The Rules Directory:
1859: 2nd War of Italian Ind.

The Rules Directory only works if you help. Write a review. Get the review template here.

TITLE:  1859: Grand Tactical Rules for the Second Italian War of Independence1859

AUTHOR: Bruce Weigle

PUBLISHER: Mediaeval Miscellanea, LLC



    The author maintains a web page at GrandTacticalRules.com which provides errata, updates and additional resources.

PRICE (with date): $30.00 (in 2008)

REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin

PERIOD COVERED: The Second Italian War of Independence. Includes an appendix for the Second Schleswig War of 1866.

THE BOOK: Like the 1870 rules on which it is based, 1859 is a top-notch product. The book runs 132 pages. It is coil bound with color covers and extensive color throughout. The rules themselves cover the first 27 pages. The rest of the book is made up of extensive scenarios (the maps alone are invaluable), army lists, historical notes, etc.

SCOPE: 1859 is a set of grand tactical rules specifically tailored to the Second Italian War of Independence. Based on the author’s 1870 rules it is a system easily tailored to many European conflicts of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

ARMY SIZE: 1859 is designed for fighting the larger battles. Accordingly, it will require fairly large armies. A typical Austrian corps, for example, will require 45 stands of infantry, 8 stands of cavalry, 9 batteries and numerous command stands. Stands usually have 4 or 8 figures in 15 mm.


1859 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 “half 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: 15 mm but 6 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 (single rank): 1.25” x .5”
  • Infantry (double rank): 1.25” x .75”
  • Cavalry: 1.25” x .75”
  • Artillery: 1” x 1.5”
  • Command: 1.5” x 1”

Scales remain the same for any figure scale, one simply varies the number of figures on the stand.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Movement Phase: Both players simultaneously move those units eligible to do so. Opportunity fire is resolved during this phase.
  4. Fire Phase: During the fire phase artillery fire is resolved first, then small arms fire. Finally charges are declared.
  5. Melee Phase: All melee combat and pursuits are resolved in this phase.


The Orders System: One of the key mechanism of 1859 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 French brigade commander will activate 70% of the time, his Austrian counter part only 60%.

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, disarray 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 become disarrayed. Such units are less effective and require a reform order to recover. (This is one of the differences between 1859 and 1870).

The most unusual aspect to the movement in 1859 is that it occurs simultaneously! Both players reveal their orders and then begin moving!

Morale Rating: Every unit in 1859 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.

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.

In addition to unit morale higher formations have break points as well. As divisions lose complete stands, they must check morale as well. A die is rolled - if the result is even the division fails, if odd it passes. Division quality is represented by the level at which units check. French line check after the loss of the fourth stand, Austrians after the third, while Sardinians don’t check until the 6th lost stand! Units that fail the first check may no longer attack, those that fail a second time after further stand losses must immediately withdraw.

Artillery Fire: Artillery fire has an important advantage in 1859: 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 1859 has a Fire Point Value (generally 1 point per stand, 2 for light infantry). 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. (Combat points are essentially strength points but are independent of Fire Points and vice versa). 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. However, it is the Combat Values (not the Fire Point Values) that are used. 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.


Like 1870, 1859 contains extensive historical notes, army lists, background essays and scenarios. The rule book is worth the price for this information alone. For 1859 these include:

  • Historical Background
  • Chronology
  • Seven 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.

APPENDIX: 1864 Rules for the Second Schleswig War

1859 also includes a module for 1864. There are 6 pages of rules changes, including a new artillery fire table. As with 1859 there are 6 scenarios, a historical background, chronology and order of battle.


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).


Not played.

To read comments by others or leave one yourself, please click here.

[Home] [15mm World] [Reviews Home] [How To] [Beginners Guide] [Gamer's World] [Spanner & The Yank] [Points of View] [The Annex] [Links] [Say Howdy] [Corporate Schill] [Rules Directory]

T-shirts Just $8.99!