Cavalry and ChargesOne of the most overlooked and mistreated aspects of Napoleonic wargaming, in my opinion of course, is cavalry. I've seen all sorts of mistreatment - from a cavalry action on one flank that is essentially a game unto itself, until one side late in the game squeaks out an advantage (which may be pointless), to cavalry mixed in among infantry that forms square and shoots the cavalry to pieces, to cavalry charging into a unit, destroying it then sitting there doing nothing while getting blown away. So ... what to do about all this?
Of course, for a rules set it is all about generalization and/or the 80/20 rule. There are always exceptions to the rule of thumb, especially for a conflict that ran as long, and spanned as many armies and battles, as the Napoleonic Wars. That being said, in general you would see small amounts of cavalry attached to brigades or divisions, with significant formations of cavalry being deployed to a flank position or - perhaps most commonly, in a reserve position behind the main line to react to enemy breakthroughs or to exploit opportunities. With that in mind, my thinking here is to do the following:
- "Full" cavalry formations are not deployed initially on the tabletop (unless there is significant space in the "rear area" of the table, but that is unlikely if you are playing 28mm. Instead, they arrive later in the game. Army commanders will roll a number of dice per turn. Commander qualities will apply but be simple/straight forward ... either a command is poor, average, or good. Let's say a command gets three dice (regardless of quality). At the start of a turn, the commander rolls those three dice. If the command is poor, they must discard results of 1, 2, or 3. Average discard results of 1 or 2 and good commanders discard results of 1. The remaining dice can be used for a few different things (and can be saved across turns, with a limit of 3 being saved and rolled over into the next turn). It takes 4 of these command dice to call a reserve brigade (not just of cavalry, but any formation) onto the table in the "center" of the table (divide your side of the table into three sections, left, center, and right). 5 of these dice allow you to shift the entry point to either the left or right thirds. An opponent on any turn following the entry of a reserve brigade, may use 4 dice to bring their brigade onto the table in the opposite sector (not additional dice required) - this representing the opposing formations reacting (if able given the number of dice) to the commitment of reserves. I'll stop there, but that should paint a general picture of my intention to have cavalry act more like a reserve reaction/exploitation formation. Cavalry units attached to infantry brigades would deploy normally with their brigades ... these rules would govern any reserve brigade, not just cavalry, but dedicated cavalry brigades would always start in reserve (unless specified differently by a scenario).
The second consideration I had was charges. Loosing an entire cavalry brigade or division was career ending, potentially army ending, and certainly made headlines at the time. As a result, many commanders were hesitant to commit cavalry unless desperate or confident of the outcome. Lots of cavalry charges can be found throughout many battles, but commonly when a cavalry unit charged they would go as hard and far as they could ... then they'd be out of the battle ... if not permanently, at least for a significant amount of time while they reformed. My thought here is:
- Makes charges an "all or nothing" thing. First, for cavalry specifically, rather than charging they can declare a "threatening" charge against an infantry formation (which burns their order/activation). The cavalry unit does not move but the infantry unit is required to form square (of course, the cavalry have to be able to charge the unit following the normal rules).
- For charges that do happen, use breakthroughs and fight melee normally, with victorious units either being required to declare another charge immediately following a victorious charge, or finishing their action "for the day." Once the fighting is done and the unit has "gone the distance" - the unit must either consolidate on the position or withdraw, but either way, that unit is no longer capable of charging for the rest of the game. This represents the big charge/push followed but such a level of disorganization and need for reforming that the unit is not destroyed, but other than defending itself, as spent itself for the portion of the battle being fought in the game.
Clearly all this needs to be play tested ... but hopefully the intention is clear. Units didn't bounce around constantly in good order charging everything that moved or looked at them funny. A charge was a big deal, and when done, was usually the end of the unit for many hours if not an entire day or battle (depending on the number of casualties sustained).
RanksThe part of this is ranks. Now, again, rule of thumb. With so many armies and constant reorganizations occurring throughout the war, there is always an exception. That being said, in general we can say that the British used the 2 rank system (ok, you can argue there was an incomplete third rank in some cases being used to replace casualties, but the primary formation was a 2 rank system). Most everyone else used the trusty old 3 rank system. Although this is a well known fact about Napoleonic formations, I've never seen this employed on the tabletop.
First, I've decided to shift my collection to a 1:20 (or so) figure scale. This means I'll use 36 figure battalions for the French (for example). I've seen many use this figure ratio and unit size, but they base the figures normally 3 wide by 2 deep. I've decided instead to use the three rank system, and base each "company" 2 wide and 3 deep. Pictures below of what I mean ...
Anyways, that occupied my thinking this past week ... and my first unit to get converted over is some relatively new miniatures from Perry Miniatures that I needed to base anyways.
In other news, I've submitted a large order to Perry Miniatures for a Russian army, and for lots of casualties and battlefield extras (wagons, ambulance, etc.). I'm also going to finally wrap up the last touches on my Austrian army (which is rather large) --- which is significant as those units are going from 24 figures to 48!