TITLE: Soldiers of Napoleon
AUTHOR: Warwick Kinrade
PUBLISHER: Artorus Games
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM: None listed.
PRICE: $50.00 (in 2022)
REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin
PERIOD COVERED: The Napoleonic Wars
Shako Soldiers of Napoleon is a paperbound book, 128 pages in length. It is full color throughout. Including optional rules, the rules run 38 pages. After the rules are sections dealing with game setup such as a terrain generator. There follows a short history of the 1813 campaign, and army lists for the same, as well as the Hundred Days.
Also needed for play is a custom card deck (included with the purchase of the rule book).
SCOPE: SoN is designed for tactical engagements of 2-5 brigades per player.
ARMY SIZE: Battalions can vary in size from 2 to 6 stands. With 2 or 3 battalions per brigade, a force will be between 6 and 15 battalions (or cavalry regiments). Assuming an average strength of 4 stands at 4 figures per base, a force will require approximately 40 stands of troops plus guns and commanders.
BASE UNIT: The base unit is the infantry battalion or cavalry regiment.
- Ground Scale: Not stated (ranges are noted as being deliberately distorted)
- Time scale 1 turn = 20-30 minutes
- Figure/Base Ratio 1 infantry base = 100-150 men
- Recommended Figure Size: None
- Table Size: 6 foot wide or larger
- Game Length: Most games should be playable in 2-5 hours (figure one hour per brigade)
Note: All distances in the rules are given in “paces.” Players are free to set one pace at any convenient distance for their game. It can be 1cm, 1 inch, 2 inches, whatever works for your table and troop scale.
There are no basing requirements for SoN. So long as formations can be formed, most any basing size will work.
- Deal Action Cards: Each player is dealt two cards from the bespoke deck, plus one for each command stand on the table.
- Alternate Card Play: Players take turns playing one card at a time. Cards are played for orders (to move, shoot, melee etc.), special events or to rally.
- End Phase: Roll for reserve arrival. Check for command stands at risk. Award VPs for broken units and other objectives. Roll for initiative (“How goes the day?”). Check for victory - if one side has more VPs than their opponent’s army morale level, the game has ended. It is possible for both sides to break at the same time.
The Action Cards:
SoN comes with a bespoke deck of 56 cards. Prior to play the deck is shuffled and a D6 worth of cards removed without looking at them, The cards are dealt to each player. Two cards each plus one for each command stand on the table top. This can vary with reserve arrival, losses etc. In addition, command stands that are too close to the enemy may be “at risk” and as such do not add a card.
Each card may be played in one of three ways. Cards have large numbers between 2 and 6. If played for orders the card is placed with a brigade, and the commander may issue a number of orders equal to the number on the card. Orders include moving, charging in to melee etc.
Second, the card’s special event may be played instead. These events may allow you to rally troops, move certain units, or perhaps smoke settles across the battle and firing is at a minus for the turn. In addition, you may be able to play another card immediately. Each special event has a die roll - if you succeed you may play another card.
Lastly, each card has a rally section. It lists troops of various qualities. It applies to one brigade and allows all units of the appropriate quality to perform Rally actions.
If units are far away from their commander, it may cost more than one order to complete a single action. Beyond 30 paces, they may not be given an order at all. This will naturally keep brigades in a compact space without a lot of complex command radius rules.
It is possible for units to receive more than one action in a turn, at a cost of taking disruption (see below).
Each unit has a base movement, depending on unit type and formation. Infantry in line formation, for example, have a base move of 4 paces. Units may move at the quick (plus 50%) but pick up one disruption to do so. Or they may advance cautiously at half speed, allowing their skirmishers to fire as well. It takes an order to change formation, to about face, or to wheel.
Terrain is either clear or rough, and units may have to pay to cross obstacles. Units stop at the edge of rough terrain. Next time they move they move D6 inches and may not exceed their base move. Obstacles may cost 1” or a D3 inches, depending on the size of teh obstacle.
A unit must be issued an order to fire. Firing is not “free.” A unit may fire at up to two targets. Each stand checks for range, line of sight, and firing arc. If the shot is valid, the firer rolls one die for each firing stand. This is modified by adding or subtracting dice. Units in perfect order gain one die. They may lose die for disorder or terrain. Each die is rolled to see if a hit is scored. Each troop type has a given target. Most infantry, for example, hit on a roll of 4+.
If hots are scored the target takes a Discipline test, rolling one D6. If successful, reduce the number of hits scored by 1. All remaining hits convert to Disorder.
Artillery bombardment is done the same way, though ammunition type, and range play in to the number of dice rolled. However, no discipline test is taken. All hits scored result in a point of disruption.
As play commences, units will suffer disruption. They can suffer a point of disruption for interpenetrating a friendly unit, as a result of enemy fire, for moving at the quick, etc. Units can remove disruption by rallying. If a unit has as many disruptions as it has stands, it is disordered. The stands of the unit are jostled, and it will suffer in both movement and combat. If a unit has more disruptions than stands, it has broken, and is removed from the table. The enemy scores VPs when this happens.
Units may rally in one of two ways. Cards may have special events that allow a player to remove disruptions. Otherwise, a card must be played on a brigade and the units of that brigade perform the rally sequence:
- Rally By Withdrawal: The unit may retreat one full move, and recover 1 disruption.
- Rally to the Colors: The unit rolls a D6 for every stand remaining. Every 6 rolled removes a disruption.
- Take Casualties: Permanently removing a stand reduces disruption by two.
- Order the Ranks: A unit in disorder may take a discipline test. If it passes, it goes back in to good order.
Each unit in the brigade, of the troop quality listed on the card, may perform all four of the rally actions, but must do so in the order listed.
Units that have more disruptions than stands remaining at the end of the turn are broken, and removed from the table.
In order to enter in to melee, a unit must be given a Charge order. In order to close with the enemy it must pass a discipline test. If it fails, it fires instead. If it passes, the enemy takes test as well. If it fails it gains one disruption.
As with fire, each stand rolls one die. Dice are added/subtracted for flank attacks, superior quality troops, cover, etc. Units have a melee factor. Each die that equals or exceeds this factor scores a hit. The defender rolls first, followed by the attacker. The winner is the side who scored more hits. Each side takes one disruption, then the loser suffers as many disruptions as the difference between the two totals. Both sides go in to disorder. The loser retreats a full move + D6 paces, and the winner gains a VP.
The book includes no scenarios. It does have army lists and unit profiles for the 1813 campaign, including France, Austria, Prussia, Russia and the involved minor nations.
There is also a simple campaign system included, and tools for generating pick up games, using a terrain generator and a points based army building system.
Overall the rules are very straightforward. The writing is good and the examples very detailed and clear. Honestly, I only had one minor rules question after reading the book. That is, when exactly is the deck of cards re-shuffled? I believe it is shuffled every turn. The used cards are shuffled in to the deck again, a D6 of cards are removed, and then a new turn starts. If the deck runs out, night falls and the game ends.
One very “old man yells at cloud” type gripe: the definition of a battalion as being between 2 and 6 stands is buried on page 51 in the “How to Build an Army” section.
Here is another gamer’s “first impression” take on the rules.