Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Foundry’s Napoleon rules published

Posted by Martin on June 5, 2009

Sample page from Foundry's Napoleon rulebook

Sample page from Foundry's Napoleon rulebook

After weeks of none too subtle plugging, the new Foundry Napoleonic wargames rules, Napoleon, have been published. And, as I write this, I daresay a group of gamers are feverishly trying them out at today’s Foundry open day (no, I don’t understand why it’s on a Friday either). Among the heaving throng will be von Peter and I fully expect him to report back imminently.

The other thing that has happened is that Foundry have done what they should have done in the first place: they’ve actually put some legible images of sample pages on their website. Letting us see the goods is usually a much more successful marketing technique than teasing people for weeks on end until they get fed up. These sample pages give me a much clearer idea of what the whole thing is about – especially the design style and production values. I think that’s essential for something that has a 25 quid price tag. What it doesn’t enable me to do, of course, is offer you an erudite review. That’ll have to wait until (or if) I acquire a copy.

If I were being cheeky, this is the point at which I’d suggest it wouldn’t do Foundry any harm to send me a review copy of the book. In fact, they might want to take that suggestion seriously as a way to counter-balance what I’m about to say about one sample page (pictured here) from the book. This particular page bears the title “War of Liberation (1813-14) Prussian Army” and discusses its organization. So you can understand how I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. The first warning sign is that there’s a sub-heading “Divisions, Brigades & Batteries” – there was no such thing as a division in the organizatonal structure of the Prussian army at this time.

Smaller text might not be legible for you from the image so let me reproduce a few quotes. First, when discussing the make-up of an “infantry brigade” (no such thing as an “infantry brigade” in the Prussian army at this time – brigade, yes; “infantry brigade”, no):

“3-6 infantry units, plus a divisional general. Up to one third of the brigade may be line infantry, of which one unit may be grenadiers or fusilier light infantry; one third of the brigade may be reserves and the remaining units, up to a maximum of two thirds of the brigade, will be militia. Each infantry brigade may also include a single cavalry squadron.”

What a dog’s dinner! While not always composed identically, a generic Prussian brigade typically contained at least ten battalions (three line, three reserve, three landwehr and one grenadier). So where does the idea of three to six units come from? And what’s this business of a divisional general? There was no such thing in the Prussian army at this time. And then we come on to this weird restriction of only one grenadier or fusilier battalion in a brigade? Oh, and I thought the authors had defined this as an “infantry brigade”, so what’s with the cavalry? Lastly, historical Prussian brigades of the period also contained a foot artillery battery – but no mention of that here.

I can see what’s happened – the authors have tried to shoehorn the unique structure of Prussian brigades into the divisional structure of other armies (like the British and French) with their sub-sets also called brigades. The trouble is, a Prussian brigade was a completely different beast to a brigade in other armies. In fact, it was even completely different to a division in other armies too. The result of this is that the authors have tied themselves in knots but, more worryingly, lots of people are going to get a completely false understanding of how the Prussian army was organized and the special distinctiveness of that will be lost on the wargames table. Sadly, anybody commanding or opposing a Prussian wargames army will be the poorer for it.

Now on to what the page says about cavalry brigades (well, at least these actually existed!):

“Your army may include one cavalry brigade for each infantry brigade it contains.”

Ignoring that “infantry brigade” clanger, this more or less works for reserve cavalry formations attached to Corps. Each historical Prussian Corps normally comprised four brigades plus reserve cavalry that typically included three cavalry brigades. The problem is that the allowance for cavalry in “infantry brigades” is probably too small. To go with this there are some rules about the make up of cavalry brigades which are acceptable though I really wish they wouldn’t use the term “reserve lancers”. There was no such thing in the Prussian army of this period and I’m certain they meant landwehr cavalry.

Next, foot artillery batteries:

“Your army may include on (sic) foot artillery battery for every six infantry units it contains. If your army contains five units or less you may include a half battery at half the points cost”

Two problems here. A ratio of one battery to every six battalions would give almost twice the artillery firepower than was historically the case in Prussian brigades. Secondly, a Prussian brigade would always have had a whole battery at its disposal though it is true that brigade commanders were certainly flexible enough to deploy it as two half batteries in the field. What I object to is having an orphan half battery without the other half available too.

Next up, Prussian horse artillery gets the Foundry treatment:

“Your army may include one horse artillery battery for every four cavalry units it contains (excluding cavalry squadrons).”

Well, that’s confusing – what is meant by a “cavalry unit”? Judging by what’s in brackets, it’s not a squadron, so my guess is that it must mean one of the aforementioned cavalry brigades. If so, that’s closer to reality than the foot artillery allowance but, looking at OOBs, I’d have set this at one horse artillery battery to every three cavalry brigades and I’d have insisted that horse artillery could only be deployed with reserve cavalry.

And last, but not least, even the Prussian Royal Guard comes in for some rough treatment:

“You may upgrade all the line infantry units in a single division to Guard status if you (sic) army contains three or more infantry brigades.”

Oh dear! The curse of the brigade/division confusion strikes again but there’s more. The Prussian Royal Guard was pretty small and comprised specific units, so you can’t just go around upgrading any “division” (yuk!) you like to Guard status. And even if you could, why just line infantry units? There were cavalry, artillery and various forms of light infantry in the Royal Guard too.

There’s no mention of specialist light infantry units like the Silesian Schützen, the East Prussian Jägers and the many volunteer Jäger detachments – but perhaps that’s on another page of the book.

Looking back over what I’ve just written, I realise I’ve been rather pedantic. But I’ve only done so because I care about accuracy and I’m certainly not trying to have a pop at the authors. I know how much hard work and effort goes into this sort of thing given that I’m currently wrestling with my article for Wargames Illustrated on this very topic. But the point is that Foundry want people to pay 25 quid for this book and that’s no small outlay. So I reckon the least we deserve is accuracy.

Lastly, I need to acknowledge that I’ve only examined this one page of the book in detail and it isn’t fair to judge the entire book on such a small sample. So don’t. Because I won’t. Ideally, I’d like to see the whole thing and review it properly on BfK – which enables me to sign off neatly by returning to that cheeky request for a review copy!

22 Responses to “Foundry’s Napoleon rules published”

  1. Hello Martin

    Yes I got there, yes I have a (signed!) copy of the rules and I even spent a good part of the day playing a game!

    Re the organisational stuff I did have wee chat about it and Matt did offer up unprompted some of the issues with the Prussian Brigade structure so he is not ignorant of it.

    Now I haven’t yet read the rules but here’s a few thoughts anyway …

    As you’d expect units are organised into commands/brigades – I shall now call them commands for reasons of clarity I hope! In our game the Infantry commands were of 4 battalions, with one command on each side also including a battery. The cavalry commands all contained 2 units – which I must admit I thought of as regiments because that’s how they presented on the table, eg. one Russian cavalry brigade was made up of 1 hussar and 1 uhlan unit. One problem is that these commands were called Divisions. This I thought at the time was going to cause confusion. BTW to confuse the issue a little more I suspect there are (optional?) rules for multi command groupings more analogous to the conventional French type Division of multiple brigades.

    I think that the idea behind the lists is to give guidance to those that need guidance. I discussed gamers making their own forces in the privacy of their homes and that was not seen as an issue. What they are hoping to do with the lists is to encourage people not to have an army made up of guard and cuirassiers. As with most rule army lists I personally would toss them out the window and do what I think is historically best for what I am modelling. For me that would mean creating 2 or 3 command groups for each real/historic 1813 Prussian brigade with a battery (probably attached to one of the commands) and of course the cavalry unit in a command of it own.

    I’m not so sure about single unit commands. I would look at fielding my brigade cavalry regiment (1st Lieb Hussars in the 3rd Brigade) as two units – they had the full regiment present with a reasonable body count and a reasonable number of attached volunteer jager so that they were quite large compared to your average 1813 French cavalry regiment – at least I think so as I’m many many many miles from my source books. This potentially abusive manipulation may or may not fly! On the plus side it would give me an excuse to get some more Lieb Hussars and make using their volunteer jager easier. 8O)

    Certainly having the whole historic brigade as 1 command (of 13 units in 3rd brigades case – 1* grenadier, 3*line, 3*reserve, 4*landwehr, 1* artillery, 1*cavalry) in the game would not work as the ability of units in the brigade to do some things degrades as the command looses units. The command would effectively be paralysed well before it should be in reality. 13 units in one brigade is way to big for the gaming mechanisms, not to mention that it would not accurately reflect the historic ‘kampfgruppe’ aspect of the 1813 Prussian brigade.

    The rules work at a unit level. It does not count figures/elements/bases. So no rebasing required and you can have whatever sized units you want. All that is required is that the units on the table are based fairly consistently. This is all a good thing IMHO.

    There is no figure removal but you must somehow track fatigue/casualties (1 figure for both) for each unit. We used tiddly wink type counters on the day. Not removing casualties works for me.

    The rules had some interesting mechanisms. In particular life is alot freer and easier for units at a distance from the enemy when they can freely move as is the case in most wargames. Get in in close proximity to the enemy though and things get a lot more interesting, tense and challenging.

    Some areas of the rules seemed overly fussy for my liking but I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve read the rules, thought them over a bit and perhaps understand them more. If I don’t like bits of rules I tend to change them. These rules will not break that habit I suspect.

    I enjoyed my day at Foundry, and that includes the game, and would like to thank the Foundry staff for their hospitality and my fellow gamers for putting up with my obtuse command decisions!

    Hopefully the above makes some sort of sense as it’s way past my bed time and it’s been a long day.

    von Peter himself

  2. Robert said

    I probably wont be buying the rules any time soon for no other reason than I just shelled out a considerable amount of coinage on some 18th C. books and on commissioning some figure painting, but the organizational section of any rule set is not something that I have ever heeded much anyway.

    I have always just chosen a brigade/ division or what have you from some historical order of battle, collected the appropriate number of minis based on the man to figure ratio being used, and then just gone my merry way, regardless of what was prescribed in the rules.

    I have to admit myself that my interest in authenticity in Napoleonics covers orders of battles, then uniform accuracy (but with some degree of rationalized “artistic licence” where I can get away with it), and at a very distance third the rules themselves, which seem to change every few years or so anyway according to the current wargaming trend. The figures, on the other hand, are there in the display cabinet for years!

  3. Steve Gill said

    I’ve got similar concerns. I’ve been thinking for a while that there was a gap in the market for a beginner’s guide to Napoleonics, as a lot of wargamers seem to find the period intimidating,

  4. Randy said

    I play miniature wargames for the very simple reason that I find them fun. I play with people with whom I like spending time. That’s what got me into this hobby in the first place.

    When I start a project I research it as thouroughly as possible. If I’m going to commit to a major undertaking I want the result to be as accurate as I can possibly make it. Would I depend on a single source of information? Nope. Well, at least not anymore.

    As Robert said above I also depend on historical orders of battle to drive my painting and gaming projects. I do this as a means to an end, such as being able to game out a particular battle or campaign.

    But frankly most of the games I play are ad hoc. Let’s put a bit of woods over there, a village here and let’s make a river run through it. You take these battalions. I’ll take those. Here’s your start line and there’s mine. A bit of Cos D’Estournel is poured and an enjoyable evening ensues. No history here.

    I take my painting and unit organizations very seriously when I’m recruiting an army. Less so when I’m gaming it. After all what do you think the results would be of refighting Auerstadt using GdB or ITGM or just about any other rules set other than, perhaps, the old Empire rules? I would tend to give odds against the French. We as gamers tend to like a level playing field not historical accuracy.

    Now I’m not trying to defend the Foundry rules. I haven’t read them. I will not be acquiring them. I’m pretty happy with GdB. I will almost certainly acquire a copy of RtE when it comes out though. I won’t be using any of them as drivers of my unit organization.

    I would hope that Foundry has a disclaimer somewhere that says something akin to ‘Do not depend on the organization presented here to be historically accurate’. I just reread the excerpts from above. They read as if they’re in the context of a game system. Still I find it sad they couldn’t produce a rule set that takes into account national differences.

  5. Phil said

    Wargaming over “a bit of Cos?” I’m joining you for your next game, just let me know when and where.

    • Randy said

      Phil, I’m located in the southernmost end of Orange County, Ca. Drop me an email, I’m sure something can be arranged.

  6. Hi,

    I would first like to say that you have a great website, I look forward to updates on it and the Calpe website.

    I think the new Foundry rule book may be aimed more at beginners like myself, who are new to Napoleonic wargaming. Although like you, I have not seen the book, I suspect it will be a great introduction.

    I look forward to your article in WI, which issue is it planned? I have been wrestling with the nomenclature for one of my current painting projects: Wallmoden’s Korps in 1813, so I hope your article will be instructive.

    Best wishes,


    ps: Von Peter, your review has certainly made me excited about receiving the rule book.

    • Martin said

      The article is scheduled to appear in the September 2009 issue of WI. So I’ve got to get my skates on and finish writing it! 🙂

  7. Mike Siggins said

    It is interesting to see the initial comments. I certainly didn’t know what to expect of these rules, but it is becoming clear that they are aimed at beginners. While I would not insist on the detail that gives rise to the eternal ‘discussions’ that put many off of the period, it would seem logical to at least start people out on the right foot.

    I think someone said that the rules are just a small fraction of the page count, so let’s see what the other pages contain.

    • Martin said

      Good to see you commenting here Mike.

      I agree, we need to see the full book to assess it fairly. While I’ve pointed out weaknesses in a single page, it doesn’t have any bearing on the rest of the book. Overall, it might turn out to be worth every penny of the asking price.

  8. I’m in the middle of some sort of write up/review of the rules and thought it might be a little instructive on the “Division” issue to post a couple of quotes. Basically the army selections etc have scaled down the number of units. I would tend not to as I like using historic OOBs.

    From page 17 after a schematic which drills down from army through corps through divisions through brigades etc etc etc through to companies:

    As you can imagine, it would be very difficult to represent these many different army sub-divisions on the gaming table. It is also somewhat unnecessary, since smaller sub-divisions like battalions, squadrons and regiments seldom acted alone anyway. Instead, in the game we use just two sub-divisions for the vast majority of fighting bodies: units and divisions. In addition, in the case of cavalry, there is also the brigade.

    Divisions are groups of three or more infantry or cavalry units. Each division can be thought of as representing a brigade of a division, or in very large games even as a corps. Divisions can include detachments of riflemen and artillery”.

    And from page 151 in the Peninsular War section:

    “Due to the relatively small size of Peninsular engagements compared to Western European battles (where these rules normally treat a group of around four units as a division), each group of units represents a brigade. This has no impact upon the game, however it does affect army selection.”

    von Peter himself

  9. In case it is of interest to anyone I have (finally) posted a review of the Napoleon rules. To see them: -> Orders of the day and then follow your nose.

    Just one man’s view after one game and some light reading of the rule book.

    von Peter himself

  10. Thanks for the review Von Peter, would you think that the rules would work for solo wargaming?


    • Hello John

      Some of the rules are not that much different from many other games so whether that’s good or bad I’ll leave to you to decide. When units get within Engagement Range though there is a plus and a minus for solo gaming and it’s all to do with the placing and revealing of the Command Cards.

      The minus is that you know what cards have been or will placed by the opposition when deciding what cards to place. I guess that solo gamers have to deal with this sort of issue anyway so perhaps not a biggie.

      The plus is that when you come to reveal/play the Command Cards the Test to Give Out Orders will mean that the Command Cards may not be acted on. This will make for some uncertainty in the game. I would think that this is a good thing for the solo gamer.

      Over all I don’t see the rules being exceptionally good or bad for solo play.

      The best rules I have seen for solo wargaming are the Piquet rules. The card driven mechanisms and the variable troop quality remove much of the certainty that are the solo wargamer’s bane.

      von Peter himself

  11. Thanks von Peter,

    I have been playing around with both Piquet FoB and LFS for solo wargaming. I was curious about Napoleon for the same purpose.


    • Howdies John

      No problem.

      May I cheekily suggest that classic Piquet (with the Les Grognards supplement) would be even better than FoB for solo gaming … assuming you can live with the uneven impetus allocation. The big advantage is the uneven initiative allocation making life even more unpredictable. There are ways of limiting any large impetus swings if you find them hard to stomach.

      Salute von Peter himself

  12. Martin said

    Phil, Randy: do you want me to PM your e-mail addresses to each other so you can fix a gaming date?

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