TITLE: LE FEU SACRE. Corps level Napoleonic Wargaming. 3rd edition (2009)
AUTHOR: Darren Green
PUBLICATION DATE: 2009
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:
Le Feu sacre has a Yahoo group. It has lots of helpful members, including the author, various scenarios in the file section and Frequently Asked Questions.
Web site: Le Feu Sacre home page. This site features a FAQ, free scenarios and battle reports.
PRICE: 7.00 GBP for PDF via e-mail (2009)
REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin
PERIOD COVERED: The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815
THE BOOK: I purchased the PDF version via e-mail. Printed on a black and white laser printer the book runs 72 pages, including two page of tables as well as a front and rear cover. The rules themselves occupy 42 of those pages. The rest are devoted to Advanced Optional Rules, Commander Ratings and Army Lists.
SCOPE: Designed to 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. Units are generally small - 12 figures for infantry, 8 for cavalry.
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.
- 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 good games are playable on 4 x 6 feet.
- Game Length: Estimated: 2 to 4 hours.
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.
In common with many Too Fat Lardies rules, units are activated by chance. A deck of cards is used. For each Commander-in-Chief, Divisional officer and Independent brigadier in the game there is a corresponding card in the activation deck. When a commander’s card is drawn, his units may act. There are also special supplemental cards. A commander may only activate once per turn regardless. Once activated, that commander follows this sequence:
- 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. PIPs are allocated to his units.
- Compulsory Moves are carried out - routs and pursuers only.
- 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. There are two types of movement - Grand Tactical and Tactical. Grand Tactical Movement is carried out first.
- 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.
In addition to the number of figures, units have a variety of characteristics which affect various other game mechanisms. First, there is the Unit Class. Each unit is rated from A (the elite) to D (the rabble). Additionally units may be Elan (attack with fervor), Stoic (suffer adversity well) or Brittle (not good).
A unit may also have a status. Units start the game at Normal. Through combat and maneuver they may become Shaken. From shaken they may degrade more and Rout. A unit may also become disordered through combat, movement in/through certain terrain etc. A unit may be in Pursuit of a fleeing enemy (and hence beyond higher command’s control). In certain situation a unit may be surprised. Exhausted units are referred to as Blown. And units post-combat are busy Reforming.
ACTIVATION AND COMMAND AND CONTROL:
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.
ZONES OF CONTROL
LFS features a Zone of Control rule. From the face of a unit, extending for 4” exists a Zone of Control (ZOC). A ZOC greatly limits the ways in which enemy units may maneuver around each other. In essence, if your unit enters the ZOC of an enemy unit you are committing to combat. The ZOC rule essentially replaces ranged combat. Either you stand off outside musket range or you close and decide the issue. If an enemy unit is caught in your ZOC you may “pin” that enemy unit. Pinned units have severely limited movement unless it is away from (out of the ZOC of) the pinning unit. Zones of Control are especially important when one line overlaps or flanks another.
Grand Tactical Movement precedes Tactical Movement. In essence, this is when blinds, representing whole division, are moved. For each pip assigned to a blind it may move 8” if in column or 4” otherwise.
Tactical Movement involves spending PIPs. Action costs can increase with distacne between the unit and the commander. Each action has an associated IPI cost. For example, changing formation costs one PIP, while retiring at half speed costs two PIPs. Some actions, such as Spotting enemy blinds cost no PIPs.
LFS provides detailed procedures for the drill movements of the period. Advances, obliques, shift to flank, etc are all explained in detail as to how they are carried out and their PIP costs.
Artillery fire is done by rolling two six-sided dice (2D6), checking a short list of modifiers and consulting a bombardment table. The bombardment yields a value based on target type and range. The dice total is divided by this bombardment value to determine the number of hits (rounding down). For example, at close range firing on a square the bombardment value is 3. If the dice score 6 two hits are inflcited. If a nine 3 hits are inflicted and so on. 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 value against the defender’s. Units have a combat value based on troop type, formation and opponent. Infantry in line vs. other infantry have a value 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 value rolls 2D6 and then adds the difference between his combat value and his opponent’. If there is a tie, the phasing player rolls.
The combat table has one row for each combat type (infantry vs. infantry or cavalry vs. cavalry). The tables are inspired by the Reissewitz Kriegspiel rules. Cross referencing the combat type with the final modified die roll yields a result, It indicates who won and how many casualties each side took. 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.
There are several pages of detailed combat examples, accompanied by simple line diagrams. these are very helpful in getting acquainted with the combat system.
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 D class (militia). A class units rally themselves, D 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 A 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.
This third edition includes extensive lists of commander ratings, as well as army lists. these are broken down by campaign and include all the major countries. Also included is a system for randomly generating commander ratings.
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 ), 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.
From the review of the 2nd edition: “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 along with scenarios for Bunker Hill and Guilford Courthouse.
In general the writing is clear but I have to admit that for some reason I find the rule book hard to follow. I think because it feels like there are lots of modifiers and exceptions to keep track of. For example, combat seems straight forward. Calculate your values, roll two dice, get a result. On the page of tables the result might read “hD+” On the chart this means higher unit is soundly beaten and may Rout. But in the explanation of this result in the rules themselves, we find a series of notes:
Troops in Normal morale, who are not Stoic, who receive this result will Rout if they have no rear support. If they do not Rout then the steps described in 21.1 apply.
It is not that the prose is not clear. Just rather that, after reading through the rules carefully I am left with an impression of needing to remember a lot of variables and exceptions. I also get the feeling it is a “marker-intensive” game needing to remember who has moved or not, morale status, disordered status etc.
Darren green, the author of the rules, writes:
The third edition of LFS marks a significant change for the rules. The previous rules focussed on the later Napoleonic wars, from aroun 1808 onwards. However, the author and many of the players wished to play earlier period games. As the rules were out of print, we took the decision to take a step back and make some changes. In order to cope with armies from 1792-1815, we have introduced a greater variety of unit characteristics, in particular we've added "Elan", "Brittle" and "Stoic". So for example, French revolutionary national guard are class "D" (the lowest), have "Elan" in attack but are prone to panic and are therefore "Brittle". As a contrast, a relatively well trained, run of the mill regular Austrian regiment would just be class "C" i.e. average in every respect. The other big change is to give players rules to treat skirmishing as entirely abstract (as in the original rules) through to allowing any unit to deploy in Grand Bandes, again this is needed to properly reflect the revolutionary period. There are several other, more subtle changes (for example, we have integrated "directing battalions" into the original brigade move mechanisms). We have also taken the opportunity to change the writing style from the original, very terse, style to a more descriptive tone. All in all, we hope we have kept to the free-flowing feel of the original, whilst adding a lot of period flavour.
See the comments about the 2nd Edition.
There is another lengthy overview with additional commentary here.