TITLE: 1870: Grand Tactical Rules for the Franco-Prussian War
AUTHOR: Bruce Weigle
PUBLISHER: Mediaeval Miscellanea, LLC
PUBLICATION DATE: 2001
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:
The author maintains a web page at GrandTacticalRules.com which provides errata, updates and additional resources.
PRICE (with date): $30.00 (in 2010)
REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin
PERIOD COVERED: The Franco-Prussian War.
THE BOOK: The 1870 rule book is a coil bound volume of 105 pages. The rules themselves take up the first thirty pages, with the remainder of the book devoted to extensive historical and bibliographical notes, orders of battle, and fourteen historical scenarios.
SCOPE: 1870 is a set of grand tactical rules specifically tailored to the Franco-Prussian War. The system has been adapted for 1859 (Italian Independence) and 1866 (Austro-Prussian War).
ARMY SIZE: 1870 is designed for fighting major engagements of the war. Accordingly, it will require fairly large armies. A typical French corps, for example, will require 36 stands of infantry, 6 stands of cavalry, 15 batteries and numerous command stands. Stands usually have 4 or 8 figures in 15 mm.
1870 offers two scales of play:
- In the grand tactical game the base unit is the infantry brigade or cavalry regiment. An infantry battalion is made up of a single stand.
- In the “double scale” variant, each battalion is made up of two (or three) stands. This allows for the playing of smaller actions with the same rules.
- Ground Scale: 1” = 100m
- Time scale 1 turn = 30 minutes
- Figure/Base Ratio 1 infantry figure = 60-65 men (in 6 mm) or 200-300 men (15 mm)
- Recommended Figure Size: 6 mm but 15 mm may also be used. Larger figures might require adjustments as bases tend do be shallow.
- Table Size: Not stated
- Game Length: Not stated but I estimate most games should be playable in 4 to 8 hours.
The author recognizes that base sizes are often artificial depending on unit size, tactical situation, etc. However the following basing is offered, though as long as both sides are based consistently, anything reasonably close may be used with no adjustments to the rules:
- Infantry : 1.25” x .5”
- Cavalry: 1.25” x .5”
- Artillery: 3/4” x 3/4””
- Command: 1.5” x 1”
Scales remain the same for any figure scale, one simply varies the number of figures on the stand.
- The Command and Control Phase: During the Command and Control phase players issue orders to their units. An order is either move, charge or regroup. Each unit given an order is marked with an order chit. Each army is limited in the number of orders it may issue each turn.
- The Order Activation Phase: Players alternate attempting to activate each unit with an order chit. If a unit fails to activate the unit may not move, but may attempt to activate the order next turn. If it fails on the second turn, the order chit is removed and a new order must be issued.
- Movement Phase: Both players simultaneously move those units eligible to do so. Opportunity fire is resolved during this phase.
- Fire Phase: During the fire phase artillery fire is resolved first, then small arms fire. Finally charges are declared.
- Melee Phase: All melee combat and pursuits are resolved in this phase.
The Orders System: One of the key mechanism of 1870 is the use of orders. A unit generally requires an order to move. There are three kinds of orders that may be issued: move, charge and reform. During the Command and Control phase order chits are placed next to units upside down. A single order may be given to a single stand or an entire brigade. Most orders are given at the brigade level.
A unit must roll to activate an order. The chance of success depends on the rating of the unit’s commander, and whether the unit is within the commander’s command radius. Higher level headquarters may be used to influence the activation, or even to allow for second attempts. An average brigade commander will activate 70% of the time, an excellent brigade commander 90%.
There are three orders that may be given: move, charge or reform. Units do not require and order to fire, change facing or formation, and in certain circumstances counter-charge. When an order is issued a chit is put next to the unit to which the order applies. If activated the chit is turned up and the unit may move. After two failures to activate the chit is removed and a new order will have to be issued.
Move orders allow for regular movement, A Charge order is required to engage the enemy in melee and a reform order allows a unit to recover from disorganization or rout.
Movement: As one would expect, each unit must be in a specific formation. These formations include reinforced line (the most common for infantry), extended line, square, march column, etc. Units engaging in grand tactical movement move at 150% of normal speed. To use this mode of movement a unit must at least 15” behind the front line troops.
There are various kinds of terrain that restrict movement. A major consideration is that units moving through woods or towns become disorganized. Such units are less effective and require a reform order to recover.
The most unusual aspect to the movement in 1870 is that it occurs simultaneously. Both players reveal their orders and then begin moving!
Morale Rating: Every unit in 1870 has a morale value from 1 (worst) to 10 (best). Units are required to test morale if they suffer losses, lose a melee, have a commander killed, etc. Units take a morale test to recover from suppression or to rally. In addition, units will take a morale test when charging or being charged. Zouaves are rated a 10, line troops 8 while Garde Nationale are a lowly 5.
To perform a morale test, the unit’s morale rating is modified according to circumstances - losses, tactical situation, formation, etc. A die is rolled. If it is less than the modified morale rating, the unit passes. Otherwise, the Morale Results Table is consulted. The more a unit fails by the worse the result.
Unlike 1859 and 1866, there are no higher formations break points.
Artillery Fire: Artillery fire (including the Mitrailleuse) has an important advantage in 1870: it fires first. All artillery fire is resolved before any small arms fire takes place. Fire resolution is simple and speedy. Add up the Fire Points firing at a given target and roll two dice - one for hits/casualties and one for suppression. The Artillery Hits Table gives the number needed to cause a casualty (a single attack can only cause 0 or 1 casualties) and the Suppression table the score needed to suppress the target. Modifiers on the charts account for enfilades, terrain, canister, etc.
Fire Combat: Each stand in 1870 has a Combat Point Value (3 points per stand for infantry, 4 for light infantry, etc.). Fire is a simple table. Add up all the Fire Points, roll a D10, factor in your modifiers and cross reference the Musketry Table. The resulting number is the number of Combat Points eliminated from the target. Modifiers on the charts account for enfilades, terrain, canister, etc. If the fire causes at least one casualty the attacker rolls to see if the target is suppressed.
Charges and Melee: The charge and melee process is fairly straight forward. To charge a unit must have a charge order. The attacker then checks morale and charges if successful. (The only consequence of failing this check is that no charge takes place) The charging unit is then moved to the point at which the defender chooses to fire at it. The defender checks morale then fires. Assuming the attacker has not been stopped or suppressed, a melee ensues.
Melee is also resolved using the Musketry Table. Modifiers on the Musketry Table are ignored - a separate list of Melee Modifiers is used instead. The side with more losses loses the melee. If a tie ensues, a second round is fought. In the second round un-engaged stands within one inch may be committed to the melee. If there is still no result, each side rolls a die and the high roll is the winner.
Following a melee both sides are disorganized. Post-melee morale checks are made, possible pursuit casualties removed, etc.
1870 contains extensive historical notes, army lists, background essays and scenarios. The rule book is worth the price for this information alone. For 1870 these include:
- Historical Background
- Fourteen Scenarios each with detailed maps and OOBs
- Orders of Battle for all the major armies involved
- An extensive article on the changes in warfare happening at the time
Also included is an extensive bibliography, index, guide to building terrain boards and a listing of useful web sites devoted to the period.
In general the rules are easy to follow. In many sections there are good examples with clear line drawings. However there are no examples for fire combat, morale test of suppression. Even if no diagram had been provided a simple text example would have been very welcome. That said, the book is a pleasure to read and is well illustrated with color throughout.
I must admit I was unclear on exactly how Artillery fire works. All guns with the same modifiers are fired using a single die roll. This means that three stands of heavy guns firing together may cause 0 or 1 hit. But three light stands, each with different modifiers for range etc. will have a chance of causing 3 hits. Granted the three heavies have a very good chance of a hit and the three lights very slim chances of any, but it still seems I must be missing something (if I am please correct me).
Finally, there was one point of organization I did not like. Prior to the artillery fire rules is a section of historical notes running four pages. And prior to the rifel fire rules is a similar section three pages long. Thus wanting to read just the rules you have to “skip ahead” past these sections. I would have preferred to see these after the rules, instead of in the middle of them.