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Subject: On musketry firing in Napoleonic wargames rss

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This post was inspired by amazing post of
Jason Cawley
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What nearly all tactical Napoleonic games get wrong

Once we settle on idea, that same infantry frontages deliver symmetrical rate of hits per unit time irrespective of their densities and depth beyond 3rd ranks, two questions arise:

1) what happens when units of different frontages start shooting at each other? Typical case: line vs column

2) what is the fair decrease in "loss rate", when musketry shooting occurs between closed (let say line) and open (skirmish) orders comparing to "line vs line"?

Basic assumptions, used for further analysis:
1. French battalion of 540 men, 90 men per company
2. 2 feet (60cm) of frontage per man, thus company in closed order takes 60 feet (18m)
3. Line is 3R-line of 6 companies with 2 of 3 ranks shooting
4. Column is column of attack (closed in mass) by divisions - 2 companies wide, 3 companies deep
5. Closed column 2х3 depth is about 12-15 paces deep (2 paces per company deep, 3 paces between companies) or 10m
6. Skirmishes are represented by one company (90 men), 1/3 of which are kept as reserve at the rear and thus not shooting and are not hit by enemy fire. Others in 2 ranks, 5 paces apart
7. Effective musket range: 100 to 200 yards max, 50 to 75 effective
8. Maximum firing range‎: ‎300 yd (275 m)
9. Muzzle velocity 1000-1200 ft/s (300 to 370 m/s)
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Part 1. Line vs column
Most rulests consider "line vs column" shooting to be of the same “loss rate” as “line vs line” and some even provide additional premium to line firing against the column target, comparing to target in line, assuming that due to the deeper formation more hits will reach rear ranks of the former.

1) On additional premium for firing at deep formation (column over line)

a) when hitting front ranks, deep formations carry higher losses in case of artillery fire, as front ranks don’t stop the ball, though they stop small musket balls
b) infantry was drilled to aim low of the enemy to compensate raise of the weapon when depressing the trigger
c) musket ball makes 75 yards in about 1/4 of second, falling just about 30-50cm, which makes this distance almost point blank range
d) musket ball makes 10m (closed column depth) in less than 0.05 sec and falls just additional 15 cm within such dustance
d) b - d leads us to conclusion, that no significant ballistic trajectory was implied to hit rear ranks overshooting front ones

So there is no point in providing significant premium for infantry firing at closed column at effective musketry range

PS. Enfilade fire to line though is another animal as “depth” is already not so minor comparing to distances, where ballistic of musketry ball comes into importance


2) On loss rate itself for line shooting column and vice versa

Lets start with column shooting at line comparing to line shooting at line. In this case the answer is pretty straightforward: column frontage is 3 times less, so amount of balls issued by column (and thus - hits obtained by line) shall be 3 times less

With line firing at column it’s not as simple due to following reasons
a) line frontage is 3 times wider, so theoretically it issues 3 more balls per unit time
b) being in closed formation, which line definitely is, one can deviate from its “shoot straight” direction within around 45 deg max sector (22.5 left or right), so not to shoot through the head of his comrade
c) diagonal shooting increases range for flank companies

Lets model column advances against the centre of enemy line. Below are the angles of deviation for each company necessary for this company hit the nearest company of the enemy:



As we can see, within effective range only 2 of 6 companies in line can bring their ammo into firing at target, thus preserving JasonC's statement of symmetrical “loss rate” for two formations.

If attack is a bit offset to the left or right flank, green sector becomes even more narrower, leaving just 2 companies of 6, at longer range distances.

It leads us to the following implications on the rules
a) line vs column shooting brings symmetrical efficiency and loss rate as 1 to 3 comparing to line vs line (exact ratio may vary, depending on the type of column used in your ruleset)
2) attack with 2 columns simultaneously will expose both of them to the similar loss rate from 4 companies, while giving double frontage to attacker as well, so you’ll just double the mutual loss rate, or can treat mutual fire for each column separately

Any comments and feedback more than welcome!
On skirmishers a bit later...
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Eric Schaefer
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Please correct me if am not understanding the question completely, but I believe that CoA's/Marshalls "L'Bataille" series takes the Line vs. Column firing differences into account.

I believe that a unit in column just uses its specific fire value printed on the back of the counter. A unit in line formation can fire 4 increments (only) out of a single hex, and depending on the nationality, gets a fire multiple (x2, x3, or x4) during its fire attack.

The fire defense of a unit in line is higher than a unit in column, so there is a higher chance that a unit in column will sustain a loss. (EX: A 4 x 3 = 12/a column defense of 6 would be 2:1 on the fire effects chart. I don't think it is a question of "over shooting", but a question of fire concentration of a wider field of fire (line), against a smaller frontage (more concentrated troops). I would think that (in game terms) the loss rate would balance out in the end....

Thoughts?
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Schaefe wrote:

The fire defense of a unit in line is higher than a unit in column, so there is a higher chance that a unit in column will sustain a loss. (EX: A 4 x 3 = 12/a column defense of 6 would be 2:1 on the fire effects chart. I don't think it is a question of "over shooting", but a question of fire concentration of a wider field of fire (line), against a smaller frontage (more concentrated troops). I would think that (in game terms) the loss rate would balance out in the end.
Hi, Eric

I haven't played "L'Bataille" series yet, but from what you're describing that's the thing which seems to be broken. Why would the column to have such different qualities comparing to line?

1) line doesn't have so much wider field of fire, when firing on column, because of inability of shooters to turn the tube significantly, so realy used frontage of line is closely equivalent to column, especially at effective range (see first diagram in Part 1, item 2)
2) for given frontage the density of line is exactly the same as of column from musketry fire prospective - the very same company, set aside "overshooting" to rear companies, which I believe to be minor
3) given similar effective frontage irrespective of density "loss rate" in the unit of time shall be the same for both line and column

Hope it helps
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Schaefe wrote:
Please correct me if am not understanding the question completely, but I believe that CoA's/Marshalls "L'Bataille" series takes the Line vs. Column firing differences into account.

I believe that a unit in column just uses its specific fire value printed on the back of the counter. A unit in line formation can fire 4 increments (only) out of a single hex, and depending on the nationality, gets a fire multiple (x2, x3, or x4) during its fire attack.
Seems pretty sensible. The whole idea with columns was maneuever and assault, and as I understand it the soldiers at the front of the column would often just shoot from the hip before going in to preserve momentum. Prep fire was the job of skirmishers (who would often shoot prone and thus better) and artillery. If a firefight did break out the column would, as a rule, deploy into line which was a standard tactic (though not super-easy, hence the clumsy and inexperienced "battering ram" columns sometimes).

Anoher factor that is clear from Napoleonic accounts and that rules may or may not model is the importance of fire discipline. The first salvo was exponentially more powerful (because of properly loaded muskets, less smoke etc) than the others, but troops would often waste it by firing too soon and/or high which was a well known fact to experienced attackers. So with proper fire prep, some smoke, a brisk pace, and plenty of hollering the risk would be significantly reduced. On the other hand just one well-timed salvo from steady troops who held their fire could wreak havoc.
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Paul Borchers
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Quote:
2) for given frontage the density of line is exactly the same as of column from musketry fire prospective - the very same company, set aside "overshooting" to rear companies, which I believe to be minor
What about shots that miss to the left and the right of the leading ranks? Isn't there a greater chance of those shots striking someone further back in a column formation? And if the front rank develops gaps because of casualties, are those filled by closing the lines from the left and right, or bringing forward men who are further back?

In any event, the column formation was meant for either assault or maneuvering to a position from which to deploy into line. It was generally not the intent for a column to get into a firefight with a line.
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eric chazottes
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An interesting subject for sure.

2/3 diagrams hereafter, the one with columns by divisions show how many volleys the attacker will get in theory. 50-200 is for distance in meters.
1-3 for the # of potential volleys. The missing elements are the rate of advance used by the attacking side (# steps per minute) or "pas de charge",
and the *fire discipline* showed by the defending side.
more or less, an assault situation, without skirmishers in the gaps between the Bns, and you need to visualize severals Bns "going in".

the other diagram is for the fire engagement distance : long, medium, close, which should drive the mutual loss exchange rate. for a tactical game you might manage fire attacks at brigade/div. level, and give the players the option to choose a posture (close, med, long) in order to show *early, regular and late fire*.







i think the key is in C2 > what is the commander intent > mission (orders) at brig/div level > so you will engage the skirmishers or line infantry in order to conduct (a)fire combat or (b)an assault.

formed infantry will provide unaimed fire (straight so no oblique fire)
skirmishers provide aimed fire
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Jason Cawley
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You should not assume that a line is wider than a column.

You should not assume that the firing formation is a battalion.

You should not assume that the two formations contain the same number of men.

You should not assume that 75 yards is point blank; it isn't, and significant misses will occur at that range.

You should not assume there is some correct fixed average lethality for a musket fired at a formed infantry target. It is a sensitive function of the range.

You should not assume the volleys between two closed infantry formations are delivered at the same time.

You should not assume the volleys between two closed infantry formations delivered at different times are delivered at the same range.

Men had to be urged to fire low because they didn't; most misses were high and there were *a lot* of them. We know this because most men walked off the field alive.

In a close order brush between two formed infantry formations, *firing first* normally means firing at a *longer* range. In that sense, firing first is "flinching" in a game of "chicken" played with loaded guns.

A man can jog through most of the lethal envelope of a smoothbore musket in approximately a single reload time. 5-6 mph for 20-30 seconds covers 60-75 yards.

A smoothbore musket is a much deadlier weapon at 20 yards than it is at 80-100 yards. The man who fires at the longer range is trading his inaccurate shot for vulnerability to his opponent's more accurate shot at a closer range, unless his unit's volley forces the enemy formation to halt.

You cannot get more width to fight on just by deploying in a shallower formation.

A column of attack may need more men to match the width of a battalion in line. True but irrelevant; men are not scarce, space is, in close order Napoleonic infantry combat.

Typical total losses sustained by a Napoleonic infantry formation before breaking and running only reach one third of those on strength, and begin as low as half that level.

A 3 rank line will rarely sustain sufficient physical firepower losses sufficient reduce its physical reply firepower before breaking and withdrawing from the close combat. (Meaning, it won't be reduced to less than 2 full firing ranks). And a 9 rank deep column of attack never will.

A 9 deep column of attack cannot be stopped from closing to point blank range by smooth bore musket fire's direct physical effect. It can only be stopped, if it is stopped, by the morale effect of the losses incurred by its front ranks.

The idea that any of these things are primarily about maximizing the number of men online and firing is comprehensively false to the bottom.

A sea change in thinking is needed to understand these matters. All the simplistic imaginary duels between a battalion line overlapping a battalion column and firing 3 times as much are complete nonsense. Way too many tactical Napoleonic wargames and miniature systems are based on precisely such imaginary duels, and they are all completely wrong as a result.
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JPotter - Bits77
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JasonC wrote:

You should not assume that a line is wider than a column.

You should not assume that the firing formation is a battalion.

You should not assume that the two formations contain the same number of men.

You should not assume that 75 yards is point blank; it isn't, and significant misses will occur at that range.

You should not assume there is some correct fixed average lethality for a musket fired at a formed infantry target. It is a sensitive function of the range.

You should not assume the volleys between two closed infantry formations are delivered at the same time.

You should not assume the volleys between two closed infantry formations delivered at different times are delivered at the same range.

Men had to be urged to fire low because they didn't; most misses were high and there were *a lot* of them. We know this because most men walked off the field alive.

In a close order brush between two formed infantry formations, *firing first* normally means firing at a *longer* range. In that sense, firing first is "flinching" in a game of "chicken" played with loaded guns.

A man can jog through most of the lethal envelope of a smoothbore musket in approximately a single reload time. 5-6 mph for 20-30 seconds covers 60-75 yards.

A smoothbore musket is a much deadlier weapon at 20 yards than it is at 80-100 yards. The man who fires at the longer range is trading his inaccurate shot for vulnerability to his opponent's more accurate shot at a closer range, unless his unit's volley forces the enemy formation to halt.

You cannot get more width to fight on just by deploying in a shallower formation.

A column of attack may need more men to match the width of a battalion in line. True but irrelevant; men are not scarce, space is, in close order Napoleonic infantry combat.

Typical total losses sustained by a Napoleonic infantry formation before breaking and running only reach one third of those on strength, and begin as low as half that level.

A 3 rank line will rarely sustain sufficient physical firepower losses sufficient reduce its physical reply firepower before breaking and withdrawing from the close combat. (Meaning, it won't be reduced to less than 2 full firing ranks). And a 9 rank deep column of attack never will.

A 9 deep column of attack cannot be stopped from closing to point blank range by smooth bore musket fire's direct physical effect. It can only be stopped, if it is stopped, by the morale effect of the losses incurred by its front ranks.

The idea that any of these things are primarily about maximizing the number of men online and firing is comprehensively false to the bottom.

A sea change in thinking is needed to understand these matters. All the simplistic imaginary duels between a battalion line overlapping a battalion column and firing 3 times as much are complete nonsense. Way too many tactical Napoleonic wargames and miniature systems are based on precisely such imaginary duels, and they are all completely wrong as a result.
So, what should be done? How would a game get it right?
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Alan Richbourg
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OL, I see a number of problems with your logic and math.

Regarding logic, you would be very hard pressed to find a designer who actually believes musket fire penetrates past the front ranks into rear ranks of a column, or that it arches up and falls over the heads of the front ranks. Those are 'straw men' arguments, so to use them as the only consideration or justification for 'there is no point in providing significant premium for infantry firing at closed column at effective musketry range' is poor logic. Logically then, there must be some other reasons why designers have given this fire advantage to line over column.

Regarding your math, to cut to the chase I believe it is more like 4 companies in line vs. 2 companies in column, regardless of how many columns and lines are participating in the firefight. A line receiving the attack of a single column would have bent forward on the flanks to a certain extent, reducing the angles slightly (temporarily stepping forward out of line if needed), and some of that fire would be directed at the sides rather than the front of the column. A major difference is that the companies of the line besides the two companies directly opposite the column are firing but not being fired on, which obviously gives them advantages in steadiness and accuracy, etc. The column does tend to equal the odds at ranges closer than 50 yards, but that is assault/close combat range rather than Napoleonic firefight range, which was more like 100 yards or 91M. If you consider a firefight conducted at 91M, line clearly has an advantage over column. I agree it's not 6 to 2, but it is more like 4 to 2.
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Jason Cawley
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Alan - utter BS.

The fire tables of published games e.g. Wellington's Victory - give lines 3 times the fire effectiveness of columns *that max out stacking in the hex*. Some also give up to 1/3rd better defense vs all forms of fire, on top of that higher "outgoing".

A large column that fills 100 yards of frontage fires the same as a shallow line that fills the same frontage. There is no justification whatsoever for giving a line more firepower than a column that fills the hex. The idea that all columns never fill frontages and always have 2/3rds gap is just utterly false.

If you want to have each column fire with 1/3rd the FP of a line, then the stacking limit of columns needs to be 3 times as many units as the stacking limit in line, and all need to be able to fire, not just a "top unit". They must "top out" at the same amount regardless of depth, and any formation with enough men to have 2 ranks deep across the width should hit that top.
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Jason Cawley
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JPotter - FP should be width dependent. A rule like "only X FP can fire out of a hex" will do this at larger scales. Whatever FP a line can reach, columns can reach, they just need more men in the hex to get there. There should be no defensive benefit to line either.

Then loss rate should drop for skirmisher open order, on both sides. By a full third or quarter. This also means the FP of the close order max shouldn't be any higher than 3-4 times what skirmish order infantry can dish out.

The other factors that should control realized rather than maximum firepower are *order*, and for the close combat / melee brush, morale (acting through such order and through range).

It should be far more important whether your *ordered and fresh* force is hitting his disordered and ragged force, than which of you is in line.

Formed infantry should rarely be able to stand the losses they can rapidly dish out for more than a short period without disordering, and one or the other soon running as well. Normal morale levels should be set low, in other words.

Napoleonic infantry combats last long only because skirmishing is a big part of it and because all sides use *ranks and reliefs*. *Not* because one formation stands are 40 paces and blazes away for an hour at a time and just accepts the losses. Nobody would have walked off the field.

It is not possible to get a tactical "odds edge" in such combats by (1) being in line, nor by (2) stacking deeper, nor by (3) being wider, within single hexes or across whole frontgages, not by meaningful amounts. A tactical edge requires *fresh vs disordered* (or flanking, but I'm talking frontal confrontations) or it just cannot be achieved.
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Alan Richbourg
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Jason, I respect a lot of what you've written on Napoleonic tactics and your military service. And you have such a delightful interpersonal style.

All game mechanisms are abstractions. No game accurately models all situations. To take just one example, it's not a question of "all columns never fill frontages and always have 2/3rds gap". First of all most of the rest of us do not deal in absolutes. Secondly I agree it is more like a 1/3 gap or smaller. If you meant that usually, large bodies of troops attacking in column did not have gaps between the columns, then we will just have to disagree on that. They usually did, i.e. gaps between battalions, though there were no doubt exceptions that proved the rule. That IS one of several reasons troops in columns presented weaker fire than troops in line. The abstraction needs to model the general cases, not the exceptions. As for stacking density, it's a question of which abstraction is more relevant. Perhaps the abstraction is that formations in the fully stacked hex occupied only by units in column actually extends into an adjacent rear hex, but that is discarded due to necessary abstraction. Also, the idea that a fully stacked hex has no open spaces, given what we all know about space on a Napoleonic battlefield, is indefensible. Stacking is the amount of space taken up by units, while allowing them the normal room to maneuver, i.e. with gaps between historical types of formations (as opposed to an imaginary 100 yard wide column). There is also the mindset of soldiers in column (i.e. "we are advancing to close with the enemy and drive him from his position, not to start a fire fight") vs. the mindset of soldiers in line ("we are set here in this rather immovable formation in order to fire as effectively as possible".)

For what it may be worth, for the tactical Napoleonic rules I've been writing, I have made some changes based on your prior comments, particularly about columns. Also perhaps of interest, my current approach is quite focused on the timing of the 'game of chicken', which is indeed an under-represented aspect of Napoleonic tactics, imho.

For most games that I'm aware of, column fire is 1/2, not 1/3 of line. And I certainly agree there is a problem for columns regarding the top unit mechanism, although I haven't settled on a better alternative yet. Having more than one unit firing in a stack presents seemingly more significant problems that the one we're talking about here. Also, one can get too focused on a single pair of hexes and ignore the wider situation. Game abstractions have to stand in for a lot of messy situations. Games are fun, but they don't and can't really represent real battles in their details.
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John McD
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There must be contemporary field manuals and books for officers and what not that add some fact contemporary observation to this.

I'm sure they're laden with dogma and received wisdom, but they must also contain some hard fact and have the enormous benefit of being based on hard fact.
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Jason Cawley
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Alan - sorry, still just clearly biased and wrong. Tactical formations are not adopted in order to be as stupid as possible, so no it is not up to you as a designer to just decide that a column is a long scraggly thing sticking out of the rear of a hex.

A normal use of assault columns is to meet enemy lines with skirmishers along most of the line's frontage then columns matching the width of only a selected line or two on a narrow portion of the frontage. Not to march one battalion in column into the middle third of one enemy battalion in line overmatching it 3 fold with nothing else along any of the rest of the frontage. Why? Because that's stupid.

And I know, lots and lots of you would like to maintain the patent falsehood that columns are just stupid and lines far superior to them at everything, but --- reality. Linear fire tactics were the norm 60 years before the Napoleonic period; nobody needed to learn what they were good at or bad at and there wasn't the slightest innovation in that direction during the period. The innovation was all in the other direction.

And it won. Open order for fire with only occasional column charge at already disordered enemies routinely beat the pants off the old linear order. This was discovered by accident during the revolutionary wars period, where loose mobs routinely defeated drilled continental regulars fighting in line. Organized light infantry tactics with drill of their own solidified that ascendancy. The old Prussian linear order went down at Jena as a surpassed tactical system.

You have to falsify the physics of space to pretend otherwise. No, you are not gauging things by scenarios you consider typical - you are removing from the player's control the actual tactical flexibility they possess, purely to try to make columns suck, in utterly unphysical ways.

The Talonsoft Battleground series reproduces much of the Wellington's Victory system on the computer. Among the titles is Prelude to Waterloo, which covers Ligny and Quatres Bras. It has various optional rules, and you get the most realistic morale levels if you turn the rout-limiting optionals off. That means units don't get artificially inflated morale for having another unit adjacent to them, and they have to check for rout if a unit adjacent to them routs for any reason. The system also let's any number of column battalions or skirmish companies fire out of a hex, but only one line. The stacking limit is set at 2000 infantry regardless of the number of units.

I played a battle of Quatres Bras in that system with - at my insistence - rout limiting optional off. I had the French and used real skirmish and column tactics. My opponent with the Allies didn't use the real British line based tactics, which few players even know, but instead used what he thought were linear tactics, but which looked like ACW or Frederick the Great era ones.

Meaning, he put every infantry battalion he got into line formation, and then he lined them up immediately adjacent to each other, all on line, and marched them toward my positions. He thought he was maximizing his infantry firepower and he thought that was a realistic and effective way of fighting the mixed Allied army at the battle of Quatres Bras.

So what happened? I skirmished with this long line for about an hour. Batteries supplemented the skirmish companies, and there were a few smaller battalion lines supporting those here or there, but nearly every hex in front of his line was inhabited by a French skirmish company nearly every fire phase in that hour.

By the end of it, I'd taken a few hundred men hit - FP quartered for open order targets - and those companies hit had rallied on their battalions and were replaced by others. There was no disorder spread into my army as a result, and only very light fatigue. Only a few skirmish companies were low ammo and rapidly recovered from that. My infantry main bodies had spent this entire time in full defilade in column formation, regimental stacks normally, behind the French skirmish line and in low ground or folds in the rye etc. They were all in perfect order and unfatigued.

More than half his battalions had taken hits and about half were in disorder. A few were into yellow fatigue state, most still green (1-3 fatigue) but averaging around 2. Guns did some of this, skirmishers did most of this.

I judged the preparation sufficient and engineered the attack. Skirmishers in line all along his front, but in addition in places where two or more of his battalions were disordered next to each other, full regimental columns advanced on their front to point blank range. Always with a leader, to maximize their morale.

He got to defensive fire first, and lines have massive firepower in that system. But being disordered halves it, and a hit causes not automatic disorder but just a morale check, which for fresh unfatigued good order and led French infantry meant passed 5/6 of the time even if hits were taken.

Then my columns could either reply with a lots o littles shot from each column, or they could get a +1 on their melee result for "held fire melee" reflecting entering that stage with charged tubes. Disordered vs held fire and led ensured a quality differential on the melee, and column depth vs line enured an odds percentage edge as well.

The way melee works in that system, the loser takes 3 fatigue and the winner takes 2, and the loser is auto disordered and checks morale. Failing a morale check when already disordered causes rout. As previously mentioned, rout causes all adjacent units to check morale again. A disordered unit without a leader is only morale 3 normally, and once in yellow fatigue that falls to 2.

So in four places I won melees on disrupted battalions. They routed. Everyone around them checked, and the checks spread contagiously.

Five disordered and isolated line battalions now with suddenly open flanks remained standing. The rest were a flying mass of fugitives. Cause - not firepower, *morale failure* on forces *fatigued and disordered* to low morale.

A disordered line in rye in that system can move one hex and rotate one hex spine, that's about it. So the hold outs could not get away the following turn. They were then flank melee'ed by charging columns from all sides and all of them were captured. A brigade of Chausseurs pursued the fugitives from the previous turn's rout to prevent them from reforming and break up the few knots that had - still in disordered line, they could not make it to square.

A major French victory of course resulted.

Why? Was it because of firepower and nose counts? No. Was it because lines suck? No, not even that. It was because I used open order for fire and *shock only vs disordered formations*. And he didn't use the proper counters to that, which would have been (1) a line of skirmishers and batteries of his own, screening his formed, (2) lines in checkerboard formation, staggered into two or more ranks, able to *relieve each other* as soon as any disordered, and (3) spaced enough to avoid morale contagion "crowd" effects.

The role of battalions in line formation is *not* to form one long line. It is to have 4 battalions in line create a front face of a division that can hold off enemy formed infantry, and another behind it to relieve them and *counterattack any attempt to enter the formation*, via a flanking fire attack of their own.

He didn't know this. He didn't *need* to know it. Every previous time he had played such games, he had been able to rely on just one line, just focused on fire, and just spitting as much lead as possible per fire phase. Then to count on max firepower integral as the best he could do.

That's *just not Napoleonic infantry tactics*. It's Frederick the Great era without the cavalry. Or its ACW. Lots of people don't know this, because they've been raised on biased wargames and "line beat columns hur dur" nationalist propaganda.
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Alan Richbourg
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Good on yer, Jason! I too enjoyed Prelude to Waterloo when it first came out. My experience and results were very similar. And yes, since I first played Prelude before I really studied Napoleonic history, my tactics in that game evolved over time. Good story!

I'll just add, and I mean this in the nicest way, that it is regrettable that you seem to thrive on creating straw men, making assumptions, and creating false controversies when in fact more than 90% of the time you're simply preaching to the choir. Regardless of whatever makes that necessary for you, we will continue to enjoy your insights, even when they are expressed with unwarranted antagonism.

In other words ... bit of advice here ... try to make fewer assumptions about what other people are thinking. You clearly don't have a clue about how I think. Don't create straw man arguments. It's obnoxious.
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Dan Daniels
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...ok, a noob Q on BGG War-gamer Grognard posting etiquette:

if this Musketry thread was so cool (which I totally agree with):

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1390783/what-nearly-all-tac...

...why was this thread NOT added to it? Now I'm tracking essentially two threads on the same topic, it seems. What am I missing?
 
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The Napoleonic firefight is an interesting subject. The skirmishers tend to disappear on the oh-so-neat battle maps, but eyewitness accounts make their importance clear and it's obvious they did a lot of the actual shooting during the often all-day battles. Accounts frequently mention them being "everywhere", "swarming" etc and it's clear the only way to get rid of them was to counter with more of your own. The alternative was a constant drain with no means to reply. If attacked by slower formed troops they would simply melt away and reappear.

As for column vs line, the battle of Albuera is a good example which also shows how deadly the Napoleonic battlefield could be. The French, thinking the Anglo-Spanish were retreating after some early setbacks, charged up the middle in columns:

http://balagan.info/wp-content/uploads/Albuera-Map-Dempsey-2...

However the other side wasn't retreating, and when the French realized this too late they tried to deploy into line inside the killing zone with disastrous results: one French brigade lost 400 men in a few minutes. The British then added their own blunder when a brigade came up to flank the French but was charged while in line by cavalry, again with disastrous casualties. One battalion lost 665 of 750 men during the day, most of them to the cavalry charge.

Granted the above was the product of some unusual circumstances, like gross miscalculation on both sides as well as an unusually good performance by the Spanish units who both skirmished and fired well and had good close artillery support. But it also shows how much timing, preparation, skill, and sometimes luck a successful attack required even in the face of relatively inefficient firearms.
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Alan Richbourg
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Duckman wrote:
way to get rid of them was to counter with more of your own.
The other way was with cavalry, such as at Fuentes de Oñoro. Cavalry were effective against infantry skirmishers as long as the skirmishers were not in protective terrain.
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chargetheguns wrote:
The other way was with cavalry, such as at Fuentes de Oñoro. Cavalry were effective against infantry skirmishers as long as the skirmishers were not in protective terrain.
Certainly, that's the other classic countermeasure. It was very much a game of cat and mouse with the cavalry trying to catch them unaware before they could form square (or more like knots or mini-squares) or run back to their supports. Smoke, terrain (like the high corn at Quatre Bras), or just general confusion could all help the cavalry and give them the extra seconds needed.

The Peninsular battles are interesting because they are so well documented and studied. Dempsey's book on Albuera mentions a wealth of interesting micro-tactical detail, like how a British battalion on high ground came under extra heavy fire because they were so high up that the rear ranks of the French columns coud fire over the heads of the front ranks. It's also clear from the book that there were plenty of skirmishers (one company left and right of each column) in the intervals between the columns in the map above.

Skirmishing only increased as the wars went on and everyone learned this skill. Post-1810 most armies could and did use line companies as skirmishers as well, which had been one of the French army's big advantages early on. This naturally multiplied the number of men who could fight dispersed. In Spain the British skirmish line was so thick that French commanders sometimes confused it with the main line and reported breaking through it. Clearly the early WWI tactics with the main line as a thick skirmish line with supports just feeding it were not that far off.
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eric chazottes
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Alan,

would you care to tell us how is working your system/your rules for fire combat ?

- formed infantry vs formed infantry ?
- skirmishers vs skirmishers ?
- skirmishers vs formed infantry ?

especially curious about your "timing" idea ....

in my system, fire is resolved at div/brig level, in an aggregated manner.
see diagrams posted earlier on that aspect > early fire- late fire, etc.

cheers, Eric
 
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Alan Richbourg
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I can't say much, because it is still very much unfinished. Particularly the combat sequence is just a collection of notes at this point. Infantry units are battalions and detached companies. First scenario is Quatre Bras, second will be Ligny. It's thoroughly based on Jean Tessier's "Tactiques Napoleon" (his website is offline currently), although nearly every concept, rule, and modifier is changed in some or several ways.

The timing idea comes basically from a turn sequence which involves several opportunities during each turn for a unit (particularly artillery) to fire. Units being assaulted have to pass essentially a morale check to hold their fire, but if they do, it provides a significant bonus to their subsequent melee result. When a unit fires it get a "Tirez!" marker, which is covered by a "smoke" graphic, until the end of the turn so there is a visual effect of rows of smoke growing across the front lines in active parts of the battlefield.

Using skirmish formations definitely lowers casualties taken on both sides of a firefight. There are quite a few chrome rules related to units in skirmish formation.
 
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L. SCHMITT
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aesthetocyst wrote:
So, what should be done? How would a game get it right?
Same question. I'd love to see it expressed in game terms. Unironically. I'd even provide the graphic part if seduced.
 
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Jason Cawley
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L Schmitt -

I'll give a D10 system version of what should happen.

Imagine that all units are rated for morale on a 10 point scale like in Great Battles of History, Triumph and Glory, or the Glory systems, typical Berg grand tactical game systems. Typical units are 5s or 6s, only very good ones are 7s, raw militia are 4s.

Units are also rated for strength points and hits on them are tracked. Any unit at full strength or -1 hit is still full morale. Any unit with 2 or more hits on it is -1 morale. Any unit reduced to 50% of its initial strength or less is -2 morale.

Morale checks are also -1 harder if the losses or melee result causing it is taken through a flank or rear hexside. Disordered formations are flipped over and suffer -1 morale on their reversed side, too.

The normal result of taking any losses from fire is a D10 check against this morale. Pass and you just took the permanent losses but are otherwise OK. Fail by 1-3 and you disorder as well, and stay disordered until you can pass a new morale check to rally. Is you fail again while already disordered, or you fail by 4 or more from good order, then you rout.

For simplicity assume we use something like Glory regroup, meaning all routed units first make anyone next to them check morale (for the neighbor rout), then are removed from the map. A turn later they can try to reform in a single morale check against their disordered side morale, including any dings for losses to date. Succeed and they come back disordered, next to their leader or others in the formation etc. Fail and they are permanently eliminated.

So far I'm not explaining fire, just the unit morale and order system that it should couple to, to illustrate what the rest of this is saying.

The combat procedure for any shot is to roll 2D10 of different colors, the white die is to-hit and the red die is morale check, for example. If the to hit die is a miss, ignore the morale check die, otherwise apply the morale check die to all units present in the hex, together.

Now all I have to do is describe the to hit die and how it should vary with shooter strength and formation, kind of combat and kind of target.

The range class is melee close, ordinary ranged fire, or long fired or otherwise attenuated fire.

A skirmisher target drops that a class. So does cover. So if I get melee close to skirmishers in cover I'm still shooting on the last of them, and any farther and I can't hurt them at all.

Then the shooters are either maxing out the frontage as former shooters, or they are roughly 2/3rds that, or they are only 1/3rd that. Skirmishers have to be in the last of those categories to benefit from being a thin target.

Lines need say 3 SPs per hex to max out that fire, and 2 SPs to fire on the 2/3rds level. 1 SP in line shoots like a skirmisher. 4, 7, 10 SPs in line aren't really in line because they don't fit; the first 3 are in line and that's all that's shooting and the rest are behind them because there just isn't room.

But form a column, it takes 2-4 SPs to fire on the 1SP line or skirmisher level, and it takes 8+ SPs to fire like 3 SP in line on the top firing line. Why? Because 8-10 SP in column are putting 3 SP across the front just like 3 SP in line do. 5-7 SP in column fires on the 2/3rds bit between those extremes.

What are the hit chances in those terms going to look like? They are going to look about like this.

Melee distance vs formed target

full 3 SP FP - 1-2 miss, 3-7 1 hit, 8-10 2 hits
2/3rd 2 SP FP - 1-3 miss, 4-9 1 hit, 10 2 hits
1/3rd 1 SP or skirmisher - 1-6 miss, 7-10 1 hit.

normal fire distance vs formed

full 3 SP line - 1-5 miss, 6-9 1 hit, 10 2 hits
2/3rd SP line - 1-6 miss, 7-10 1 hit
1/3rd SP line - 1-8 miss, 9-10 hit

long fire distance vs formed or normal vs skirmisher

full 3 SP line - 1-7 miss, 8-10 1 hit
2/3rds SP line - 1-8 miss, 9-10 1 hit
1/3rd SP line - 1-9 miss, 10 1 hit

So, you can't get more firepower out of a hex than by packing it, with either 3+ SPs in line or with 8+ SPs in column.

You can't get open order defense except by keeping your firepower coming out of the hex at 1/3rd that max firepower, by having just 1 SP there in open order. But if you do, enemy hits on you will get cut in half.

You can double hits per unit time by pressing down to melee range. But the increase is symmetric and simultaneous and the enemy gets it against you, too.

You can halve the hits against you either by staying at very long range or by being behind linear cover (for formed) or in any cover (open order).

Disordered shooters *also* drop a firing class aka bump out their effective "range", and beyond the last "class" above fire is ineffective.

As for what happens in melee after the exchange of shots, if the attacking side is disordered afterward they are automatically repulsed. If they are in good order and the defending side is disordered afterward, then the defenders retreat a hex and the attackers take it.

If both sides are still ordered and the attackers have better than 2-1 SP odds left, then the defenders must give up the hex and check morale. That shows the point of bringing a column, but it has to live through taking fire to make it tell.

Single skirmishers count as already disordered, so they don't take things in melee and have to give ground whenever formed pushes them, unless they disorder that formed.

Stacked skirmishers are automatically a line, for offense defense and melee. Too dense to merit defensive benefits, and dense enough to push enemy skirmishers.

Artillery should fire like the 2/3rds infantry bit, with the melee distance hit ratings at caseshot distance (1, 2, 3 hexes maybe depending on scale), and the normal range window for typical roundshot range. They still drop a class vs skirmisher targets or vs cover etc.

That's a full description of a *realistic* Napoleonic fire combat system and how it would integrate into unit moral, disorder, rally etc systems.

Of course all of the above could still be tweaked for a particular scale and so on. It is still enough to show what counts as realism in these things, getting the key relationships right, setting correct incentives for all of the different tactical systems, etc.





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Luca Marcolungo
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JasonC wrote:

... used what he thought were linear tactics, but which looked like ACW or Frederick the Great era ones.
The parallel between Acw and 7yw was made a couple of times (regarding the lack of skirmishers), and I was curious: in ACW it was a matter of lesson lost or the technical evolution made skirmishers no more valuable? And, of course, why?
 
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