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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Thursday 20 February 2020

Bataille Empire

This is a new set of rules for the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars period. The author is Herve Caille who wrote the ancient and medieval rules L'Art de la Guerre (ADLG).

I play a bit with ADLG in 15mm and 28mm, so I was interested to see how he would adapt them for Napoleonics. I have extensive 15mm Napoleonic armies from my time as a Principles of War player, and I have never really found a satisfactory replacement, other than Black Powder.

The good news is no rebasing. He has provided a very flexible basing system which will fit just about anyone's system. My PoW armies are based on 30mm elements (3 to a unit) and while at the lower end of the range, they work fine. As with ADLG, he uses the concept of units of distance, which is usually the width of your elements.

The scale is very flexible as well. This is a battle game, not skirmishing or small actions, and you can scale up from battalion to regiment/brigade for big battles. As with ADLG, all the rules are in the book, plus a big collection of army lists, so no extra expense with supplements. They even have specific lists for the Balkans! There is also a good forum for the rules online - in English.

There is the usual range of Napoleonic troop types and some special abilities like lance, good/poor shooters etc. Those unconvinced by the British cavalry being impetuous will moan, but you can always adapt it.

Commanders and command are similar to ADLG, although the CinC's job is primarily to give general orders (attack, engage, hold, reserve etc) to his divisions. The big change from ADLG is the sequence of play. This is pretty complex and requires more markers, making the table more cluttered than ADLG. The sequence is important because it allows a range of firing and charging options, before the normal movement and firing stage, which comes last.

Fire combat uses the usual 45 degrees line of sight and infantry have to get pretty close (2 UDs) to shoot. There are a lot of factors and keeping your units supported is important in fire and melee combats. Cannon fire has a ricochet rule which can still do damage to your supporting units. Skirmishers are treated separately.

For my test game, I decided on something a little different - Swedes v Russians in Finland 1808-09. I was in Stockholm last month and the army museum has a good section on this less well-known conflict.

The game had two Russian divisions with attached cavalry against two Swedish infantry divisions and a small cavalry division.

Both sides had engage orders, which requires at least half the division to make full moves until they get within firing distance. This is the most flexible order, but attack gives combat bonuses in return for less flexibility. CinCs can change orders for one CP, not that difficult in a small battle like this, but it could be more challenging in a big battle.

The Swedish cavalry got stuck in quickly and was pretty effective. The cohesion points markers will be familiar to ADLG players, but these rules also have attrition points, effectively half a cohesion point.

Then a more general infantry engagement, which the Swedes narrowly won. It might have been different if the Russians had attacked more quickly.

Overall, the game played well. It is a bit more complex and slower than I might have wished. There is a lot to remember, but a big plus is a decent index. I may even copy it to go with the playsheet.

ADLG players will have a bit of a start as the mechanisms are similar, but it is a very different game. My initial impression is that it reflects warfare in the period well, if at the cost of some playability. I will persevere.

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