Monday, 25 July 2011

More rules tried

We have had some great wargames at the ANF so far in 2011. Not only have they been challenging, close fought and interesting scenarios, but they have allowed us to try some other sets of rules for Napoleonic wargaming.

Thus far we have used Shako, Bruce Quarrie’s Napoleonic Wargaming, de Bonaparte à Napoleon (DBN), General de Division (GdD) and Shako II. We had a preliminary test of Black Powder when we paid a visit to the Napoleonic Wargaming Society (NWS) in June and we plan to use them in a game soon, along with Grand Battery.

Here are some one line 'reviews' of the sets that we have used so far.

Shako remains our most favoured set; elegant mechanisms, seems to recreate history well, a good compromise on scale and detail, clearly written rules and able to handle medium to large games well.

It was great to use the Quarrie rules again for their nostalgia value, but we soon realised that wargames rules, and we, have progressed a lot since the early 70s.

Le Feu Sacre failed to impress. As Julian quipped, "life seems too short to bother with wargames rules that don't have infantry fire!"

We had high hopes for DBN, but they bogged down badly in the game which we tested them with (Albuera). We'll try them again with a smaller battle, or perhaps part of a battle.

We had a preliminary trial of Black Powder at the NWS. They are a highly stylised set which are well-suited to multiplayer games and situations where only 3–4 hours are available for a game. We look forward to reading them and trying them at ANF.

GdD have some excellent mechanics, but we found the PIP-like version of the Polemos tempo rules frustrating. The version in MdE seems like a better system, although we have not used these rules yet.

We used Shako II in a game recently. There are many more changes than most reviews lead us to believe. Changes such as initiative, rallying, artillery fire effects, point blank volleys, divisional morale and hasty formation changes are significant. They still work extremely well and we are happy with the changes on a first 'outing'. We'll see how they go with more testing.

We have written more detailed reviews of some of these sets of rules ( with others to follow.


  1. Thanks for the writeup on that.

    I started with Republique to get into napoleonics again, and that was a good education. Very happy with the way that worked out.

    And then begins the endless quest for the perfect set of rules.

    I thought I would take the plunge with Empire for a bit, mostly to see what all the fuss was about. Anything that generates that much controversy has my attention at the best of times :)

    Anyway, I can see now why some consider these rules as unplayable, and why some consider them the last word in accuracy.

    I figured for one fateful moment that the mind-boggling complexity of these old school rules could maybe be tackled using modern technology to track the bookkeeping and automate the flow of the game to some extent.

    Will see how that pans out. 1000s of lines of code later, its slowly getting there, but even then the finished result will be far from perfect.

    Carnage & Glory get a good rap ... but they suffer badly from being single user, and so the computer jockey becomes the bottleneck. Really need multi-user access with every commander having a laptop to interface into the game for the ultimate system I reckon. Thats what I am hoping to see at the end of my experiment.

    R2E looks like a good candidate as well, being (I believe) a large scale conversion of the concepts that work well in GdB.

    Black Powder looks like fun, as does Lasalle, but neither of these 2 tick the boxes of obsessive depth that I think may strangely appeal to me at the moment.

    Ah well - looks like the quest for the ultimate ruleset is underway. I cannot be satisfying with anything that produces historically unlikely results, but need something that is fast and fun to play at the same time, with a very low learning curve to get into. It seems that nobody ever faults Empire for being unrealistic ... it just falls short in the playability area until you crack the learning curve. Cracking the learning curve can take a very long time though.

    Pure computer simulations (especially playing against AI's) are next to useless - as they are trivial to master within a couple of short games. Winning a computer game becomes unsatisfying very quickly.

    Be interested to have a read of Shako II after reading your comments above.

    All good.

  2. Some 15 years ago whilst on holiday in the big city ,I bought from a wargames shop some rules which rekindled my interest in the hobby. I recognised them as an updated and fill in the gaps version of WRG rules which I got onto earlier. They seemed to address most issues and I bought them thinking they were the new international rule set. Many years and arguments later, I found myself with the idea that I was all alone out there in space - And these {Napoleonic} rules are Aussie Rules... - Elan.. Deluxe. ??? Opinions please/ Michael

    1. I have a copy of Elan, but we have not tested them. They look pretty good and appear to be moderately detailed (more than Shako, less than Empire, much much more than BlackPowder). There is an overview of them on DeepFriedHappyMice, plus a free pdf download (which is where I got my copy from).
      Sorry that I cannot be more specific.

    2. Michael, please see comment from 'Ochoin', aka Donald from Brisbane below.

  3. My pals & I have long used ELAN. One of the best rule sets around IMO.

    1. Thanks Donald. Hopefully Michael will see this comment and perhaps may contact you?