"All resources will be used to make the army ready for war." - Napoleon, 1813

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Rules of War

"But Sire, you cannot possibly read all those rules before your game tomorrow morning."

Back to Basics: The Rules

Update:  The focus of this discussion (like this blog) is on currently available tactical rules using 28mm miniatures.  Battles would mainly involve about a Division on each side, although a Corps/Wing level commander could be present on the tabletop in larger games.

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This post is the first in a series that are targeted at someone visiting or directed to this site who is thinking about entering the Napoleonic miniatures wargaming hobby.  These posts are then placed on the "Basic Training" page (found above under the site banner) for future reference.

Below is a quick rundown/intro of some of the rules currently available (i.e. In print and available to purchase)  Not a complete list, but all the rules mentioned can be used for the tactical Division/Corps level of command that we are planning for our games.

VETERAN GAMERS!!  Where you come in is in the comment section below.  Please leave a comment about the set of rules you prefer and some reasons why.  Please keep your remarks limited to POSITIVE things about your rules of choice.  Do not leave negative comments about or run down other rules systems.  Thank you.

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I give special mention to the first three on the list:  Black Powder, General de Brigade, and Republic to Empire.  Mainly because these are the rule sets that are commonly used by the Napoleonic wargamers/bloggers that have been the most influential and inspirational to me.  Regardless of whatever set of rules you end up using, there are always useful bits/ideas from other sets that you can incorporate into your games.

Black Powder

This is the set of rules we will be using.  It's easy to learn and quick to play (2 to 4 hours).  It handles larger multiplayer games very well.  While playability is its main strength, the lack of more detailed period rules/flavor can be addressed by using various special rules to tweak the scenario and units involved.  There are two Napoleonic specific supplements available, with a third soon on its way.  Player support can be found HERE.

One other bonus is that BP establishes a common set of rules for any horse and musket periods we may play in the future:  American Civil War, Seven Years War, Franco-Prussian War, American War of Independence.

Rules overview.

General de Brigade

Definitely a more detailed set of rules that represents the period very well on the table top. The 1 to 20 figure ratio makes for a lot of miniatures to paint for each battalion (Our 24 fig battalions could always scale up to 36+ by adding more bases)  This is a set of rules I'd like to play every once in awhile in the future once we get things going.  Player support can be found HERE and HERE.

Rules overview.

Republic to Empire

Unfortunately I don't know too much about RtE as I don't own a copy yet.  At a glance, it seems like they are another detailed set of rules like GdB, but remain flexible in their basing requirements like BP.  Player support can be found HERE.

Rules overview. 

Some other rule sets to consider:

Age of Eagles

"Age of Eagles is the... only officially sanctioned Napoleonic variant of Richard Hasenauer's popular Fire & Fury American Civil War rules. This is truly the miniatures game you and many others have been waiting for. Huge battles are now possible with a system that balances both realism and playability." 

Rules overview.

Grand Manouevre

"...a new and exciting set of rules for large scale Napoleonic wargaming."

Rules overview.


"The game is small-scale and tactical in nature, focusing on the movement of individual battalions and regiments of cavalry. The player will manage a small force of roughly a dozen units as he tries to complete some specific mission assigned to him...  Lasalle is ideal for a small gaming table, and it plays in real-time with most battles lasting 2-3 hours. It is perfect for pick-up games or tournament play."

Rules overview.

March Attack

"March Attack are a set of Napoleonic Wargame rules that were created to allow players to field approximately a Corps a side and to be able to complete a game of that size within a few hours." 

Rules overview.

Rank & File

"Rank and File are a set of horse and musket rules that cover the period from 1740 through to 1900. The basic game mechanics are designed to be simple and easy to learn with the aim of being able to play large games within a reasonable time frame.  While the game itself is easy to pick up there are extensive optional and advanced rules as well as period specific rules that allow the game to cater for all tastes as well as being flexible enough to cope with lots of game sizes, scales, figure availability and numbers of players." 

Rules overview.

Honorable mention:


Although this rulebook from the now defunct Warhammer Historical is out of print, I wanted to include this exceptional tome.  Like other Games Workshop large format rulebooks, it is very comprehensive.  Aside from the rules and army lists themselves, it includes a full Napoleonic timeline and history section, inspirational artwork and photos of battlefields, terrain tables, and painted miniatures (mostly taken from the Perry Brother's personal collection), as well as a introduction to the hobby and "how to" modeling and painting section.

This makes it an excellent book to introduce players to Napoleonics.  Well worth the effort to get a copy regardless of your experience level.  I am lucky to have mine.  You can find author Mark Latham's blog HERE as well as new army lists for the Austrians and Russians.

 Note:  Special thanks to www.deepfriedhappymice.com for writing all the nice rules overviews.

Up next is the Battle of Katzbach and Dresden and another "basics" post on miniatures manufacturers.


  1. Please make this post more useful to someone starting out by sharing some thoughts on your favorite set of rules, thanks!

  2. I've been happily playing Napoleon's Battles since they were first published by Avalon Hill. Prior to that it was Empire 3 and before then Bruce Quarrie's Airfix set and in the dim distant past some local rules.

    Napoleon's Battles enables me to take the role of Napoleon recreating the large scale battles of the period. They are a complete set of rules and have withstood the test of time.

    Sadly out of publication at the moment, although the Marechal Edition (the 4th edition) is due out real soon. Plenty of game AARs and painted units to see on my blog: http://onesidedminiaturewargamingdiscourse.blogspot.com.au/search/label/Napoleon%27s%20Battles

    1. Thanks for your comments. My first set of rules was Bruce Quarrie's as well. I played a bunch of games using 15mm figs and Napoleon's Battles during the '90s. There are great set for grand tactical games using smaller figure scales like 15mm.

  3. I enjoy Rank & File for an easy to pick up and play set of rules for Brigade or Divisional level combat which can be used for other Horse & Musket periods with a few amendments provided in the rules.
    March Attack by the same author are good if you want to step up a command level to controls Corps while still manoeuvring individual battalions.

    General de Brigade is more detailed and provides a lot of period flavour, has a longer learning curve but gives excellent results if you persevere.

  4. Hey there Jason, here is my short/brief list of "back in the 70's" Napoleonic wargaming rules.

    Wargames Rules 1750 - 1850, Wargames Research Group, January 1971.

    Wargames Rules 1685-1845, Wargames Research Group, 1979

    Corps d'Armee: Napoleonic Rules for Large Scale Wargames, Geoffrey Wootten, Wargames Research Group, 1989

    Napoleonic Wargaming Bruce Quarrie 1974

    Napoleon's Campaigns in Miniature, Bruce Quarrie/Patrick Stephens Ltd, 1977

    Fire & Steel Napoleonic Wargaming Rules (1978)


    Napoleon's Battles (AH) one of my favorite wargaming set rules, also Commands & Colors Napoleonic Board game rules are great fun to play with...


  5. A very brave post! The road to Hell is paved with Napoleonic wargame rules . . . .

    O.K., for years I used the WRG 1685-1845 set and its derivatives. I'd still be willing to use them as there's not a lot 'wrong' with them. I've dabbled with Lassalle and General de Brigade, but I currently mainly use Shako II (with some plagiarised amendments) and a fudged March Attack, both of which give a neatly engineered game, but I'm thinking about an 'alloy' of the two sets. The Age of Eagles rules are also a decent enough set, but obviously for a larger scale of game and I've only 'experimented' with them.

    I aim for a level of game similar to the desriptions in the 'standard texts' - individual battalions and regiments identified, but without so much detail (and consequent hard labour) that you need to determine which finger the colonel picks his nose with. Deal breakers with me centre on how skirmishers and cavalry are modelled in the game as well as the command and control element. So far Shako II and March Attack handle these areas well enough and, once I get round to actually cobbling together my amalgamated set, I'll have my ideal. BUT, it'll be MY ideal and not necessarily anyone else's.

    One set you haven't mentioned (and I'm not sure they're still available anyway) is Valmy to Waterloo, which give a very accurate representation of Napoleonic warfare ar the division/corps level, but are VERY detailed and any scenario will take maybe twice as long to play through as with the other sets I've mentioned. However, it harks back to the old game versus simulation choice.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Gary. I have Valmy to Waterloo myself, but pretty sure it's out of print. Which is why I left it off the list.

  6. ive only really played GdB and had a lot of fun with them. For me they give a good feeling of the action in a Napoleonic battle or as much as you can with toy soldiers. I do love the look of large units to. I am sure they could fit with 1:30,1:40 ratio with a but if thought. Larger games need a good bit of planning and the rules take a few games and a good read of the rules to get started however once your in the play sheet keeps you right.

    Lads at my club have moved over to Black Powder as they enjoy the speed of a game with a limited time spot.

    1. Yeah, I think GdB is perfect for your 18mm AB minis. The guys I hope to get going with are more concerned with having fun and just a taste of the period, so Black Powder fits the bill. Still I'd like to be able to play a more "serious" game once in awhile with GdB or even RtE.

  7. Count me as another who cut their Napoleonic teeth with the Bruce Quarry rules. In my case the little orange Airfix guide.

    One rule set, or family of rule sets, not yet mentioned is Piquet and its offshoots Command Piquet and Field of Battle. Classic Piquet comes as a Master rules and then supplements for the different periods. Les Grognards is the Napoleonic supplement. Quite a different set of rules to the ones already mentioned which give a quite different style of game.

    They are all card and impetus driven, but in different ways with the 3 sets. These rules are not for every one. They are certainly not for you if you want complete control of your army. I have certainly had many a fine game over the years with mostly the classic Piquet game, though not for a little while now.

    For support see http://www.piquetwargames.com and https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Piquet/info

    von Peter himself

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on Piguet which are very relevant for the scope of this rules reference post. Unfortunately locally Piquet is quite infamous, held tightly in control by the stereotypical "grumpy old men" portion of historical gaming crowd using their tiny 6-15mm figs. :-/ :-)

    2. That's outrageous! A quick check to see if I fit in the category of "grumpy old men" ... errr, maybe but I blame the family I live with! ... "using their 6-15mm figs" ... not me - played with 28mm figs. That was a bit of a close shave!! 8O)

      That's a shame as you get quite a different gaming experience with Piquet. The system is also quite robust if you want to tinker with the rules.

      von Peter himself

    3. Thank you Sir! You always seem to put a smile on my face.

  8. Many thanks for the inclusion of my rules on your blog!

    If anyone would like to find out more, then please pop along to my website at: http://grandmanoeuvre.co.uk/
    and/or drop me a line at contact@grandmanoeuvre.co.uk

    best regards,

    mike Collins.