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"Thoughts & Questions on the Seven Years War & Rule Sets" Topic

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nsolomon9910 Feb 2020 8:41 p.m. PST

I have accumulated great respect for the wisdom of the Hive Mind that is this Forum. So I'd like to share some thoughts and ask some questions on 18th Century wargaming.

Context: I am in the process of trying to convert my 15 year old son from Warhammer 40K to historical wargaming, Horse & Musket period for starters. And encouragingly I'm having some success.

Now, if he and I want a quick, simple and fun general gaming experience he'll choose fantasy or SCI-FI so I'm not
trying to find a quick, simple, fun historical game, with a points system for balanced play and a ready-for-tournament play approach. Yes, I recognise that many people love Black Powder and its ilk and all power to them but its not what I'm looking for. I'm trying to find a rules set that will actually TEACH the conditions and parameters of warfare of the various Horse and Musket periods. This means I'm looking for a WASS/SYW set of rules that actually captures and teaches the art of war and especially Command & control. Yep, more simulation than simple, more realism than straight fun.

Interestingly, my first manouver, to divert him slowly by having us first play Total War Warhammer on the computer has paid off handsomely. He has learnt and absorbed without even realising it the use cases of linear vs deep formations, light vs heavy cavalry, firepower vs shock, the value of artillery, quality vs quantity, morale and the effect of its erosion as a battle progresses, battlefield leadership at least in a medieval sense. The plan is working.

More recently we played some Napoleonic actions with General d'Armee rules and they succeeded at teaching him tactics and the use of the 3 arms infantry + cavalry + artillery in a real history, Horse & Musket context. I have realised though that the C&C model in those otherwise excellent rules is rudimentary, abstracted and rather dependant on an old timer like myself having already learn't the nuances and realities of C&C by virtue of reading lots of history and in my case being raised on rules sets like Empire, Legacy of Glory, From Valmy to Waterloo, etc.

Now I know you're all thinking " … but who has the time and space anymore to leave a large wargames area in situ for days at a time whilst working through cumbersome simulation rules …"?! Well, we do, or we will soon. We're building a new home with a 6 metre x 7 metre air-conditioned, carpeted, wargaming room that can be closed off and locked away so even multi-table battles can be left in progress and completed at our leisure over several evenings or weekends.

So, to the WASS/SYW, I have bought lots of rules sets over the years and accumulated some large armies but frankly never found exactly what I needed. There seems to be no equivalent to Empire or From Valmy to Waterloo in this earlier period! And yet there should be surely?! Were not Frederick the Great, Maurice de Saxe, von Daun, the Duke of Brunswick (in his youth) great captains too? Did not the tactics and drill and art of war of the 18th Century not also dictate the way the wars of the French Revolution were fought, then see the French army evolve a fixed Divisional and then later Corps system of Command & Control?

And yet most WASS/SYW sets I have played or read either abstract the Command & Control mechanics down to a few pips for Command and a D6 roll off for "initiative" or even less?! Most sets focus on activation by brigade when everything I read that Christopher Duffy and other esteemed historians have written talks of Frederick placing Seydlitz or Zieten or von Driessen in command of whole wings of cavalry and then leading them in huge multi-regimental charges and manouvers. Or von Bevern and Prince Moritz and von Manteuffel and Dohna, Kanitz, etc leading whole Lines of Infantry, usually multiple brigades conforming to a single set of orders. And there was almost always a Reserve of Grenadiers or Cuirassier Regiments under other Officers, frequently committed as a mass. And yet I haven't found a set of rules that really reflects these structures or rewards the player for maintaining these structures.

Am I wrong? Have I missed a set of "whole of battle" rules that includes an accurate Command & Control system that reflects the history?

Die Krieg Kunst are an authentic feeling set of rules but they attempt only to reproduce a small sub set of a battle. I'd like my son to embrace the spectacle of the whole of Leuthen, all of Zorndorf, the complete Torgau and so on.

Or does such a set of rules not exist and I need to be thinking in terms of taking a proven set of tactical firing, charging and melee mechanisms such as exist in Koenig Krieg or maybe Honours of War or something else and overlaying a Command & Control layer of my own design? At least the Orders of Battle and command structures are already complete and available!

Valued fellow enthusiasts what think ye? Am I mad, tilting at windmills in Spain or what have I missed or not learn't?


Spooner610 Feb 2020 11:13 p.m. PST

I think you are overestimating the ability of the wing commander to micro manage a battle. I love Honors of War as it does a good job of replicating aggressive and incompetent brigade commands and forces you to use you Senior leaders to try and manage the brigade commanders to implement your battle plan. We fight r vulgar battles with 50+ units a side. The rules ar not for everyone, you can't just through your troops forward and hope for victory, you need to manage the battle.


Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP11 Feb 2020 3:30 a.m. PST

Nick, you are right. Most rules are bottom up, having a bn as units and losing the big picture. In a way they just simply put tricornes instead of shakoes and have these disconnected brigades doing their thing. Just look at many tables after a few turns.
Using directing units for long lines would probably easily put back the 18th century in them.

bruntonboy11 Feb 2020 4:08 a.m. PST

Think I would concentrate on playing a fun game in an historical setting and letting his interest drive his own research and quest for knowledge.

Warfare in the age of reason is fairly good for what you are asking- minus the "tournament" aspect. We tend to sue black Powder nowadays though as there is more friction built into the system that throws up random challenges.

Empire style rule sets seem to have gone the way of the Dodo, I am not sure it's the eighteenth century period that has a lack of such. Most players have moved on from that style of play.

advocate11 Feb 2020 4:28 a.m. PST

King of the Battlefield for me. Maybe with a modification to allow infantry commanders a single 'free' order then use the command roll to move any separate units. This makes moving lines of units a better bet than moving them separately or breaking them up. Probably allow cavalry commanders two orders as they would typically have supporting lines.

YogiBearMinis11 Feb 2020 4:34 a.m. PST

I always thought Bill Gray's Age of Honor variant for Fire & Fury produces good games, and Piquet's Cartouche is good. But you can't have a "realistic" ruleset that lets you both run the entire battle AND micromanage at the battalion level. You have to run a piece of the battle with lower-level rules, or pick a brigade-level set with some abstraction.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP11 Feb 2020 4:53 a.m. PST

I don't understand what micro manage in the 18th century would mean. If your basic unit is Bn then it will "moved" and shoot etc. but the thing is it should be part of the bigger lines. The system should push you to. So it "feels" (I hate this word but…) and LOOKs like an 18th century battle rather than something bastard from would be napoleonics in tricornes.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Feb 2020 8:10 a.m. PST

I have as extensive a collection of rule sets as anyone around (at least historical rule sets). And I would say you are starting from a hard place. I'll put a link to my collection at the bottom of this post.

The Empire series of rules including VtW are extreme outliers. They took some basic mechanics of the day and took them in a new, revolutionary, direction.

But they became almost a hobby unto themselves. Nowadays they are code for "massively complex, unplayable and no fun."

So no, you have not missed out on "Empire for the Age of Lace."

I like the command and control system from Et Sans Resultat. Each force (division/wing) has an objective. Each turn it must move toward that objective at full speed. It moves until it contacts the enemy, reaches the objective, or gets a new order (hard to do). This puts you in the place of Napoleon feeding in available forces to parts of the battle. The 1st Edition even had a nifty little card/chit system for indicating the route of march (left of the woods, right of the woods, through the woods).

This makes your forces act quite realistically. You no longer have laser-guided battalions all over the table top. I think it could be easily adapted to your favorite basic mechanics.

Link to the Google doc of my rules collection. Every enxtry with an X under the 1st column (HC? for Have Copy?) is one I own. Some have PDF meaning I have a PDF but have not printed it yet.


Cavcmdr11 Feb 2020 8:26 a.m. PST

King of the Battlefield.
2ft to the mile. This means Waterloo size or the best bits of most 18th century battles on a 6'x4' table.
Units are regiments. Batteries are 10 or so guns.

Our one v. one club games feature you as the C-in-C, 25 or so units each (according to your taste) and two sub-generals. The only command rules are a radius of 10" from a general or the unit is out of his control.

Several times a year we go nuts. Bring what you have and play. It depends who's around but 8 players, 18ft table, 3-400 units… Hey, it's fun.

Oh, and more formal refights have also taken place. The last one I played involved 18 players, 24ft table, approxiamately 10,000 15mm figures. Yes it took all day. Decision reached about 4.30pm. All packed away by 5pm and off for an After Action Meal and tipple.

Cavcmdr11 Feb 2020 8:28 a.m. PST

My apologies. I forgot to add our customary salutation to Gentlefolk of the Eighteenth Century.


Cavcmdr11 Feb 2020 8:38 a.m. PST

Are you trying to enable your son to make better decisions?

Or, are you trying to make him think through the limitations of an artificial general staff?

KotB sets out to give YOU the opportunity to beat your oppo in the nicest possible way (I can't say gentlemanly because our club is not exclusively male).

Have fun.

N.B. An Italian wargamer once told be

Cavcmdr11 Feb 2020 8:39 a.m. PST

me that does not work with Napoleonic players…

I now duck and stay low ;-)

von Schwartz11 Feb 2020 4:21 p.m. PST

My experience with WSS and SYW rules systems is quite limited, I have only played two but I have 6 sets which I have read and studied. I don't know how mentally disciplined your son is at 15 but my general advice would be for his early experiences concentrate on the "fun" aspect" and move slowly into more complex C & C aspect. Most rules that I have used have been tweaked and teased by the club to more accurately reflect what they (we) thought more closely resembled the actual situations, circumstances, and outcomes.

BTW – Extra Crispy, I'm glad you said it.
The Empire series of rules including VtW are extreme outliers. They took some basic mechanics of the day and took them in a new, revolutionary, direction.

But they became almost a hobby unto themselves. Nowadays they are code for "massively complex, unplayable and no fun."

Never liked those rules, I even suggested we go back to Bruce Quarry's tactical rules, the only way to win with Empire was to be either French or British. The seemed to believe that the Napoleonic period began and ended at Waterloo.

YogiBearMinis11 Feb 2020 8:04 p.m. PST

The classic discussion on this issue has to do with those who want to BOTH have a multi-stand battalion that will form square, line, column based on the commanding general/player's whim, while simultaneously that same general/player is maneuvering brigades and wings for an entire army. That is not realistic "command and control" to have an omniscient and omnipotent general/player who is both the colonel of a regiment and the general of an army.

Steamingdave212 Feb 2020 3:58 a.m. PST

We played a WW2 Rapid Fire game last week, based on the action at Cambes. Apparently in the real action the CO's orders wre "take and hold the first village and then take the next one". No micro- managing and piffling details, just a reliance on the individual unit commanders (whether squad, platoon or company) knowing how to do the job; which they did. Do our games need elaborate C+C, with detailed orders etc?

Prince Alberts Revenge12 Feb 2020 6:28 p.m. PST

Maurice is certainly an abstract but I like how it plays and my battles look and feel like linear lace wars to me and my fellow gamers.

dogtail12 Feb 2020 7:57 p.m. PST

Die Krieg Kunst are an authentic feeling set of rules but they attempt only to reproduce a small sub set of a battle. I'd like my son to embrace the spectacle of the whole of Leuthen, all of Zorndorf, the complete Torgau and so on.

I think it is rather easy to use DKK for big battles, and to find out what is the difference between a set of rules for wargaming and the historical use of instructions and peace time manoeuvres as preparation for war is highly educational. If you try to write down an order for a whole cavalry wing, you just have to be a little bit more thoughtful than laying down a single "attack" marker.
After the first game of DKK I knew that cavalry canīt be lead from a CiC placed in the middle of the whole army, and a "hold" order can take my whole cavalry out of the game cause I might not be able to change it.
I never heard before that FDG had cuirassiers in reserve, I know that there was little cavalry-infantry coordination, IIRC Seydlitz refused to follow orders during Zorndorf, so C&C was not as easy in reality as at the wargaming table. In my Imagi-nation the CiC has done his job when he moved his army in position and gave out pre-battle orders. The rest is the work of a good or bad oiled clock-work and the ability of the cavalry commanders to make quick decisions

von Schwartz13 Feb 2020 5:34 p.m. PST

From my readings the overall commanders did not, or at least very rarely attempt to micro-manage the action. They would give their wing commanders general instructions and then they pretty much depended on them to make the appropriate dispositions. The generals did not have to order their regimental and/or battalion commanders to form line, fire, charge, form square, or whatever, it was assumed that their battle experienced sub-commanders would make the correct decision, and they usually did, time permitting. These simple tactical decisions should not require the brigadier or higher level to order it, it should be done automatically, maybe provide a die roll to see if and when the unit performed the necessary function. I think the CinC should just provide the general overall battle plan with orders like, "take and hold the village", "clear the woods to the east", "attack toward the large hill", "support the center", and the sub-commander should be experienced enough to know how to go about carrying out his assignment.

Lets party with Cossacks14 Feb 2020 4:07 a.m. PST

I have to say I have read this discussion with great interest. For what it is worth, which could be very little, YogiBearMinis's point is insightful (as are many other contributions). He is right surely that no commander both managed battalions and higher organisations of them. But I guess the question is whether rules should attempt to do so. They are, after all, always an abstraction. Maybe an abstraction of two points in a spectrum of command decisions is possible.
I am about to have my first solo game of Piquet, Les Grognards (I only have Maps painted up and am a refugee in this earlier period). These rules fascinate me on a first reading. They seem to deal with a broad command spectrum (that is to say at several levels) but I will know more about them soon I hope.

von Schwartz15 Feb 2020 5:45 p.m. PST

I have played KK ver.2 but I have copies of two rule sets provided by two very august and noble gentlemen who frequent these pages, Herkybird with his "Seven Years War Wargames Rules" (about 30 pages), and Der Alte Fritz with his "Rules for 18th Century Warfare" (2, actually 1 1/4 pages?!). Haven't played either as yet but I have studied both and like them. They are both very short, simple and to the point, easy to understand without a great deal of confusing details. In these rules grenadiers are grenadiers, hussars are hussars, etc, etc, etc. Movement, fire, melee, and morale seem fairly simple and straightforward. Played, "straight out of the box" so to speak they would appear to be a fun set and easy to follow. If someone were so inclined, they could use these rules as a great basis and add their own home brew of C&C to suit their tastes.
Well, that is all IMO, that and a buck will get you a cup of coffee at Mickey's steak house.

von Schwartz17 Feb 2020 6:12 p.m. PST

Say, if der alte Fritz is looking in on this message board I would like to ask him a couple questions regarding his short 1 1/4 page rule set.

(Leftee)20 Feb 2020 3:44 p.m. PST

Played Jim Purky's rules at a convention a few times -enjoyed very much.
Also liked 'Might and Reason' -. Has most scenarios of battles of the era – so not usually balanced. Has a commmand and control issues but perhaps not as detailed as you seek. Not sure adding the level of detail you want will improve the game (cos that's what it is) any. Read history and accounts for that granular level and play games for the spectacle, fun and challenge that SYW should bring, would be my thought. I have not played too many rules that don't reward keeping a reserve and choosing a schwerpunkt.The written order rules of the 1970s may be what you are seeking?

barcah200121 Feb 2020 2:26 p.m. PST

I have a good-sized 6mm collection of SYW figures and have played most of the rulesets discussed here, however, after settling on Might and Reason, I moving whole heartedly to the new Twilight of the Soldier Kings which I just received. Innovative system with tremendous period feel! Love it and look forward to the Napoleonic sets coming later in the year.

(Leftee)22 Feb 2020 7:25 a.m. PST

Barcah2001 – Did you rebase from Might and Reason; or can you use for both rule sets?

barcah200122 Feb 2020 12:58 p.m. PST

You can use any base size as long as the bases are standardized for both sides. I use the Baccus/Polemos 60x30 size bases for my SYW/

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