TITLE: Lasalle: Tactical Warfare in the Age of Napoleon
AUTHOR: Sam A. Mustafa
PUBLISHER: Sam Mustafa Publishing LLC
PUBLICATION DATE: 2009
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:
PRICE (with date): $42.95 (in 2009)
REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin
PERIOD COVERED: The Napoleonic Wars
Lasalle is a hefty 136 page hard bound book with full color on every page. The basic rules occupy the first 70 pages, followed by Advanced Rules, Optional Rules, and a complete Army Builder system. Player aid cards are not included but are available for download from the downloads page.
Lasalle has a slightly unusual but very thoughtful organization. Rather than strictly follow the sequence of play, it is organized around activity frequency. Things you’ll do most are covered first. There is also a chapter called “Learning the Game Concepts” which addresses, in detail, unit formations, how to handle skirmishers, fronts and flanks, unit rankings, terrain, leadership and how an OOB might appear in a game of Lasalle.
SCOPE: Lasalle covers tactical warfare during the Napoleonic Wars.
ARMY SIZE: Lasalle breaks units down into just two sizes - small (4 bases) and large (6 bases). How many figures are on each base is not relevant to game play. A player may command a force of about division size.
Lasalle does not have a strict definition for what a unit on the tabletop represents. In general small infantry units represent about 500-700 men, while large units represent 800-1000 men. For cavalry the number are 300-500 and 500-700 respectively. Thus in many cases one unit is one battalion, in some cases it might represent several small battalions. Artillery units represent a single battery, each base representing two guns.
Note that in Lasalle all measurements are given in base widths (BWs).
- Ground Scale: Not stated.
- Time Scale: not stated.
- Figure/Base Ratio: Varies (see definition of base Unit above)
- Recommended Figure Size: Any. The rule book features illustrations of 6 mm, 10 mm, 15 mm and 25 mm figures.
- Table Size: 4x6’ or larger.
- Game Length: Most games should be playable in one evening - some of the provided scenarios can be played in about an hour.
Basing is not terribly critical to the play of Lasalle. Provided both sides are based the same, the critical part of basing is frontage. Infantry, cavalry and artillery stands should all have the same (or close to it) frontage.
Lasalle is played in alternating turns. Each player moves in turn following these phases for his units, then followed by his opponent. Play alternates until the game is concluded.
- Reaction Phase: Defending units take reactions. Options include a change of formation, countercharging, fall back or fire.
- Combat Phase: Resolve combats including retreats and advances.
- Activity Phase: Move units (including charging) and make recovery attempts.
- Status Phase: Remove markers, enter reinforcements and check army morale.
Movement: In Lasalle, all the troops under your command comprise your “army” which is organized into forces. During the activity phase a player selects a single force and moves each unit of that force. Movement allowances (measured in BWs) depend on unit type and formation. An infantry unit in line, for example, has a full movement rate of 6 BWs.
Changing formations can cost an entire movement allowance, part or none. It depends on the quality of the troops, and the formation they started in. In each case, one stand of the unit does not move - all the others form on that stand in the new formation.
Units may Oblique or Flank but may not do both in the same activity phase. Units may interpenetrate but must make a discipline check to do so.
Unit Ratings: Each unit in Lasalle has three major ratings. The first is simply the number of stands that comprise the unit. The second is Esprit. Units may be Valiant, Reliable or Shaky. The second is Discipline. Units may be Experienced, Amateur or Irregular. (By definition any unit that is not irregular is also regular). Commanders are rated for their Vigor and, in the advanced rules, Tactics.
Charging: Moving into base-to-base contact with the enemy is called Charging. Units are restricted by formation and type - for example units in square may not charge, and Irregular units may not charge Regular units if either is in open terrain. Charges must be announced prior to beginning a unit’s movement. Units must charge the nearest enemy that can be reached, and may only perform a limited wheel prior to charging (1BW for infantry, 2 for cavalry) at the very start of the charge.
Recovery: As units are attacked they will suffer Disruptions. At the end of the Activity Phase units may Recover (remove Disruptions). A recovery attempt simply means to roll a D6 and score higher than your Discipline. However, under certain conditions you may need to roll more than one die. You must succeed on all the dice in order to remove one Disruption.
Reactions: During the reaction Phase your units may perform a variety of actions. Firing is a possible reaction (see Fire Combat below). To perform any reaction other than firing the unit must make a Discipline test. the allowable reactions are:
- About Face: Only if you have been charged from a flank or rear
- Change Formation: Only if an enemy unit has charged into contact
- Countercharge: A cavalry unit may attack an enemy unit that charged into contact with another of your units.
- Fall Back: A unit may fall back to avoid contact. The length of the fall back is determined by the die roll of the Discipline test. Infantry might fall back up to 2BW, cavalry and artillery up to 6BW. Units that attempt to fall back and are unable to break contact break instead.
Fire Combat: Fire combat in Lasalle occurs during your own Reaction Phase, which comes before you move or charge into combat. Lasalle uses a simple Kill Dice system. You roll a number of dice (generally one per base) attempting to score a 4+ on each die. Each success inflicts one hit. At the end of fire, Hits are translated into Disruption markers. For example, during the Reaction Phase, two infantry units and an artillery unit fire on a French column. They inflict three hits. Checking our chart we see that this causes one Disruption. The French column is marker with a Disruption marker.
There are two kinds of modifiers in fire combat. There are modifiers to the die roll for cover. You may also roll additional dice for having better a better Skirmish value, or for certain other situations (firing roundshot at a square for example).
Note that cavalry units do not fire (unless allowed to do so by a special rule).
Artillery fire is resolved just as musketry, but with some slight differences. How many dice they roll is dependent on the type of artillery (heavy, medium or light) and the range. In addition, at long range artillery may score Bouncethrough hits.
Combat: When resolving combat between units in base contact, each side rolls a number of dice attempting to score hits. If one side scores twice as many hits as the other a Decisive result has been reached. Otherwise the result is Inconclusive.
Each side’s pool of dice may be modified. They may add or subtract dice depending on the situation. Guard units add 2 dice, and units must subtract one die for each Disruption, for example. Unit type (infantry or cavlary), formation (wave vs. abreast) and terrain are among these modifiers. Units may also be required to halve their dice in a number of situations (when flanked, or when the defender’s front covers less than half of the attacker’s).
The sequence of combat resolution is important. At the beginning of the phase each player rolls a die. The higher roll may choose which combat to resolve first by selecting a single target. Once that combat is resolved, choice of defender alternates between players. This is important because a unit might be in contact with two enemy units and be forced to fall back by one before it can help fight the other.
If the result is decisive, the defender breaks and the attacker advances. Otherwise the loser falls back. If the attacker has won he must advance (defenders never advance even if they win).
Skirmishing: Skirmishers are handled somewhat abstractly. Each unit has a skirmish rating (generally from 0-3). For each point of SK value the unit deploys one skirmish base. The skirmish base is not an actual base but simply a marker. It is moved out of the way during charges. It may be put on the front, side or even rear of the unit, simply as a matter of convenience. There are even rules to distribute companies of skirmishers to various units by breaking up, say, the famous 95th Rifles. Skirmishers do not fire directly but instead confer various bonuses in combat.
The rule book includes several scenarios so players can set up a game right away. The scenarios are:
- The Battle of Venzone, 11 april 1809
- The Struggle for the Pratzen Heights, 2 December 1805
- The Final Push at La Haie Sainte, 18 June 1815
In addition, Lasalle includes a section called The Army Builder. Lasalle breaks the sweep of the Napoleonic Wars down into five theaters. A player may then choose an army from that time/theater. The army choices are not based upon “points.” Instead they help you choose typical armies for the times. Special rules help balance the various armies. Guards armies, for example, must win decisively. A marginal victory is actually a loss.
To design an army a player first chooses a nationality and theater. For example, the British player may choose a Peninsular Army (1808-13) or Hundred Days (1815). For the Peninsula he may choose an infantry division, a light division or a Guards division. He may then make his support choices. Players will need to agree in advance how many support options each may choose. For a small game each player should probably have just one support choice.
The author Sam Mustafa claims this is the best looking rule book out there. And it might be hard to contradict him. This book is gorgeous. More important, the rules are loaded with copious examples and illustrations, and the writing is completely transparent.
I played the game in a teaching scenario at Historicon 2009. I thought it played very smoothly. I learned a critical lesson in traffic management when my guns deployed, leaving no room for one of my infantry units to get into line! I really enjoyed the game, and once I get an Austrian army painted, look forward to running some games of Lasalle myself!
To read comments by others or leave one yourself, please click here.