Monday, 11 January 2021

Some suggested amendments for the Corps-level Portable Naponleonic Wargame rules

THE PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME contained three sets of rules, Brigade-level rules, Division-level rules, and Corps-level rules. Although they all used the same basic game structure and mechanisms, these were adapted to suit the specific level of command being represented on the tabletop. In the Corps-level rules, many of the tactical aspects found in the other rules were abstracted, and players were expected to issue orders to their subordinate commanders ... and these orders were not always acted upon immediately.

Recently, Gary Sheffield has been developing a Napoleonic project based around the 1812 invasion of Russia, and he has made the following amendments to my rules that I think should enhance my simple Command and Control rules. They do required the use of D10, D8, D6, and D4 dice, but I do not think that this will present too many problems to those players who want to use these amendments.

Initial Movements

  • To speed up contact between the armies, at the beginning of the game units may carry out double moves (i.e. infantry move 2 squares, cavalry move 4 squares etc) until opposing units are 4 grid squares apart, at which point, armies revert to normal moves.

Forced Marches

  • Divisions can attempt to force march – i.e. add 1 grid square to the move.
  • This is achieved by rolling a 5 or more on the appropriate die.
  • The chance of this happening is affected by the quality of the divisional commander:
    • Outstanding commanders – Roll a D10 die
    • Above average commanders – Roll a D8 die
    • Average Commanders – Roll a D6 die
    • Poor commanders – cannot get their troops to force march
  • Forced marches carry a penalty.
  • A formation which carries out a forced march that takes them into combat fights then at a disadvantage, so -1 on the die roll.
  • Penalties for force marching are cumulative up to a maximum of -2.
  • Formations can lose penalty if spend they spend 1 or 2 turns stationary and out of combat.
  • Example: French 3rd Division force marches 3 turns consecutively, the 3rd turn taking it into close combat. It thus fights at -2 on the die roll. After the combat it remains stationary and out of combat for 2 turns, thus removing the penalty of fighting at -2. If it had remained stationary and out of combat for only 1 turn, it would have fought the next combat at -1.

Orders (see p.103, para 3)

  • Outstanding commanders – Roll on D10
  • Above Average commanders - Roll on D8
  • Average commanders – Roll on D6
  • Below Average commanders – roll on D4

National Characteristics for the 1812 campaign

  • To represent the national characteristics of the armies in the 1812 campaign, all French Corps and higher commanders are rated as at least above average.
  • To represent the national characteristics of the armies in the 1812 campaign, all Russian units apart from militia are rated as at least Average.
  • No Russian commander is rated higher than average.
Close combat

  • When an entire division is attacked in flank, and some elements of a division is of a superior quality than others (e.g. a mixture of Grenadier and Line brigades), the bonus for elite troops only counts if elite troops are in the majority, (e.g. 2 Grenadier brigades and 1 Line brigade).
  • If as result of winning a combat, the grid square to the immediate front of the victorious unit is vacated by the enemy, the victorious unit may advance to occupy that square.
  • If that brings on another combat, that is fought in the next turn.
  • Dice used in combat:
    • Elite units roll a D8 die
    • Average units roll a D6 die
    • Poor units roll on D6 - 1
  • All Russian infantry when defending get an automatic +1
  • In a situation where multiple attacks are being made on a division spread out over 2 grid squares, only 1 square’s worth of units can have support from a single commander.
  • Troops adjacent to enemy can choose not to engage in combat. This represents a situation where units choose not to close with the enemy; instead an indecisive firefight occurs, which does not produce sufficient casualties to affect the situation of either side.

Results of combat

  • If a unit in column is driven back, the whole division is pushed back – i.e. a base (representing a brigade) doesn't take a further hit through retreating through its own men.


  1. Interesting variations, Bob, and food for thought. Thanks for posting these.

    1. Maudlin Jack Tar,

      I’m not a great loved of using non-D6 dice, but in this case, they are a much better alternative to having a list of bonuses and penalties.

      All the best,


  2. Bob, I too prefer to use D6s (or percentage dice) throughout a set of rules and don't actually have any others, probably because I never played D&D or similar RPGs.
    Using 2d10 to give a percentage I can easily simulate a d4, and can get close to a d8 by treating 12 or 13 % as equivalent to one die spot - close enough for me!
    Otherwise, these additions to the Corps rules look useful.
    Best wishes, Arthur

    1. Arthur1815 (Arthur),

      I have several sets of ‘Platonic solid’ dice, and must admit to having used them in some of my previous wargame rules.

      I suppose that I could redraft Gary’s rules to use percentage dice, but they seem elegant and simple as they are ... and they are a very useful addition to the rules.

      All the best,


    2. To be fair percentage dice predate D&D by a while - the famous Old West skirmish rules of the 1970s used them, as did the old Rudis gladiator rules. They were certainly an essential of my pre-D&D wargames days.

      I prefer D6 wherever possible, but will use other dice if required. I do prefer a game to use only one type though; if you;re going to use D10s, then use them for the whole game ... :)

    3. Kaptain Kobold,

      Have percentage dice actually been around that long? I must admit that I had not realised that they had been ... but on reflection, I must have used them during the 1970s.

      I have already expressed my preference for the god old D6 die, and I have used a variety of different dice in my times in the same rules, but I think that your suggestion for using just one type of die (regardless of whether it is a D4, D6, D8, D10 etc.) in a set of rules is a very valid one.

      All the best,


  3. Well, Having at least one artifact of each of the D# types - and even some D12s kicking around in my Shogun game box, I could playtest these ideas some time. 'Jacko' has been thinking of doing a Napoleonic War, so this sort of thing might be worth extending to Prussians, Austrians and perhaps the minor nations.

    If one wished to bring historical personages into the mix, I'd be inclined to give Above Average ratings to the likes of Prince Bagration and Barclay de Tolly; and, if extending to the others, Archduke Charles should, for each battle, probably roll a die: 1-2 - Average; 3-4 Above Average; 5-6 Outstanding. Michael Kienmayer I'd rate Above Average. For the Prussians, Prince Blucher gets at least Above Average, if - and only if - his Chief of Staff is August von Gneisenau.

    Well... it's a thought!

    1. Archduke Piccolo,

      I’m hoping to try out Gary’s suggestions as soon as I am feeling better. I have the necessary dice in boxes somewhere in my toy/wargame room, but need to find them.

      I think that rating historical generals is something worth doing if one is seriously trying to recreate a historical campaign, although I can see it being a bit of a minefield if players don’t agree on a particular general’s gradings!

      All the best,


    2. Hi Bob -
      There IS that, of course. I recall reading through ratings suggested in commercial rule sets (Age of Eagles being an instance), and finding myself at variance with one or two.

      I don't really see that using historical figures need commit one to historical campaigns. I have long had it in mind an alternate history in which, after much soul-searching, Emperor Napoleon decided not to advance upon Moscow, but to winter in and around Smolensk. Planning to resume the advance come the spring (after the Rasputitsa, of course), he found his 'allies', Prussia and Austria falling away, and abandoned his invasion.

      He gets out of Russia with about half his army intact. A few battles during the retreat were supposed to be the prologue to the substantial campaign in Germany. Other matters supervened, but, like a lot of things, remains on the 'to do' list some time in future.

      Napoleon stays in command, but takes himself off to Paris to knock some heads together and raise a cadre of reinforcements; and he leaves Marshal Davout and Prince Poniatowski with I and V Army Corps in Poland...


    3. Archduke Piccolo (Ion),

      The problem with trying to grade the abilities of real generals is the level of partisanship exhibited by some wargamers. I once had to sit through a dinner with someone who spent the entire time extolling the virtues of Bernard Montgomery ... and they would not countenance any other point of view.

      I like the scenario that you have sketched out in your comment. It certainly makes historical sense, and would generate an interesting number of battles during the withdrawal, with the possibility of one or more of the small nations and states allied with the French changing sides at little or no notice. I can see Napoleon arriving on the scene with a new army just in time to turn the tide back in his favour!

      All the best,


  4. I don't think I've ever played a solo wargame using anyone's rules without a minor change here or there. Some of them work OK, and some are throw-away's. One of the great things about your rulesets are that they tolerate this sort of deviant behavior and still work so well.

    I must admit to never having tried D8 or D10 or anything remotely exotic like that. I am strictly meat and potatoes in wargaming (I still use markers - I know, almost blasphemous - instead of figures), so D6 (or several D6's) seem to work out fine. But these very interesting suggestions from Gary have got me to thinking that maybe I should go get some of these dice and try them out.

    1. Dalethewargamer,

      I fully expect people to modify my rules to suit their own ideas and requirements. I’ve always regarded PW as a toolkit that people can play around with and adapt; unlike some wargame designers, I don’t think of them as being set in stone.

      I’m firmly in the D6 camp, but sometimes it is worth looking at alternatives ... if only to confirm that I still prefer using D6s. That said, Gary’s ideas have considerable merit, and have certainly made me think.

      All the best,


  5. I took a look at Mike's changes and was pleased with what I saw. I've gone so far as to dig out my averaging dice so I can give them a shot in a Waterloo idea I've been knocking around.

    My idea was to play out the siege of Hougoumont, the attack on the center of Wellington's line and the action on the right as separate games. The outcome of each having an effect on the next. I also plan to use cards that inject a little fog of war. Things like "Napoleon orders reinforcements to help" or "An allied howitzer battery opens fire on a target of your choice".

    I finally watched that Game of War video you suggested about the battle of Naseby. It was pretty fun! I liked the free-kriegspiel referee driven die rolls. While he wasn't explicit in what he meant by "Parliament is at a disadvantage in this role" it was easy to guess his intent.

    My plan is to use the averaging dice to add some randomness while I force myself to make better tactical choices. I find myself prone to taking ridiculous risks in wargames so I think I've worked out something to address that.

    1. Mr. Pavone,

      Due to the fact that the Battle of Waterloo seemed to naturally split into an number of separate and distinct phases, I think that your plan should work well. I’ve seen something similar done with regard to the Battle of Gettysburg, and it was a great success,

      The use of Chance Cards is well tried, and can inject the right sort of confusion/fog-of-war into a game, especially if you fight a battle solo.

      I’m very pleased that you enjoyed the GAME OF WAR video. The combat system that Arthur Harman used was based on Livermore’s wargame rules. These were written during the latter part of the nineteenth century (, and were entitled AMERICAN KRIEGSSPIEL.

      All the best,



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