Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group

CLWG (2018) Autumn Conference Session Report #4

Napoleonic Divisional Management Game

(by Peter Merritt)

This session was originally inspired to fill the blank page of things on offer…. However, on the day I was surprised to find that (a) I had an audience, and (b) they were all from our wonderful associates based in the Netherlands! After some initial chatting, I began by outlining the two key elements of the ‘game’ which I wanted to put across.

The system was inspired by my reading of a two-volume history of the Prussian forces during and after the battle of Waterloo. This two-volume set is a fascinating insight into the period and contains a great deal of valuable information not available in English before (or not since the 1930s!). However, I should warn the finicky that the author – Peter Hofshroer – is currently charged with serious sexual offences.

Anyhow, I felt that existing rule systems with ‘static’ unit factors cannot reflect all cases, and many of the common events of the Napoleonic Wars, such as:-

  • the wearing effects of long term skirmishing or bombardment (reduces the ability to reform, and/or increases the time required)
  • ‘raw’ but keen units ejecting ‘elites’ (if only temporarily), or ‘heavy’ units beaten by ‘lights’
  • gradual exhaustion
  • the critical effect of keeping even a small tactical reserve (books are full of accounts mentioning the intervention of an odd company or even platoon swaying an on-going slugfest)
  • how ‘commitment’ (determination?) could affect the outcome of actions

The basic idea is for a maximum CE (‘combat efficiency’) level to be used and varied by a commitment level normally chosen by player from a variable ‘pool’ (but possibly affected by morale, use in combat etc). All combat/morale is then determined by consulting a set of results tables in the same manner as many boardgames. This helps to eliminate many of the other lists of +/- factors normally found in rules. Aside from a simple odds-calculation, however, the players have the ability to voluntarily take negative shifts (i.e. not in their favour). This is not as insane as it sounds, since it represents (in highly abstract form) taking greater risks. The advantage of doing so is that the opposing player must take the same degree of shift – thus a good unit can put increased pressure on average or poor ones as, on average, they may do better.

The scope is really divisional-level at most I would imagine – the actions around Plancenoit, Hougumont Chateau etc would be perfect.

I attempted to illustrate what I could remember of my own rules with some 28mm painted figures (gasp!). Mounted in company-sized bases, these were ideal for showing my theories. How well it went I shall leave for others to discuss!

Anyways, I won’t dwell on things here – the original rules etc are attached. I have tried to illustrate them throughout with worked (exhaustive) examples, all of which were drawn from real historical situations which I found next to impossible to model using traditional ‘+1/-2’ stuff, especially the main one at the end, with a unit of Napoleon’s Young Guard fending-off a Prussian brigade… Exciting stuff; many thanks to those who attended.

The rules are here (please note the ‘narrative’ example at the end).


The books I would recommend are here (or were, back in 2018):


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