Sunday, 20 January 2013

Gerard de Gre's Napoleonic Wargame Rules ... as modified by Charles and David Sweet: the rules

Originally by Gerard DeGre
Modified by Charles and David Sweet

The game is played on a board divided into 4” squares which determine all movement, firing ranges, and melee involvement. Except for retreats, measurement or movement on the diagonal is counted as 1.5 rather than 1.

A. Opponents move alternately. The sequence of a turn is as follows:
  1. Both sides fire artillery (except held canister).
  2. Both sides fire musketry.
  3. Attacker moves.
  4. Defender fire held canister.
  5. All melees are fought.
  6. End of turn, next turn begins with the attacker becoming the defender, and vice versa.
B. No unit, once formed, may separate or reform, except artillery, light infantry, or light cavalry. Commanders may join or leave any unit.

C. No two different units of one side may be in the same square, except artillery may form in any way, as long as there are no more that 2 guns, 1 supply wagon, or 6 crew stands in one square, and commanders may join any unit with a limit of 1 commander per square.

D. A move begun, travelled entirely upon, and ended on a road is lengthened by one square.

E. No unit may move through enemy units. If two enemy units are diagonally adjacent, the space between them may not be moved through.

F. A gun must have at least 1 stand of crew to move it. Anyone may move a gun. In case of conflicting speeds the gun moves at the slowest rate.

G. Attacker may limber, unlimber, or face in any direction freely at any time. Defender may not limber or unlimber, but may face around +/- 90° if in square adjacent to a melee contact square. After a melee, both sides may face around in any direction freely. Every unit must at all times face in one direction towards one side or corner (exception – see squares).

A. All guns of both sides can fire on a given turn, even if destroyed on that turn. Any other stands destroyed on a turn may not fire back.

B. To be able to fire, a gun must have 1 stand of artillery men and be unlimbered.

C. Each foot battery has 3 shots per turn at the beginning, 2 field guns and 1 howitzer. If 1 gun or the supply wagon is lost, the battery has two shots per turn, 1 field gun and 1 howitzer. If 1 gun and the supply wagon are lost, the battery has a choice of 1 field gun or 1 howitzer shot per turn. If both guns are lost, the battery has no shots per turn.

D. Each horse gun has 1 horse gun shot per turn.

E. A gun may not fire at an angle greater than +45° from the direction it is facing, up to its maximum range. Squares occupied by friendly troops adjacent to a gun screen it and keep it from firing in that direction. Friendly troops two or more squares away do not screen. However, a hit on a friendly stand destroys it.

F. To fire a field or horse gun, place the model gun to the rear relative to the intended target. Platforms may be used at the same elevation of guns on hills. The gun is fired and a 1” radius circle is placed with its center on the tip of the Q-tip where the Q-tip came to rest. Any one stand which has any part of it within the circle is a casualty. To destroy a gun or wagon, the tip of the Q-tip must be touching it. If a gun or a wagon is destroyed, its crew (1 stand) is destroyed with it. If the tip of the Q-tip comes to rest over water, the shell is presumed to have landed in it and does no damage.

G. To fire a howitzer, proceed as in G, but use a catapult, flipper or other arching weapon, and measure the circle from the center of the projectile. A howitzer cannot be screened.

H. Canister – A gun may fire canister instead of its normal shot into any adjacent square within +/- 45° of the direction it is facing. Canister cannot be fired into a square containing friendly troops. To fire, call the target square and roll 3 dice for each field gun or howitzer shot, 2 for each horse gun shot. Kill as per musketry at the proper range. Canister may be fired with the rest of the artillery, or held until enemy units pass within range. But if held, no other shot can be fired, and if the gun is destroyed, of if no enemy units pass within range, the gun cannot be fired at all.

A. Musketry is simultaneous, after artillery fire but before movement. Any stand destroyed by musket fire which has not fired may fire back if otherwise possible.

B. Firing is by units. Line infantry may fire straight ahead only. Any other musket-firing unit may fire straight ahead +/- 45°. Any units in the way at any distance screen and prevent fire by either side at the screened units.

C. Each stand throws one die when firing. If the unit firing is a Guards unit, it adds one die. If a Commander is present, the unit adds one die. Any unit after the first firing at the same target adds one die. Dice may also be subtracted if the target is in a protected square (see Protection).

D. To fire, roll the correct number of dice and refer to the table below:

E. Each hit destroys one target stand. If more than one type of unit can be destroyed, firer gets his choice.

A. A unit must move into a square occupied by the enemy to make a melee. This square becomes the contact square. Units in adjacent squares may face around to support (remember attacker may face any direction, defender may face around only +/- 90°). They are able to support in any direction of the contact square if the first table says “yes”. However, if a defending cavalry unit cannot support an infantry or artillery unit at the beginning of the turn, it cannot wheel to do so. Units able and willing to support are included in the melee (a unit does not have to support if it does not want to). All supports must be indicated before the melees are resolved; attacker does so first, then defender. A unit may fight in only one melee a turn.

B. Except for a commander, a unit must consist of more than one stand.

C. To resolve a melee the value of each side is totalled. Each side then chooses a Melee Deployment Indication (MDI) and the result is determined (see table at end of rules). Fight as follows:

EQUAL DEPLOYMENTS – If unequal numbers, weaker and stronger sides each lose value equal to ½ the strength of the losing side. Weaker side then retreats 2. If one side is more than 3 times the strength of the other, the remainder of the weaker side is destroyed rather than retreating. If numbers are equal, each side loses ½ and retreats 2.

UNEQUAL DEPLOYMENTS – Inferior deployment lose 1 for the first superior 1, 1 for each 2 superior remaining. Superior deployment loses 1 for each 2 inferior casualties. Weaker side then retreats 2, of if the numbers left are equal, then the inferior deployment retreats 2. But if one side is 3 or more times the strength of the other, the remainder of the weaker side is destroyed instead of retreating.

D. If withdrawal (MDI) does not succeed, treat it as an inferior deployment. If it does succeed, all withdrawing units retreat 2 without loss taking their equipment with them.

E. The first stand destroyed in a melee is in the contact square. Thereafter destroy in a clockwise circle, spreading kills as evenly as possible among all the units involved.

F. Because units have different values, the exact number as specified above, cannot always be destroyed. Therefore follow the rules as closely as possible, flipping a coin to settle a dispute if necessary. The opponent’s sense of fair play is to be relied upon. EXAMPLE: A has 2 line infantry and 2 guards cavalry stands and is to lose 3.5. He loses 1 line infantry and 1 guards cavalry stand and flips a coin with B to see whether or not he loses a second line infantry stand.

G. For retreats only, diagonal moves are counted 1 instead of 1.5. Retreats toward the rear for defender, or toward the direction the unit came from, for the attacker. If enemy units are in the way, the retreat skirts them but goes as much as possible in the correct direction. If retreat is impossible (enemy units and/or impassable terrain cut retreating units off), the retreating units are destroyed.

H. Superior deployment (unless destroyed) captures all equipment. If deployment equal, stronger side captures all equipment. If everyone dead, equipment remains in the open, belonging to neither side.

I. All remaining units at the end of a melee may face freely in any direction.

A. Any square containing rocks, trees, houses, etc. is called a protected square. For artillery (except canister) to destroy units in a protected square the tip of the Q-tip or other projectile must be in the square and be within 1” of a stand; otherwise no stands are destroyed. One die is subtracted from each gun firing canister or each unit firing musketry into a protected square. If the contact square of a melee is in a protected square, the attacker destroys one less the he normally would.

B. Before each game, special rules for restrictions on movement, extra protection, etc. for forts, hills, and other large terrain features may be agreed upon.

C. Bridges are not considered protection.

D. If the tip of the Q-tip or other projectile is touching a tree, house, bridge, or other inflammable object, roll 2 dice. If one 1 shows, the square is burning and all units must retreat 1 out of it. Thereafter it is impassable. If double ones are thrown, the square burns up and everyone and anything in it are destroyed. Thereafter the square is considered normal and may be moved through, etc. as usual. A burning square screens as unit normally do.

7. COMMANDERS – support in the same way as the unit they accompany. However, if acting independently they support as shown in the first table.

A. Any number of line or guards infantry units may form a Square. To form a square, or to break one voluntarily, takes one entire move, Long rectangular “squares” are not allowed. A Square must have at least 1 stand per square of frontage facing forward, backward, left, and right or it is not a Square legally.

B. A Squared is the only formation which faces in more than one direction. Squares cannot move, but they may fire and support in any direction as per the ability of the units which form them. Cavalry cannot melee an unbroken square. Since all melees are simultaneous, for cavalry to melee a Square it must be broken before any movement begins.

C. A Square is broken when 1 or more sides fall below the legal limit of 1 stand per square of frontage. Defender must immediately face every stand of each unit in 1 direction, which he can choose. Broken Squares receive none of the unbroken Squares advantages.

9. RETREAT – As soon as a unit is down to one stand, except light infantry, on each of its turns it must retreat 1 full move backward until it is destroyed or retreats off the edge of the board. The stand may face in any direction, and fire and fire and support if possible, but it cannot advance or attack. All artillery stands are considered 1 unit together. Guards infantry and cavalry are exempt.

10. If a unit retreats off the board, it is set apart from the destroyed units. It fights no more, but still counts for points at the end of the game.

11. Either side may destroy any of its equipment at the end of any turn.

12. Games last until 1 side surrenders or is destroyed, or after an agreed number of turns. If the last case occurs, the cost points of each side (including units retreated off the board) are totalled, and the highest total wins. [ED. NOTE points could be awarded for capturing certain objectives].


MDIs are 6 cards, 1 set to a side each card marked with one of the possible deployments. The deployments and their value are described below:
COLUMN is superior to FLANKING and PINCERS
LINE is superior to COLUMN and SQUARE
SQUARE is superior to PINCERS and COLUMN
FLANKING is superior to LINE and SQUARE
PINCERS is superior to FLANKING and LINE
WITHDRAWAL succeeds against LINE and SQUARE
THE FIRING GUN – An actually-firing gun of plastic is used to represent field or horse gun fire, and a homemade catapult for howitzer fire. The field/horse gun shell is a Q-tip dipped in paint and allowed to harden, while the howitzer shell is a small square of plasticine whose centre has been marked, so no troops are hurt by this method. We also feel an element of personal skill is introduced into the game (certain players of this game are renowned for their accurate artillery). The realism of windage, faulty charges, crosswinds, and other spoilers of aim is simulated by the bouncing and rolling of the shells. In addition, with this method the artillery commander can make the classic mistake and fire at his own troops. The guns are reasonably accurate at short ranges, much less so at longer ones. Not only is the method realistic, but the game is thereby speeded up and much dice rolling is eliminated.

ORGANIZATION – Our organization is a compromise one between the various nations. We have a tendency to mass elite units. However, our games turn out realistically for the most part if a little on the bloody side. They are decisive and allow skill to triumph over luck.

Each line and guard infantry, and guard cavalry unit consists of 4 stands. Each light infantry and cavalry and line cavalry unit consists of 3 stands. A foot battery consists of 4 foot crew, 1 mounted crew, 2 foot guns, and 1 supply wagon. A horse battery consists of 1 mounted crew and 1 horse gun.

GUARDS – This is our designation for elite, heavy infantry and cavalry units which are not always strictly guards. For instance, the 42nd foot was not called guards by the British Army, but since it definitely was an elite unit which was distinct from and better than normal line infantry regiments, we designate it as a guards infantry unit.

Our armies usually consist of several basic divisions apiece. Each division contains:
3 line infantry units
1 guards infantry unit
2 light infantry units
1 line cavalry unit
1 light cavalry unit
1 guards cavalry unit
2 foot batteries
1 horse battery
1 division commander


  1. Well done Bob.

    I've taken the liberty of importing the text into a word file. I will print them tomorrow and give them a good read through!


  2. Jim Duncan,

    I am really pleased to have done it; it was worth the effort I put in transcribing it.

    I hope to make it available as a download tomorrow ... after doing a bit of reformatting, proof-reading, and improving the layout.

    All the best,


  3. Bob,

    Can you define MDI? Thanks,


  4. To resolve a melee the value of each side is totaled. Each side then chooses a Melee Deployment Indication (MDI)

    Sorry didn't catch it first read through!

  5. By the time I played there, Dave abd Charlie actually used some old, cheap black Dominoes with the "spots" face papered over and painted white, and the Deployment then drawn and letter onto it. Each player had a set of these six Melee Deployment Indicators. In case it is not obvious, the inclusion of Withdrawal MDI adds some tension to the selection process. I had terrible luck with them, LOL, and eventually went to deleting Withdrawal and then choosing from the other five at random... which didn't seem to do any better! :-)


  6. Grognard1789,

    I think that you answered your own question!

    I must admit that I think that I would have to play through a couple of turns to see how the system worked, but it is a bit different from the normal 'total up and throw a dice' system.

    All the best,


  7. Gonsalvo (Peter),

    It sounds like an interesting system to use ... and one that reflects the character of the players as much as any other I have ever seen.

    I wondered what happened if you kept 'playing' the same MDI ... and now I know!

    Thanks very much for sharing your experience and reminiscences with us.

    All the best,


  8. Hi Bob,
    Avalon Hill's boardgame, "1776", had "tactical cards" very much like the MDI's. Most of the time, they almost balanced out, but every once and a while, someone would get the stuffing beat out of them due to the card matrix.
    I think I am going to enjoy trying this out immensely. Thanks again for making it available.

  9. Steven Page,

    I would be interested to know which came first; Avalon Hill's game or MDIs.

    The wargaming 'world' was a lot smaller then, and cross-fertilisation of ideas from one genre of wargames to another seems to have been far more prevelant that it is now.

    I look forward to hearing how you get on with the rules.

    All the best,


  10. Thanks for your work on presenting these for us Bob, and thanks to Dick for his gracious permission and help.

    I see Stephen beat me to the mention of 1776 with its tactical card matrix, I remember playing a few games in college but couldn't remember the title or maker.

  11. Ross Mac,

    It was very good of Dick Bryant to give his permission for me to transcribe these rules so that they could be made available to a wider audience.

    The use of the MDIs/Matrix Cards is interesting. One of the reasons why I like to read many of the 'old' sets of wargames rules because of the ideas that they can generate. They often have solutions to problems that 'modern' wargamers are trying to solve ... and I happen to think that this is a good case in point.

    All the best,