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Le Feu Sacre 2nd. Ed.

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TITLE: LE FEU SACRE. Corps level Napoleonic Wargaming. 2nd edition (2005)Le Feu Sacre

AUTHOR: Darren Green, AKA the Rug Doctor.

PUBLISHER: TooFatLardies. http://www.toofatlardies.co.uk/ 

PUBLICATION DATE: 2005

WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:

Lfslist Yahoo group  http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/lfslist/  Lots of helpful members, including the author, various scenarios in the file section and Frequently Asked Questions.

Web site: http://www.lefeusacre.co.uk/ Has FAQ, free scenarios and battle reports. You can purchase the rules and the scenario book.

PRICE: 13.10 GBP with postage to the US (2008)

REVIEWED BY: Vincent Tsao. While not associated with TooFatLardies or the author, he is an original fan boy of the rules and has written a scenario and a period supplement for them.

PERIOD COVERED: Napoleonic wars 1808-1815.

THE BOOK: Spiral bound, plastic lined cover and back, 64 pages, color cover, 8 by 11 inches. The rules are also sold as a PDF via email. My first edition is a hard copy, my second is a PDF.

SCOPE: Fight battles with a corps on each side. Individual units are infantry battalions, cavalry regiments and artillery batteries grouped into divisions and the odd independent brigade..

ARMY SIZE: 200-300 infantry, 30-100 cavalry, 4-10 guns and 3-6 generals, assuming 15mm or 25mm. Smaller scales will vary according to how many figures you like to mount on a base. Many players in these scales use more figures.

BASE UNIT: Battalions are mostly 12 figures for infantry, 8 for cavalry regiments and one gun model and crew per battery (I use two guns per battery because I like the look).

Infantry battalions and cavalry regiments are made up of multiple stands. The designer used to play Empire, so Empire basing will work. Other types will work also, as long as both sides are based in a similar fashion. Artillery batteries are single stands. That said, one player uses 6mm figures with a whole unit on one stand. That works too.

GAME SCALES:

  • Ground scale (1” = 50 yards)
  • Time scale (1 turn = 15 minutes)
  • Figure/Base Ratio (1 figure = 40-50, when using 15-25mm figures)
  • Recommended Figure size (15mm or 25mm, though people also use 10mm and 6mm. For the smaller scales, just think of the figures per unit as strength points)
  • Table Size: none listed but I get good games on 4 X 6 feet.
  • Game Length: Estimated: 2 to 4 hours.

BASING SIZES:

There is no one size for a base. There are suggested frontages per figure. In 15mm 3-rank infantry are based 8mm per figure, 2 cavalry per 25mm front, and 6mm per actual gun in the battery. Again, those who have figures based for Empire will be based this way already. My figures are based on 1 inch wide stands. I didn’t rebase for this.

TURN SEQUENCE:

Activation is card sequenced, from a single deck. If a division’s card is drawn the division then follows the sequence listed below.

The division may attempt to spot enemy blinds – forcing enemy troops to deploy or dummy blinds to be removed if successful.

The division commander rolls a die to determine command PIPs available. Better officers tend to get more PIPs.

The division artillery (if any) may bombard. Rifle-armed units may also do distant fire. Targets test reaction if they are hit.

The division Commander uses PIPs to move or rally units. Routed and pursuing units also move.

Combat is resolved – note there is no distant musket fire. Combat reaction moves are made.

If the army commander’s card has been drawn, he may use PIPs to change divisional orders.

The next card is drawn. When the whole deck is played the turn is over.

GAME MECHANICS:

The heart of the game is the card deck, as in other TFL games. Each division and higher commander gets a card. There is a grand tactical march card, allowing a force still on blinds to make an extra move. The gifted/bold commander card allows a gifted officer to move then instead of waiting for his proper card – a bold officer must move then. A division may not activate more than once per turn but timing may be crucial. The poor/cautious commander card affects the next such officer whose card is drawn. A poor officer loses their turn while a cautious officer may not advance. The army commander may give his turn to a nearby subordinate, allowing him to ensure that a formation does something. Of course, if the army commander is rated poor he may lose his turn instead. Unlike other TFL games the entire deck is drawn every turn – there is no ‘tea break’. There is room for scenario-specific or ‘house’ cards. My group uses cardboard counters drawn from a large teacup instead of cards. Other players use marked poker chips drawn from a bag, etc.

Officers may be gifted, able, solid (average) or poor. They may also be bold or cautious, for example Marshal Ney later in his career is deemed poor/bold. He might activate early, when his card is drawn or do nothing at all. Officers roll an average die to see how many PIPs they get. Poor officers subtract one from the roll, able officers add one and gifted officers add two.

Divisions have orders: attack, maneuver or hold. Changing these orders in a timely way is important and not always easy.

Artillery fire is done by rolling two six-sided dice (2D6), checking a short list of modifiers and consulting a bombardment table. If a hit is scored the target takes a bombardment morale test with 1D6. It may become shaken and fall back. An already shaken target will rout. Figures and stands are not removed. Losses are kept track of for each unit. Some use pipe cleaners, I use numbered chits to indicate how many hits a unit has taken.

All other combat is resolved by checking the attacker’s combat factor against the defender’s. Units have a combat factor based on troop type, formation and opponent. Infantry in line vs. other infantry have a factor of 4. There is a short list of modifiers, including 10% or more losses, 25% or more, unit has terrain advantage, etc. The side with the highest factor rolls 2D6. If both are even, the phasing player rolls. The result is checked on one of three combat tables, foot vs. foot, horse vs. foot and horse vs. horse. The tables are inspired by the Reissewitz Kriegspiel rules. Losing units can be driven back shaken, defeated shaken or routed. Infantry vs. infantry may get the dreaded firefight result, with two hits each and a second die roll to determine who gets the extra hit. Even the winner of such of a fight may be mauled. Basically, the dice determine if your charge went in with cold steel or stalled and shot it out. Firefights happen most in even matches. Cavalry vs. cavalry fights are often fairly bloodless and indecisive, though being caught by fresh cavalry when your horses are blown can be trouble.

The only morale test is the bombardment morale test. Other morale effects are built into the combat tables. Morale grades run from A class (guards) to E class (militia). A class units rally themselves, E class need two PIPs per unit to rally and others need one.

High morale units tend to beat up their lesser foes. The combat tables are well thought out and a wide variety of results available from a simple procedure. Chargers may refuse to charge and become shaken, the target of the charge may bolt before contact, and any number of results in between.

Timing and pressure are important in this game. If you have a lot of shaken units, you hope your division activates before the enemy so that you can rally them. Shaken troops have their combat factor halved and if shaken again they will rout.

Skirmishing is mostly abstracted into the combat system. Infantry Units get skirmish ratings which affect combat rating when fighting in rough terrain. There are rules for entire battalions skirmishing, but these are not the strong suit of the rules. The strength of the rules is that a divisional attack can go in and be resolved in s fairly short time with results that make sense.

Divisions start the game on blinds – basically cardboard counters. They remain that way until spotted by the enemy or you decide it is time. Spotting the enemy is done using dice. Blinds may spot, as may division commanders. It is to your advantage to deploy second. Dummy blinds may spot, representing small scouting parties. This allows hidden movement without an umpire and can bring out your inner McClellan.

ARMY LISTS/SCENARIOS:

There are three pages of army lists covering the French, Austrians, Russians, Prussians, British, Portuguese, Spanish Grand Duchy of Wasaw, Italians and French allies. They give approximate percentages and morale ratings of troops. There is no points system. The rules are primarily designed for historical scenarios or campaigns rather than tournaments. The rules end with a fictitious 1813 Prussian-French scenario which gives an idea how to set up scenarios and also gives a decent game. There are also rating for historical generals and rules to generate your own.

There are scenarios on the LFS website (one by this reviewer) and also in the Yahoo group’s files. 

There is also a scenario booklet available as a PDF download ‘A La Baionette’ (6 GBP as PDF, 7.50 GBP as CD ROM [2008]), which has scenarios for Austerlitz, Anklappen (Eylau), Medina de Rioseco, Teugen Hausen, Aderklaa, Salamanca, Utitsa (Borodino), Mockern (Leipzig), St. Pierre and Plancenoit (Waterloo). The scenario books could be used with other rule sets with minor changes. My one reservation about the scenario book is that the designer has a large figure collection and most of the scenarios are large games. That said, they are good scenarios and the Plancenoit one is very welcome, showing the desperate struggle that was going on behind the French flank for much of the day.

TFL (TooFatLardies) produce Summer and Christmas Specials, PDF magazines with articles and scenarios for their stable of games. Most issues include some Articles and/or scenarios for Le Feu Sacre. This includes a American Revolutionary War variant I wrote along with scenarios for Bunker Hill and Guilford Courthouse. The designer has also written an article and army lists for the 1805-1807 period. He believes changes are needed to play battles of the French revolutionary period, though I have enjoyed several games of that period with the rules as is.

REVIEWER’S COMMENTS:

The rules concentrate on friction and command rather than modeling weapons effects. The designer aimed at producing a fast play system that felt like Empire, minus the heavy lifting. I only saw Empire played once and can’t comment on the feel. But the heavy lifting is gone. The Quick Reference Sheet (which you must print from the PDF or from a copy on the Yahoo group) fits on both sides of one sheet of paper. Once you know the rules most of the game can be played from the Quick Reference Sheet, only needing to check the rule book for unusual events.

The writing is fairly clear and some examples are included with diagrams. This is a second edition so things have been cleaned up since the first edition. There is a table of contents. The rules mechanisms are fairly easy to understand – once one gets used to having musket fire merged with other combat. The rules are vague about how the blinds and the cards interact. Often new players ask about this on the Yahoo group and are set straight by the members, who have more than one way to do this.

PLAYER’S COMMENTS:

I’ve been playing these rules for a number of years now and they are my favorite set of Napoleonic rules. I like them for their fast play, command & control system and general feel.

What do I mean by feel? The combat results have never left us wondering, “How the hell that happened?” Cavalry has power but is not a blunt instrument – use it that way and you’ll soon have a bunch of beat-up units. When they fight each other it is often fairly indecisive.

This is also one of the few sets of rules I’ve seen where traffic jams happen. A good use for a corps commander is unsnarling them and getting things moving again. It also has simple hidden movement. When we play with corps of some 20-30 units per side, turns run about 15-20 minutes. We got up to that speed by the second game. Some folks report playing slower.

I’ve seen other rules that portray Austrians as lousy troops. With these rules the Austrians have some fine units. They are saddled with poor commanders. The French may outmarch them but think twice about just bulling through them. If you have poor commander you must stick with easy plans, because your army will not do anything fancy.

The one gripe about LFS I’ve heard from some of my mates and some new guys on the Yahoo group concerns mass panics. A unit that routs will carry away other units of equal or lesser morale within 4 inches behind it. I have seen routing units carry away 3 or 4 friends more than once and been the victim too. Routed units are permanently shaken when rallied. Players who have this happen gripe that the otherwise unscathed units are worthless. I figure if they crowd stuff into the line they deserve it. The designer is (as of early 2008) toying with allowing routed units to rally from routed to shaken in one turn and then from shaken to good order in the next. I don’t have a problem with that. But then I don’t have a problem with units that ran away being permanently shaken. I assume that a good number threw away their weapons and that a panic run left most of them cowed. But I’ll play either way. Units that have lost 50% are also permanently shaken.

The TooFatLardies welcome house rules and interpretations. There are rumors that if you stray too far, sizeable British chaps will rappel down from black helicopters and drink all the beer in your fridge. Not so. I’ve been playing heretical variants of these rules since 2002 or so and have not lost a single beer to them yet.

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