Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Neil Thomas' Wargaming: A Napoleonic Scenario

I had a go the other day at re-fighting one of the scenarios from Grant & Asquith's Scenarios for all Ages.  I would normally use the Polemos Napoleonic rules or Neil Thomas' Simplicity in Practice rules for these types of scenarios, but since Neil Thomas' rules had been mentioned on a thread on The Miniatures Page about the simplest Napoleonic rules, I thought I would give them a go.  For clarity, I used the Napoleonic rules in his Wargaming:An Introduction set rather than his later Napoleonic Wargaming book.

The Scenario & Order of Battle:

Both sides are advancing and trying to find a ford to obtain a bridgehead over the river.  There are 6 approximately equidistant sites across the length of the river.  Adapting the special rules in the scenario, I specified that the first unit within 6cm of a potential site rolls a D6 and a '6' indicates the presence of the ford.  If the first five were checked and all turned out negative, then the last site would automatically contain the ford.

A side needs to control both sides of the ford to win; alternatively an army reduced to two units or less would break.  I used similar profiles for each side.


2 Dragoon units (4 bases, Heavy Cavalry, Average)
2 Infantry units (4 bases, Close-Order Infantry, Average)
1 Light Infantry unit (4 bases, Light Infantry, Average)
1 Artillery unit (1 base)


2 Dragoon units (4 bases, Heavy Cavalry, Average)
2 Infantry units (4 bases, Close-Order Infantry, Average)
1 Light Infantry unit (4 bases, Light Infantry, Average)
1 Artillery unit (1 base)

If using more closely-themed armies, change one French Dragoon unit to a light cavalry unit instead, and one infantry unit can be Elite instead of average.  Reduce Spanish cavalry to Levy, make them fight as Light but move as Heavy Cavalry.  Reduce the Spanish infantry to Levy morale and optionally convert the light infantry unit to another close-order infantry unit).

The Battle:

A river with a hidden ford, with some interspersed woods, hills, buildings and a small marshy area.  The roads lead up to the site of a derelict bridge (which might be fordable or not)
 The Battle:
The Spanish cavalry lead the army's advance from the top-right

French cavalry approach the river on the other side, supported by some light infantry (left)

The French artillery and infantry follow up behind

The French find the ford at the second location they examined.

The leading French cavalry gets across the ford and occupies the slopes of some high ground on the other side; the Spanish cavalry approach

Both sides rush to reinforce this key point - artillery is brought up in support

The Spanish Army tries to come to the aid of its lead cavalry to launch a co-ordinated attack before the French are really ready

The French artillery is in a good position to enfilade the leading Spanish cavalry

A massed cavalry clash!  The Spanish risk a charge rather than be slowly attrited by the French artillery on the other side of the river

And a wider shot of the same moment

Honours are roughly even in the cavalry melee: one French and one Spanish unit respectively retreat on their supports

However, in the next round of fighting, the French gain the upper hand: the previously defeated Spanish cavalry have been eliminated (centre) but the the previously defeated French cavalry (top-left) have turned the tables on the Spanish

The Victorious French cavalry drive off the Spanish gunners and take their guns too

The wider position - the Spanish are in trouble!

The French cavalry do sever damage to the Spanish light infantry, who retreat towards the safety of the woods; musketry fire from the Spanish skirmishers and square has taken its toll on the French horsemen, however

The Spanish infantry grimly prepare to hold on against the inevitable French attack

Fire from the square destroys the lead French cavalry unit

French skirmishers engage the Spanish infantry in the woods, but come off rather worse...

The French infantry marches up to attack - the Spanish infantry deploy out of square into line to receive them

The view from the French side: skirmishers bicker with the Spanish infantry in the woods to the left, whilst infantry and cavalry move towards the Spanish line (centre)

Combined arms!  Can the Spanish defy the odds and hold?

It was always a bit unlikely...the Spanish retreat, although the French have suffered some loss during the attack

Effective volleys take a heavy toll on the French infantry

But a second attack destroys the Spanish infantry unit and the Spanish army is broken...

Another shot of the moment of victory!
 Game Notes:
A very enjoyable game, since both the scenario and the rules are well-written and designed for fun.  Although very simple, the Neil Thomas' rules do give a bit of a challenge - the saving roll morale mechanism does keep things nicely unpredictable, especially when the sides are even in numbers.  Using these big units does keep things suitably unwieldy too.  I was using my 6mm Baccus figures based for the Polemos rules, so basically units were a 100-figures strong with a frontage of 24 cm when in line.  I think there isn't supposed to be any interpenetration of units in these rules (there definitely isn't in his other rules, although I don't know if it is explicit in this set), which makes things very unwieldy sometimes! This typifies the Thomas approach: using big broad-brush rules to achieve most of what more complicated rules achieve by more detailed mechanisms. The Spanish in this game particularly suffered from this, getting badly out of shape early on.
It is a very traditional set, done very simply: it is all about the interplay of different arms and formations - sometimes characterized as the "rock, scissors, paper" of Napoleonic warfare.  Whilst I am not always very convinced by the analysis behind this, it is part of the dominating narrative of wargaming the period and I prefer this take on it to, say, Black Powder.
I would heartily recommend both rule book and scenario book to the beginner since they are very easy to follow and the mechanisms are very simple, with the idea of tweaking and modifying the rules as players become more familiar with the period and discovering and filling the little gaps in the rules.  For myself, I still prefer the even simpler approach in his "Simplicity in Practice" rules, and I prefer Polemos Napoleonics to both.  But I do enjoy this ruleset - a kind of distilled essence of old-school wargaming - especially for this type of game with 6 - 12 units per side.

Figures by Baccus 6mm.