Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Napoleonic Division Column

This posting is by way of detailing my combat method as posted EARLIER featuring an ACW Union attack upon a defended earthwork.  This is partly in response to enquiries that have been made into 'my' method, but I also wanted to try out something that has been on my mind for a long time.  How would a Division column fare against a linear defence?

This will necessarily be a long posting, with little variation among the pictures, but I hope it will prove of some interest to the more persevering reader.
Columns of the French I Army Corps attacking a village
 held by an Austrian Division.   More on this at the end of this posting.
Game Mechanics:
The following are several excerpts from my own Napoleonic rules set The Corsican Ogre, that are relevant to this play test.

5. Movement:
Moves are carried out simultaneously.  Players may elect to use an orders system by unit, or a chit system in order to “keeps things honest”.

Troop Type                      Line/Deployed                Coln. Divs              Route Coln.               Open Order/Rout
Light Horse
Heavy Horse
Horse Arty
Foot Arty

Movement is modified also by terrain traversed, or other actions a unit might take.

6.3. Musketry:
6.3.1. Table of Small Arms ranges:
Short Range
Long Range

6.3.2. Volley groups:
In combat, one die is rolled for each volley group firing at any given target.  The standard volley group sizes are:

Guard, Elite Grenadier, Other Elite*                    - 1 die per 3 figures
Line and Light Infantry, Line Grenadier             - 1 die per 4 figures
2nd Line units, Landwehr, Opol’chenie              - 1 die per 5 figures
Militia, Poorly trained troops, mounted horse  - 1 die per 6 figures
·         Other Elite might comprise British Fusiliers, say

6.4. Die Range (DR)
6.4.1. The standard DR for all small arms is 3 (DR=3).   Die Range is the maximum die score that will count towards achieving hits upon the enemy.  

6.4.2. DR Modifications:
DR is modified depending on the state of the troops shooting, the nature of the target, and the terrain being fought over.  The following are cumulative by bullet point:
·         Firing infantry unit first volley: DR+1 at short range only.
·         Short range musketry: DR+1.
·         Volley group/gun crew reduced to 50-99% inclusive: DR-1. 
·         Artillery fire into column or enfiladed unit: DR+1
·         Artillery fire into square: DR+1
·         Artillery firing into a unit in line that has a further, friendly unit, within line of sight beyond it, and closer than 5cm: (DR+1) + 50% of score applied to next unit back.    
Example: The 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers, deployed in line, come under fire at 36cm range from a French 8pr gun.  The standard DR for the gun at that range is 4.  However, a battalion of the Coldstream Guards have deployed very close behind the Fusiliers, in line of fire from the gun.  So the gun’s DR is increased to 5.  The gun rolls a 3, say.  Three hits are registered upon the Fusiliers, and 1 (50% of 3, rounded down) hit on the Guards.  Note: This modification applies also to brigade columns under Artillery fire.
·         Firing through own smoke: DR-1
·         Firing infantry DISORDERED: DR-1
·         Target is in cover: DR-1 or –2 depending on type of cover.  DR-2 for field and other fortifications, masonry buildings, and (against musketry only) solid stone walls; otherwise DR-1. 
·         Target is “dispersed” (i.e. deployed artillery, troops engaged in engineering task, skirmishers): DR-1
·         Target is mounted: DR-1
·         “Crossing target”. Target could have been fired at during move but not at its end: DR-1.
Firers cannot move in the same bound and claim “crossing target”.

6.5. Procedure for determining hits and casualties:
6.5.1 General:
The firing on both sides is held to take place simultaneously within any given bound.
Each target, be it a unit (battalion regiment or battery), sub-unit or formation, may be fired upon by several units (and sub-units etc), but all such fires are adjudicated at once.  Clearly, therefore, before adjudicating firing, firers and targets must be declared.

6.5.2 Modifying hits to determine casualties:
Once the number of hits upon a given target has been determined, they are divided up into groups of eight (supposing there were at least eight hits) plus a remainder group. 
For each group, a number of dice are rolled equal to the hits represented by the group – 8 dice for 8 hits; 5 dice for 5 hits, say. 
Again for each group, the scores are not counted, but for every pip score that appears more than once, the duplicates are removed, leaving just one die with that score. 
Now the number of dice remaining in the group represents the number of casualties represented by that group.
All these are added for each group to determine the total casualties inflicted upon the target.

 6.5.3. Example:
The Grenadier Guards, a foot battery and a detachment of light infantry together achieve 11 hits upon the 101st Infantry of the Line.
1.    This gave a group of 8 hits and a group of 3 hits.
2.    For the first group, 8 dice were rolled, with the following scores:
1,1,2,4,5,5,6,6.  Since the 1s, 5s and 6s appeared more than once, the duplicates were removed, leaving just 1 of each remaining:
There were 5 distinct scores (or 5 dice remaining) therefore 5 casualties inflicted by this group of hits.
3.    Repeat the process for the group of 3 hits:
3,3,5.  Since there were 2 3s, take one of them away, leaving 2 dice.
These two represent 2 casualties inflicted by this group of hits
4.    Add the casualties inflicted overall: 5+2=7.  The 101st Infantry of the Line lose 7 figures to that firing.

 8.  Morale
8.1. Morale factors:
·         Guards, Elite = 6
·         Standard line troops = 5
·         Militia, Landwehr, Cossacks = 4
Take 1 (-1) from Morale Factor (MF) for the first 20% loss incurred by the unit or the formation as a whole if the unit is part of a Brigade Column or Ordre Mixte,  and for each further 10% (of original strength of the unit or formation, as appropriate) thereafter.
Add 1 (+1) to MF for unit (NOT formation) in protective cover (viz: behind and within 5cm of masonry walls or revetted earthworks; within masonry buildings, or prepared fortifications).
Add 1 (+1) to MF for unit or formation that has an accompanying general.

8.2. Occasions for testing:
·         Unit or formation having lost melee (close combat) this turn;
·         Testing unit having lost at least 10% this turn;
·         A Brigade Column – including Ordre Mixte - will test as a whole if any one of its constituent units loses in one turn at least 10% if its original strength;
·         Unit or formation’s losses reach 50%;
·         Unit attempting to rally from rout.

8.3. Results of testing:
Current state of Unit/Formation
DR <= MF
(Die roll not greater than modified Morale Factor)
DR = MF+1
DR = MF+2
DR >= MF+3
Advancing or charging
Continue as ordered next turn.
Halt.  Charging troops halt 5cm from enemy.  May fire if moved half or less allowed distance.
Fall back at once half to full move facing enemy.  May fire next turn.
Break and rout.  Move full distance in rout, with backs to the cause of the rout.
Continue as ordered next turn.
Fall back at once half to full move facing enemy. May fire next turn.
Break and rout.
Move full distance in rout, with backs to the cause of the rout.
Break and rout.
Move full distance in rout, with backs to the cause of the rout.
Falling back or retiring in the face of the enemy
Continue as ordered next turn.
Break and rout.
Move full distance in rout, with backs to the cause of the rout.
Break and rout.
Move full distance in rout, with backs to the cause of the rout.
Break and rout.
Move full distance in rout, with backs to the cause of the rout.
Halt. Spend 2 moves rallying from rout; forming up in any formation.
Break and rout.
Move full distance in rout, with backs to the cause of the rout.
Break and rout.
Move full distance in rout, with backs to the cause of the rout.
Break and rout.
Move full distance in rout, with backs to the cause of the rout.

The Play Test.
Turn 1:

 In the following action, a French Divisional (or Brigade) column of 3 regiments (battalions) in line is attempting to storm an Austrian position occupied by two regiments (battalions) in line.  As the action opens, the column is outside musketry range of the Austrians.  The ruler indicates how far they can move this turn.
 As the range closes, the French end their turn at beyond short range of the Austrian line.   The Austrians now have to choose: to hold their fire until the French close the range (or they decide to close the range themselves), which would give them a +1 bonus for short range and +1 bonus for 'first volley' (which is applicable only at short range anyhow).  But what if the French decide instead to deploy into line?
 The Austrians fire at once, at long range, hoping to damage the French enough to stop them with a morale roll. There are 24 figures per regiment, 6 volley groups.  That implies 6 dice apiece, with scores or 1, 2 or 3 counting.  The right hand regiment's (Schroder Infantry)  firing isn't very good: just 1+1=2 hits.  The left hand regiment fares much better: 9 hits!  Good shooting! [If you're wondering, the statistical expectation would have been 6 hits each.  Overall, then their collective shooting is a little below par, but not too bad].

 The firing is adjudicated by target, not individual firing units.  So the 11 hits are collected and redivided into a group of 8 plus a 'remainder' group of 3, as above.  Each 'group' is rerolled, with the results you see below.  Removing duplicates from the 8-group yields 5 casualties.  As there are no duplicates in the 3-group, it yields a further 3 casualties.  
Altogether, then, 8 casualties have been inflicted upon the French column [strictly speaking, 8 figures are no longer with the colours - a few unwounded guys might well have decided it was all getting a bit much...]

For the purpose of this action, all casualties have been taken from the leading unit, but I have been considering taking from the supporting units in a ratio of one for every two taken from the unit immediately in front of them.  This would imply 5 casualties taken from the lead unit; 2 from the nest back, and 1 from the rear unit.   I like this idea, but it does have certain practical difficulties ...
The loss of 8 figures from a 72-figure strong column represents a 10% loss in one turn - pretty hefty!  The column takes a morale check ... and rolls a 6!  In my rule set - the idea taken from Terrible Swift Sword - you want to roll low for morale checks.  As there are no actual penalties (yet), the column fails by 1.  As it was advancing, it must halt.  It can't fire this turn, having made a full move, but may in the moves following, if it chooses. 

Ain't it the way, though, that when you want to play test a general sort of situation you get an extreme result?  I have just noticed the general figure I placed with the formation, which ought (probably) to have cancelled the difference - and that may force a rethink of the mechanics for Division Columns right there.

Turn 2:
 Having got the 'odd' result, I thought I should run with it for now.  But, halted under fire as the French are, what should now happen?  I decided that they would attempt to deploy into a Division (Brigade) line.  Right there, there is a problem: the 15cm move is not nearly enough to deploy fully (the 2nd battalion - 51st Line - goes right, the third - 61st Line - goes left).
.  Meanwhile the battered lead battalion is having to sustain an unequal firefight.  At long range, but unhampered by their own smoke, the 30th de Ligne does very well: 8 hits!  Somewhat blinded by their own smoke, the Austrians manage only 6 hits (pretty much what you'd expect with this rule set in this circumstance).
 However, on this occasion the 8 French hits yields only 4 men lost to the Austrians, one of whom (on account of the triple 6) is the commanding General.  The 6 hits by the Austrians yield 5 figures lost to the French.  These strange-looking results are at least as likely to occur using the 'saving dice' system pioneered, among others, by Don Featherstone.  But it seems to be rarer with 'my' method.  
 Many readers will have noted that a group of 8 dice can never yield more than 6 'casualties', which means that 2 dice will be redundant.  That is not quite the case.  The extra dice in the group make 5 and 6 casualties more likely.  A group of 6 dice exactly has 6!/6^6 = 120/7776 < 1.6% to yield 6 casualties - a very low likelihood.  What that would mean is a considerable discontinuity between 6 and 7 'hits'.  Building the group into 8 tends to 'dampen' the effects of this discontinuity - at least somewhat.
 At this point, the rearmost battalion is out of range, but probably the right hand unit (51st Line) ought to have been included at the target, instead of all the fire concentrated upon the unfortunate 30th Line.  I do think I made a mistake there.  Also coming into question is whether the 30th and 51st constitute two targets or one.  As the latter is not yet clear of the column formation, I incline to the view that the whole would continue to form one target.
Having made the decision that all the 'hits' are brought upon the 30th Line, we roll for morale.  A '1'! Unbelievable!  Having lost more than 50% the 30th Line is out of the fight and must retreat.   But the die score means it will do so in good order, facing the enemy.  This retrograde move takes place next move, but before all other movement.

Turn 3:
I allowed 30th Line to trickle back through the gap between 51st and 61st Line.  I really will have to work on this Divisional column gig.
 Now in line, 30th Line having fallen back, the Division enters a straight firefight with their Austrian opposites. This did mean that 61st Line had to move forward to form on the 51st's flank.  However, the 'halt' result is no longer in effect.  In what follows, I treated both Austrian and French lines as single entities - as single targets - but a case could, and possibly should, be made that these combats could be resolved into separate combats.  This is especially true when we took the morale of 30th Infantry as distinct from the rest of the formation once it began to deploy into its constituent regiments. This can affect results, so needs to be thought about.  A couple of points to note, however.  Now that the Austrians have taken losses, an odd coloured die comes into each unit's firing to represent a volley group  2 or 3 figures. The Die Range for these is reduced by 1.  

Note: As the two are simply firing at the enemy line, I could have totalled all the figures and arrived at a single understrength volley group, or possibly even eliminated the need for odd coloured dice. The difference in such cases is fairly trivial, but one ought to be consistent one way or the other.  In treating the firefight as two separate actions, there is no choice: each unit's fire is treated separately, as each enemy unit is treated as a separate target. Whatever decision is reached, it will have to take into account the implications for firefights between longer lines, and/or between lines of disparate strengths and numbers of units.

As it happens here, neither side's shooting is very good - the French particularly poor, given their higher available die range (not having to fire through their own smoke).
 So the Austrians get marginally better of the firefight against the 'fresh' French units, but they must remain at a slight disadvantage against their opponents, having lost several men already.  

Turn 4:
Casualties are removed evenly from each unit, an arbitrarily chosen unit supplying the 'odd' casualty.   Just to expedite matters, the Austrians (for no particular reason) elect to close the range.  The photo is missing, but in this exchange, the Austrians get very badly mauled, scoring 4 hits and taking 19!
 The 4 hits result in 3 French casualties; the 19 hits an appalling 11 casualties from the Austrian infantry.
The damage to the French this turn is too slight to force a morale check, but clearly the morale state of the Austrians must be in question!  The respective rolls, a '1' and a '3', are good enough, however, to keep both units in the fight.  They could, of course, pull back whilst their order remains solid.  ... 
Turn 5:
No: they carry on the fight, determined to hold on to the position they are gallantly defending.   This time, their shooting is much, much improved: 11 hits!  Considering their reduced state, this is very good shooting. The French 61st Line (nearest camera) also shoots well, but after their astonishing volley a few moments ago, the 51st shoot wild - not a single hit registered! 

 All this was totally random - I decided to go with whatever results turned up on the dice.  I have to say this was turning into an incident-filled struggle!
Casualties resolved:
11 hits by Austrians => 7 French casualties;
7 hits by French => 5 Austrian casualties.

For the French, 4 casualties are removed from 51st Line, 3 from the 61st.
For the Austrians, 3 casualties are taken from Schroder infantry, 2 from Kaunitz.
 The percentages that trigger morale checks and modifications to a unit's morale are taken from the unit's original, rather than progressive, strength.  This is simply to make administering morale easier.  As a result, Kaunitz Infantry, having taken less than 10% losses this turn is not required to test morale.  All three other units are.  Bear in mind that now the column is no longer a column the units take morale separately.

Which clearly indicates that the firefights ought to have been resolved severally, after all.  The question then arises about what would happen had the 30th remained in the fight.  Clearly, the two Austrian units would have had to split their fire in some way.

It should be noted, by the way, that I don't particularly regard a unit's morale gradually failing as casualties accumulate.  I am inclined to see the falling 'morale factor' as losses accumulate as a reduced ability to absorb shock.  So a unit that has suffered 40% losses will still not test morale if it takes fewer further casualties than the threshold of 10% of its original strength.  Not even if this brings its total losses to 49%.  Mind you, any further punishment, however slight, will be enough to put the unit pretty much out of the battle, as has happened to 30th Line.

The results of the morale checks can be seen below.  Schroder Infantry and 51st Line both fail their rolls by 1 (the accompanying general helps the latter!).  As they are halted, both fall back, though in good order.
It might be objected that the Austrian Infantry having advanced this turn ought simply to have been halted.   One might take, as I did (in effect), the view that as, in order to shoot, they halted half way through their movement allowance, they should count as having halted.  However, a case could be made that the Austrians' advance constituted a show of aggression, and they ought therefore get the benefit of their advance.  I'll have to think about that!
End of the action.  At this point both sides' right flanks have been driven in, though still in good order. Losses have been heavy, too: 20 Austrian and 28 French no longer with the colours (from a percentage point of view, the Austrians just marginally worse than the French (c.43% to c.39%).  I decided to end the action at this point, though to be sure both sides would have interesting decisions to make.   Probably both sides would have fallen back to regroup.

Army Corps:
In view of the limited size of my table, will scant hope for anything bigger, I have been investigating reorganising my armies into scaled down Army Corps.  
 Beginning with the French, I'm thinking of a standard Corps formation comprising 3 'Divisions' (actually Brigades) of 3 'regiments' (actually battalions), 1 light cavalry regiment and a Corps Artillery of 2 pieces - a total of 144 foot, 12 light horse, and 8 gunners (4 per cannon).  Possibly one Army Corps will comprise 4 Divisions, but if I have enough in the way of general officers will add a IV Corps HQ to allow for the splitting of this large Corps into two small ones.  Three, or possibly 4, Army Corps will be supported by a strong Division of the Guard, comprising one regiment each of the Young, Middle and Old Guard.  I have no Guard Cavalry, though.   On the other hand, it might be better to dispense with the Guard altogether in favour of a 'proper' IV Army Corps.  Decisions, decisions.
 Because the two units comprising the assault column don't look right as successive lines - half the 'column' being able to shoot - it seems better to arrange them as two battalion columns side by side. The formation will still be limited to the same movement speed as a regimental line - 15cm per turn.  This will tend to make deployment from column to line a whole deal quicker!  Not exactly historical, withal, but the most convenient method I can think of.  It might also mean a rethink of the mechanics of Division columns in attack.
Notwithstanding the dual scale, 'Divisions' can still deploy skirmishing voltigeurs.  Meanwhile, sorting out a proper Corps system for the Austrians might be a bit tricky!  That's for another posting.


  1. Ah, Napoleonics! My first (wargames) love!
    Good post!

    1. Thanks, John! Napoleonics has something of its own that no other period has. I've never quite been able to put my finger on why.

  2. Great post, thanks. Ii think it gives a good feel for the rules and the thought behind them.

    1. Thanks for reading it through. I was a bit surprised at the number of issues that cropped up, especially in respect of determining the French brigade as a single entity (as it clearly was when it was a column), or one made up of separate battalions (which became apparent once it split up to deploy).

      I did make one mistake, triggering morale rolls on losses 10% of the whole formation, when it ought to have been the lead unit. It didn't make any difference, though, and the way I played it might as well stand.

      Of course the Austrians' first volley ought not to have stopped the column at all (a rll of 5 or less would have kept it going). In which case, the French would have been able to strike the line in a close combat - provided, of course, they passed the likely morale roll (which, given losses similar to the previous turn, will have brought their MF down to 4. That will have to be the subject of another posting.