Thursday, 30 June 2011

Bruce Quarrie's Rules

As with many wargamers who entered the hobby in the late 1970s/early 1980s, Julian and I began with Bruce Quarrie’s Napoleonic Wargaming (1974). Mark on the other hand is one of the few who had never used them! So, there was a high degree of nostalgia for Julian and I when we came to test these rules.

Our battle for these rules was the fictitious 'Pont du Bois' scenario that has been Julian's 'standard' play-test scenario. As the name implies, the scenario involves a bridge (over a river that divides the battlefield) with nearby woods on either side. The report of this battle can be found in our battle reports elsewhere on this blog.

When I re-read the rules in preparation for our play-test, apart from the nostalgia, I realised that they had much of what I consider to be important in a set of rules for Napoleonic wargaming; national characteristics, good morale and control rules and effective, or so I thought, mechanisms for firing and mêlées (although artillery fire was always too devastating—my father and I used to halve the effect!). I considered the main problems with the rules to be the short (2 1/2 minute) moves, lack of rules for command and control, requirement for written orders, need for detailed recording of losses, and the problems associated with simultaneous movement—where one player always seems to move after everyone else—sound familiar?

Playing them again, in the light of other sets past and current, highlighted further short-comings. The rules do not require players to utilise higher order formations (above unit level) and parts of units, especially cavalry, can 'waltz off' in an entirely different direction to the parent body. What I considered to be effective rules for firing, combat and morale turned out to be long, tedious and somewhat cumbersome. The scales of time and space do not work when you add the turns up and discover what has occurred in a (supposed) total of ten to twenty minutes!

Our verdict was that we, and the hobby, have largely moved on from these rules. They do not have the historical feel that we are seeking, they are not enjoyable to play and struggle to work for a small, fictitious scenario, let alone a corps-level game!

It was not all negative however as we consider that they may well have a niche for small-scale, detailed sections of a battle, particularly for combat involving buildings. In such circumstances, with the need for manoeuvre and deployment removed, the factors that are their achilles heal (detailed control, firing, morale and casualty recording) may well prove to be an advantage. They are likely to generate a far more realistic recreation of such actions than is possible with the more stylised approaches that are of necessity part of rules for higher-level actions.

Bruce Quarrie's Napoleonic Wargaming is still a great little book that remains a treasured part of my library. We won't be using the rules for another game in a hurry though; save perhaps if we decide to do a detailed re-fight of the attack on the granary at Essling or on Hougoumont on 18th June 1815.

1 comment:

  1. Well summarized.

    I first encountered the rules as part of Napoleon's Campaigns in Miniature. Like you I found them very cumbersome with their detailed lists requirements.

    Having been a field officer - I am more than familiar with the daily returns and lists element - and I am also well aware that the higher command do not 'count' men. They are more sensitive to the capabilities of the officers in command and how well trained the overall body of men is. Precise numbers are not a part of the equation, only what they have done and what they are likely to be able to do in the future.

    Hence a battalion of Guardsmen are expected to push back a division of Landwher over and over again.