sooner or later;)
Planned: Napoleonic to go with the rules. 4
Ancient and medievals (4) with MEG
Andreas Hofer and Vendée with SP2+
Scenarios of another age (trans-periods twisted scenarios)


Balls, Fire and Steel, Napoleonic.

2023 likely!!!



Cards and counters for playing without minis

next year...


NAPO (or from 18th century till 1870+)

For 10-12 years I played (80s-early 90s !!) the Empire rules. One day we got Empire IV or V, and there was that little thing saying artillery shooting a small % would put your guns out of ammunition.
Prior to that, every gun, every turn (impulse!!) that could, would fire on something. It was free, 3% to hit a skirmishing figure of the 95th rifles at 1000 m so what? Why not try…
Then suddenly in many cases you would have just as many chances to be in trouble than causing some.
Then suddenly scores of near useless die rolling disappeared, our game gained in history, and certainly gained in time saved.
We also had this with Fire and Fury or maybe it was Johnny reB. I vividly remember preparing and artillery “charge”, attack with short ranged confederate guns (12lb/6 lb etc…) to find out that arrived on top of the hill I rolled the dice and hop out of ammunition. One player rightly said this was near idiotic as the artillery guys (as Alexander talking to Longstreet in the film?) would warn you, that it started the run with not enough. One turn being say 15-20 minutes and everyone knows they never ever shoot full speed that long (for once would see nothing in the smoke).
Most players hate book keeping with good reasons. On the other end we want a game that gets you into the troubles, the thinking of those commanders of the time.

On The Miniature page here
And there
You have interesting discussions about this.
In Napoleonic times we often know roughly how much ammunition they had and sometimes how many they shot in a day. Let’s say they had between 200 and 400 round per gun available with the guns and in reserve. Of course you lose a bit of it with caissons that get hit (but most would be staggered backwards out of danger) and you lose guns on the other side that have not shot much.
The French at Borodino fired 91,000 artillery rounds and had 587 guns, (a theoretical 155 rounds fired per gun). We can be assured that not all batteries went in line and that many did not much.
We can conclude that those guns both fire quite slowly and not at all much of the time. But we also know gamers, given half a chance will shoot any time, anything.
We seldom get much news in books about any one running into serious ammunition trouble (but I did get it repeatedly for Prussians in 1806!- and the famous Leipzig-but the reserve train of the French was taken).
Many a gamer/ rules writer, concludes that no need to keep track of ammunition as it was not a problem.
I think it takes the donkey by the wrong end: they did not tell of ammo problems because they saved ammo, never to reach that critical level.


You have then 3 schools of thoughts (at least)
One that puts very low chances at long ranges, or simply forgets shooting at long ranges as “they would not to save ammo”.
Then the ones who puts you with some dies results shutting down your battery.
Then those who do not care.
I think they are wrong. The first one (as with WW2 anti tank) will give the opposition a nice cosy security at ranges where it is known artillery could and sometimes would fire with effects. Look at (in doubt- the bible The Kriegspiel 1828) sources. It brings bad games results. Sure they might not shoot to save ammo but you the guy static in column at 1200m, you cannot be sure of it. No doubt a troubling feeling.
So “we don’t care it is just a game with toys”, you lazy guys, go play fantasy…
Or the “we want all”, let’s put numbers of shots per battery. Then boys we go in trouble as not two countries has the same amount, we only have very partial ideas about the reserves, and then to be accurate you would have to get some sort of slow deliberate shooting (distant- wait for fall, estimate results, clear smoke etc.) and fast close shooting. Hell…

What do we want?
Gamers to have a choice, not to either make the guns ineffective (hey they save!) or short ranged, nor all powerful, 24 turns…
We want gamers to be aware of that problem but not to waste time bean counting which anyway would be wrong (how many rounds is one game shot hey?).
It looks like most armies at one point had this system where caissons would go to the reserves and get filled while others kept the guns supplied (which does not mean firing!). And yes they don’t all do it, not all the time etc. then do specific scenario variations ;)

My favourite compromise comes this way:
Each type of guns (so you don’t store your 3lb to shoot more with the 12lbs!!) in an army (and I do it by batteries- compromise with numbers and organisation) has a general number of reserve rounds. Some cards events/ shooting dice, gets you to go low on ammo, then run out (hey to avoid my old shock with the ACw charge) OR take out one round from the reserve, if your guns are linked to whichever place is your artillery park, normally off table. It also gives you a strong incentive to keep that road open. It has then a limited occasional, randomised bookeeping, with enough rounds and guns, it shields you from most freak results, and it pushes you to shoot when it is best.

Overall it save a lot of shooting rolls, gets you to think ahead and at times get into trouble. The guns can keep their efficiency and be the killers they should be.
Of course if you have a short game, few hours of “real time” forget it, shoot and do not bother unless the scenario says it could be a problem..
I fondly remember games for 1815 where I run out before serious attack, wasting too much on bombardment; another in 1870 when my Germans finally succeeding in getting all these pesky French batteries out of the way, found out they had not enough to shoot the infantry. Bad decisions; realistic stuff.            Back to top



Did you feel like your cavalry was moving in deep mud on your battlefield?

Did you have a bit of a hard time understanding why these generals of the 17th-19th century were sensitive about their flanks and cavalry on those flanks? But you not so much on your tables. Surely they must have been so dumb.

Friedrich Wilhelm Graf von Bismarck (28 July 1783 – 18 June 1860) 1821 « tactique de la cavalerie » (his books were written for instruction of cavalry officers, and translated in multiple languages; he also fought in the Napoleonic wars. He knows what he is talking about.  


Trad : Cavalry at the trot moves three times faster than the accelerated pace of infantry; that is why Zhieten could tell his king: “when I see the enemy my dispositions are already done”.

In case: Ziethen was a renowned cavalry commander of Friedrich the great.

The accelerated pace for infantry was nearly only used for a short time for deployments and changing formations; sometimes from the Napoleonic wars, for fast short light infantry moves.

Another cavalry man Marbot : (at least on these things he would not be controversial ;) 

« s'il s'agit seulement d'une course de dix à douze lieues, que le cheval peut faire aisément au grand trot en quelques heures, et à plus forte raison si elle n'est que de deux ou trois lieues, qu'il peut par courir en moins d'une demi-heure , au galop allongé, que le cheval peut facilement aller une demi-heure au galop, et faire par conséquent trois lieues en une demi-heure; »                                             (une lieue =4 km or 3 km as old measurement no idea which one he spoke of!!)

Were he tells you that a horse can easily do 40 km in a few hours, even easier 10-15 km in less than half an hour. He can easily run half an hour (my neighbour, who is not a horse does 1+ hour every other day) so 9-12 km…. 

Have you ever seen one of your cavalry units run the length of the battlefield of Wachau in a turn of 1/2 hour?

And you will tell me…

Yes I know they are supposed to wait a lot, to get orders etc…so are the infantry. If I ever mentioned this to a rule writer, I got the answer that you”need to fiddle” to fit the table. WHY?

The idea of my rules were “you need to adapt the rules from history, to the space and figures realistically available”. So what realistic speeds should cavalry have on the battlefield, from the time they started to manoeuvre in 2 ranks and speed up? (mid 18th century) ( as I read from one of those distinguished gentlemen, that when on three ranks it was slower…) 


"Ordonnance provisoire sur l'exercice e les manoeuvres de la cavalerie rédigée par ordre du ministre de la guerre du 1er Vendémiaire an XIII" revised 1811 the speed of maneuvers were these:

le calcul des différentes allures qu'un cheval doit parcourir :

au pas, dans une minute, 100 mètres (ou 5o toises); -         6-km/h

au trot , 240 mètres (120 toises)                                               12

et au galop, 3oo mètres (150 toises ).                                      18

Karl von Decker “The Three Arms, Or, Divisional Tactics”: (also was there, fighting and same pedigree as Bismarck) 1827 

« La théorie indique par minute : 120 pas au pas, 240 au trot, 480 au galop ordinaire, 600 au galop de charge. » ( that be 90m -180 – 360- 450m per minute !!!)

« …. lets admit as a rule that a cavalry attack can be 4 times faster than an infantry one.”

C P Escalle's "Des marches dans les armees de Napoleon" is quoted on page 291 of Nafziger's "Imperial Bayonets".

French cavalry was able to move at 4,800 to 5,000 meters (3 to 3.125 miles) per hour and infantry at 3,000 to 3,500 metres (1.9 to 2.2 miles) per hour. However the Regulations provides for movements of up to 4,000 metres (2.5 miles) per hour. The real problem was artillery and other carriage which could seldom exceed 3,000 metres (1.9 miles) per hour because of bad roads. A mixed arms force would move about 3 kph (2 mph) on strategic movement.

General La Roche Aymon 1817 « Manuel du service des troupes légères en campagne» another guy « who was there » ; serving with the Prussian cavalry… 

“Le pas est l'allure de route; c'est l'allure d'une troupe de cavalerie qui va en détachement , d'une troupe , enfin, qui marche à hauteur de l'infanterie (1) qu'elle doit sou tenir ou protéger. Le trot est l'allure de manœuvre , c'est-à-dire que toute la troupe de .cavalerie manœuvrant en présence de l'ennemi , et devant se diriger sur tel ou tel point, soit pour y porter un renfort , soit pour y prendre une position, soit, enfin, pour prolonger une ligne , s'y portera toujours à un trot plus ou moins allongé , selon l'urgence des circonstances et la distance à parcourir. C'est dans cette allure que la colonne ou la ligne conserve le mieux son ensemble , et que les chevaux ne s'essoufflent pas. Le galop est l'allure d'action pu de formations préparatoires à l'action ; par. conséquent , il ne peut et ne doit être que momentané, et réservé pour ces seules occasions; comme il essouffle facilement les chevaux , son emploi exige autant de précaution que d'intelligence. »

Roughly : 

Cavalry manoeuvring in presence of the enemy (so on table !) will always move at the trot as then it can easily keep formations and the horses do not get blown. Gallop is only for “action”(charge) and must be used carefully. (hence the need to blown horses and fatigue…jc) Walk is for road movement or keeping abreast with infantry.

Lt.-Gen. Wilhelm Balck book(s) on tactics turn of the 19th century


We should not take Von Bredow Totenritt of 1870 as a normal case study. But it should be exceptionally done on tables…

Late period info for Balck, but European cavalry from mid-late 18th to the end of the 19th century are mostly manoeuvring/ operating the same way.

We seem to have a consensus of a 4-5km/h moving on the battlefield. Attacks would be way different, as in our games they single up what could be several charges, or cat’s play threatening each other, till one gives up.  

We have another source, a bible, as for wargamers it is the Kriegspiel of 1818 written by officers who also “were there” for their pairs…as a wargame. Generally if your rules do things contrary to what is there, your rules are wrong. 

Kriegspiel : (I was lazy so got it from 2Fatlardies edition which should be in every napy gamers, computer.)


One move =2 min

The trot remains maximum speed for all other cases, with a maximum eight continuous moves at the trot for cavalry and horse artillery. If they exceed this they lose an index point in any attack which happens in the next two moves. For long distances they should always take two moves at the walk after eight at the trot to remain battle-ready.

The 1862 version (more pessimistic) :

Walk on battlefield 250 paces 90m / min

Trot & Walk 400 paces 150m /min

Trot 600 paces 220m /min

They do include minor stops or slowdowns for keeping line formations.

So for a game if we follow this we have for 1/2 hour say 25+ min possible effective forward movement? 6-7 x 450 m at the trot, 3-4 at walk. X 150m so 3- 4 km per hour

So I have cavalry move 1.8-2 km per 1/2 hour if they want to be nicely rested, or if they attack, light cavalry a bit faster than the heavies. If they don’t attack, they can move twice. Attacks and double moves have additional fatigue. Rear area and road marches are a bit faster, assuming roads and march formations. And this is quite conservative, but you do have to watch them get around you ...

“A nos chevaux, à nos femmes, et à ceux qui les montent!” toast of the French cavalry… 

Jc May 2020


An ongoing work...

Most of it taken from that wonder of our times, so much derided by those who don’t want you to learn and discover independently from their approval😉, the Internet, Google books is your friend , Haiti trust, Gallica, project Gutenberg, etc. The newish word does a very decent work at translating in case you don’t find your version.


More often atmospheric than anything else when written by junior officers or even more so by soldiers, but here and there, for games and tactics you can find a little gem. It can be for example that this one provisional line battalion spread in skirmish order in 1813 and sustaining a whole several hours fight like that, successfully. To kill the idea that they were necessarily poorly trained and could not do it etc… JB Barres : Corps de Marmont 1813 div Joubert/Compans

« toute la division se battait en tirailleurs sauf quelques réserves destinées à relever compagnies trop fatiguées » 1/3 casualties voltigueurs 47e provisoire


Serg Fricasse 1800


Memoirs Of General Count Rapp

Thiebault 1

Mémoires de guerre du baron de Comeau

Memoirs-of-the-war-in-Spain-from-1808-to-1814 Ml Suchet

Elzéar Blaze

Tons there:

This discussion brought a lot: on TMP


and on more subjects 

Marbot  Mémoires

               Remarques critiques sur l'ouvrage de Mr le gl Rogniat (Marbot critics of gl Rogniat’s book)


                          ON TACTICS (original sources)

Some of the best were written just after the Napoleonic wars, most of the authors participated and punctuate the stuff with examples, some of it they lived; often those books were used as manuals for officers’ instructions. They had to be careful as read by their peers. In doubt you can believe them rather than ready made accepted wargaming old practice.

Comte de la Roche Aymon:  "De la cavalerie", Paris, 1828-1829

"Remarques sur la Cavalerie", par le general De Warnery

Karl Ernst Wilhelm von Canitz und Dallwitz: "Histoire critique des exploits et vicissitudes de la cavalerie".

"Des cosaques et de leur utilité a la guerre." memoire rédigé et présenté a S. M. l'empereur de Russie en 1816 par le general C. de Benkendorff

C Decker: "The three arms or divisional tactics" 1848

Von Bismarck;  "Tactics of cavalry 1827"

"Mémoires sur l'art de la guerre"  La Roche Aymon

"Manuel du service de la cav legère"  La Roche Aymon

Clauzewitz on 1799 ,1812, 1813 campaigns + On war,  of course.

"Cours complet d'art et d'histoire militaires, ouvrage dogmatique, littéraire et philosophique à l'usage des élèves de l'Ecole royale spéciale militaire" – Jean Thomas Rocquancourt 1837+ 4 vol.

Dienstn Reglement für die k u k Kaiserliche Truppen 1807

Dundas: "Field exercices and évolutions of the army , revised 1833"


A Zhmodikov:  "Tactics of the Russian Army in the Napoleonic_Wars"

Colin. "Tactique"

"Histoire critique des exploits et vicissitudes de la cavalerie pendant les guerres de la Révolution et de l'Empire 1849" Unger

"Tactics"    Balck 

I will put notes to explain why in the rules book and design articles, using  my tons of notes taken... 

Of Pips, command and games, brainstorming.

Yesterday I significantly changed things in my Napoleonic rules. Sort of half departing with the decades old regimental/brigade units towards more flexible (and more fiddly?) 1000 infantry and 4-600 cavalry “units”, mashed up into brigades (with small, average, big sized ones for accuracy). A sort of “sub accounting” of brigades. It would allow flank guards, garrisons, independent cavalry brigades on two waves. It would give cavalry their flexibility. I remember a cavalry division neatly going around the enemy and not doing much damage as it could only crush two batteries per half an hour, from its two brigades’ components, clearly silly. Not battalions, as I still don’t want too many and besides, they will be too small to look good, of infinite sizes variations (to remember!) which means often never right in representations anyway. This prompted a big brainstorming about command and control.

I have a system of orders, with delays and mishaps which, I think, gives a decent rendering of the command problems at higher echelons (army-corps). Parallel to that, in last few weeks I was toying with the need (need?) to play something like Bataille Empire with battalions, to finally be able to use the scenario books of Michael Hopper. This means more painting! I played twice his big Eckmühl scenario, it was fine but the big chunky units were not flexible enough to do it justice. The Austrians should have been able to spread more. Hence the idea that after all, why not use smaller components of my manoeuvre elements (yes I kept it, in honour of my 20 years of Empire playing)?

So I went on changing things, new QRs and so on. Then doubts hit. Will this be too fiddly?

There were 2 basic premises in my game scale choices long ago:

1 lower number of “things” to handle= more troops possible per player. Brigades.

2 The nice-looking big units. More figures per unit.I will now have potentially 12 semi-independent “units” in my Austrian divisions, instead of 4. Sure they can now have only one in square to secure a flank, make refuse flanks in echelons and more. But even if the system promotes grouping for movements and attacks, players being like lawyers, will still sneak into the limit edges of the system.

I was then thinking of re-establishing (it was jettisoned decades ago) a system of control inside the divisions. You know the pips or something similar. Players think it a command system.

1 You must make choices. Good game wise. Does a division general in 1809 have to make choices if he can “move” 4 or 8 of his 12 battalions? I think not. He might want to, say assault a hill. He wants it coordinated. It comes down to how many sub commanders he must explain that to disseminate the manoeuvre to all the units. In the case of this Austrian, two brigadiers and 4 colonels or just the brigadiers who will in turn do it. The difference between Erz. Ludwig and Friant, one relatively inept young, there because of family, and one with 15 campaigns and a position because of his obvious abilities? Not hat Ludwig will move 5 and Friant 9, but that Friant might have it ready in 20 minutes when the other one will take an hour.

2 The limit on units going all over the place. Right. But why should they do that? We have a forever contradiction: Some claim we have too much control over the troops, but in the end we, the players move them, turn left or right, no matter what pips or not we have, we just can do it less. More important I think is the orders/ the intend/ the attitude these troops have. If they are ordered to assault that hill, in most cases, once orders are received, they will go and try. There can be bad coordination, delays, lack of enthusiasm, but overall, they will go unless some more pressing threat arises. The threat thing is often under evaluated in games. We the player also overrule it. We might carry on things the real ones would be reluctant to attempt, because we see and know more than they do. The famous helicopter general. Pips limit your freedom of pushing everything, but you entirely chose what to push. If coupled with orders (as in Bataille Empire) you get a bit of both command and control. But…

I remember an officer telling me, loosing control of the troops (that was about urban fights, groups you can’t see, without comms etc.) is not like in games that they do nothing, that would be easy. It is that they do things, you don’t know where and what. I tried to get a bit with this, having a system for uncontrolled units, doings things linked to the situation and their orders. My take is that in the game control is a fast intervention of the leader, things under his eyes, in the end often via the famous directing unit. Many other things would be reactions to threats, not easy as you the gamer do it in the end, not the troops.

My main pet against pips came from old DBm games. You have this big cavalry wing you sent on a wide outflanking move., you just had a 5 for them. Then they slow down as you have only 2s fine, they got cautious, found obstacles, missed alignments, you name it. But...

Then the enemy who often interferes with your best plans, gets something on the opposite wing that gets nasty. It literally swallows your pips into a fight. Your flanking wing who in real life you told to go an hour ago, suddenly, slows down or halts, the pips being used elsewhere. They still have their orders, they have possibly no clue of what is happening on the other wing. To change their orders would take a big delay in real life. Perhaps your general got all his attention into this new fight, his aides there too. In that case the flanking wing would even more do what it was sent for, not stopped.

I have this with orders, distances, and delays. Most of my orders, you will be happy to know consist of a simple marker under the commander, arrow and code attitude. Nothing is perfect. We still don’t have to be lazy. The occasional slow down and stops of Fire And Fury systems are better for control than pips. They and their occurrence don’t depend much on you. Events cards played with a chance to work can do that too. The problems of command:

Delays, distances, misunderstandings, coordination, cretins, smoke, terrain,sheer bad luck and more. If the game turn or decision segment, is long enough it can “swallow” many of these.

I don’t want an excellent commander with 15 bn (Davout’s corps divisions in 1809) be in trouble because too many, and a smashed-up Austrian with only 6 left, happy with life as clearly we don’t read of Gudin, Friant, Morand etc. having terrible problems with 15bn.

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