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"What makes a set of rules SYW?" Topic

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Rusty Balls Supporting Member of TMP21 Oct 2018 9:19 a.m. PST

I have been working on my own hose set of SYW rules. Not sure why but my first thought this morning when I woke up was what makes a set of rules SYW? What differentiates then from any other horse and musket set of rules.

There are a obvious answers to me like:
* Formations – or lack there of in SYW – pretty much line or column.
* Weapons – muskets vs rifles, static artillery vs mobile artillery like ACW or Napoleonic.
* Troop types – grenzers, types and roles of cavalry.

But that's mostly very mathematical and mechanical.

What else is it that gives you the feel that you are playing a set of rules designed for the 1742 – 1762 time period? I am wondering about the content of rules that generate this flavor not the mechanics yet necessarily – lots of way to skin those cats. Otherwise you end up with a pretty generic set of rules across a pretty broad time period.

What's unique about the period that needs to replicated?


4DJones21 Oct 2018 11:05 a.m. PST

Gentlemanly behaviour: e.g. allowing the enemy to fire first?

Tony S21 Oct 2018 11:58 a.m. PST

Broadly speaking, command structure was a bit more primitive, although armies were smaller. There were no permanent formations, like divisions. Some ad-hoc brigades. But it is noticeable when you look at the battles of both wars, that generally SYW had less maneuvering than later on, I'd argue because of clumsier command structure.

Light troops, although used, were not employed as often, nor usefully (or regarded as highly) as Napoleonic warfare. No thick skirmisher lines like the French and British habitually used later.

No Marie-Louises. I've always thought the SYW soldiers must have had incredible training to be able to see off attacking horse by standing firm without needing to huddle in a comforting mass like a few decades later. (Well of course they had more and better training. But it says a lot about the difference). From a gaming point of view, a steady SYW war line should be about as tough for cavalry to shatter from a frontal charge as a Napoleonic square.

Slower movement. As you say, no "attack" column formation, which was used to rapidly deploy troops around a battlefield. And, if memory serves, only the SYW Prussians had developed marching in cadence? Slower deployment too. The Napoleonic French could deploy from column to line far faster than the SYW staid maneuverings.

Having mentioned all this, I hasten to add that I'm more of a Napoleonic player than SYW! I like the better balanced holy trinity of combined arms horse, foot and guns better when the Corsican Ogre came to power!

And, of course most important of all, the hats had three corners. Not cylindrical.

Banana Man21 Oct 2018 12:09 p.m. PST

The wearing of the tricorne, what else?

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP21 Oct 2018 12:53 p.m. PST

The biggest difference is the sheer professionalism of the rank and file in most armies, as was implied in the last post.
Cadenced marching makes it different to earlier wars, as does the rate of fire of the infantry, due to the metal ramrods.
Artillery has some…interesting variety, especially in the Russian army, and has more mobility than, say the WSS, but generally less than the Napoleonic period.

seneffe21 Oct 2018 1:09 p.m. PST

Just a point about columns of attack. The French certainly used brigade columns at Rocoux in 1746 and Lauffeldt in 1747- with ultimate success- if very heavy casualties.

The exact form of these has been much discussed- I think the current view is the battalions in line backed up closely together (like D'Erlon at Waterloo) with Grenadiers, sappers and possibly new-fangled 'piquets' in front as 'sort of' skirmishers.

Another significant difference to Napoleonics is a larger proportion of heavy cavalry. To an extent that was self cancelling- but it gives the opportunity to field lots of imposing tricorne hatted heavies in your army.

Garde de Paris21 Oct 2018 1:28 p.m. PST

I find the variations endless!

By the 7YW, all European troops marched in step, in cadence. All had iron ramrods (in 1740, only the Prussians.

It was probably the peak of well-drilled infantry, who fought in line, attacked sometimes in column of battalions in line, and sometimes moved cross-country in 1/4 of a battalion frontage, 4 quarters deep. I believe all the combatants formed their battalions in four such equal segments, even thought the Prussians ha 5 administrative musketeer or fusilier companies and the Austrian has 6.

Frederick learned a lesson in the 1740's when his cavalry performed poorly. By the very beginning of the 7YW, his cavalry had been trained to charge "full out" at the end of an attack. He loaned the 9th and 10 Dragoons to the Hanoverian/Hessen/British/Brunswick western allies, and these 2 regiments (and 3 squadrons of the black, 2 of the yellow as well) taught the allied cavalry to charge as well.

The Prussians now had the best battlefield cavalry of the age.

The French never learned to attack at more than a trot or canter – and I don't think there was a term for "canter" at the time.

French Dragoons were the best of the French cavalry, functioned in line of battle, in scouting and covering a retreat, in dismounted action to attack fixed positions along with grenadiers. The D'Apchon Dragoons appear more often in French orders of battle than any other Dragoon regiment, and are attractive in forage cap (allegedly never worn in battle, but all of us love to use them!) using light blue, scarlet as for the coat, banded orange and dark blue, as is the saddlery.

French hussars were generally very poor – or very unlucky.

Prussian hussars by this time could fight in line of battle, became superior to even the Austrian hussars. Austrian hussars seemed to be used by mid- to late war to attack only when an enemy formation was in disorder.

Austria in its Croats, or Grenzers, had the best light infantry in Europe. By the 7YW they were being used in small detachments, often far from parent and supply, and often without officers – a greatly reduced threat to the Prussians. But they performed manfully in the uphill, broad daylight attack at Moys, in partnership with Austrian composite grenadier units. They also performed well in Fredericks first battle against the Austrians – Lobositz?

Austrian artillery was the best of the war. 3 pdr battalion guns; 6 and 12 pounders for battery positions. The used the howitzer as well.

Austrian infantry often seemed to work to protect the artillery at all cost. Frederick is accuse of ignoring his artillery, yet as the quality of the killed-off infantry units diminished, he put his poorly-designed 12-pounder among his infantry columns to serve as very effective giant shotguns!

The French NEVER used the howitzer, and their artillery was large and cumbersome. But they had an excellent light 4 pounder, one allegedly assigned to a line battalion, crewed by 1 fusilier from each of 16 companies. Probably not nearly as well trained at regular French blue-coated artillerymen.

You do see the beginning of the Napoleonic system, when Marshal DeBroglie began to organized divisions of a relatively permanent formation. 8 battalions to a rudimentary "division." Picture 4 battalions as a "Brigade," but no such thing as a General de Brigade. 4 -4 pdrs at a brigade battery, 8 for the division.

French grenadiers were more a rudimentary light infantry – again agile in the attack on fixed positions. Usually the best performing soldier of the 17 company battalion. 3 men per fusilier company were also drawn off to form a ad hoc skirmisher company. DeBroglie like to form battalions of Grenadier companies and these ad hoc light companies.

On and on


Frederick Supporting Member of TMP21 Oct 2018 3:22 p.m. PST

Relatively small but very well drilled armies as noted above; more rigid command structure, for everyone except the Austrians fewer light troops, cavalry powerful but not overwhelming, artillery not very flexible – when they deployed, pretty much they stayed

Plus, of course, tricornes, fancy banners and lace to lend a bit of tone to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl

Rusty Balls Supporting Member of TMP21 Oct 2018 4:30 p.m. PST

All very good and true observations.

My take aways so far are:
* it's important to get the right force representation – strengths and weaknesses of national characteristics. Many of them mentioned here.
* while the comments about command structure are true, that seems like an element you might find in campaign rules vs inside a specific battle unless folks believe that once the org is created for a particular battle or campaign, there is a potential breakdown in command and control or a reduced effectiveness as a result of less personal familiarity. I wonder if what seems odd to us now, was simply the practice and as such they had worked out how to be effective under those conditions. I read a lot of source material but rarely come across any documented like the confusion between Ney and Napoleon wrt De Erlon's employment.
* Light troops do not generally appear in staged battles except in a couple of battles as mentioned and on the Austrian side. Much more common in the smaller engagements. Lobositz and Kolin are good exceptions.
* With regard to Cavalry, while we can recognize the speed at which each of the nations charged at, do we think the ground covered was more. Any given war game turn represents a certain amount of time. Does anyone know if the Prussians actually covered more ground as a result of their speed for did they all start their charges at the same general distance. Connected to this is the predisposition of Austrian and French Cavalry to just want to shoot their pistols vs Prussian use of steel.
*Definetly agree with the different national uses of Hussars btw Prussian and Austria.
* The Austrian artillery advantage is well documented. What kinds of benefits for them would you expect to see in a set of rules? Greater mobility? Greater accuracy?
Defined difference between field and positional batteries. Movement of mostly BN guns and lighter field guns while the heavier stuff was placed for the duration.

Personal logo Dye4minis Supporting Member of TMP21 Oct 2018 7:31 p.m. PST

Don't forget that Logistics played a great role and became of age. Depots (usually castles or fortified citys) supplied campaigns. Supply transport had to be guarded; light infantry and cav excorted, scounted for the army; perfomed security and recon duties (RE: Frederick's Instructions to his Generals") and many other startings of professional beginnings of modern armies that we take for wargaming granted. Even the garrison troops were pretty well trained. Not may rules sets give them nearly enough credit for their services rendered. SYW is a great period to game but viewing it as simply another H&M game with tricornes does it great dis-service IMHO.
Admire your approach, Busty Balls.

Porthos22 Oct 2018 1:34 a.m. PST

An important difference between SYW and Napoleonic is the size of the armies. Because of the necessary professionalism it takes time to train enough. With the "levée en masse" were the professionals traded for enthousiastic (drunken ?) amateurs in column. Therefore you see in the SYW more careful manoeuvre, losses are less easy to compensate. So in SYW-rules there should be more attention given to outmanoeuvre the opponent without actually giving battle.

"Gentlemanly behaviour: e.g. allowing the enemy to fire first?"
Ah, Fontenoy. This has nothing to do with "gentlemanly behavior", I'm afraid. The first to fire has lost the advantage because the other then comes closer and blows him away…

Personal logo Narratio Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2018 5:24 a.m. PST

And the hats Rusty, don't forget the hats!

Shako's are for peasents. But a tricorne… Ah! A thing of beauty.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2018 6:32 a.m. PST

The Prussian cavalry was very much "Napoleonic" in style, fast, nimble and great ability to exploit any opportunity.

The main difference was that cavalry during the SYW was mostly concentrated on the wings or center.

While Napoleionc cavalry was both held back as a reserve in the center and parceled out among the corps/divisions and even brigades. This meant cavalry was always present everywhere and explains the need for square. At Austerlitz, the French infantry in Davout's Corps simply chased away the Russian cavalry with fire while staying in line. Because as long as the cavalry can't flank you, there is no need for square.

And during the SYW infantry lines could extend almost uninterrupted for several km, no possibility for a flank attack by cavalry.

I find it interesting that smaller SYW actions feels more like Napoleonic actions/battles than the bigger set-piece battles.
The smaller engagements have more back and forth, flanking attacks etc than the bigger battles.

Oldgrumbler Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2018 10:13 a.m. PST

It is my impression that infantry did not close to melee as often as in Napoleonics, perhaps due to the linear formations. Often they would get bogged down in a fire fight.
Infantry in line should have some chance of holding off cavalry.
Massed batteries would be uncommon.
Light troops should be scarce.


Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2018 10:25 a.m. PST

Most Napoleonic fights were just fire fights too.
The Napoleonic wars were almost as linear as the seven years war.

4DJones22 Oct 2018 10:39 a.m. PST

Fontenoy: they certainly LOOK like gentlemen in Detaille's painting.

Tony S22 Oct 2018 12:25 p.m. PST

"At Austerlitz, the French infantry in Davout's Corps simply chased away the Russian cavalry with fire while staying in line. Because as long as the cavalry can't flank you, there is no need for square."

True, but that was the peak of the French army, many of which were veterans, and having spent months in the camps on the Channel training and drilling, under one of Napoleon's finest Marshals.

I would argue that a regiment or two of heavy cavalry thundering down on some 1813 conscripts or landwehr , or the entire Spanish or Neapolitan army might not do so well.

But you make a good point about cavalry deployment Gunfreak. Napoleonic warfare was much more combined arms.

Rusty Balls Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2018 4:41 p.m. PST

Continued recap:
* Couple of comments on the importance of pre-battle maneuver and logistics – logistics impacts campaigns in a huge way!
*On pre-battle maneuver. Maneuver is one of my pet peeves. I am very turned off by a game where the figures are lined up, crowded 2 lines deep from table side to table side. That's a game of dice rolling at that point. I believe, in my humble opinion, that all good rules should facilitate maneuver and timing. Knowing where to put your troops and when to send them in – coordinate them, is the key to developing an enjoyable and realistic game. And even though, SYW is described as a Linear era, there are still plenty of instances of maneuvering on the battlefield in big battles. Kolin, Lobositz, Chotusitz, Prague etc… so yes the tactics of the day was linear but that did not preclude maneuvering in the face of the enemy.
* Regardless of how it is done, bullet or bayonet, the object of any battle once in motion is to take or hold key ground and/or destroy the enemy.
* It seems to me that Gunfreak's comment about the characteristic of the Prussian Calvary are true but I think that may be an artifact of the command temperament and training versus the quality of the troops. Frederick made his Cavalry attack as soon as the enemy was spotted. Sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn't. Nevertheless, its an interesting thing to consider in side of the rules again to reflect national characteristics.
* And of course the hats. +1 for Tricorne!

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP23 Oct 2018 1:09 a.m. PST

I would argue that a regiment or two of heavy cavalry thundering down on some 1813 conscripts or landwehr , or the entire Spanish or Neapolitan army might not do so well.

True, and it's also a self-forfilling prophecy. If you drill it into the heads of soldiers; YOU MUST FORM SQUARE IN PRESENCE OF cavalry. Then your soldiers will panic if they can't form square.
I'm sure there are instances during the Napoleonic wars, were infantry were "surprised" by cavalry. And they either tried to form square and failed or started to run, when the most effective decision they should have done was stand firm and deliver a volley. But that wasn't something officers and soldiers thought possible for most of the period.

Sparta23 Oct 2018 4:59 a.m. PST

Many good observations, but some which I think is missing. Firstly the end of the SYW is very much like the start of the revolutionary wars, whereas the beginning of SYW is very much like the austrian war of succession.

Although on average the armies were better drilled, the differences is propably more due to a change in system og deployment.

In the classic ordre mince as practised by Frederick almost to the end of the wars you deploy the army almost as one, where you march it sideways onto the battlefield and turn each unit in place to form line. This required very fast maneuvering such as at Leuthen (tired at Prague and Kolin without success) for the enemy to be caught at a disadvantage. The army was considered one moving mass and maneuvered at such – cavalry was generally on the flanks and the indiviual infantry batallion in line was not concerned for its flanks. Mulitple formation nunits in line often stalled under fire and the destructive element of the fight was very much the close range firefigt in line as opposed to Napoleonic warfare where the destructive phase – before the decisive – was more often done by artillery and skirmishers.
The french had problems maneuvering with the required precision for mulitple units advancing in line and experimented with ordre profonde from AWS onwards where attacks in column was experimented with. This was the start of the franch school.
The austrians also had some problems maneuvering as fast as the prussians and experimented with breaking up the army in columns (of several batallions not to be confused twith batallion colums) in order to maneuvre swiftly against the enemy – this was succesfully applied at Hochkirch and Maxen.
Th evolution into the Napolonic wars was in many was a combination of the Austrian and french system and to me the rules should allow the correct use of the different systems in the different periods.

Henry Martini23 Oct 2018 5:41 p.m. PST

To my mind, because of the factors mentioned above, any set of rules claiming to accurately represent European land warfare in this era should have battlefield manoeuvre as its core mechanism. Close attention to, and detailed rules for, manoeuvres and formation changes should be at the heart of the system, whereas in earlier and later periods they can be simpler and more abstract. This is where I think, fine though it might be for the 19th century, Black Powder fails as an adequate rules system for the mid-18th century.

freecloud24 Oct 2018 6:11 a.m. PST

- Tricornes!
- Lace (if you do it in 28mm…)
- No squares, as the Line are good enough to blow cavalry away (and the lines are long, the infantry well trained/can do turn manouvres fast vs later conscript forces*)
- Columns used to move troops around but drop into line to fight
- If you have a French army you have to have a baggage train with minstrels, mistresses, minuetting officers and a royal bath.
- Did I mention Tricornes?

* Re: squares – I was reading somewhere (iirc a translated documnet on t'Web) that the Austrians had always had to deal with cavalry in the Turkish wars and found if you just pressed together in a blob (the "Masse" formations) horses wouldn't attack. They more needed their cavalry at local level in the Napoleonic Wars to prevent enemy horse taking infantry in line in the flank, as the distances between units were far larger on the bigger battlefields. This was especially true for the skirmishers going ahead of the army (that's apparently why they formed the light cavalry/rlight infantry Advance Divsiions post 1805).

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