Napoleonic Empire Rules - overview.

1500-1815 (English Civil War, American Revolutionary War, French Revolutionary War, Napoleonic War, etc.)

Moderator: Frizzenspark

User avatar
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
Posts: 280
Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2011 1:16 am

Napoleonic Empire Rules - overview.

Postby MAGNA » Tue Jan 10, 2012 2:07 pm


This is a set of rules for Napoleonic land based gaming using large forces. Actual
battles of the period can be replayed with all the colour and frustration of the real
thing. I'm not sure where you buy them these days and last I heard there was a
version V. Either way, a set which has stood the test of time.

These rules have been around for three decades that I know of and are still up with
the best for the big stuff. The figure use is 1 to 60 for infantry / cavalry with artillery
being one or two gun models for a battery. For example, a battalion of French line
infantry in this rule system is represented by twelve figures.

A marked feature is the telescoping time concept. Each turn is known as an hourly
round. The start of the turn is where Grand Tactical movement takes place. Sounds
very important and it is, especially at the start of the game. Grand tactical allows
units to be given an order (attack hill for instance) which they carry out by moving
toward their objective or staying put. Moving in Grand tactical lets you go a long
way across the board in one hit - simulating a march move. You stop when you
reach the allowed distance or when you come into the area of influence of a formed
enemy unit such as cavalry or infantry.

Coming into contact means you are then engaged and can only move from then on
at the normal rate (much much less).

This telescopes the time used and stops the business of puddling along the board
for the first five or six moves trying to find someone to fight. It also stops the enemy
units from being able to redeploy too quickly to meet you - simulating the problems
of command, communication, and organisation when redeploying.

The next phase of the turn is tactical - the fighty bits. First, any battery that can do so
may choose to bombard. Bombarding can be nasty but artillery that does so doesn't
get to fire in the rest of the tactical phase.

Each unit or element of your army which is engaged then rolls to see how many
impulses they get. Up to three impulses can be gained for the turn. Sometimes you
get three with one element and your enemy may only get one. That means you
get three tactical moves against one. This had adds and subtractions according
to morale and situation. It sounds odd but it works really well.

Each battalion or squadron in an element fires/charges until one makes a non
aggressive move. The impulse for that whole element is then over. The opposition
then gets a go. What looked like a good tactical plan for one area of the battlefield
can turn to the proverbial as an element on your flank does badly and is overrun
or pushed back. Suddenly you have enemy on your flank. Sometimes this works
the other way and you of course can tell everybody how well you planned for that.

Firing is on a step scale. Each unit starts with a percentage for their hit status. Let's
say you have a battalion of line firing. They might have a standard chance of 120%.
That translates to one automatic hit and a roll at 20% or less for a second hit.

You step up and down the chart according to losses, range, target type and so on.
The 120% chance could go up when firing at a column in the flank - maybe giving
you a 240% chance - two auto hits and 40 or less on percent die for a third. When a
lot of units have 12 figures losing three in one go can be nasty. Conversely, you
could be firing at skirmishers (small targets) who are at long range in heavy cover.
In this case you go down the steps - maybe nine or ten. This could result in the
percent chance being say - eight. That means a roll of eight or less just to get one
kill. Not so good.

There is a lot more to these rules, in particular command and control plus charging
and fire fights. Charges and fire fights are calculated according to unit types and
many of the details used in firing. A lot of the time these are resolved before the dice
are thrown as there can only be one outcome. The result is anything from minor to

The rules themselves reward careful thought as to use of combined arms to soften
up and support. Command is vital as well so it isn't just a matter of zinging across
the board in tally ho fashion. That in fact will probably get you wiped out. You have
to watch the flanks. You have to ensure commanders are in the best places to
exercise control. You have to move units to each others advantage / support. You
also have fatigue and wear on troops to consider. After being in action for a few
moves even plastic figures seem to need a rest and may head off the board without

In summary - well worth a look if you want to play with reasonable forces under your
command and with very accurate unit types. Realism is always difficult in games
because of one simple fact - they are games. Too much housekeeping and
it isn't a game anymore. Therefore it isn't any fun. Adding lookup tables to chess
wouldn't make it any better for instance. Empire is a more complex ruleset than
what I am used to in other periods but the Napoleonic era is different as well.

Manoeuvre and morale could win a battle before it started during this period and
these rules reflect that. They go to the length necessary to simulate a proper
battle from the period without bogging right down in rule mongers heaven.
In all, the best set I have seen for the period as they do allow a game with literally
hundreds or even a couple of thousand figures on the board to be played and
managed while still being interesting and fun (as long as you are getting a few
decent rolls each turn but unfortunately that isn't something I can blame the rules

A final note for beginners - these are complex rules and a good knowledge of
units and tactics in the Napoleonic period is a requirement before you jump in.

A game report with pics will be in the AAR section which will be of an ongoing
game which will end up being a finished game. Questions welcome here or in
that section.
My get up and go never got here in the first place

User avatar
First Lieutenant
First Lieutenant
Posts: 4108
Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2011 8:36 am
Location: Wisconsin

Re: Napoleonic Empire Rules - overview.

Postby TRDG » Thu Jan 12, 2012 9:27 am

Interesting game Mag, I wonder if it is like Frizz's game in any way, I think his is Roman though..... LOL

Are the rules a lot more complex that your Battlefront WW II game I suspect?

Cheers, good thread on what our members are up to these days!!


User avatar
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
Posts: 280
Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2011 1:16 am

Re: Napoleonic Empire Rules - overview.

Postby MAGNA » Thu Jan 12, 2012 9:54 am

Interesting for sure and different from many others.

Complex rules in a way due to the options for movement and formations.

Also can be frustrating when you get hit from a flank or find that your troops can't do this or that due to
their type or commander. It is a lot more like chess than many other game types.

There seem to be a hell of a lot more pawns in this one though.
My get up and go never got here in the first place

User avatar
First Lieutenant
First Lieutenant
Posts: 4108
Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2011 8:36 am
Location: Wisconsin

Re: Napoleonic Empire Rules - overview.

Postby TRDG » Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:28 am

Is this a "historical game" in that you could not pick your commanders, just used the ones that were fighting in the battle and the troops that were there? Or just something you guys picked out to be interesting to run and play out?



User avatar
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
Posts: 280
Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2011 1:16 am

Re: Napoleonic Empire Rules - overview.

Postby MAGNA » Thu Jan 12, 2012 12:25 pm

The rule system itself includes historical leaders and their rating as commanders. Napoleon and some others
would rate as superior, a distinct advantage. Others were inspirational down through good to mediocre and poor.

Generally, historical leaders of divisions etc are chosen even when the scenario is "made up" rather than historically
accurate as in a replay of an actual battle. The reason these leaders are used is because of the troop types and
numbers. Some countries had much larger battalion sizes than others. For instance, British battalions were around
550 men, French 720, with Austrian and Russian much larger for certain types. If both sides had equal commanders
and troop types (say all experienced), then the countries with smaller battalion sizes lose due to lower firepower
and quicker disintegration of units.

What that all means is that the smaller size units in some countries were much better trained and were chosen from
experienced units, making them veterans with a corresponding increase in firepower. Commanders of these troops
tended to be reasonable and up as well. Wellington's Peninsular army is regarded as one of the best Britain ever
fielded if not the best. The early to mid French armies are the same. Other countries had very large manpower
resources and the armies reflected that but the units varied a lot more. There were an awful lot of conscripts in
these armies and the officer ranks weren't quite up there either.

The French army was one where you could advance quickly by merit and even become a Marshal. Most other armies
had commanders who were up in rank due to long service or were related to royalty / in favour at court. There are
notable exceptions to this as well but not many. Some would be Prussia - Blucher, Russia - Kutusov, Austria -
Archduke Charles.

All in all fairly complicated in that regard. To put it in WWII terms the French armies deteriorated over time just like
the Wermacht did. Continual warfare and overstepping the mark (Napoleon and Hitler - neither had much of a grasp
on strategy) meant a slow but sure decline.

Britain's army was small but well trained plus they had Wellington and others.

Other countries involved include Austria, Prussia, Russia, The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Egypt (Ottomans),
Sweden and so on. Quite a bit of scope and about twenty plus years to draw from.
My get up and go never got here in the first place

Return to “Pike & Shot”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest