Napoleonic Squares v2 (May 2023)

Last updated 29 May 2023

This is a fresh set of rules to replace the set I wrote over a decade ago. These remain more a set of guidelines than rules, that describe the way I am refighting napoleonic battles with 6mm figures. Think of this as an ongoing work-in-progress that will be added to and amended in the light of further experience. Feel free to amend as you see fit and fight the napoleonic games that you want rather than feeling you must stick to the letter of what is written here. In all cases of uncertainty apply common sense. This is really not a set of rules for competitive play!

A. Organisation and Basing

Infantry and cavalry are each based on 60mm square bases. A base represents around 1000-1500 cavalrymen or 2000-3000 infantrymen and the exact ratio will vary from scenario to scenario without worrying too much. 

Foot artillery are mounted on 40mm wide bases and horse artillery on 30mm wide bases. My artillery bases are 30mm deep but this could be extended if you like to model limbers etc. Bases represent 12-20 guns in most cases

Generals are mounted on 30mm square bases, including an ADC or two. Base these how you like so long as you can identify which is which.

Armies are divided into a number of "commands" each led by a general. The army will also have a commander-in-chief. Commands may be composed of any number of infantry, cavalry and artillery bases. Depending on the battle fought a command will typically represent a large division or a corps. Generals are rated as Poor, Good or Excellent.

Infantry and cavalry units are assigned a "class" value from 1 to 5, with 1 being the best and 5 the worst.
Infantry units are also assigned a skirmish value from 0 to 3, with 0 being the worst skirmishers and 3 the best

Artillery do not receive ratings

One turn represent about 1 real hour on average. To determine the time elapsed at the end of a turn, roll an Average die (numbered 2,3,3,4,4,5), with each pip rolled equalling 15 minutes elapsed.

Through the game, units will accompany disruption points (DPs) up to a maximum of 6 per unit. Mark these with a small die, counters or a method to suit you.

B. Terrain

I game using 2 foot square terrain tiles. Each of these is divided (mentally or actually marked) into 9 equal squares in a 3 x 3 grid. Thus a 6 foot x 4 foot battlefield will be 9 squares wide and 6 squares deep - a total of 54 squares. A square represents an area of roughly 1km x 1km. A square can be occupied by a maximum of four infantry/cavalry units and two artillery. Additional artillery may be accomodated by reducing the number of infantry or cavalry units but the total units in a square may not exceed 6. Any number of generals may be present in a square. Only units/generals of one side or the other may occupy a square at any one time.

Terrain is placed in squares and it should be clearly identified which squares do and do not contain hills/woods/etc. This terrain affects any units than move into the square. Towns are also placed in squares but in most cases can only be occupied by a single infantry unit in the square, with up to one supporting artillery unit. Other units may enter the square but are not considered to be "in" the town.

C. Turn sequence:

  1. Determine which side moves first in the turn (usually scenario defined)
  2. The active side nominates one of its commands, rolls for command points and bombards/rallies/moves units in that command before then nominating the next command and so on until all commands have activated.
  3. Resolve combats resulting from these movements
  4. The opposing side then nominates and activates commands to bombard/rally/move
  5. Resolve combats
  6. Roll for time expired then start a new turn and return to step 1

C1. Actions

Once a command is activated its general rolls for the number of actions the command can use this turn. Poor generals roll 2d3 and take the lowest score. Good generals roll 1d3 and use the score rolled. Excellent generals roll 2d3 and take the highest score. The score determines the number of actions each unit in the command can perform this turn.

One action may be surrendered by the general to declare a rally across his entire command. This allows any unit not in the frontal zone of the enemy (3 squares to the front of an enemy inf/cav/art unit) to reduce its number of disruption points by one, but never to zero. This is the only method of removing DPs from units.

Remaining actions may be used to move, bombard with artillery, or launch an assault. The actions relate to each unit in the command, so an action die of "3" allow EACH unit to expend up to three action points (assuming no rallying).

C2. Movement

Movement from one square to an adjacent square costs one action point. Movement may be orthagonal or diagonal. A second or more diagonal move will however cost 2 action points. Changing facing without moving costs 1 action point.

Movement into a square containing woods, hills, etc will cost one additional action point unless it is the only move the unit will make (i.e. a unit may always move one square if it has one action)

Cavalry moving into a woods square must end their actions.

Movement into a town within a square will cost one additional point. Only infantry can occupy a town.

Crossing a river within a square or between two squares will cost one additional point

Launching an assault into an adjacent square will cost 1 action points (therefore commands with only ONE action may not move and launch assaults this turn)

Heavy and medium cavalry who move but do not launch an assault may take one action more than indicated on the action die. Light cavalry who move but do not launch an assault may take two actions more than indicated on the action die.

Foot artillery move as if they were infantry
Horse artillery may move as if they were light cavalry

Generals may move up to three squares regardless of terrain, each square costing one point, but a second diagonal move costing two.

C3. Bombardment

Bombardment is the use of one or more artillery bases to attack an enemy occupied square. Bombarding artillery may not move in the same turn or support an attack by infantry or cavalry units.

Horse artillery may bombard into an adjacent square. This is regarded as long-range shooting due to the lighter calibre and smaller number of guns represented. 

Foot artillery may bombard into an adjacent square. This is regarded as close-range shooting
Foot artillery may bombard across an adjacent square into another. This is regarded as long-range shooting
Foot artillery on a hill may bombard across two squares and into a third. This is regarded as long range shooting

Line of sight for bombardment across a square(s) is blocked by woods, towns or higher elevations.

Each bombarding artillery unit rolls 3d6, scoring hits on 5+ if close range and 6 if long range. Total up all hits against a target square or town.

Against targets in the open, 1 disruption point is inflicted for every hit.
Against targets in woods, 1 disruption point is inflicted for every 2 hits.
Against targets in towns, 1 disruption point is inflicted for every 3 hits.

In all cases hit is scored by any rolls of 5+
If the target is a woods square then hits are scored on 6+
Target infantry occupying a town may try to avoid casualties. They roll one d8 per hit and ignore one hit for every roll of 5+ (the die type may be varied within a scenario depending on the nature of the buildings represented)

Foot artillery cannot combine movement and bombardment actions in the same turn but Horse artillery can.

C4. Assaults

An assault occurs when one side declares that an infantry or cavalry unit in a square will attack enemy unit(s) in an adjacent square (not diagonally). This may seem a fairly complex process but soon becomes second nature:

  1. If more than one unit is in the attacking square, declare which is leading the attack and which units are providing support. Indicate if support is being provided from any additional squares that contact the defender's (including up to one support from each diagonal contact)
  2. If more than one unit is in the defending square, declare which is leading the defence and which units are providing support. Indicate if support is being provided from any squares that contact the attacker's (including up to one support from each diagonal contact)
  3. Determine if either side's leading units has a skirmish advantage
  4. Determine if either side's leading unit has a class advantage over the other
  5. Roll 6d6 on the combat chart and read the results from the appropriate column
  6. Apply the results as shown on the table footnotes.
  7. Unit inflicting the fewest disruption points takes a morale check. In a draw then the unit with the most disruption tests, if equal then neither tests morale.
  8. Withdraw any units who fail morale, along with any supporting units.
  9. Winning units who were attacking may occupy the defender's position if the square is vacated. Any/all supporting units may accompany them at the player's choice.
C4.1: Cavalry may NOT attack towns or woods, but can provide support.
Artillery cannot attack but can provide attacking support if they did not bombard (and they can always provide defensive support)

C4.2: Cavalry that are leading or supporting a combat will negate opposing infantry skirmishers and reduce their skirmish value to 0 for the purpose of that combat. If both sides involve infantry with cavalry support then neither side will deploy skirmishers. 

C4.3: Units with 4 or 5 DPs cannot launch attacks but may provide combat support. Units with 6 DPs can neither launch attacks or provide support, but can still be the lead unit of a defence.

C5. Morale checks

An artillery unit(s) not accompanied by infantry or cavalry, who must test morale is destroyed automatically.

An infantry or cavalry unit that must test morale determines its morale level. This is the sum of its class and the number of disruption points it currently carries. It then rolls 2d10.

  • If both d10 each score the morale level or more then there is no adverse effect
  • If one d10 rolls below the morale level then the unit falls back one square unless it occupies a town
  • If both d10 roll below the morale level then the unit is destroyed if it had 6 DPs, otherwise the unit falls back one square and takes an additional DP 

And that is about it for now!

I'll keep adding more stuff and amending the rules as I try them more.


The following people, books and stuff have inspired some of the ideas above:

"321 Napoleonic Rules" for inspiring the current combat table 
Wargaming Miscellany blog by Bob Cordery - (for grids and rediscovering Joe M's rules)
Polemos Marechal de Empire (for agreeing that 60mm squares are the way to go)
Grand Armee and its fast play version (for lots of scenarios on t'web)
Volley & Bayonet (for separating morale from strength)
Impetus (roll off between opposing commanders for initiative)
Two-hour wargames (one fail fall back, two fails dead)
Napoleon at Marengo game by Bowe Simmons (for some great ideas for combat mechanisms)
Force-on-force (for the whole concept of changing the dice rather than the target number)
Kevin Zucker (for all of his napoleonic boardgames)
Baccus (for making such nice 6mm figures)
Timecast (for making buildings worth fighting for)
The Newark Irregulars (for helping test my crazy ideas)
Peter Pig (for PBI and the best ideas on how to use a gridded board)
Practical Wargaming/Charles Wesencraft (for introducing the idea of grand-tactical gaming and beating the rest of us to "elements" by several decades)

and all the others who I have forgotten...