Why Napoleonic Wargaming?
Ok, I saw a post on r/wargaming with a prompt that was just too juicy. There’s others in the post I’ll be stealing but this one should really be the lead for the series so here we go!
Can you discuss what makes the strategy, tactics, and feel of the Napoleonic battles different to those of other popular black powder era was such as ACW, AWI, French & Indian etc.dboeren on Reddit
Great question. The answer to this question is: Yes.
First, the feel of the Napoleonics. The awesome and terrible pageantry of 19th century warfare peaked early, and it peaked here. A well-painted Napoleonic army is an absolute joy on the table, and something that has to be seen to be believed. Regiments wore a bewildering array of brightly colored uniforms that contrasts sharply with later wars as uniforms became more drab.
These armies also featured very professional officers. Despite some of the reputations that came from the war, from Battalion command on up, there were few truly awful officers, and while some armies struggled to comprehend Napoleon’s way of war (Sorry Mack) there weren’t many mistakes due to poor soldiering. At the same time, command and control was basically writing a note and sending it with a rider to whoever was carrying it out. Many games model this quite well, with General d’Armee / GdB doing it particularly well.
Strategically and Tactically the Napoleonic wars come at a very interesting time. Infantry combat featured both fire and shock tactics, requiring different formations, changing formations and maneuvering under fire, intricate marching, timing, communication under the most dire circumstances, and situational awareness in a field covered by noise and black powder smoke.
Cavalry formed the apex of military strength, with the Heavy Cavalry of the Cuirassier, Carabiniers, and Heavy Dragoons being nearly unstoppable, with infantry forced into densely packed squares simply to defend themselves. Artillery could be devastating, being able to roll up and unlimber within canister range and unleash withering fire, especially in the tightly packed columns and squares of the more shock-oriented infantry formations. Infantry remained the bulk of most armies, and could deliver its own devastating attacks in close formation, or spread out in long lines to deliver impressive short-ranged firepower of its own, and with a good ruleset all of this is modeled quite well.
There are varieties among troop types. Line infantry differs from Light or Grenadier infantry, Guard troops often have their own rules, setting them apart. Conscripts often represent the most and least enthusiastic troops. Some are willing to die en masse leading the charge and some aren’t willing to even smell powder lest it affect their delicate constitution. Light cavalry darts around the edges, often struggling to make much impact, but presenting a real threat to exposed units, and forcing their enemies to account for them, battle cavalry presents more of a threat but lacks the fleetness of foot of their light brethren, or the strength to face heavy cavalry, which are the true monsters of the field. Artillery forms the last of the major components, dealing long range fire, in attack and defense, to support the line or create breakthroughs against vulnerable elements of the enemy army. Additionally, it comes in several varieties, foot artillery comes in regular and heavy batteries, you also have horse or light artillery which moves faster without sacrificing much in striking power, and Austrians get the Wurst artillery.
Which neatly brings me to national character. The armies of this era each has their own national flair, which I’ll go deeper into later but to give you an idea, in 1805 alone you have: A French army that consists of a mix of new, but well-trained and drilled soldiers, veterans from Italy, the elite Imperial Guard, and massive artillery. The Austrians have a much more ponderous army, with far less in the way of light troops and skirmishers to screen their movements and keep the enemy at arm’s length, but their units are large and their morale tends to be quite good. The Russians have equally large battalions, but their training is awful. This is mitigated somewhat by excellent morale and massive artillery batteries. Finally you have the Prussians who are slow, poorly led, and not that well supplied in support troops, but they do have high morale… until Jena…
So, I hope I’ve adequately answered the question presented by dboeren. I know I didn’t really compare the Napoleonic wars directly to the others, and perhaps that would be a good article for later on, but for now I think I’ve adequately covered what I wanted to.
So I’ve been painting 15mm Miniatures, both for Team Yankee (Modernish 1980s Israeli Defense Force) and Napoleonics (French Imperial Army)
15mm is a VERY different scale from the 28/32 mm I’m used to. It’s a bit more involved process, and it forces me to really embrace assembly line painting in a way I haven’t had to do since I gave up on Orks and Goblins.
So let’s do a bit of a hobby post. Step one for infantry (which is all I’m going to talk about today) is to get them mounted for painting. You do NOT want them on their final base as painting everything will be too difficult in close order.
So first I cut out strips of hard cardboard I clip the edges with a heavy clipper, then score along the traced line, fold and tear.
Next I glue the miniatures to the temporary base. I use Elmer’s glue for this to make it easier to remove them later. These Chaussures a Cheval are a little closer than they might be but still looking good. I did glue the riders to the mounts so that’s something I may regret later.
Here’s some pictures of infantry, cavalry and cannons mounted for painting from a previous batch. I changed the orientation of the horses and I’m NOT painting the riders like that ever again. That much I remember.
I paint entire units in a bloc. One color at a time, for the entire brigade / battery. 15mm still has a lot of small details to pick out and I spend more than a little time going back to fix mistakes and do touch up.
Then we mount them on bases, of course I forgot I don’t need 6 men for front rank of light infantry units so I have an extra base to throw around.
Then we do some basing I like the citadel texture paints for gritty mud and soil. I will probably need to find some more before the Corona days end.
Then it’s back to the Elmer’s glue, using a toothpick to spread it wherever you want grass. Then dip the whole base into a bowl of flocking, lift it up and shake/blow on it to get it all off.
I can usually get a fair amount of work done, but with the coronapocolypse going on I’m hoping to alternate a brigade of frogs and a platoon of Israelis for the next couple of weeks. I’d like to get a battalion of Israelis and a corps of French done, we shall see how it goes.
Little Men in Fancy Hats
So GW has kinda pissed me off of late. Their limp, unexciting releases, stirring around with problems with the rules while not actually addressing the root causes, just trying to patch over the problems. Despite the fact that they are WAY better than they’ve ever been in a lot of ways, I just don’t feel like giving them money. Especially when I have NO idea just what the heck will happen to Dark Angels (or any non-ultramarine chapters).
So I need to find something new.
So I’ve started Napoleonics. I’ve got the wonderful AB line of 18mm miniatures, and am planning an 1809 Army Corps from the big war with Austria. I’m looking at two rule sets, Fields of Glory: Napoleonic, a more competitively oriented ruleset currently being re-written down in Oz and VERY near publication, and General d’Armee, a ruleset that’s more detail oriented and narrative in scope from what I’ve seen. My area does have a historical group, they play a lot of games in the same basement where I first rolled dice in fact. But I won’t be playing games anytime soon, building a new army takes time, and basing these and going back to paint later just isn’t practical, so I’m going to do something I rarely do, take my time, work through my pile of shame.
So I’m going to talk a bit about what’s going on here. These figures don’t go one to a base, they go on in small units. Painting them lose is… well… not happening, so I attach them to dense cardboard so that I can paint them without going crazy. Er. Crazier.
Next I’m let’s talk about what’s in the picture, bottom to top.
- Two 12 lb cannons. French Heavy Artillery
- 12 French Dragoons. French Heavy Cavalry
- 24 Voltigeurs. French Light Infantry,
- 12 Horses. 4 legs, eat a lot, die if you look at them funny it seems.
- 24 Line Infantry, 8 artillery crew.
So this is 82 figures, and costs around 70 bucks. Compare that to a 40k army and you see some of the appeal. In Fields of Glory this is between 25% and 33% of an army.
There’s some odds and ends missing but again, in Fields of Glory this is a brigade each of Line Infantry, Light Infantry, Heavy Cavalry, and Heavy Artillery, without any attachments or officers. This would be a pretty substantial mixed division, although not one that would be legal for an 1809 French Army. So let’s see what all I’ve gotten done!
This week I’m finishing the Dragoons, probably with the 11e Regiment. Green collars and Red turnbacks.
Time permitting I’ll work on the artillery and knock them out as the uniforms aren’t terribly complicated and there’s only 8 of them and 2 guns. After that it’s the light infantry and then, round one is done. Next will be some light cavalry, officers, and aides de camp.
One of the things I like a lot about historicals is I can do a unit in a week with enough dedication without too much trouble. Even at a slower rate of one every other week it’s not awful. A typical army will have between 8 and 16 units in FOG:N. The one I’ve penciled in has 11 brigades, 5 attachments (single stands that go with other units) 3 division commanders, a corps commander, and 5 aides de camp. That’s roughly equivalent to 13 units, of which I’ve nearly got 2 done. I could have it done (money and time permitting) by New Years, and certainly by my birthday.
Which leaves the “then what” and, well, there’s a couple options, first is playing with the established group, which is infrequent and a good drive away, there’s playing with local players who haven’t started yet, some locals do have armies from before coming to my area, so starting a club shouldn’t be too hard. Of course there’s also the major cons, which would be VERY nice to attend should I get the option.
Next week look forward to the rest of the dragoons and maybe some redlegs! Who won’t have red legs because the general in favor of that uniform lost. Probably why they lost the war.