rules validation?!

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2018 8:19 a.m. PST

Lee asked for fireworks. Good to see they've been provided. :-)

@FlyXWire re terrain:

"the battlefield environments themselves exerted influences on the tactics employed […] the higher the battle scale presented becomes, the more generalized the terrain effects become too".

Good point well made. I absolutely agree with the first bit, the shape of the terrain shapes the battle. Not 100% on board with the second though. Yes, insofar as the differences between hedges and split-rail fences get elided away. But no, in that when you play the whole of The Wilderness or Chickamauga on battlefields covered with woods, or Balkan Wars battles full of Balkans, you actually get to appreciate the effects of the 'general' terrain on the grand tactics and on the commanders' choices.

@NinePoundRound: two excellent points about rules needing to capture tactical culture, and about the obligation to entertain as well as simulate/educate. Couldn't agree more on both counts.

@MiniPigs re period feel and simulation:

"Why would gamers want to frustrate themselves in the pursuit of imagined simulation/realism? Do i want to command a slow moving Austrian Corps every time because historically, the french ran rings around them?"

First, thanks for lots of well-considered comments and a few grins ("Flute & Fiddle" etc). I don't want to command a ponderous Austrian army every time, but then I don't want to command any particular army every time. I want to command a variety of armies, in a variety of wars, and have a variety of experiences. So I almost exclusively play historical scenarios, and I get to enjoy a wide range of 'tactical cultures'.

"do I want a basically equal army with a few differences in their character to basically let my talents shine through and have a good time?"

I actually think the games that provide the most fun and give most scope for showing off talent are those with the most asymmetric armies, whether in numbers, weapons, command competnce, fighting spirit or whatever. There are plenty of good times to be had, and skill to be displayed, from trying to find ways to win with a rubbish army.


Bloody Big BATTLES!

Glenn Pearce Inactive Member10 Jul 2018 8:40 a.m. PST

Hello Lee494!

When I first started wargaming with miniatures some 45 years ago there were rules that covered the entire horse and musket period. There were also rules that were war or period specific. Over time it seems that our hobby embraced the latter with a sense that they were better and offered more "flavour". In reality all they offered was more complications. Many even created myths that some readers think even to this day are factual.

Last year Baccus6mm released a rule set that I wrote called "Ruse de Guerre" that covers the wars in North America from 1754 to 1815. Although designed for 6mm figures using Baccus "Polemos" format you can use pretty much any scale of figures and basing format you want. It also has a sliding scale that allows you to change the size of your battles as your collection grows.

The design is also unconventional for non-polemos players as there is no time or ground scale used. There is no casualty or "bean counting" and all formation changes are handled below the level of the players. The intention is to put all the pressure on the players in their roles as the senior commanders and everything else is simplified as much as possible.

The main wars covered by the rules are the French & Indian War, American War of Independence and the War of 1812.

During the development I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the major differences between these wars. The only real change seemed to be the composition of the armies that included a growing number of skirmishers and of course how they were used. So build your period armies put them on the table across from each other and the game flows in a seemingly proper manner. Each period is slightly different due to the armies different composition and ability to skirmish.

In play testing we also studied some of the earlier wars dating back to 1675 in North America. We also used Napoleonic, Revolutionary, ACW and Seven Years War battles for comparison. They all worked just fine as again the composition of the armies changed. Where we felt there was anything missing it was simply written into the scenario by the scenario designer. There was certainly no need for an entirely new rule set.

So we adopted the rules as our "club rules" for the entire horse and musket period and not just because I wrote them. It was because they worked. I run one of the oldest wargaming clubs in the world, Napoleonic Miniatures Wargaming Society of Toronto, which is now in its 53rd year. Our present membership is close to 40 and a lot of players only show up occasionally, so the last thing they want to do is spend a day learning a new set of rules.

Hope this helps answer some of your questions.

Best regards,


ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2018 10:14 a.m. PST

Oops, missed one.

@Zhmodikov: smashing quotes, right on the nail. I'd like to expand on one thing you said:

"So, in the 18th century armies, there were no permanent units higher than brigades."

Actually I believe in the Austrian army it was worse than that, there were not even permanent brigades. Regiments were ranked by seniority, and so too were the nobles supplying the senior officer class. Every time a brigadier had to be replaced, there had to be a reshuffle of who was where in the order of battle and which brigadier got which regiments, according to seniority. Regiments never got used to fighting alongside each other and brigades never lasted long enough to become coherent organizations.

I may be exaggerating a bit, but I'm pretty sure the problem was there in the 1790s. I imagine it may have come into play in other similar monarchical armies. Not a big deal in SYW perhaps, if everyone is playing by similar rules, but a handicap when up against Frenchmen who are less hidebound by such notions.


Bloody Big BATTLES!

FlyXwire10 Jul 2018 1:14 p.m. PST

Terrain effects – a section of the Gettysburg battlefield, and the area of extensive skirmishing around the Bliss farm.

My best-effort rendering in scale, and to explore some of the tactics and command decisions that might be used by players in their efforts to dominate similar game ground.

As an example, the whole regime of skirmish tactics, fighting for local ground, within/for farm habitats, for small wood lots is largely lost at the level of big battles.
I think most of us enjoy imagining fighting complete games at the level of Gettysburg for example (and I do too), but this is quite an elevated level of game command and scale, and which generally requires great generalization in rule systems from how terrain and tactics can begin to interact in the field at the sharp end.

Sparta11 Jul 2018 2:32 a.m. PST

I have been adapting a homegrown Napoleonic ruleset to fit the period 1745-1871, which has made me do a lot of reasearch and thought on the specific question of what made the period different. The most inspiring reads I have had was Quimbys "the background to the Napoleonic wars"- which emphasizes the problem of forming line to front, Balcks "Tactics" – which from a 1900 perspective gives an excellent overview of tactical development and Duffys SYW books on the austrian army – which highlights their invention of large formation columns as an approach method, which is to me the essence of "Napoleonic wars".

One of my playtesters and research partner made the relevant comment that a ruleset should never be for a specific war but rather for the end of one war and the start of the next. Late SYW is more like early Napoleonic and late Napoleonic is more like 1859-1866 while 1870 and early WW1 has a lot in common. This is in my opinion what often confuses discussions.

My own thoughts on what should be the driving differences in the period is the following. The differences I think is most important is method of deploymnet and what constitutes the destructive part of an attack (Clausewitz division of destructive and decisive – decisive is always advance with cold steel in the entire period). Note that destrucive is as much a moral effect as a physical one.

Period 1 (Silesian wars to early SYW). Deployment was from marchcolumn to line on flank mainly. The wing / army deployed as one formation, which meant slow deployment usually outside canon range.
Destructive part is mainly infantry fire from line supported by close range cannister – mostly by regimental guns.

Period 2: (middle SYW to early/middle Napoleonics for some armies) formation columns used to approach. This is not batallion comulmns but columns of several lines in succesion as used by the austrians at Hochkirch (like D´erlon at waterloo). This means deployment in smaller "lumps" and faster approach march, but still not in batallion column within artillery distance.
Destructive part is still mainly the infantry line but longer range artillery/cannister is being used more and more. Skirmsihers are more common in the battle line but only used by some in early Napolonic period as main destructive lement as opposed to annoyance role.

Period 3 (late Napoleonic – early for french – to 1859/1866) Marchcolumns deploy into columns of approach on a battalion level, giving higher flexibility in deployment and swift descend on the enemy – advantage is mainly operational as opposed to merely tactical. The deployment of the battalion column into line is still the destructive element but this can now be done later – either just outside or within musketry range.
The destructive part is increasingly aggressive use of artillery/massed batteries and increasingly massed skirmishers supported by lines as opposed to only line formations.
Period 4 (depending on nation from very late Napoleonics/1859 to 1870). Deployment pushed out by increasingly better rifled artillery allowing shrapnel and grendes to take effect to 1500 meters (as opposed to 5-700 meter for smoothbare destructive fire). Approach in bttalion columns increasingly deadly and deployment into line earlier on or indivdual company columns (Prussia 1866+). Similar effect from rifles – especially Chassepot.
Destructive element is increasingly artillery but also increasingly the heavy skirmish line supported by columns takes the place of the formal battalion line and column attacks are suicidal against an enemy that is not thoroughly marinated in destructive fire, as the austrians dicovered in 1866.

Theese are my general thoughts, which I am trying to incoporate with the rules mechanisms, the period are somewhat fluid and the point is that the different ways of deploying and fighting are abilities that are present in different troops/commands at different times – mainly as a product of culture. Comments welcome.

FlyXwire11 Jul 2018 5:27 a.m. PST

Sparta an excellent point to relate -

"One of my playtesters and research partner made the relevant comment that a ruleset should never be for a specific war but rather for the end of one war and the start of the next. "

There's such a dogmatic adherence to place each conflict into the pages of pre-war manuals, and ignore that tactical innovation is occurring throughout. At the end of a particular conflict, it's the new manuals being written that have codified its outcome.

marshalGreg11 Jul 2018 6:11 a.m. PST

All good points.
For some of us it is not about the entertainment factor to be entertained per say as to why one comes to play ( Yes I am not one who will be found playing a simple beer & pretzel level rules set for a lack of better description), but the entertainment acquired from the challenge of the command and period knowledge of the warfare to be applied leading; a battalion, regiment, brigade or entire division of a particular Army in a "Tactical" level play or as BBB put it " from trying to find ways to win with a rubbish army".
The same can be at the Grand tactical level with the knowledge of the differences of the GTs in play for that period.
I have played/ grow-up starting with CLS and sorry it does not bring to play the skill to a level as in some well done rules-simulations (though they maybe painful to play for most because there is much to learn) where skill is acquired with playing lets say French with great results, becomes a disaster when playing Russian or Austrian or vice versa because of the "skill of that nation tactics/organization/capability" comes to play, does not work well when applied with another Army, and now must be learned since the rules set is done well enough that "skill" is brought forth/needed. Yes, I have now figured out how to have better success with Russians, Austrian and to some degree Spanish, now that I have an Army of.
So the expectation would also be for the period differences in waging war. I.E. Pushing a confederate units like a Napoleonic one may/should result in a disaster, and the rules bring the reality to the table.
A test of that was (in a simpler set of rules then I typically play) where players that were used to a 1st ed ( which was more Napoleonic warfare as created by the mechanisms of the rules- as the best description for the illustration) all had poor results against players with experienced with a 2nd ed ( which was brought more to the period warfare with the changes) who had now acquired skill of operating more as to the ACW period warfare/tactics!

In regards to terrain, Is it not more of the command skill as much as to the deviation in tactics that was influenced because of the terrain ( IE AWI & ACW vs Continental Europe)? This is what I have found to be the most prominent in regards to terrain (while only playing two periods of the OP's several).

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 2:40 p.m. PST

Some of the issues/trends I haven't seen mentioned in any depth

from 1756 to 1890, are the following:

1. More uniformity and far more permanence in tactical organizations: brigade, division and corps

2. Permanent staffs for each of those formations

3. Greater mobility in artillery

4. The use of small arms at greater distances [for instance, most SYW fire fights/skirmishing happened within 100 yards. By the Napoleonic wars, 200-250 yards was defined as 'effective range' and French skirmishers were instructed to open at 300 yards--Dusheme's 1806 and 1814 works.]

5. Skirmishing went from an activity in rough terrain to battlefield employment in large numbers during the Napoleonic wars… to the Civil War and the Hyphenated wars where skirmish lines became the battle line supported by small columns [Both the French and Prussians fought like this in 1870]

6. In the SYW, regimental officers had very little decision-making ability. in the next 150 years, more and more initiative was granted to lower-level officers. In most SYW battles, there were basically the CinC and wing-commanders making tactical decisions… by the 1860-70s, brigade and regimental commanders were allowed to use their initiative to a large degree in comparison.

7. Far more uniformity in training and tactical use of infantry, cavalry and artillery. [For instance, light and heavy infantry tactics were expected of all infantry.]

All of this is true even though through-out this time, the methods for moving and controlling large formations of men on the battlefield remained the same--1750-1914.

Sparta12 Jul 2018 1:46 a.m. PST

I see we agree McLaddie :-)

I think a lot of our skirmish disucussions fails to ackowledge the difference between skirmishing as trip wire/annoyance and the doctrinal change of skirmishing en masse as main battle line. The lack of skirmishers as massed battle lines is what to me sets the ACW apart from the hyphenated wars.

MiniPigs Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2018 6:48 a.m. PST


You can hang out with your fellow military experts, I'll take the beer and pretzels.

CLS doesnt bring to bear skill for what? Someone's desire to play Napoleon? CLS is fun and no one ever thought it was true to life. One error here is the idea that CLS doesnt take skill; it does take skill but at a tactical level which means a few battalions. It does, however, breakdown for big games and that desire to make it bigger is ultimately what I suspect lead to the rules demise.

It's a game and at some point it will never recreate history but it can give you the same emotions and thrills as reading battle histories.

I can only say, anyone who likes muddling through complicated rules may not be getting enough intellectual stimulation in their day-life. I for one want simplicity and play.

Someone said, if you want simplicity, then play chess. I say in response, if you want complication, use paper counters on a paper map.

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2018 6:51 a.m. PST

@Sparta: I like your division into 5 Periods. That may be a product of culture, but I suggest the cultures are themselves product of factors such as the technology and the society.

Which brings me to the issue of the evolution of skirmishing. I suggest that in the monarchical armies of the 1700s, most individual soldiers would not be trusted to go out and skirmish. These men are mostly not motivated by anything other than rigid discipline. I believe a notable feature of SYW battles is how often an army deliberately deploys with a river behind it – to stop its men running away. These are not armies that are generally capable of skirmishing.

By contrast, the French republican armies, motivated by patriotism and the rights of man, are willing to delegate some responsibilities to go with those rights, and can generate clouds of skirmishers.

@McLaddie: Bill, I did mention your points 1 and especially 3!


Bloody Big BATTLES!

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2018 7:26 a.m. PST

The lack of skirmishers as massed battle lines is what to me sets the ACW apart from the hyphenated wars.

Yes, we do agree. The exception is this point:

The idea that the ACW lacked skirmishers as massed battle lines stems from the loose nature of ACW firing lines. [Remember that French, Prussian, Russian light infantry deployed in two ranks during the Napoleonic wars for ease of transitioning into skirmish lines…and that the main regulations used during the ACW were based on French 'Light Infantry' tactics… e.g. Hardee and Casey]

So, the difference between a battleline proper and a skirmish line became blurred. Sherman wrote:

We were generally in a wooded country, and, though our lines were deployed according to tactics, the men generally fought in strong skirmish-lines, taking advantage of the shape of ground, and every cover.

The second reason is because skirmish actions are not seen as decisive so they are not mentioned often. For instance, at Murfreesboro in December of 1862, Rosecrans deployed entire brigades as skirmishers…but you don't see that mentioned except in passing by primary sources. Terrain certainly had its impact on tactics.

Rarely did the opposing lines in compact order come into actual contact, but when, as a Peach-Tree Creek and Atlanta, the lines did become commingled, the men fought individually in every possible style, more frequently with the musket clubbed than with the bayonet, and in some instances the men clinched like wrestlers, and went to the ground together.

Europeans frequently criticized our war, because we did not always take full advantage of victory; the true reason was, that habitually the woods served as a screen, and we often did not realize the fact that our enemy had retreated till he was already miles away and was again entrenched, having left a mere skirmish-line to cover the movement, in turn to fall back to the new position.

Sherman concluded at the end of the war that any future wars would be mainly skirmish actions.

Sherman's conclusions are an interesting read:

PDF link

Hi Chris: Yes, you did.

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP14 Jul 2018 1:26 a.m. PST

@MiniPigs: I like plenty of what you say, and I tried to resist chipping in again, but I couldn't let this straw-man line go:

"I can only say, anyone who likes muddling through complicated rules may not be getting enough intellectual stimulation in their day-life. I for one want simplicity and play."

I absolutely agree! In wanting this we're the same, but we clearly have different routes to getting it.

Big battle rules really demand a suitable degree of abstraction and simplicity if the goal of getting the whole battle done is to be achieved. That abstraction often means dispensing with some of the things you evidently love about Napoleonics. Fair enough; big battle rules are not for you.

For my part, I have never played CLS but I have tried a few different sets geared to the division-sized game, some better, some worse; division-sized games are not for me.

And actually that is because I find I get more intellectual stimulation from the higher-level games, and from the post-Napoleonic period. Generalization time again: compared with the century after it, Napoleonics – especially late Napoleonics – involves very similar armies with identical weaponry and tactics, and very little of the asymmetry that makes for such interesting games later in the century. Mastering the rock-scissors-paper of Napoleonic tactics requires skill, sure, but for me it is too limited a skillset to sustain my interest for a game every week. Also, I think higher-level games allow a far greater variety of situations, and therefore of command challenges, and therefore test a wider range of skills as a player.

Sorry of I've gone on a bit and if I've repeated myself a bit. I do find this a really interesting topic to discuss. And I'm not belittling anyone else's skill or enjoyment, just enthusing about what I like and why I like it – each to their own, say I.


Lee49414 Jul 2018 3:36 p.m. PST

Thanks to all who responded. Very thoughtful and useful comments. I'm going to be doing a new set of ACW rules. My goal is to be able to play Gettysburg on a 4x4 kitchen table in an afternoon using 6mm minis. Based on the comments here once ACW is "de-bugged" I may try modifying the rules for earlier periods. If anyone would like to participate in the playtesting contact me. Not sure what the protocols on TMP about giving out my email address so you can contact me, perhaps someone could post how that works. Thanks again! Lee

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