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!