Paddy Griffith's Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun contains many different sets of rules for tackling different aspects of Napoleonic warfare: 1:1 skirmish gaming (see a game here), a divisonal-level game, an army-level game, a campaign game, a siege game and a TEWT game. As well as this, that rarest of things, a game designed for the player to be a brigade commander. I'm not sure that I know of any other rules designed to be played with a handful of battalions and maybe a cavalry squadron or two. The one perhaps closest, Scott Bowden's Chef de Bataillon, focuses on a single battalion in detail. Back in the 80s, one wise member of my club at the time felt that Newbury's Napoleonic rules were okay if you limited the forces to a strong brigade a side. One could do worse than use the Charles' Grant Napoleonic rules. But I digress...
I set up a small scenario (on a terrain modified from Clontarf, of all things...) to test them out. Three B-class Austrian battalions would take on two B-class French battalions occupying a hill. The aim of the game wasn't to use clever tactics or anything, just to go through the mechanics for each side.
I was using my 6mm Baccus Napoleonics which are based on 60mm x 30mm bases. The rules are really designed for one base to be a half company (a section) but I thought that would be a bit cumbersome so I used battalions of four bases, so one base roughly represented a company. The ground scale used 5cm = 10m.
|One French Bn in line occupying the hill, with another one in reserve behind it; three Austrian battalions in column approach.|
|The Austrians coming onto the board|
|Another shot of the French!|
|Okay, each sub-unit within a unit has to take a morale test when the enemy is seen; two companies become 'shaken' and start firing wildly despite the Austrians being out of range|
|One Austrian company also becomes shaken|
|And another company in a diffferent battalion|
|Shaken sub-units cannot advance; so two Austrian battalions are trying to regain their order. The central battalion continues its advance. There is still some disorder within the French ranks.|
|A closer view of the Austrians|
|The Austrian Bn on the left (as seen) has rallied its shaken company and has begun to advance; the centre Bn is shaking out into line formation; the Bn on the right still has shaken companies.|
|The Austrians are advancing again, although the last Bn still hasn't rallied yet!|
|At 200m range, another morale test must be taken; both sides had a shaken company but the Austrians have sorted themselves out and resumed the advance; the French are still struggling to calm down|
|The French brigadier tried to bring up his reserve battalion but its leading companies became shaken upon sighting the enemy; its commander is trying to rally them|
|Instead of rallying, the Austrian Bn in the rear has become progressively more shaken!|
|The firefight continues with further losses; the Austrian column tried to attack but failed to charge; it luckily avoided becoming shaken as a result|
|The French are taking more casualties; those with three markers are now permanently shaken and only of marginal use|
|A wider shot; you can see that the French reserve Bn has fallen into total disorder; the French were then swept away|
However, I have serious problems with some of the calibration of these rules, enough for me to wonder how much playtesting was done of the final versions. Some things seemlike oversights: there is a reasonable chance of a draw in close combat, but no rules as to what should then happen, for instance. But the biggest problem I have with the rules currently is this: B Class troops (so regular troops of all nations) have a roughly 20% chance per sub-unit of failing a morale check; the chance of rallying is 10% per turn. Sub-units adjacent to the shaken sub-unit must then test for morale themselves. Unless I am miscalculating something, then that makes it more likely that a unit will become entirely shaken once one sub-unit is than that the unit will rally! I feel I must be missing or misinterpreting something but I'm not sure what...
Anyway, a fascinating game and highly recommended, but be prepared to do some mild tweaking to make it into a fully formed game. In some ways, that comment might do for many things about wargaming that Paddy Griffith wrote!
One potential issue is that there aren't many published scenarios for this level of battle to my knowledge. Some of the tabletop teasers series will be suitable, but otherwise some adaptation and thought might be needed (not bad things, obviously!)