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TITLE:  Shako: Rules and Army Lists for Napoleonic Wargaming (1st. Edition)

AUTHOR: Arty Conliffe

PUBLISHER: Quantum Printing



    Player support can be obtained on the Shako Yahoo group.

PRICE (with date): $23.00 (in 2008)

REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin

PERIOD COVERED: The Napoleonic Wars


Shako is a slim staple-bound book of 44 pages. It includes several pages of advertising. The booklet also has a set of charts at the center designed to be removed for use during play. It features a black and white interior illustrated with engravings of the period. It includes a table of contents but no index. The rules themselves are 30 pages with a Seven Years War supplement, army lists and a Waterloo scenario making up the balance.

SCOPE: Shako allows players to recreate Napoleonic battles at two scales. The first is tactical in which games will feature roughly one corps per side. The second is grand tactical which allows players to recreate larger battles in their entirety.

Note: the comments below all refer to the Tactical scale. In general both scales use the same mechanics (though units are either battalions or divisions). Thus the use of the term “Division” below refers to a multi-unit command. In the Grand Tactical version they would be corps.

ARMY SIZE: Shako uses relatively small units, so the number of figures required will be modest. Infantry units are generally between 5 and 12 stands. The French army at Waterloo (from the provided scenario) calls for 96 stands of infantry, 39 stands of cavalry, and 16 artillery stands.


  • In the tactical game the base unit is the infantry battalion or cavalry regiment.
  • Grand Tactical: Units represent divisions and brigades.


  • Ground Scale: Not stated (ranges are noted as being deliberately distorted)
  • Time scale 1 turn = 20-30 minutes
  • Figure/Base Ratio 1 infantry base = 100 men or 1 figure = 1 ship or 1 base=250 men)
  • Recommended Figure Size: 25mm but conversion for 15mm and other scales is covered.
  • Table Size: 96” x 60” is recommended for 25mm figures; 64” x 40” is recommended for 15mm figures.
  • Game Length: Most games should be playable in one evening


Shako uses flexible basing compatible with other Napoleonic rules sets. Thus three basing standards are supplied. (So long as both sides are based the same the rules will work).

Basing Scheme A

  • Infantry: 1 1/8” by 1/2”
  • Cavalry: 1 1/2” by 1”
  • Artillery: 2” by 1”

Basing Scheme B

  • Infantry: 1 1/8” by 1”
  • Cavalry: 1 1/2” by 2”
  • Artillery: 2” by 1”

Basing Scheme C

  • Infantry: 3/4” by 1”
  • Cavalry: 1” by 2”
  • Artillery: 2” by 1”


  1. The Artillery Phase: Both players simultaneously fire their eligible artillery units. Any units Broken (see below) are removed from play.
  2. The Movement Phase: Players alternate moving Divisions one at a time. Iniative is determined by which side has more units under Attack orders. Flank Marches and Support Charges also happen during this phase.
  3. Small Arms Phase: Both players simultaneously resolve skirmish fire and then volley fire. Any units Broken are removed from play.
  4. Melee Phase: Melees are resolved and Broken units removed from play.
  5. Command Phase: Orders are issued and sent, units are rallied. Divisions check morale followed by the Army.


The Orders System: The primary distinguishing feature of Shako is the command system. Prior to the game each division is given an Initial Order. Part of the Initial Order is a sketch map of the battlefield, showing the unit’s objectives (if applicable) with a “Command Arrow.” This is literally the path the unit must move along unless it receives new orders. It also details when the unit will move - Turn 2 or Turn 4, for example. The commander must stay “on” the command arrow and all subordinate units are required to remain within 18” (the Command Zone).

In order to close with the enemy a unit must have an Attack order. Units under Attack orders must move at least one half their maximum speed along their Command Arrow. However, attacks may be temporarily broken off if the unit has been flanked by the enemy.

The other two possible orders are Defend and Reserve. Defending units remain stationary until the enemy is within 18” at which time they may move within the Command Zone of their leader. Units on Reserve orders must remain behind the lines. The player may commit them at any time but once committed they cannot go back into Reserve status.

Orders may be changed during the game. A new order may be written/drawn but must then move via Aide from the commanding general to the commander of the unit the order is for. Aides must also move back.

Movement: As one would expect, each unit must be in a specific formation (line, column or square). Further, groups of units should maintain a Combat Deployment. The Combat Deployment will determine the most important modifiers for combat. Combat Deployment is limited by the army’s tactical doctrine.

Charges and Support Charges are also part of movement. A Charge is simply movement that ends with enemy units in base-to-base contact. A Support Charge is made after all normal movement is completed, and allows a player to protect one unit with another. The remainder of the rules are simple enough covering wheeling, formation changes, terrain costs, etc.

Morale Rating: The combat effectiveness of units in Shako is called their Morale Rating. Each casualty reduces their Morale Rating by one. Once they have been reduced to an MR of zero the unit is considered Broken. Broken units are removed from play.

Artillery Fire: Artillery is a powerful weapon in Shako, and can inflict a significant number of overall casualties during a battle. Shako distinguishes two kinds of artillery fire, long range using Ballshot and close range using Canister. Artillery fire operates in a Beaten Zone.

The Ballshot Beaten Zone is represented by the farthest half of the gun’s range. Every target in the Beaten Zone is attacked when a battery fires. For every eligible target a die is rolled. If the result is greater than the target’s strength it is Staggered. If the die roll exceeds the firing units Kill Number, the enemy unit suffers a Kill result. A unit may suffer Staggers and/or Kills from the same fire. A Kill reduces the target’s Morale Rating by one.

Fire Combat: Ranged combat comes in two varieties: Skirmish fire and Volley fire. Both work in roughly the same way. Fire operates against an area. A die is rolled for each target in the firing unit’s range. If a 5 or 6 is rolled, a hit is scored. On the closest target the first hit is a kill. All other hits are Staggers. Skirmishers have a 45 degree fire arc - volley fire must be straight ahead. Note that Skirmish fire is resolved first, so a unit could be eliminated by skirmish fire before having a chance to fire itself.

Melee: Melee is resolved through an opposed die roll. The Morale Rating of the involved unit is added to a die roll and a short list of modifiers. Modifiers include having supported flanks, terrain etc. The higher roll wins. The loser retreats and suffers kills equal to the difference in the die rolls. Melee is obviously deadly as the best units can only take 6 kills total!

Large Battles: Shako may also be used for larger battles. The base unit becomes a division which are grouped into corps. Most of the rules mechanisms remain the same with some exceptions:

  • Skirmish fire and volley fire are combined with melee into a single mechanism. The procedure remains the same, although the list of modifiers changes with the new scale.
  • Light Infantry units and skirmishers are reflected in a pre-combat procedure. Each unit has a Divisional Skirmish Rating (DSR). The unit with the higher DSR rolls for hits against the enemy with the first hit being a stagger and the remainder being kills. One die is rolled for each point of difference in the DSR.


The rule book includes one scenario - Waterloo - as well as army lists for several major nations. There are no lists for Spain.

Also included is a short appendix adapting the rules for the Seven Years War, including rules changes and army lists.


Shako is a very easy read - clear and unambiguous. There are numerous examples of each mechanism and simple black and white charts where required. As with any set of rules there will probably arise some situations not covered or where there may be differing interpretations of the rules, but in the main these are very clean.


Not played.

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