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.

Friday, 11 January 2019

The Portable Napoleonic Wargame - Battle of Helmstedt (the Division game)

The Battle of Helmstedt: For the last of my playtests of the rules within The Portable Napoleonic Wargame I took on the Battle of Helmstedt.

This is the example battle for the rules for Divisional combat, featuring a Prussian force attempting to stop the advance of a French division.  These Divisional rules are very similar to the rules designed for Brigade-level battles but one base represents a couple of battalions, a regiment or a small brigade. 

The Prussian Detachment:

Commander: Gen von Klucke
2 Regts of Infantry (Average)
2 Regts of Infantry (Poor) (I used Landwehr)
1 Regt of Light Cavalry (Poor)
1 Bn of Artillery (Average)

The French Division:

Commander: Gen Janvier
2 Regts of Infantry (Elite)
2 Regts of Infantry (Average)
1 Regt of Light Cavalry (Average)
1 Regt of Cuirassiers (Average)
1 Bn of Artillery (Average)

The Set-Up:
The village of Helmstedt occupies the centre of the battlefield.  The rest of the battlefield contains some scattered woods and a couple of hills (on the left and right edges)

Another shot

Another shot

And a closer look at the buildings (from the Leven range)
 The Battle:

The French arrived first and advance boldly (rashly?) straight down the road, light cavalry in the lead.

The view from the other side of the column.

The Prussians arrived more tardily, so the French Chasseurs a Cheval launched an immediate attack on the Prussian artillery!

The French Cuirassiers moved up the road to support then face to the left flank against the Prussian Hussars (left)

French infantry has rushed up to support the cavalry; the Prussian infantry launch a flank attack to try and disrupt them.  The French Cavalry has worked around the flank of the Prussian artillery (top).

The Prussian Hussars have evaded the French Cuirassiers (top-left) and are joining the attack on the leading French infantry brigade

A wider shot of the same

The Prussian Artillery desperately trying to hold off the French light cavalry (top)

...and fails!  The Prussian artillery is overrun (top).  The French infantry has been pushed off the road but has not been seriously damaged by the Prussian attack

The French Cuirassiers crush a brigade of raw Prussian infantry (top-left)!  Prussian morale collapses...

The position at the end of the battle
Game Notes: Another good, fun game that rattled along at a fair old pace.  The mechanisms are quite similar to those in the Brigade game.  Two different systems of activation are proposed: one card-based, one dice-based (i.e. copy DBx!), although the option is also given to ignore activation (as in the brigade game).  The main apparent difference is that two infantry units can share a sqaure and adopt some formations specific to regiments/brigades: mixed order, double columns and double squares.  There are also some more subtle changes: units are relatively slower and less flexible: they can move or fire or change formation, and so on.  Personally I feel that these make more of a difference to the game play, because they make cavalry much more useful relative to the other arms compared to the brigade game, especially in a meeting engagement.  I don't think that my refight was entirely a fair test: I used the DBA system and the French were much more fortunate in their rolls early on, so as well as being the stronger force, with the stronger cavalry, they were already putting the pressure on the Prussians from practically the beginning and the they could never get themselves organized.  That said, I don't think that I am wrong about the power of the cavalry: their powers are largely intact whilst the powers of the other arms are reduced.  Of course, as mentioned in other reports and by the author himself, the rules are very, very easy to tweak to taste; and the tactical usefulness of cavalry in the Napoleonic era has been disputed ever since the actual wars themselves...

Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings by Leven.


  1. Thank you for yet another excellent battle report. I have been asked why I bothered to produce three different versions on my rules for different command levels, but I think that your three battle reports show why it was necessary.

    I mentioned your two previous battle reports on my blog, and I'll be referring to your latest battle report on my blog at some point over the weekend.

    All the best,


    1. Thanks Bob, I appreciate that. In the next few days, time permitting, I will try and draw all my thoughts together in a review about the book as a whole.

  2. Thanks very much. The re-purposed Monopoly board worked out quite well!

  3. I'm not sure that the greater effectiveness of cavalry in the 'smaller' scale isn't valid effect as with smaller handier units they probably will find it easier to catch someone at a disadvantage. Whether it's overdone of not I can't say.

    1. Hello Rob. I rather think the cavalry is more effective in the 'divisional' battle than in the 'brigade' battle with the bigger units, because the cavalry works almost exactly the same way as in the 'brigade' battle but the infantry and artillery have become less handy. Everyone will have their own ideas about what reflects reality best, of course.

  4. Forgot to say that at a divisional level encounter cavalry will normally be thin on the ground if not entirely absent. Outside the peninsular finding a regiment of cuirassiers attached in this way is unusual (unprecedented - not sure).

    1. Yes, in many they will be absent. On the other hand, they are present in plenty of them too. The Austrian army seemed to do it a lot.