Saturday, May 14, 2016

Napoleonic Gaming

This past weekend, I managed to get in a smallish game of Napoleonics with my buddy Marky. I try to host something every few months and was feeling the urge to play some hot smokey musket on horse action so we played a one-on-one version of my own home-brew rules. It was great fun. I try to find any excuse I can get to crack open my Napoleonic troops from their cabinets. We played a game with 16 units per side - about 500 models on the table.

The whole table laid out and ready to go.
Civilians hurry to reap the harvest and tend the animals before
violence breaks out. Painting regular folk is favorite thing to
do of mine.
The well was used as one of our objectives. The big house is a hard
foam building from Ziterdes, a company in Germany.
"I say dear, is there going to be a war?"
"Perhaps my love. I will investigate as I walk the dog.
Don't mind your aunt in the green dress."
I got into Napoleonics a few years ago as what I thought would be nice diversion - not the smartest decision in the world since the words "casual" and "Napoleonics" don't really make sense together in the wargaming sphere. Not knowing what I was doing to myself, I ended up painting two armies - a French one and an Austrian one - so that I could host games for my friends that enjoy wargaming but aren't crazy enough to collect the period.

French allies - Bavarian Troops. I love their flags and uniforms!
Why Napoleonics, though? Napoleonic wargaming has always held this spot in my mind of exemplifying the pinnacle of the wargaming hobby - impossibly huge units clashing on massive tables, arrayed in colorful uniforms and battling it out with very practiced strategies. These games represent everything great about collecting toy soldiers. I was a fool to think I could just dip my toe in the period. Having jumped all in, I can only say that I'm really happy I did. These games hold all the fun and wonder that 10 year old Chris was looking for when he started painting miniatures.

Opening moves as we both race to explore the objectives while trying not to expose our troops to fire.
The French quickly took up a defensive position in the fortified farm house.
The French nearly lost a battery of cannons to a Hussar charge
if not for the quick work of  some skirmishers who saved the day.
The Austrians advance on the fortified chateau.
Besides the massive amount of figures required (not an obstacle as far as I was concerned), Napoleonics also has reputation for dense rule sets. While not always the case, many rules I've read and played could certainly be put in that category. As I've gotten older, the prospect of standing for hours and pouring over thick rulebooks and arguing the finer points of Napoleonic tactics actually fills me with dread. Most of the rules set are very complex and require a detailed knowledge of the time period to play. I just don't have the time or wish to devote to that kind of game now, so I set out and created a fast play set of rules that give decent results and can be learned and taught quickly. So far, most everyone who's played them has seemed to enjoy them so I think its what I'll stick with for the foreseeable future.

Our generals. Obviously, the ruleset is pretty light hearted.
These Austrians got charged from both sides of the wall. Yikes!
The Bavarians managed to hold of a unit of Hussars desperately trying to contest the last objective.
Marky and I played a scenario I'd adapted from something I'd read over at In the scenario five objective markers are spread across the board. Each marker has a value randomly picked from a cup of 5, 5, 5, 10 or 20 that only a player whose units come into contact with the objective will know. It makes for a game where scouting is important and there is a very clear-cut winner at the end. The game took us about 90 minutes to play and in the end I managed to hold a 5 point and 20 point set of objectives, but just barely. A rare win for the Austrian Empire. I guess the Archduke Charles' reforms are paying off.

I really liked the scenario and would play it again given a chance. That said, I only get to play Napoleonics a couple of times a year and really enjoy mixing it up each time with different scenarios. I'm at a point where playing the same pitched battle over and over again is tedious. I try to see game rules as toolboxes to tell stories, and telling a different one each time is one of the best parts of playing.



  1. I'm honored to have something borrowed from me.

  2. It was a great scenario idea sir! We had to try it out. :)