Sunday, July 19, 2009

BAR Napoleon Playtest

A Prussian square, artillery at the corners and some skirmishers: all are essential elements of Napoleonic warfare and wargaming. Click the pix to enlarge the view. Elite Miniatures figures.

French voltigeur company deploys into skirmish order in the light woods. Elite Miniatures figures and The Terrain Guy game mats. Please click all pix to enlarge the view.

On Saturday July 18, 2009 we conducted our first official play test of the Napoleonic variant of Bill Protz's Batailles de l'Ancien Regime ("BAR"), which we unofficially call BAR Napoleon. We had four players for the game with 5-6 battalions per side, 2 heavy cavalry regiments and 2 light cavalry regiments per side, plus a battery of 4-5 guns each. Bill and Earl commanded the French while Mike T. and Der Alte Fritz commanded the Prussian side.

The French 51e de Ligne advances in colonne serre formation (column of open companies or grand divisions) with some Baden Jagers screening their front.

Prussian heavy cavalry brigade, lead by General von Blucher, was comprised of 40 dragoons (DR5 Konigen Dragoons) and 36 converged cuirassiers from three different regiments (that I bought at the Historicon Flea Market - Bring & Buy- in 2008). Figures are from Imperialist Enterprises, now sold through Outland Games in Dayton, Ohio.

Mike T.'s Prussian infantry brigade supported by two 6-pound sections of artillery. IR5 von Kliest is the nearest battalion. All figures are from Elite Miniatures.

Since this was only a playtest, and we were seeking to try out various aspects of the rules, the course of the game action and a description of what happened are not really significant, although a few tabletop miracles and humourous events did occur throughout the game. Suffice it to say that the French lined up on one side of the table, while the Prussians did the same and both sides advanced to the center of the table to secure the first bragging rights of the 1806 Campaign.

The game table was bifurcated (how is that for a big word?) by a large wooded area in the center of the table. From the Prussian point of view, the light cavalry battle occurred to the right of the woods; the main infantry battle took place to the left of the woods, in the very center of the table; and a large cavalry fight took place on the wide open left hand side of the table, fought between the French dragoons and cuirassiers against an equal number of like troops for the Prussians.

The light cavalry battle to the right of the central woods. Three squadrons of Prussian hussars, supported by two 6-pound horse artillery guns with crew, take on the French light cavalry (5 sqds) and a battalion of infantry. Two more squadrons of Prussian hussars and a battalion of grenadiers are just out of the picture. The picture is a little blurry because I did not use my tripod for this shot, as I usually do. Pictures without tripods are a waste of time.

A closer view of the French 12e Chasseurs a Cheval (2 squadrons of 12) from Elite Miniatures. Note the light cavalry brigade commander to the left on the round base. Brigade commanders are always mounted on round bases, while regimental colonels and ADCs are mounted on rectangular bases.

The columns of French infantry and their supporting artillery were moving forward in the center, so I decided to go at them at full tilt and hope that my one battalion of musketeers could crash into the whole lot before they could shake out into a battle line. I move up to point blank range and then hoped to get the first movement card.

Sometimes bold moves pay off. This time it appears that they would not. The French got the first first movement card, enabling them to deploy their artillery, and they also got the first firing card, giving them the first fire into my battalion of IR19 musketeers. Here is what was left of IR19 after taking a "double shot" of cannister from 4 French guns. I was not a big fan of the new "double shot" rule, to say the least.

IR19 survived the French cannister and charged home and put all of the French artillerists to the bayonet. Huzzah! Now you see IR19 von Winning (appropriate name as it turned out) advancing to support IR19's success. The French 51e de Ligne counterattack in column formation.

IR23 von Winning regiment gets attacked from the front by the 51e de Ligne and on the flank by the 24e de Legere. Miraculously, von Winning drove off both attacks, not once, but twice during the course of the game. Poor die rolling by your opponent can often bail one out of a tight spot, so it would seem.

The French 24e Legere regroups and comes back a third time, this time with success as IR23 von Winning found a battalion of the 12e de Ligne (top of the picture) advancing through their rear and they fall back.

The Cavalry Battle

Bill (left)advances the 20e Regt. de Dragoons forward to protect the right flank of Earl's (right) infantry. The Baden Jagers (Pontoonier Miniatures) provide a skirmish screen against some Prussian scheutzen doing the same.

This is what Bill saw in front of his dragoons and jager screen: Prussian infantry supported by Prussian dragoons and cuirassiers.

Cavalry commander von Blucher rolled a Poor charisma rating prior to the great cavalry melee, so the Prussian players let Blucher wander off on his own since he would add a -1 to the morale of any unit that he might be attached to. This was done via a D6 die roll, with 1 being the worst and 6 being the best (+2 to morale).

IR5 von Kliest got slaughtered by two squadrons of French dragoons because the infantry was in line formation. So this part of the rules appeared to work just fine. As a result, the other two Prussian infantry battalions commanded by Mike T. went into square for the rest of the game. The Prussian squares await the outcome of the cavalry melee (top of the picture) between the French and Prussian dragoons. Prussian cuirassiers squadrons are seen within supporting distance of the melee, which the Prussians won.

Another view of the dragoon melee and the Prussian squares, who watch some French cuirassiers, off camera to the right, advancing forward.

More of the dragoon melee. Blucher can be seen in the background while his French cavalry commander counterpart is seen in the thick of the melee at the bottom of the picture.

Three squadrons of French cuirassiers now move into melee position. Elite Miniatures cuirassiers.

French cuirassiers (left) close upon the Prussian dragoons (right).

A Few More Random Pictures

This looks bad for the Prussian grenadiers, n'est-ce pas? Mais non, les hussards recule! Earl's hussars were roaming around the Prussian rear table and found a juicy flank to charge into. The trouble was, the hussars were still disordered or unformed from a previous melee and so the Prussian grenadiers were actually able to win the melee and drive off the hussars. I will take hot dice and luck any day over sound tactics. Hee, hee, hee.

Bill's two battalions of Dixon 25mm French infantry fit in well with the other figures. They are smaller than the Elite Miniatures, but as you can see from the various pictures, one doesn't notice the size difference when fielding 72 figure units.

Some of the older Dave Alsop sculpted Old Glory limited edition French, painted as legere unit, seen operating in a colonne serre formation.

French voltigeurs stream over the crest of the ridge in advance of the first battalion of the 12e de Ligne regiment. Some old Elite French chasseurs can be seen on the right. They have just finished mopping up the Prussian light cavalry on the far right of the table.

The playtest seemed to work fairly well. The infantry versus cavalry melee worked the way that I had hoped, but I would like to see an even more decisive result in favor of the cavalry as long as the infantry remains in line formation. I want the players to have lots and lots of incentive to form square in the presence of enemy cavalry.

The skirmisher firing rules worked nicely. One simply throws a D6 for each skirmisher and hits on a score of 4-6 (short range), 5-6 (medium range) and 6 (long range). The opponent rolls saving throws as usual in these rules. With respect to skirmishers screening infantry and receiving fire, we decided that the firing unit can fire at the screened target (line or square) and simply allocates the hits to as many skirmishers cover the front of the unit, with the remaining hits allocated to the line or square unit. The skirmishers are easier to save via saving throws, the regular infantry fall easier.

I didn't like the double shot cannon firing. If you chose to double shot your guns, you doubled the number of hits. Maybe this might work for cannister, but not for round shot.

We also decided that infantry in column needs more of a melee modifier so we upped this from a plus one to a plus three during the course of the game.

So for a first effort, I thought that the rules gave us a nice game that captured the essential elements of Napoleonic warfare. I am encouraged by the start and look forward to the next playtest somewhere down the road.


  1. Wow, what a great battle report accompanied by wonderful pictures. Make a mere mortal wish he could actually observe the melee in person. Thanks again for your inspiration...

  2. Thanks for all the photos. Looks good and it sounds like the rules development is coming along nicely.

    Steve Gill

  3. Stirring stuff and just the right start to my week's holiday in which I hope to make progress on the painting front.

    It's a delight to see Napoleonic uniforms from before 1812.

    Can you tell us something about the artillery ammunition markers - presuming that's what they are? Also the thinking behind the double shotting rule you disliked.

    Poor Blucher. I assume that's a male elephant - he'll have nightmares. If only he'd rolled better for his morale influence. It adds a whole new meaning to seeing the elephant though I guess the more usual meaning was true for many of the troops getting a first airing.

    The skirmishers looked the part for both sides.

    A quick editing comment. In the caption for the first arriving of the Prussina regiment Winning you have numbered them 19 like the unit they are supporting, In following captions they get the number 23.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Duke of Baylen

  4. Hi there Jim,

    What rousing photographs and a stirring battle description! My favorites though are the photos of General von Bluecher and the elephant. Looks like you guys had lots of fun. Thanks for allowing the rest of us to experience it vicariously (big words abound today).

    Best Regards,


  5. ---
    Designed on an Excel Spreadsheet to include six big Os for round shot/ball and two rectangles for canister. A heavy black border surrounds the marker. Print on colored paper of your choice, use stick glue (a wax of some kind) and adhere to scrap pieces of wood at least 3/32" high so you can easily grab them. Use a pencil and mark off the rounds fired. Erase after a game.
    Placing boards or whatevers under the cloth enhances natural-looking rises and undulations in the ground.
    The advantages of individual basing can be seen especially when deploying skirmishers. Combined with uneven terrain heights, this aspect of tabletop gaming is visually enhanced. One does not need rosters either.
    Votre serviteur,

  6. Thank you for the report and photos inspiring as usual.

  7. Fabulous, great report, great photographs as ever, always wanted to try something at 1:10...(or higher????!)