Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
PatrickNolen

28mm Napoleonics

Recommended Posts

I haven’t gotten to play Napoleonics, ever, but have always loved the period. Finding a group of likeminded nerds just never seemed to happen... But I do try to keep an eye on that side of the hobby.

By all accounts, it seems that Black Powder from Warlord Games is the most popular and most approachable wargame for massed battle (50+ troops) that covers 1700 – 1900 CE. The basic rules are modified slightly for various eras: French and Indian Wars, American Revolution, Napoleonics, American Civil War, Colonial Africa, etc. It was written by Rick Priestly and Jervis Johnson, who were basically the creative force behind the titles that put Games Workshop on the map (Rick Priestly also wrote the WWII game, Bolt Action, for Warlord Games alongside Alessio Cavatore another former GW alum).

Muskets and Tomahawks from Studio Tomahawk is an excellent game for skirmishes (10-20 troops) in the same period. The game has a second edition due out soon, that will follow the same core rulebook modified by era books. The French and Indian Wars and the American Revolution will be the first book, Napoleonics will be the second.

There are a lot of Napoleonic games on the market, but these two would probably be the best place to start. If you can drum up some other interested parties, I’d love to join.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Napoleonics, like Warhammer, are their own sub-hobby, really.

I'll second everything Ish has said, with one caveat: massed battles in Napoleonics tend to mean well in excess of 100 figures a side, even in 28mm. Black Powder, for example, defaults to a standard unit of about 24 infantry figures to give a 200-250mm frontage, and further assumes that each side fields around 8-12 units, and then that you've a table that can accommodate maneuver with that much lead on the table. (This is why I use 6mm for massed battle...) That said, Black Powder is also an extremely flexible rule set! They assume you'll be tinkering with the rules to fit your desired outcome and your own constraints. The only thing I try to avoid when I build units is the impression of a couple of men taking a flag for a walk...

If you want to dip into the period somewhere between hundreds and hundreds of figures and sharp skirmishes, I think you should look at Sharp Practice from Too Fat Lardies (40-60 to a side). 

In any case, I've played some glorious games at this scale, both at Enfilade and at our local Ambuscade convention. (Enfilade is sadly canceled this year, thanks to COVID.) One standout is anything put on by Alyssa Faden.

I'm sticking with 6mm for massed battles, but if you decide to dip in at a smaller level, I'd be happy to paint up a few Prussians or some such and join in.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One thing I’ve always been keen to try is to use 28 mm rules, but with 6 mm scale figures but with multiple figs mounted to a single base.

My original idea was to use this for Saga Age of Crusades, which is normally played with 28 mm scale individual infantry figures on 20 mm square bases. I was thinking of putting four 6 mm figs on the same base.

Similarly, you’d “shrink” the terrain to match. So what the rules call a “small house” would be a collection of huts and barns with the same footprint. A small stream becomes a large river. And so forth.

So you would get the visual appearance of two grand armies clashing over a sweeping landscape, but you wouldn’t need to go through the expense of building such forces in 28 mm and it wouldn’t take eight hours to play a game.

(There are also a lot of people who play 28 mm games in 15 mm scale; they simply chop any measurements given in the rulebook in half: 28 mm soldiers move 6”? Our 15 mm soldiers will move 3”. Nice and simple.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think I've actually seen someone do that 6mm Saga setup. Heck if I can remember where, though.

I have played Bolt Action and Chain of Command with 15mm. That actually works very well with standard 28mm measurements; the ground scale looks a lot closer to figure scale.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As a general rule, historical wargame figs tend to be far cheaper than sci-fi or fantasy games (especially compared to Games Workshop). But the multi-based 6 mm proxies for 28 mm route is also (in theory) a heck of a lot cheaper too.

Compare and contrast something like the Perry Bros. British Line Infantry BH1 plastic boxed unit and the Baccus British Line Infantry NBR01 pewter unit.

The Perry 28 mm figs give you forty men for £20.00 (about $25 yankee bucks); the Baccus 6 mm figures give you ninety-six figures which if mounted four-to-a-base would yield 24 bases... But it only costs £6.00 (about $7.50 USD).

Now, as a very grossly over-generalized statement, during the Napoleonic Wars a line infantry battalion would be composed of ten companies. The whole battalion would be around 1,000 men (excluding officers, musicians, etc.) and each company was supposed to be around 100 men strong (although casualties, illness, and so forth always meant there was some variation here).

Doing some very rough “back of the napkin math,” if we wanted to represent a single company on the table using the Perry figures, we’re looking at about $75... with the Baccus figures, we’re looking at $7.50.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've only played a couple of games of Black Powder using 28mm American Civil War and had a good experience.  We reduced some of the ranges and movements though since we didn't have a massive table.  I've avoided Napoleonic because the armies are massive and have such a variety of units. I really like painting armies so 15mm is about the smallest that I actually enjoy.  I went with 28mm for the Civil War because there isn't such a huge variety of uniforms and the larger units on the table look great.  Some of the attacks column and forming square also doesn't look right unless there are a ton of figures. So if I was using Black Powder rules I think II would honestly go with a larger figure count in a smaller scale .It would take me a year though to finish a Napoleonic army in the large scale though.

Sorry its late and realized I didn't really answer the question on rules.  I only get a chance to play big historical games once in awhile so I've found the Black Powder rules easy to pick up again after not playing in awhile. I've always had a good time playing but there is a lot of abstraction. I also think its necessary to pick up the specific rules covering the era otherwise the basic rules are to generic.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wargames always involve a great deal of abstraction and approximation. The Battle of Waterloo involved some 73,000 men fighting for Old  and 118,000 men under Wellington... If you started painting now and got your children to help, then your grandkids could play sometime in high school.

The battle itself had a frontline of about four kilometers in length (actually quite short compared to most). If you wanted to model that front at 28 mm (1:64) scale you’d need a table 243’ wide. 

I’m perfectly content with a game being an abstraction. So a game of 28 mm Black Powder where my army consists only of two or three squares of a few score infantry, flanked by two dozen cavalrymen, with a pair of cannon on a styrofoam hill seems like a perfectly pleasant way to spend an afternoon. (Although I still think my 6 mm idea would probably play just as speedily, paint even faster, and cost far less money.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw a big anniversary game last year at a British War College where they set up a huge cafeteria size room with rows and rows of tables with walkways and redid the battle of Waterloo.  Dozens of war-game clubs brought in collections and ran the battle over a long weekend. I will see if I can find a link.

I've debated about building a Napoleonic army in smaller scale just for cost and actually having a larger force.  I have a bunch of American Civil War forces in 28mm but at times I wish that I had 10mm to actually do a larger battle field. Black Powder for example seems to run better with more units on the table because so much of the game is rallying forces and wisely using reserves. I'm perfectly happy with a game being more abstract if it runs more smoothly and I can actually finish a game in an evening. I'm okay with a game being a little vague on time and scale if it means the playing area looks good and is fun to play on. I want to have a feel of the period but I'm not much into tracking ammunition usage and remembering if my battery is loaded with shot or canister. One of my friends likes WW2 history and games but we keep running into friction during games because we want rules to represent different things. I like faster games that are easier to pick up and give a feel of the period and units, he really likes more of a simulation that gives historically accurate results. He has had fun playing Black Powder though since he doesn't have as many expectations on how the game should work.

I think it is really important to think about what you want from an a "historical" game.  Like Black Powder is meant to bring various armies to the table for a quick game. It is very clear in the rules that it is expected that the players agree on many rules on how the game works.  I for example play with a smaller frontage and ranges since I'm playing at a larger scale on a more normal size table.  Also, it's assumed that players just bring whatever forces they can agree on. My friend is fine with that for a black powder era game but it would drive him crazy in a more modern game. He has tried Bolt Action a couple of times but he hasn't really enjoyed it much for example. But he had a good time playing a similar game, Beyond the Gates of Antares, which has a sci fi theme but basically the same ruleset because I think he expected something different from the rules.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was a history major at university, with an emphasis on medieval military history, and am an avid practitioner of HEMA and SCA. So I fully understand the urge to whine and complain carefully critique historical inaccuracy in media and games.

On the other hand, I also only have one or two free nights in any given week. I’d like to be able to play a complete game during one (or both) of them. So whilst the idea of playing my wargames in a setup like the one below does have its appeal...

image.jpeg.476fbd058bbb9fb5f5ba95da3aea548e.jpeg

image.thumb.jpeg.022f4494f2b6b67deb1e6314ab1d05d3.jpeg

I think something like the one below is a lot more practical...

image.thumb.jpeg.bd76e5e03d2943ebca0caf65961b6331.jpeg
 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder how much of a pain it was to move the huge units from one table to the other as they marched forward?  Just thinking of what it would take to referee something like this just to keep it moving?  Its cool because I have an understanding of the battle and a vague idea of the layout of the land, cool to see the units on the tables instead of just a marker.  Have to shout down the table to check if your flank is being broken or where are your reinforcements.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From the looks of things, it looks like each player is only responsible for a one or two line companies and a few attached support units... and the set up of the multiple televisions and the big screen at the front of the room are probably being used to communicate things like Turn Number, Time Remaining, Bathroom Breaks, and so forth...

Honestly, the fact that Adam at the head of the table might not know that Doug twelve feet down has broken ranks and is running would add a lovely bit of Fog of War.

There’s probably also a dozen or more assistant referees, a half-dozen referees, and a panel of three or four uber-referees who are all slowly going insane trying to keep some semblance of order. But I’d image all the players know that this sort of event is played for love of the game and not to win. So I’d expect a lot of gentlemanly good sportsmanship and a general willingness to let your opponent fudge a few inches here or there on movement, a lot of compromise on “oops i meant to move these guys first,” and things like that.

Edit to Add: Found a good write-up of the event here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah they are playing with the Black Powder rules which states that it's supposed to be a friendly game with the intent of getting to play with period miniatures.  The rules of movement of troops is fairly abstract so it plays fast and would work well for such a big event. If I was more interested in the details of drill it might annoy me that until units are engaged they can change up formations easily. But I'm just happy to show off some armies and built terrain more than I'm not looking for simulation.  The rules have a very different feel than some of the more "tournament" style games that I"ve become burnt out on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...