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Napoleonic Wargames Rules

By Steve Burt (


1. Scale

1" = 25 yards

1 figure = 30 men

1 turn = 15 minutes

2. Organisation

Units are organised into battalions of between 20 and 30 figures (for cavalry, squadrons of 12-18 figures). These are grouped into brigades of 2-4 battalions. Generally, armies with good command control should have 2 battalions to a brigade, those with poor control (Austrian, Spanish), 3 or 4 battalions.

Each brigade has a Command element, which has a flag, officers, and so on. A unit's orders may only be changed when it is in contact with its command element.

Artillery and skirmishers do not require command elements, and may always change their orders each move.

3. Sequence of play

1. Change orders

2. Roll for initiative. Higher chooses who goes first

3. Perform compulsory moves - Routs, Pursuits, Retreats

4. Declare Assaults

5. Perform Manoeuvers

6. Perform Reserve movement

7. Move command elements

8. Regroup

9. Firing

10. Assault reaction

11. Resolve assaults

12. Morale tests

Within each phase, players alternate declarations/moves.

4. Orders

At the start of each turn, players may change the orders of all units which are in contact with command elements by placing an order chit beside each unit (face down if it is desired to conceal the orders). Units not in contact with a command element must continue to obey existing orders.

Valid orders are as follows:

RESERVE Unit may use reserve movement, but may not fire or engage in combat. Once a unit has left reserve status, it may never return to it. Committing reserves lowers Army Morale (qv).

MANOEUVER Unit may move or change formation, but not fire or engage in combat. Artillery may limber/unlimber.

FIRE Unit may fire. It may move up tp 1/2 a move forwards or 1/4 backwards. It may not change formation or engage in combat.

ASSAULT Unit may not fire, and MUST attempt to assault an enemy unit in charge reach. Cannot be used by artillery or skirmishers.

REGROUP Unit may regain organisation and lost morale. It may not move, nor engage in combat of any sort.

Special cases:

Generals and ADCs never need orders, and can be moved as the player pleases.

Skirmishers and guns may be given orders each turn regardless of whether they are in contact with a command element.

5. Movement

Once orders have been set for the move, units are moved in the following order:

1. Assaulting units designate the unit they are trying to assault. Both units are marked, and the assaulters are moved half the distance to the assaulted unit. Units being assaulted react in the Assault Reaction Phase.

2. Units with manoeuver orders may move or change formation.

3. Units with reserve orders may move. Reserves which are to be committed to support an assaulted unit must be designated at this stage - even if the assault does not go ahead, they are still committed; this makes feint attacks a real possibility.

Troop type Move Charge Reserve
Infantry in column 6" 8" 12"
Infantry in line 4" 6" 8"
Infantry in square 3" NA 6"
Skirmishers 8" NA 16"
Heavy cavalry 10" 12" 20"
Light cavalry 12" 16" 24"
Foot guns 6" NA 12"
Horse guns 9" NA 18"
Staff officers 24"    
Wagons 6"    

A road adds 2" but only to troops in column

Limbering/unlimbering guns takes half a move

A wall or hedge takes a half move to cross; it is impassible to artillery and other wheeled vehicles.

Woods reduce formed infantry moves by half, and cavalry by three-quarters.

Fordable rivers reduce speed by half; they are impassible to artillery and wagons.

Crossing an obstacle, or moving in difficult terrain, causes formed troops (not skirmishers) to lose a point of order each move.

Obliquing counts double distance.

6. Firing

Only troops with FIRE orders may fire. Up to 2 ranks of infantry (1 of cavalry) may fire.

Weapon type Short Medium Long
Carbines 2" 4" 6"
Muskets 3" 6" 9"
Rifles 4" 8" 12"
4pdr cannister 3" 6" 9"
6pdr cannister 4" 8" 12"
9pdr cannister 5" 10" 15"
12pdr cannister 6" 12" 18"
Howitzer cannister 4" 8" 12"
4pdr ball 12" 24" 36"
6pdr ball 16" 32" 48"
9pdr ball 20" 40" 60"
12pdr ball 24" 48" 72"
Howitzer shell 16" 32" 48"

Procedure: Roll 1 dice for every 4 figures or 1 gun firing.

(A group of 3 left over counts as 4. 1 or 2 have a subtraction)

Artillery firing cannister roll 2 dice per gun.

Here and elsewhere, a 7 is obtained by a 6, followed by 4,5,6 and so on. A score of 10 or more cannot be achieved


A 5 or 6 is a hit, modified as follows:

Add 1 to score required for:

Long range


1 or 2 figures firing

Target in any cover

Firers shaken

Deduct 1 for

Artillery firing at more than two ranks

First volley of day (not skirmishers)

Short range

For each casualty, roll a dice, a 5 or 6 saving, modified as follows:

Add 1 to score required for:

Being shot at by artillery, if not in hard cover

Deduct 1 for

Troops in hard cover shot at by small arms or cannister

Skirmishers or artillery crew

Hits on artillery - rather than keep track of crew casualties, roll 1 dice after each casualty sustained. If the

dice comes up higher than the number of crew manning the gun, the gun is out of action. (guns have 3 crew for 4pdrs, 4 for 6 or 9pdrs, and 5 for 12pdrs). For a hit by ball or shell on a gun, a total equal to or higher than the number of crew destroys the gun. The same technique can be used to avoid marking casualties on multi-based figures.

7 . Unit cohesion

All units start formed, except skirmishers and artillery, which start unformaed, and can never be formed. As they lose order, they become unformed, disordered, shaken, and then rout.

Markers should be placed behind the unit for each level of order lost. Units may reorganise and regain a level of order if they have a reform order.

Being shaken affects shooting ability, morale and melee

Being disordered affects morale and melee

Being unformed affects melee only.

When units recover from rout, they become shaken.


8. Morale

When called upon to take a morale test, a unit rolls 1 dice and tries to equal or exceed a score according to its morale class:

A - 2

B - 3

C - 4

D - 5

E - 6

Test when:

Taken 10% casualties from fire this move

Trying to Assault

Being Assaulted, or supporting assaulted unit

Indecisive melee

Seeing friends routing

Loss of army morale

Trying to rally from rout or pursuit


Modifiers are as follows:


No enemy in sight

Testing to charge skirmishers or routing troops

Testing to charge flank or rear

C in C with unit

Being charged when in square


In hard cover


Advancing or pushing back

Subordinate general with unit

Being charged when in column

At least one secure flank

In soft cover


Under three quarter strength

Casualties this turn

Retiring or pushed back


Army demoralised


Under half strength



Under one third strength


If a morale test is passed, the unit carries on with whatever action it was doing (or rallies from rout or pursuit). If the test is failed, the effects depend on the reason for the test:

Reason Effect
10% casualties from fire Lose one order class
Trying to assault Lose one order class, don't assault
Being assaulted Rout
Indecisive Melee Lose one order class
Supporting assaulted unit Lose one order class, no support
Seeing friends routing Lose one order class
Loss of army morale Lose one order class
Trying to rally from rout Continue rout
Trying to rally from pursuit Continue pursuit

Units which become SHAKEN have a compulsory Retreat move next period.

9. Assault

First, test the morale of the unit being assaulted. If this is OK, the unit and any reserves may react:

1. Units with FIRE or RESERVE orders may fire if in musket range.

2. Units with MANOEUVER or RESERVE orders may countercharge if in charge reach.

(Units with ASSAULT orders MUST countercharge)

3. Units with RESERVE or MANOEUVER orders may evade

4. Any unit (or units with other orders) may hold

To evade, turn the unit round, and move it a normal move backwards, +/- the throw of two dice (one plus, one minus).

Once the assaulted unit has reacted, the assaulters test morale. If this is good, they move into contact.


Roll 1 dice for every 4 figures in contact:

A 5 or 6 is a hit, modified as follows:

(Troops is square or behind any cover cancel any impetus/first contact bonus).

Add 1 to score required for:

1 or 2 figures assaulting

Target in any cover


Cavalry attacking square

Light cavalry attacking formed troops

Add 2 if

Shaken or routing

Deduct 1 for

Charging or following up

In deeper formation than enemy at first contact

Close order troops fighting open order

Fighting enemy flank or rear

Opponents shaken

Cavalry against disordered, shaken or routing troops

Deduct 2 for

Armoured cavalry or lancers at first contact

Opponents routing

For each casualty, roll a dice, a 5 or 6 saving, modified as follows:

Add 1 to score required for:

Unformed, disordered or shaken

Downhill of enemy

Deduct 1 for

Armoured cavalry

Compare casualties after combat. If one side has scored more (but less than twice as many), the other is pushed back. If one side has scored at least twice as many, the other side breaks. After an indecisive melee (in which neither side breaks), BOTH sides test morale.

10. Army Morale

An army starts off with a (secret) morale rating. Typically, this would be roughly equal to the number of units in the army for an average army, less for a poor one, and more for a good one. Every time a unit ROUTS or leaves RESERVE status, the army morale drops by 1. When it reaches 0, ALL units in the army

must take a test (with -1 for 'demoralised army'). Units failing the test lose an order level at once, and all units will get this extra -1 for the rest of the battle (of course, they MIGHT still win).

11. Forced changes of orders

A unit with RESERVE orders loses this state if it takes casualties from small-arms fire, is committed as a result of an assault, or is itself assaulted. If it is giving support, its state will change to FIRE or ASSAULT. If it is assaulted or takes small-arms casualties, its state will change to MANOEUVER.

A unit which rallies from rout or pursuit will automatically have REFORM orders, as will a unit which EVADES. Any unit which has been in melee with come out with REFORM orders.


12. Formation changes

Formation changes take place at the rate of one base frontage change per quarter move. Legal formations are:

Column - one or two bases wide. More ranks than bases width deep.

Line - one or two bases deep.

Square - facing 4 ways as equally as possible.

Open order - double width - only legal for skirmishers.

Units may interpenetrate, but if close order troops do this, both bodies lose one order class. Skirmishers may always pass through and be passed through without penalty. It is legal to charge through friendly troops in melee to support the melee.

Generals may take over command of a unit, but MUST then stay with it until it comes under its brigade commander again.