What You Think

Dave Wareham (
I agree with the general tone of the other comments on this page. The rules work really well in that they allow big battles to be played in a reasonable length of time, on a 'normal' size table. They are not designed to give a detailed recreation of small scale tactics and those looking for that should go elsewhere. (Personally, I fight brigade-scale actions in 25 mm with other rules, and use 15mm for NB.) One thing I have found, however, is that the command and control system can get a bit messy, and that inexperienced players can get very confused about command distances, etc. If anyone has any ideas about simplifying this C& C system whilst maintaining its basic shape, I'd be interested in hearing their ideas....
Nick Turner (
Yes, a damn good set of rules for fighting the big battles of the period. A couple of years ago in Germany, a team from the Rhinedaheln Outlaws (a BFG club) fought Leipzig in 15mm. No other set of rules lets you do the same as well.

On moving to the UK, a gamer tried to tell me that the rules were crap. At the time he was playing a "skirmish." So what there were flank attacks, cannister etc, if you want to fight little divisional size scraps maybe not the best set, but for proper gentlemanly actions with corps hurling themselves at each other (or not, if you have Spanish!) then Napoleon's Battles is the set.

Soon my newly painted AB Austrians are off to Aspern-Essling. And the card counters came in handy in Sarejevo 1996 for a couple of games in rather an interesting club!

Fran Foley (
I belong to a group in Western Massachusetts and we find that as games go, Napoleon's Battles has potential. Yes, there are some "questionable" rules, but as our group progressed into the game's rules we came up with some interesting solutions.
Martin J. Blow (

Firstly - I've played nappies for twenty years and cut my teeth on Empire II in the late '70s. And my 25 mm collection is mounted at a 1:60 scale, but my new Old Glory 15mm French, Austrian, Russian and British armies are all mounted for NB. Why?

I have found that Napoleon's Battles, while tactically frustrating (I have never played a game yet where I was not reduced to a state of dice-hurling frustration and declared a blood-oath that I would never, never play this set of god-forsaken rules again), gives me a very real strategic challenge that I find very satisfying. So I always find myself coming back.

It has the advantage of not making a player at high command be "stupid" just because the historical character his figure represents was an in-bred, syphlitic moron of the first water. So many "tactical" games I have played lay so many command/movement/activation restrictions on a non-French or non-British commander that it hardly makes it worth while to play the game - I know about the history, I've read the books. And the battle being played is not Napoleon versus Mack, it is me versus you.

Once I can put aside the tactical complaints (and belive me, it is hard - no flank attacks, sheeessshh!) and focus on the strategic, grand-tactical manuvering, Napoleon's Battles allows me an entirely different feeling. Which can be much more satisfying than the just straight-ahead tactical bashing that some other game/figure scale and table size require. It is much more than just lining-up the troops shoulder-to-shoulder and blazing away until one side or the other just gives-up in sheer physical exhaustion.

I appreciate the ratio of elite to line troops - you can actually field a french guard corp or an austrian reserve grenadier division or a russian grenadier divison without completly overwhelming the available table space. Or Guard or heavy cavalry of any sort.

Try playing a balanced game on a 6 or 8 foot table when 1/3 of your opponent's deployment is taken-up by the combined Russian/Prussian grenadiers of 1813 just because he finally got the whole thing painted. Not fun - especially if your army is composed of mostly fourteen-year old Marie-Louises!

I would not like Napoleon's Battles as a steady diet or as my only option. But neither would I want to play Empire III, IV, V, ad naseum or Legacy of Glory (which you could not force me to play if you threatened me with a mop and a bucket of shit!). They may offer an excellent simulation of the difficulties facing a general officer in the age of black powder, but they completely fall-down as a fun and challenging recreation.

Napoleon's Battles - a failure at the tactical level, a success at the grand-tactical level. I wouldn't want to try to fight Eylau, Friedland, Wagram, Borodino, Lepzig or Waterloo with any other rule set.

Bruce Gordon (

Our club in South Africa had been trying out a variety of different Napoleonic rule sets, including To the Sound of the Guns III, WRG 2, Corps de Armee, and our own variant based on WRG 7th (ancients). Yes, we were desperate.

Along came the great visitor from the west, Tony Jacoby, who introduced us to Napoleons Battles (as well as Old Glory miniatures). From the start, we were hooked. All players at our club as well as the closely associated Pretoria club were playing successfully before reading the rules.

Since I am building up the French army to refight Borodino, it took a large commitment to rebase, but having done so I am happy that I have done so.

Clifford T. Burgess (burgess@OREGON.UOREGON.EDU)

I have been playing minature wargames since 1980. I started with Napoleonics and since then I have tried nearly all of the available commercial games for this Period. Also since 1980, I have pursued a career in the U.S. Army. Over the past decade and a half I have, through professional training, continued wargaming and the study of military history come to the following conclusions:

  1. Planning is two levels down. Battalions issue orders to companies but they plan down to the platoon level. Likewise, corps HQs will issue orders down to divisions and plan for down to brigades. Thus if you are simulating corps level command you should only reach down and be concerned as far down with brigade level activities.
  2. At the Armor Officer's Advanced course, our instruction in the planning and execution of up to brigade size actions/missions concentrated on broad brush strokes, not fine detail. This abstract approach is applicable to warfare simulation as much as it is to actual mission planning and execution. A common quote is "Tell'em to suck eggs, not how to suck'em." Let your subordinates do their jobs and focus on your own level of responsibilities.
  3. Time is the most precious commodity. Most of us have other major concerns beside gaming. Demanding professions, family involment and other concerns all have great impact on the time we have for liesure gaming. Therefore, simulations that are not only easy to learn but are also capable of reaching a satisfactory conclusion in a reasonable amount of time are extremely valuable.

Simulations of Napoleonic warfare such as Empire certainly have great merit. Empire is an extremly detailed and well thought out system. When playing with a group of well trained gamers, very interesting refights of Napoleonic battles can be executed. However, Empire wants participants to simulate corps level command but with the control all the way down to battalion level -- and even to that of individual companies, at times.

Napoleon's Battles is not the first simulation to recognize that in simulating corps level command, a gamer should only control down to brigade-size units. Vive L'Emperor and Twilight of Empire also have taken this approach in the past; however, Napoleon's Battles has gained more success with this appraoch due its superior packaging and the prominence of the Avalon Hill games company.

I have remounted all of my Empire-based miniatures for Napoleon's Battles, and will continue to simulate Napoleonic warfare with Napoleon's Battles because of the following:

  1. Corps-Level Simulation, with proper extent of command and control.
  2. Time to Game, one hour's woth of game time is close to resolving one hour's worth of battle results.
  3. Ease of Play, I can easily get ready for a game with a quick review even after a long inactive gaming period and it is easy to teach people with limited gaming experience to become proficient.
  4. Economy of Minatures, Orders of Battle can be more easily filled out. My painting time requirements are reduced.
  5. I get a good return, in terms of enjoyment, based upon my investment in time for preperation and execution of Napoleonic battle simulation.
Richard Respenti (
Napoleon's Battles is quick and easy. I've played a few games of NB and have the game as a reference tool. It is also far from realistic. You get the flavor of the era, but that is all. Skirmishing is not available, artilery is assumed. Specific units such as rifle battalions cannot be utilized as they should. It is a glorified board game and little more. If you are interested in a quick and easy game - it is OK. If you crave realism, then I'd look elsewhere. (EMPIRE III???)

In NB, how would one use the Sharpshooters of Bresica (Italy) or the Saxon Friecorps Jaegers? French tactics were highly dependent on skirmish. How in NB can that be accomodated? How about the variance of individual units as to morale and training (1st Battalion = veteran; 4th battalion = recruits - for example)? Or special companies within a battalion (rifle companies, sharpshooters, etc.)?

NB is not for the purist or the serious historian. I just cannot accept a "simulation" where the identity of units are melted into a brigade, where you simply combine your unit into essentially a large cardboard counter! Why paint specific regiments, thus really learning about the units that are being engaged? For my Saxon and Italian armies, I can provide a nearly complete list of all commanders to the regimental level!

My Elite Guarde Du Corps (Saxony) - The best cavalry in Europe would have to combine with two or three other regiments to form a proper NB unit. Saxon Artillery was horrendous to average and could not form a division battery (not in their training). How do we accomodate those specifics?

In general, NB is a fairly good strategic wargame - I'm interested in a more tactical simulation.

PR (

Richard Respenti states that NB is not for the purist (?) or the serious historian. In my opinion, NB is the only set of Napoleonic rules I have seen in 30 odd years that are a good simulation of Napoleonic warfare.

If you replay a historical battle, with both sides attempting to follow the actual moves and counter moves they did historically - mostly you can! Try that with any other set of rules - it will be almost impossible because historical actions when simulated do not produce the historical result with most sets of rules. Generally speaking, 'refighting' a historical battle with NB produces the historical result - is this not the only real test of any set of rules ability to simulate what it purports to?

(As a note to Richard, my 1815 Bavarians are as well detailed information-wise as I could, which is clearly marked on the labels under each stand - i.e. 1st Jager Battalion, 2nd Jager Battalion, Combined 1st/2nd Battalions (each battalion is approximately 6 figures), 1st Infantry Regiment "Konig" - 1 (out of 3), etc etc.)

A simple Order system is the main thing NB lacks, but will hopefully be cured in the future.

What I think I like best of all, though, is that if you write down a simple account of any game using NB as you go, and then come back and read it later, it reads just like one of those general accounts of a real Napoleonic battle like you get in, say, Fuller's Decisive Battles.

Mark Turnbull ( replies:
When I wargame, I want to be Napoleon, not Col. Lafrance of the 1st battalion of the 121st Line. But then everybody's outlook is different.

In any case, nobody has ever been able to convince me that




In fact, I'm quite convinced that appropriate abstraction usually leads to more realistic results, because simulating battles at a fine granularity is just too complicated for humans to model correctly. You military types out there can correct me if I'm wrong, but the wargaming studies done by the military for the projection of large battle results are done in the abstract, not in a high level of detail, even when done by computer.

While I won't argue that NB is unrealistic in certain respects, it is clearly more closely related to the thinking of an army or corps commander than something like Empire. Napoleon cares little of the whereabouts of the Sharpshooters of Bresica or the Saxon Friecorps Jaegers. He is concerned with launching entire divisions or corps into assaults. Or how is he going to maneuver Davout's corp's onto Bagration's flank. And Davout is going to let his division or brigade commanders worry about the whereabouts of each battalion and attached artillery section.

IMHO, if you want to fight the Waterloo's, as an army or corps commander, use NB - perhaps with a few simple house rules if there are things you don't like.

If you are satisfied with smaller battles, and are more interested in the fine tactical details, then use Empire or similar rules.

J. Boyd Bruce III (
Overall, Napoleon's Battles is an excellent game. NB is fun, easy to learn and play, and it is good at recreating the types of decisions Napoleon, etc., had to make in that era.

However, it still requires too many figures to be reasonably affordable in any but the smallest scales. I have over $200.00 in figs and still not enough Russians to fight Borodino. One of my main gaming buddies has all the figs needed for all scenarios in 6mm and he spent roughly $1000.00.

Bill Goranson (
I have played Napoleon's Battles, and I own the rules. They are very popular and are relatively easy to learn.

If you want a simulation of Napoleonic tactics, look elsewhere. NB plays like a 3-D board game with dice rolls deciding the flow of battles rather than tactics. There are no flank attacks nor skirmishers. Alot of the tactics which color the Napoleonic period are abstracted, and there aren't any Grand Batteries.

I prefer more tactical rules -- battalion level, with real skirmishers.

Barton J. Kersteter (
Napoleon's Battles is a well-designed game. It accomplishes its stated purpose of simulating large-scale Napoleonic battles in reasonable periods of time, and it does it well. It does recieve bad press from people mainly because of what it isn't instead of what it is. There are no skirmishers, flanks, mixed-order formations, or any other bits of tactical "chrome." Napoleon's Battles makes you a corps commander, and you only have to worry about things a corps commander should.

Part of the appeal of the game for many people is that it is quick. It allows a group to fight a major battle in an afternoon and still get home in time for dinner. For others, it recreates the feel of a Napoleonic battle without getting bogged down in the minutiae that dominates other popular sets of rules for the period. The larger troop scale means that a new player needs to paint up less troops to be able to play with a complete unit. Whatever the reason, it seems to satisfy many gamers needs for napoleonics.

If you want to hit that odd French battalion in the flank, or screen off a battery with skirmishers, use a tactical set of rules and be happy. Napoleon's Battles assumes your lower-level commanders have a clue and know their jobs. However, if you want to send in I and II Young Guard Corps to finish off that Austrian line, I feel that Napoleon's Battles is the way to go.

As a final testament, my group has used Napoleon's Battles since they came out, after using Empire 3 for years. We just couldn't attract new players to Empire. The more experienced players of Empire would take extreme glee in cutting up newbies, as the burn-in period with Empire is rated in months. However, we have attracted many new players with NB. It's not for everyone, but it fills the large-army-level niche nicely.

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Last Updates
6 October 1999comments by Dave Wareham
6 July 1999comments by Nick Turner
6 April 1999comments by Fran Foley
16 June 1998added Martin J's comments
18 May 1998added PR's comments
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