Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Portable Ligny - Debrief

Ligny battle from the French POV.

As foreshadowed, this is a brief posting upon some issues that cropped up during the Ligny Battle I recently played through, using the Portable Napoleonic Wargame (Bob Cordery) system, specifically the 'Big Battle' rules. These I have modified very slightly for armies comprising more than one army and/or cavalry corps.  

  1. The Army is commanded by an army commander @ 6 Strength Points (SP); Corps by corps commanders @ 3SP, all depicted by a command figure or vignette.
  2. Divisions comprise a command (usually depicted by a flag, or an officer figure of some kind), plus 1 to 4 regiment or brigade stands.
  3. The order system was 'per book' except that as the game was played solo, there was no need for chits.  Whether or not a unit could move (shooting not requiring activation) depended upon its distance from the Corps commander - not the Army commander.  In the late battle, right at the first turn THREE of Vandamme's front line units rolled a '1'- which stalled the entire III Corps for a whole turn.
  4. You will find from the pictures I used 4-figure foot and 3-figure horse stands (instead of 3 and 2 respectively).  This was simply a matter of convenience, as my Prussians in particular don't break up into 3-figure foot units very easily.
  5. Infantry stands were brigades (French) or regiments (Prussian) with strength points equal to the number of battalions
  6. Cavalry stands were brigades, the SPs representing regiments.  

    Ligny Battle from Prussian POV.

This seemed to work quite well but a particular issue that had previously escaped my attention became quite problematic in this battle. It was this:

  •     Each French infantry Division comprised 2 brigades, that is to say, 2 stands, the strength of which varied from 2SP to 6SP.
  •     Each Prussian Division-strength Brigade comprised 3 regiments, almost all of which stood at 3SP (there were a handful of 2SP regiments). For the purposes of simplicity I ignored or subsumed single regiments, companies and batteries. Henceforth I'll call the Prussian Brigade formations 'Divisions', as, to all intents and purposes they were.
In terms of SPs and 'units per' the Prussians were pretty consistent. The French SPs per stand varied widely. But that wasn't the problem. It was the number of stands per Division.  

Now imagine a 2-stand French Division, each stand of which comprised 6SP. Match it up against a 3-stand Prussian formation, each element of which comprised 3SP.  12SP vs 9SP. Put your money on the French.  


French III Corps.  Note the 2-stand infantry
formations.  10th Division (in the rear) is a 
very strong formation.

The extra stand confers upon the Prussians a decided  advantage. In a stand-up fight, the Prussians add 2 to their die roll (support stands), subtracting 1 for the single enemy support stand, for a net modifier of +1. They will take a hit if they roll a 1.

The French add 1 to their die roll, but subtract 2 (as I believe the rules currently stand). They will take a hit on a die roll of 3. Even with my own slight change in which one's support stands go only to cancelling enemy support stand pluses, rather than taking one from the overall enemy die roll, they will still take a hit on a die roll of 2. Even that difference might be enough to cancel out the French numerical advantage.  And not many French Divisions were so strong.  

Prussian II Corps moving up.  Note the 3-stand 
infantry formations.  The blue SP dice signify regulars
the green are landwehr.

That situation existed in my earlier battles, but for some reason or other, never became sufficiently apparent to draw attention to itself.  

After spending a bit of time thinking of modifications to the rule set, I concluded that that was not where the problem lay. It would be far simpler to reduce the Prussian Brigades to 2 stands, one regular and one landwehr where appropriate, and the SPs allocated according.  Most of the Prussian formations, then, would comprise 1 stand of 'regulars' @6SP (average) and 1 of 'landwehr' @3SP (poor).  

I'll have to try the system again.  Montereau maybe...


  1. So, time to re-think potential changes and their implications. Good luck Ion - often when you change one aspect it can effect things elsewhere, so it’s a fine balance. Still, once it “feels right” to you then that’s all that really matters.

    1. Yeah, I'm usually pretty careful about the implications of any emendments that I suggest. I had to think about the system 'as she is wrote' and came to the conclusion, after a LOT of thought, that I was looking to the wrong place for a solution to a problem as I saw it.

  2. Archduke Piccolo,

    I think the changes you have made make lots of sense. I am currently reading Bernard Cornwall’s WATERLOO, and your battle report could not have appeared at a better time.

    All the best,


    1. Cheers, Bob -
      I still like my idea that one's own supporting ranks cancel enemy supporting ranks one on one, and the extras just go to pluses. Otherwise, I reckon another time I ought to rethink the organisation of the forces.

      Oddly enough, that is rather encouraging me to thinking about doing ANOTHER PW Hundred Days' Campaign - but as a campaign, rather than a series of battles as I have done. This may well involve my revisiting the OOBs for the three armies.

      I've also been thinking more about using 'my' hybrid PW and Command & Colours rule set that I used for the Vales of Lyndhurst campaign back in 2018. I quite liked the way they worked, but I'll need to have another look at them.

      I'm glad you're enjoying these battles. I think I'll put together a 'Table of Postings' posting for easy chronological access.

  3. Wonderfull looking tabletop, and I especially like the buildings you are using.

    1. Tell you what, Peter: I have played more wargames on this playing surface since I drew it up about 5 years ago than just about the whole of the previous 20 years. It was very fortunate that sheet of plywood got left behind.

      The buildings are from an eclectic collection of Model railway, Usborne, downloads and home made - and mostly, as I prefer these days, underscale. I still have to sort out my rivers on this table, though. Might be another case of making it myself...