Help support TMP

"Merits of comprehensive 19th century wargame rules?" Topic

11 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

Remember that you can Stifle members so that you don't have to read their posts.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the 19th Century Discussion Message Board

Areas of Interest

19th Century

Featured Hobby News Article

Featured Recent Link

Top-Rated Ruleset

Mighty Armies: Fantasy

Rating: gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star 

Featured Showcase Article

GallopingJack Checks Out The Terrain Mat

Mal Wright Fezian goes to sea with the Terrain Mat.

Featured Workbench Article

Simple Magnetic Flight Stands

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian takes another stab at building a more perfect flight stand.

Featured Profile Article

Editor Julia's 2015 Christmas Project

Editor Julia would like your support for a special project.

592 hits since 26 Jan 2023
©1994-2023 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Zookie26 Jan 2023 4:32 p.m. PST

I've been thinking about the pros and cons of the comprehensive 19th century wargames out there. On the one hand the basics of how armies broadly fought from 1815 to 1914 was not that different. Or perhaps to put it another way 1914 is different from 1815 in form but not substants. But 1815 battle has little relation to 1918 battle, which I would argue has more common with today than 1815.

So, it makes sense to have a comprehensive 19th century wargame ruleset.

But differences from Waterloo, to Gettysburg to Sevastopol to Sedan are not insignificant. Differences in terrain, military doctrine, numbers, training and equipment make for some real difference in how these battles were fought.

As a wargamer what you think is the best way to represent this period? With a single comprehensive rulebook that emphasizes the through line of military thinking from 1815 to 1914? Or a single rule system with supplemental rules to address specific conflicts. Or would you argue that the 19th century was not consistent with how wars were fought and that stand alone rule systems should be tailored to specific conflicts. After all the Franco-Prussian War and the Anglo-Zulu War were not separated by much time but were radically different conflicts.

What do you think?

Prince Alberts Revenge26 Jan 2023 5:06 p.m. PST

I guess it really depends on what aspects you are emphasizing in your game and at what scale.

I've noticed that many Napoleonic gamers tend to game with rules that specifically handle the Napoleonic wars. Same thing with American Civil War and Colonials.

When you look at other conflicts from the 19th century you start to see more games with rulesets that are less focused.

I recently started playing Field of Battle for 19th century battles. It emphasizes army, leader and unit quality thru different command decks and types of dice used. It worked for the Mexican American War game I played and I imagine it will work for the Crimean War battles I plan to play.

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART26 Jan 2023 5:23 p.m. PST

Black powder comes to mind. It has some specifics that cater to the nuances of the period but the general rule set
is the same.

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP26 Jan 2023 7:19 p.m. PST

Purely from a practical point of view, it is nice not to have to learn a different ruleset every week, while still getting to play very different games.

It is also interesting to find yourself in the position of real-life generals 'fighting the last war': learning one set of tactical lessons one week, then finding they don't work so well for next week's game when the weaponry has changed, even though the ruleset hasn't.

I'm going to take the liberty of reproducing an excerpt from the introduction to BBB here, as it indicates what I think unites C19 battles.


Why is this period so interesting? To answer that, consider the Napoleonic era which precedes it. By 1815, after 25 years of continuous continental warfare, broadly the same weapons and tactics are common to all European armies albeit some are better at using them than others). The ‘holy trinity' of protection, mobility, and firepower, as embodied by the three arms of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, is in perfect balance, making battle a kind of complex exercise of rock-scissors-paper between very similar forces.

But as the century wears on, disruptive technologies appear: breech-loading rifles in the 1840s, breechloading rifled artillery in the 1850s, machine-guns and repeating rifles in the 1860s. And not only weaponry, but also railroads, steamships, ironclads, the telegraph, observation balloons …

And while technology develops apace, most nations spend most of the time at peace. Consequently, each time a war breaks out, the protection-mobility-firepower equation has been modified, and each time, the armies engaged have to learn new lessons the hard way – in some cases, the wrong lessons, which then cost them dearly in their next conflict.

The bad news for the troops is that constant improvements in weaponry mean that maneuver under fire becomes more and more difficult, and battle gradually reduces to a contest between firepower and protection. This eventually reaches its apex in the static trench warfare of the First World War, with mobility squeezed out almost entirely.

But the good news for wargamers is that, for the few decades we are interested in, tactical maneuver persists. War continues to be decided not by long weeks or months of attrition across hundreds of miles, but by decisive clashes between whole armies lasting usually no more than a day or two. These are fought on battlefields just a few miles across, making it possible to capture an entire battle in one tabletop miniatures game.

Furthermore, the evolution of weapons and tactics means that many of these conflicts pit opponents of very different character against each other, making for some fascinating interactions at the tactical level.

Personal logo Saber6 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian26 Jan 2023 9:49 p.m. PST

So there already is a set that covers all of these periods with minor adjustments. Age of Eagles and the supplement Age of Valor does handle Napoleonic to 1914. Check it out at

Martin Rapier27 Jan 2023 1:09 a.m. PST

There are plenty of rules which cover the whole period (with minor period specific cifif tweaks). Volley and Bayonet, Horse Foot and Guns and Bloody Big Battles immediately spring to mind. I'm sure there are lots of others.

Saves learning lots of new rules, if that isn't your thing. This stuff works less well for more tactical games.

RittervonBek27 Jan 2023 3:55 a.m. PST

I think Neil Thomas' rules Wargaming 19th Century Europe address this elegantly.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP27 Jan 2023 9:54 a.m. PST

I think generally it's not a bad idea to cover a century of warfare--but only at one level. Rules suitable for the Crimea might work for Sedan, but not for Rourke's Drift. But rules for Rourke's Drift might work for the Graveyard of St Privat.

advocate27 Jan 2023 12:56 p.m. PST

As is often the case, Robert is right on the money.

All Sir Garnett28 Jan 2023 6:52 a.m. PST

I would also echo RittervonBek, Neil Thomas' rules are excellent.

Stalkey and Co26 Feb 2023 2:01 p.m. PST

+1 for Neil Thomas 19th C Europe book

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.