The Amsterdam Acid Test for Wargames, Part VI: A Test-Drive Scenario For Each And Every Napoleonic Ruleset

Not satisfied with the many rule reviews that (although nice) are just fanblogs, I sometimes think and write about a standardized method of rules testing and reviewing. What I call the Amsterdam Acid Test for Wargames. Same battle, same army, different rules, methodological comparison. In real life I’m a lawyer. I compare laws and cases. Forgive me for being a comparomaniac in my hobby as well. My first plan and subsequent blog was more than 4 years ago. I was looking for the ring to rule all rings.

But I got distracted, by life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and never came to the next step, namely, a replayable scenario. I think I discovered one yesterday. I found it in an unread book that I bought 6 or 7 years ago. I had it all along.

I’m the proud owner of a CS Grant solo wargaming book ‘Programmed Wargames Scenarios’, see my earlier blog. I had never really studied it until last weekend. The book has scenario’s/ programmed orders/ reaction tables not only for the AI opponent of the solo wargamer, but for both sides. So you can play against both sides according to each side’s orders with every ruleset that you like. But even better, you can play two AI opponents against each other, as I discovered. Below a map version of scenario 10, The Alliance.

The Blue player must choose or roll a die if he must defend the front or the back line and deploy accordingly. The Blue Force is a small force that must defend the southern side of the board and prevent a breakthrough. Composition:

  • 1 Infantry Corps (4 Line, standard infantry)
  • 1 Light Corps (3 Light, infantry trained to operate in difficult terrain)
  • 1 Cavalry Corps (1 Heavy Cavalry, 2 Medium Cavalry, 1 Light Cavalry)
  • 2 Artillery Batteries

The Blue force has 3 generals with different personalities and aims, that depend on dice rolling. The infantry commander-in-chief is neutral. Depending on a dice roll, the light and/or the cavalry might be misplaced at the wrong side of the table (light infantry in the open and cavalry in the woods). Their respective commanders might have their own battle plans and send reserves to the other flank or keep reserves at their flank.

The attacking Red Force is 25% stronger in points. According to the Programmed Wargames scenario, the Red player can choose

  • a cavalry strong force (5 units line, 1 unit light, 2 units heavy cavalry, 3 units medium cavalry, 1 unit light cavalry and 2 artillery batteries) or
  • an infantry strong force (9 unit line infantry, 3 units light infantry, 1 unit heavy cavalry, 1 unit medium cavalry and 1 unit light cavalry, with 2 batteries)
  • or something inbetween.

I chose something inbetween (7 line, 1 light; 2 units HC, 2 units MC, 1 unit LC, 2 Art)

The Red battle plan depends on a reaction table. An infantry force will 5 out of 6 attack the south-east or maybe the center and only on a 6 attack the south-west: a cavalry force will 5 out of 6 attack the south-east and otherwise try a frontal attack. A balanced force has equal chance to attack left, right, through the center or with both flanks. Red should not lose more than a 3rd of his force.

The Red attacker will have a good chance to break through, but he has to fight a defender in a strong position so he might suffer heavy losses. The Blue defender in the meantime must control chaos: the flank generals see no need to co-operate with each other and the center so organizing a coördinated defense is difficult.

I presume this scripted scenario might be good as basic test scenario: the armies are medium-sized: the terrain is varied; Blue has generals with ‘personalities’; and both sides need to move, interpenetrate, attack/defend difficult terrain, use roads etc. Good stuff for an acid test!

The Scripted Reaction Tables

Set up the Blue forces first.

The Blue defender is less effective and slow due to a divided command. That is reflected in the rules. Roll a single die for every commander (the irregulars, the line infantry and the cavalry commander)

  • 1-2 extremely cautious. Very slow to react to events and orders. Passive.
  • 3-4 cautious. Slow to react to events and orders. Passive.
  • 5 standard. Will follow orders immediately.
  • 6 rash. Wants to attack. Will use his own initiative to attack or to react to events and ignore orders

A battle of Blue wills

The light infantry commander might have his own idea about the vital interest. Roll 2 dice, for the infantry and the cavalry commander:

Light Infantry CommanderCavalry Commander
1-2: no plan1-2 no own plan
3-4: defend south-west road at all costs3-4 opposite of Light Infantry Commander, 2/6 chance that reserve units, not in combat, will move and try to defend the flank that is most important according to the Cavalry commander
5-6: defend south-east road at all costs5-6 opposite of Light Infantry Commander, 3/6 chance that reserve units will move and try to defend the flank that is most important according to the Cavalry commander

Position, command and orders

Next the setup, which can depend on the subcommander’s preferences. 1-3 the light troops are logically placed in the western woods and the cavalry in the east. 4-5 the light and cavalry troops are placed on the wrong flank. 6 all troops are evenly spread out (although more light left and more cavalry right). If a subdivision defends the preferred home ground, upgrade it, it will fight tenaciously.

The player now decides which subcommander is the commander-in-chief. On 1-2 you may choose, on 3-4 the line infantry general is the commander, on 5-6 the cavalry commander is the cavalry commander.

The combination of factors gives a general battle plan. A rash blue cavalry commander-in-chief with a preference for the south-western-side might choose a forward defense and place himself in the east, but attack furiously when he thinks that the south-western road is under attack. He can give the general order to support the threatened flank but a very cautious line subcommander might react not or very slow. A cautious line commander might choose the backward defense line and try to convince his misplaced flank commanders to give support to the threatened other flank. But their response might be late or slow, because they erroneously prioritize their own flank.

The Red Scare

The red attacker is a coordinated force led by a single, able commander. Throw a single dice:

  • 1-2: attack south-east
  • 3-4: attack south-west
  • 5: single central attack
  • 6: two-pronged, to south-east and south-west

The red force should respond quickly to gaps in the blue defense and any opportunity for advancement should be seized.

The Two Marks Lead The Way

I now need to think about a formalized topic list. I liked the Napoleonic review guidelines from Chasseur a Chéval blogger Mark and the standard format from Mark Severin. I suppose I can play every Napoleonic ruleset with my 2mm battalion bigbases or 6mm unit bases on my own, at home. Interesting times ahead, despite coronalockdowns.

I probably have the list already in an unread book.


My older blogs about the art of wargame reviewing: part I, part II, part III, part IV and part V.

BTW: I redrew the PWS-map with Paint3D, as advised by LWTV. I recommend their tutorial below.

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