Monday, 12 November 2012

The Portable Wargame in the Age of Enlightenment

Aims – a quick, preferably one hour, game on a small(ish) board with an C18 feel to recreate the actual battles of Frederick the Great. So one base = one regiment of foot possible one brigade of horse.

Simplistic assumptions – infantry would probably stop frontal assaults by cavalry but if it didn’t it would be ridden down. Attacks on the flanks would be advantageous to the attacker. Artillery was not good enough to destroy enemy units beyond canister range but could disrupt enemy attacks and soften up the enemy as a prelude to attacking. Musketry was only decisive at very close ranges. Movement stately but not ponderous. Skirmishers had little influence on the result of most "large" battles in Europe.

Ideas – close combat will include musketry therefore no small arms fire phase. No use of rosters, removal of whole units when routed – therefore some use of markers. However a unit would have a marker or not, only as an indication of it’s order, not a build up of markers as attrition; to make it easier and quicker. Disordered units would be penalized in movement and combat but would be able to rally off their marker.

We have used some of these ideas in a number of iterations of our home spun rules in the last few years so it proved just a matter of paring these down. It's whether this distillation proves to be too simplistic.

So the first draft looks like:

1. Simultaneous Artillery Bombardment          Range: 5 squares.

i) All ranges are measured through the edges of the grid areas not the corners (see appendix).

ii) Roll one dice per battery firing hitting on 5 or 6. (targets in cover, artillery or skirmishers may try to save their hits).  Units hit are disordered, if a disordered unit is hit again it is routed.

iii) A disordered battery may not fire

iv) Batteries may not fire over other units or high terrain features unless on a higher contour.

v) Batteries may not fire at bases in the square directly to it’s front as this is Close Combat.
vi) A battery may not move if it has fired – mark it with smoke as a reminder.
vii) A battery may be counted in close combat if it has fired or moved.

2. Movement    (Either by initiative, leader, nation or in turn)
  Infantry            Artillery      Light Infantry       Cavalry       Light Horse                   
 3 squares               2                 4                      5                      6
i) All movement is measured through the edges of the grid areas not the corners ie no diagonal movement.
ii) A change of facing costs one square of movement but a unit may wheel forwards (not backwards).
    without it counting as a separate facing change. Light infantry may change face without penalty.
iii) A unit may not enter a square that an enemy is facing unless it intends to fight it.
iv) Cavalry may not contact an enemy unit that is in a terrain feature the cavalry could not enter.
v) Disordered units may not move
vi) Units in contact may not move.
vii) Only unit is allowed in a square, A unit must face one side of the square it cannot be diagonal

4 Rally: disordered units not in contact may rally away their disorder.

5. Close Combat (Player with initiative may choose order of CC)
A unit that faces, or is faced by, an enemy base in an adjacent square is in close combat.
Both sides each throw a D6 and adjust the score accordingly. Artillery contacted on a non firing side has no dice.
Support may be given by friends (not in contact with another enemy base) that are in a square facing the enemy square or are at the side of the base in contact facing the same way.  A unit that is contacted in the side is immediately disordered.
Amend the dice throw:       Per Supporting unit   +1        Disordered       -1            Defending cover             +1     Light troops            -1         Elite        +1        Undisordered infantry v mounted +1

Outcomes         Loser began CC Fresh                         Loser began CC Disordered
Drawn combats:                All mounted will withdraw otherwise remain in contact
Difference of 1 or 2                             
Artillery in contact                                       Routed                                      Routed
Infantry losing to Cavalry                              Routed                                      Routed
Others                                                  Withdraw Disordered                        Routed
Difference of  3 +                                       Routed                                      Routed                         

Winning cavalry may halt, advance one square or withdraw. Cavalry hitting another unit may close combat again but will must withdraw disordered, on conclusion, even it wins.
Winning infantry may only move forward to enter cover it has assaulted otherwise stays put. It may not fight again.

Terrain Moving through streams or fords in river costs two squares. A non skirmish unit will be disordered whilst in and on exiting the water.  Artillery may not cross streams nor enter closed terrain and if deployed in it initially may not move. Cavalry may not enter woods or villages other than by road and may not contact an enemy in such cover. Other woods may be deemed closed or open to regular infantry. Ordered infantry will be disordered on exiting woods.

Withdraw - means move one square directly back away from the threat – not diagonally.  A unit that cannot withdraw because there is an impassable terrain feature or the square is already occupied is removed.
Routed  - means removed from the board

Securing a flank. Infantry may secure a flank by placing a friend at right angles to a flank, facing away.


  1. Looks good so far.

    One question, item 1 vii says artillery can count in close combat if it moved or fired is that right or did you mean can not?

    1. Hi Ross

      Yes the artillery can move and close combat or bombard and close combat. They cannot fire and move. As always it’s a compromise but it’s fairer to let a battery that has fired defend itself if charged. A charged battery would increase it’s firing rate in such circumstances.

      I did wonder about move and close combat but given that a one hour wargame might represent a day’s fighting I think it’s the best compromise.

      My first thoughts were that heavy batteries should not move at all, once deployed, but I was reading Duffy’s description of Mollwitz where he describes the Prussian heavy guns moving forward in bounds and firing alongside the infantry. I expect it would have been ponderous but it happened and it’s this sort of support I was thinking of.

      I have tried to pare the rules down to bare minimums, possibly too minimalist, to the extent of excluding limbering up and down of artillery.

      I would be tempted to make Marlburian artillery completely immobile

    2. I think its the best choice on a couple of counts. When I get a grid begin enough to hold 40's I may give them a try.

  2. A great start indeed here.I look forward to more...

  3. I was an Artillerist on a Three-Pounder Gun, obviously not heavy, but we often suprised those around us how quickly we could move and fire without limbering..... drag ropes and lifting the trail. we could outfire the muskets...

    I stumbled on this site by accident and have promoted on our relatively new gaming site; it was formerly Tin Can General, but is now titled, Military Wargaming.

    I have plenty of Horse & Musket miniatures that have been in storage, mostly AWI and a decent selection of Mex-Am War minis

    Currently playing DBA, Infinity, FoW. These rules look very do-able,especialy for mini campaigns.

  4. Thanks for that Derek. Out of interest while you could outfire the muskets how many cannonballs would you be able to pull around. One bee in my rules bonnet is the "infinite" number of rounds artillery always have.

  5. Generally we'd have ammunition ready-made in cartridges, instead of loose ball and powder. For a three-pounder the round is a little bigger than a soup-can, so you'd have to consider how many soup cans you could fit in a footlocker..... :)

    horses, mules, or wagons could be considered to carry the bulk of the ammunition for the purposes of the game