Introduction to the WDS Napoleonic Battles Series

Greetings fellow wargamers,

Today we begin something new – and if popular we may expand it to cover other of our series as well. This is the first of three, or possibly four, blog post specifically focused on the Napoleonic Battles system. The original article was submitted by a player, Alexey, and I (Rich) will be presenting it to you. One of the beauties of our games is that there are different ways you can play them, and no two people are exactly alike. So, in this series of articles, you will get a taste of both of our styles. In most cases we are in agreement, but at certain points I will present first Alexey’s comments, and then I will follow up with my own, marked with (RH) and my words in Italics.

Out of the gate I will say that our two approaches to the system are very different. While we both want things to be historical Alexey likes to really dig into the numbers and analyze things in detail. While I on the other hand lean more towards allowing the system to do a lot of the work and simply engage and enjoy playing the game. You will see that view come out in some of my comments below.

We have setup a thread on the forum where this article can be discussed if you are so inclined. The comments section at the bottom doesn't allow interaction and easy response... you can visit that thread here. You do not have to be registered to read - only to post.

The original article was broken down into four segments, with each having multiple parts:

Basic Training

  • Mastering The Basics
  • Optional Rules

Specialist Training

  • Artillery Deployment Principles and Tactics
  • Cavalry Deployment Principles and Tactics

Advanced Training

  • Defense in Depth
  • Offensive Strategy and Tactics
  • General Staff

Special Topics

  • Rearguard Actions
  • Navigating the Emotional Challenges of PBEM
  • Methods of Play

Our first post then will cover Basic Training, so without further delay, let's get into the content...

Introduction To The WDS Napoleonic Battles Series:

Unleashing the Spirit of Napoleon's Era on the Virtual Battlefield

Step back in time to an era of grand military campaigns and epic battles that shaped the course of the Napoleonic era. Welcome to the world of Napoleonic simulations, where you can immerse yourself in the art of war, recreate historical conflicts, and chart your path to victory! The WDS Napoleonic series undoubtedly stands out as the most historically accurate simulation of Napoleonic warfare, backed by a dedicated community that constantly contributes to its evolution and improvement. This commitment to precision and ongoing development ensures an immersive and authentic gaming experience that brings history to life like never before.

In this series of articles, we embark on a journey through the strategy and tactics of WDS Napoleonic series, catering to both novices and seasoned veterans of the genre.

We begin with the basics, laying the groundwork for understanding the mechanics that define the Napoleonic simulations. From there, we progress into the discussion and the impact of Optional Rules.

Then we advance further, exploring the nuances of handling special arms of cavalry and artillery. We then venture into more advanced topics, mastering the art of defensive and offensive operations, which followed by complex topics of handling large operations and out maneuvering your PMEB opponents in campaign mode. Finally, there are a few special topics on rearguard actions and dealing with the morale factor in Play by Email (PBEM) mode. 

Throughout this journey, we will weave in historical context, drawing inspiration from the brilliant military minds of the Napoleonic era. You'll experience firsthand the challenges and triumphs faced by commanders of that time, gaining insights into the strategies that shaped the course of Napoleonic era campaigns.

So, whether you're a eager novice or a seasoned veteran seeking to refine your skills, hop on board this adventure into the realm of Napoleonic simulations. Together, we'll unlock the tactical aspects of WDS Napoleonic warfare and bring the spirit of Napoleon's era to life on the virtual battlefield. Prepare to plan, strategize, and conquer as we embark on this exploration of warfare in the Napoleonic age.

When it comes to tactical warfare, it's not all about jumping in guns blazing with excitement. If you want to be a real battlefield master, you've got to build a strong foundation and tackle each situation with a cool, calculated strategy. So, in this chapter, we've got 10 tips that'll level up your tactical game and help you outsmart your opponents with confidence.

(RH) In the event you are reading this and are not already a player of the WDS Napoleonic Battles system you can download the free demo for the series here. You will then want to step through the Getting Started scenario and accompanying document to give you some of the basics of game play - which will make the rest of this article series make much more sense. The document is included in the Demo download, but here is a link directly to it as well, which will open in a new window.

1. Embrace the Manual: The Key to Progress

Reading the manual may not sound like the most thrilling task, but it is the gateway to success in tactical warfare. Open it alongside your scenarios and refer to it as you play. There's no shame in needing to look up modifiers; this approach ensures you understand the mechanics and sets you up for victory.

(RH) You can grab the latest copy of the User Manual here. There is also a Summary Info manual here.

2. Practice Makes Perfect: Test Various Tactical Situations

Control both sides in a small scenario to replicate different tactical situations. This hands-on experience will reveal the outcomes of various melee and fire combinations, reinforcing your understanding and boosting your confidence.

3. Unravel Optional Rules (OR)

Understand the impact of optional rules, which may vary depending on the agreement between opponents. Negotiate with your opponent on preferred OR to ensure a fair and challenging experience. More in depth analysis and guidance on optional rules is provided in the next chapter.

(RH) There is a "Default" set of OR's that can be used, so if two players wish to engage it can be a good starting point - and modified as desired in future matches.

4. Command and Control (C&C): Maintain Order for Victory

Maintain the organization of your army, as disorder can significantly impact its effectiveness in combat. Maintain C&C at all times, even sacrificing minor tactical gains. The Strength dialog under the Info menu shows the % of the units in good order. It is 98% for the Austrian Armee v. Italie in the image below meaning the other 2% of the army is disordered. Some seasoned players consider this disorder metric crucial for winning battles.

Avoid breaking up brigades or divisions unless absolutely necessary. Division is the basic operational unit within the game as it was historically: if divisional C&C is broken up the division typically becomes a one off tool only good for one off short action.

Operationally, when considering your options at larger scenarios on large maps, favor a plan which assumes reuniting divisions under its corps/wing/army commander. If this cannot be achieved keep in mind the limitations of such isolated forces being out of command.

(RH) There are a variety of tools included in the system to help you keep your forces in order. The image below illustrates several. The Highlight Organization (Hotkey Q) is activated, with the Divisional commander, GDiv. Donzelot, selected. All of the units under his command have a yellow highlight around their base. He has an orange highlight, and his upper level command also has an orange highlight - both Corps and Army command levels. We also have the Command Range (Hotkey C) selected which displays all of the hexes he has under his influence, or within his command radius. So if his Brigade commanders are within his command radius then they will not become Detached and in turn have the ability to receive a bonus from him - assuming he passes his Command Check at the beginning of the turn. And finally, from this screen shot we see that he did not pass his command check this turn, which is indicated by the yellow D next to his portrait, in the Hex Info Area. If he had passed then that would be a white D.

(RH) Further, there are movement commands within the game that allow you to move your forces as cohesive units. You can read more about this in section 5.2.12 of the User Manual.

5. Leaders and Wagons: Keep Them Protected

Always stack your leaders and wagons with formed units. Although it may be cool looking to maintain a parade like formation, the enemy is likely to take advantage of this flamboyant behavior sooner or later. The loss of leaders and wagons can severely impact your formations' combat readiness. Use zoom out in 2D mode and turn off Leaders on Top (L hotkey) to prevent leaving leaders unstacked with formed units and exposed to enemy capture.

(RH) The image above has Leaders on Top activated, so you see every hex that has a leader in it. The subset below shows a portion of that view without that option selected - so several key leaders and supply wagons are not stacked with combat units in this image.

6. Maintain a continuous front

To maintain a continuous front, make use of Zone of Control (ZOC). It's essential to avoid leaving any gaps within your line, as skilled opponents will exploit these weaknesses to their advantage. This topic is covered further in the chapter covering in depth defense formation.

7. Gather intelligence: Watch the Enemy’s Turn Replay

Always watch the enemy's turn replay to avoid surprises. The replay speed can be adjusted via bar menu. Replay can also be paused via F9 button. Ask for your opponent politely to turn off on-map results so you understand what's going on and what happens during enemy's melee phase. This will also provide some info on the headcount of the enemy formations involved in melee and can be used in your planning to counter attack them during your melee phase.

(RH) I personally only watch replays when the battle really get's hot, or there is some key intel I wish to glean - such as suspected enemy activity far away that I have set units up to spot. There's a few reason for this - it shortens the amount of time I have to allocate to playing a turn - and time always seems to be an issue these days, but additionally I feel that we already have an exponentially larger amount of data available to us than our historic counterparts - so this adds an extra level of Fog of War to the situation. I also exclusively use "On Map Results" when I play for the same reasons. :-) 

8. Systematic Turn Execution: Avoid “I forgot” Mistakes

Develop a habit of systematically going through your line, ie starting from the left flank to the right. Use the "Next Stack" (N hotkey) button to ensure nothing is missed or forgotten. Ideally each turn, you should move from division to division wearing a hat of a divisional commander and reassessing the tactical situation in divisional sector.

9. Master the Mechanics: Engage in the Melee Outcome Dialogue

Understanding morale checks, fire and melee calculations is like understanding what happens under the hood. There are formulas behind melee, Fire Power results, and morale checks, all detailed in the manual. Try turning off on-map results and focus on the FP/melee result dialog. While not necessary, those who want to go deeper can crunch the numbers in reverse to grasp how melee calculations work. As you gain experience and understand the modifiers, you'll develop a feel for melee odds. A skilled player should be able to assess their forces and the situation to get a good idea of their chances of success.

(RH) While I agree, it is good to read the manual and understand what is happening - really essential for when you begin so you can get a handle on what will work and what wont - and why. For those who don't want to do this continually there are features in place - such as the melee prediction. With Fog of War (FOW) in effect after you commit forces to a melee a dialog box will pop up giving you a general prediction of the outcome. This is not a guarantee - but it is a guideline on what to expect - and it can save you from executing a melee that you are destined to lose badly!  

10. Stay Cool and Calculated: Take Your Time

Finally, play it cool. Don't rush through your turn. While it's undoubtedly exciting to witness the enemy approaching your carefully laid ambush and be eager to jump into the melee phase ASAP, resist the urge to rush. Take a moment to consider various possible combinations and evaluate probabilities. You've got the luxury of sitting in your comfy leather chair, enjoying the air conditioning, and holding a warm coffee mug in your hand. In real life, commanders had to make real-time decisions while sitting on a horse, sweating, smelling the smoke of battle, with no bird's-eye view of the map, and cannonballs flying all around. So, keep a steady and cool-headed approach. There's no need to hurry – take your time and enjoy the experience.

Opinions vary on the subject, yet in this chapter, I deep dive into the Optional Rules (OR) and aim to rationalize their selection, with the aim of enhancing historical accuracy. This discussion relates to version 4.07 of the game engine which is currently only available for Campaign Waterloo and the Demo. The balance of the series is due to receive this update by the end of October, if all goes well. Presented below is my subjective yet justifiable take on the OR. Below is the image with proposed OR settings: 

Manual Defensive Fire (MDF)

Auto Defensive Fire (ADF)

When it comes to trying out Manual Defensive Fire (MDF), some players might have concerns, especially if they're worried about it slowing down play in PBEM games. In fact, there is still one email per turn as long as this OR is paired with Auto Defensive Fire OR being ticked. Considering the combination of this ORs is the preferred method of play they will be referred as MDF + ADF going forward.

Effectively, this combination of ORs breaks each turn into phases:

  • Movement Phase
  • Defensive Phase
  • Offensive Phase
  • Melee Phase

the Defensive Phase is handled by AI, so you don't need to send defensive fire email to your PBEM opponent. As of 4.07 the AI does a very decent job in picking up the right targets, so it will not do embarrassing things like picking on a lonely pioneer unit when being threatened by a cavalry regiment. 

In most cases, the AI tends to prioritize firing on enemy artillery batteries rather than engaging enemy formations. However, this behavior aligns with historical accuracy. There are numerous accounts where gunners preferred targeting threats that directly endangered them, and often this meant targeting enemy artillery. At the Battle of Waterloo, for instance, Wellington experienced frustration as his gunners consistently shifted their focus to counterbattery fire, despite being ordered to engage French infantry and cavalry.

One big advantage of the phased approach is that it discourages players from trying to manipulate the game's mechanics by rehearsing moves beforehand. Thus, with MDF + ADF active, outcomes become less predictable, which adds a level of uncertainty that reflects the realities of historical warfare.

(RH) It is possible to corrupt a game file if you stop and reload it repeatedly to get a better outcome - so your opponent will eventually be made aware of this behavior. It is also not in the spirit of play. Someone who does this will eventually find themselves without opponents, as word spreads.


This setup of optional rules also has the effect of slowing down the game's pace, which in turn reflects the more deliberate tempo of battles, considering the communication limitations of the Napoleonic era. Orders took time to transmit, and a slower flow of actions aligns better with historical accuracy. Napoleonic battles, lacking real-time communication technology, typically spanned extended hours and had a relatively unhurried pace.

Coordination between units during this time was remarkably challenging. Witnessing different units working together in complex ways—like one battalion repelling enemy skirmishes, another quickly approaching to deliver a musket volley, followed by artillery firing canisters with precise timing, and then a cavalry regiment charging the same enemy unit—all within a mere 10-15 minutes— such coordination within that short timeframe would have been unrealistic. 

Even for modern military forces, achieving such coordination would be difficult. Nevertheless, these kinds of actions are often observed in games, unless the gameplay is divided into phases through the activation of MDF + ADF.

Also, turning on MDF + ADF eliminates the possibility for blitzkrieg tactics, which some players have criticized in the past. Finally, the phased play puts more emphasis on skirmishes and skirmish order was a key part of the Napoleonic warfare, often causing delays and disruptions for larger military formations.

(RH) I prefer to use the Optional Melee Resolution OR instead of MDF. This for several reasons - having the melee sub-phase removes the "Blitzkrieg" argument from the table - as players can't melee and then pour units through a line. And as I go down my line there's certain tasks I want to do with each unit - some move, some fire - being able to do that all in a single pass is desirable. Additionally, having actions spread out into separate phases allows units to move across open terrain and end up in a defile, out of LOS, while suffering no fire effects. To me that's not acceptable - while I agree the tempo of the battlefield was pretty slow, it was not that slow. Many changes have been made to the engine in recent years to resolve many of the long standing arguments for phased play - but, as I said in the intro - people can play any way they wish!

Victory Points for Leader Casualties

Turning on Victory Points for Leaders (VPFL) makes sense for a reason. It's a way to discourage players from using their leaders recklessly, where there's a lot to gain but little risk. Just like in real history, losing a leader had a big impact on the battlefield. So, having VPFL on would penalize players for being too aggressive with their leaders. The victory points loss is a reminder to be careful about how leaders are used in the game.

Rout Limiting 

Flank Morale Modifier

These two optional rules are discussed together since both fall under the category of morale-boosting rules, leading to a shared outcome: the virtual soldiers becoming exceedingly determined to fight until the end. The eagerness of digital battalions to fight without giving up pushes players to act way more aggressively than what was ever seen on real battlefields.

With both rules enabled, there is an excessive boost to morale and shields for the units, which prevents chain routs and encourages unrealistic strain on the units. The combination of both active rules favors the utilization of large packed formations: they receive a bonus due to covered flanks and have no fear of rout contagion.

This leads to massive, all-out attacks, which must be met with a similar concentration of forces. It's no surprise that major battles can be decided by turn 20 after a huge mass melee involving large masses of troops and resulting in atrocious non-historical casualties. However, as historical casualty ratios suggest Napoleonic era battles were about breaking the enemy morale and organization, not about annihilating the enemy units to the last man.

Chain routs were frequent occurrences. Theoretically, if any battalion in the first line broke, the battalions from the second line were expected to take their place. However, quite often, the broken battalion from the first line would flee toward the second line, causing disorder within it. This would result in panic spreading like an avalanche, gaining momentum.

In many cases, those who initiated the retreat and inadvertently spread fear, which then escalated into panic, had a valid or at least a reasonable justification for their actions. For instance, if an officer got hit and started running toward a rear first-aid station without communicating to his unit why he was leaving, his soldiers would follow him, causing the line to collapse. Others who hadn't witnessed the officer's sudden departure might see someone else in flight and decide to run as well. This chain reaction happened quickly since fear is contagious. The sight of one person fleeing could trigger a rapid wave of fear among nearby men.

The sight of one's own troops fleeing in panic often overwhelmed the soldiers in the second line. As a result, commanders typically preferred to maintain a gap between the first and second tactical lines, providing some time to react if the situation deteriorated in the first line. The distance between the first and second line of battalions ranged from 100 to 400 paces. The size of these gaps depended on the specific circumstances of the battlefield and the terrain. Battle conditions were fluid, soldiers were under tremendous stress, and panic could take hold at any moment.

Having rout limiting OR and flank morale modifier OR activated tends to encourage side-by-side linear tactics and doesn't support the historically accurate echelon positioning with gaps of 200 to 300 meters in between. Disabling morale-boosting optional rules, on the other hand, encourages commanders to adopt more historically authentic tactics. This includes maintaining a second line positioned behind the front, having a local reserve, creating gaps between units, being more cautious, and rotating disordered and damaged units. On the defensive side, this approach also encourages in-depth tactics: placing too many soldiers in the first line maximizes firepower but also raises the risk of panic spreading and creating gaps in your defense.

(RH) While I completely agree with not using the Rout Limiting OR, I do tend to prefer to use the Flank Morale Modifier - as this is Linear Warfare and units where trained to fight in Lines and as a cohesive unit. A unit must have friendly forces on Both flanks in order to receive this bonus. So the FMM will only benefit the core of each organization. A couple other factors for me - I prefer to use Mixed Organization Penalty which discourages massing units in a blog blob. I also tend to keep an empty hex between commands, like pictured below. 


Isolation Rules

This optional rule effectively addresses the challenges of being surrounded, making it a topic that doesn't usually spark much debate. It's definitely recommended to have this rule enabled.

Optional Fire Results (OFR)

Optional Melee Results (OMR)

Turning off both of these optional rules is advisable to capture the randomness that often determined the outcomes of battles. War isn't like chess, where outcomes are predetermined by rules or numbers. Every volley and melee were influenced by numerous physical, emotional, and random factors. Each soldier had their own story of the day, whether they were sick, tired, or simply scared. All of these elements contributed to less predictable results on the battlefield.

Melee Terrain Modifiers (MTM)

Most players tend to prefer enabling this optional rule but arguments can be made from both perspectives.

Firstly, during the Napoleonic era, it wasn't a common practice for commanders to position their troops in obstructed terrain due to challenges with command and control. Troops from that time fought in tightly-knit formations under the close supervision of their NCOs and officers. Achieving this level of organization was often difficult in areas like villages or rough, wooded terrain.

However, the melee terrain modifier in the game suggests the opposite, encouraging players to deploy units in obstructed terrain for melee benefits. Some could argue that the advantage of obstructed terrain is already represented by the protection it offers against enemy cavalry. Thus, introducing an additional melee modifier might provide an unjustified double benefit.

On the other hand, it's also true that obstructed terrain posed challenges for attackers. It could disrupt and halt the momentum of their advance. Taking both viewpoints into account, it's reasonable to conclude that both sides have valid arguments. Therefore, this feature isn't hard-coded into the game, but rather offered as an option to accommodate the preferences of different players. Further discussion on this is below under column movements restrictions OR section. 

(RH) This rule can also be mitigated by Maneuver. While not always possible, it is and was a valid tactic to by pass a strong position and threaten the enemy's rear, supply lines, etc. This then forces the opposing commander to either let his troops sit and potentially become isolated, or pull back to address the new threat the opposing force presents. Napoleonic warfare held maneuver as a central tenant - and many initial positions would be abandoned in response to the opposing force moving around them. Where a problem arises would be on a small map, with the "map edge" forcing a players decision process.

Column Pass Through Fire (CPTF)

Target Density Modifier (TDM)

Enabling CPTF optional rule raises a valid concern on why three smaller battalions of 250 men each should suffer more casualties than a single larger battalion of 750 men. From a density perspective, both scenarios have 750 men in a hex, which shouldn't affect casualties. To push this idea further, think about six pioneer companies fixing a bridge. All six could be wiped out by an eight-gun horse battery rolling forward and delivering a canister volley at point blank. The Target Density Modifier optional rule already addresses this density factor and it should be enabled. But the density doesn't depend on how many counters are packed into a hex.

Since version 4.07, there's a welcome change where casualties are halved for units being present in the same hex but not being originally targeted. This somewhat improves the illogical situation described in the previous paragraph. However, it still doesn't justify casualties of other counters, as casualties should be influenced by the density level, which is already handled by a separate optional rule.

Another reason why this optional rule remains popular among players is due to its roots in the early days of the series. Back then, the melee phase wasn't separate from the movement phase, resulting in aggressive blitzkrieg tactics involving mass melee, allowing multiple lines of defense to be breached in a single turn. In that context, artillery often became an easy target with limited opportunity to cause any substantial damage on the advancing enemy mass infantry stacks. Thus, back in the days CPTF optional rule assisted artillery in responding to blitzkrieg mass melee tactics.

Today, with the engine advancements over the past decade, blitzkrieg tactics are no longer a problem, and artillery poses a significant threat on its own making CPTF optional rule obsolete, hence it is recommended to switch it off.

(RH) I prefer to use the CPTF rule as it encourages players to not stack up to the level a hex will hold. While it is possible to move large amount of men through a 100 meter x 100 meter space over a period of time - doing so in a combat situation should come at a price, IMHO. 

No Retreat Overruns (NRO)

It's recommended to deactivate this optional rule to prevent a gamey tactic where players encircle a substantial infantry group or a cavalry regiment with a weaker skirmish unit. This maneuver could effectively trap the larger unit, preventing it from retreating through the weaker skirmish force.

Movement Threat Disorder (MTD) 

This optional rule effectively simulates the frequent breakdown of morale and order that occurred as units moved closer to the enemy. It captures the chaos of war when formations became disordered under the looming threat, an occurrence more common than actual close-quarter combat. Despite all the bravado, Napoleonic era troops weren't overly enthusiastic about engaging the enemy at close range and facing a brutal death. Therefore, it was often the case that the advancing side halted at a certain distance from the enemy. Confusion would ensue, and the advancing unit might be routed long before making contact with the enemy.

Naturally, the greater the perceived threat, the higher the likelihood of a disorder and rout. This optional rule introduces an additional layer of historical accuracy to aggressive combat scenarios. It introduces the risk element that things might fall apart even before the actual contact is made.

Night Movement Fatigue (NMF)

This optional rule primarily comes into play during extensive multiday scenarios. Without a doubt, fatigue accumulation should occur during night turns, as our digital units already exhibit inhuman endurance. Let's consider the Waterloo scenario (006), comprising 388 turns with standardized PDT 15-minute turns.

Within a day, there are 72 daytime turns and 6 night time turns. If we assume no movement during the night turns, an infantry battalion can cover 72 km per day by roads and pikes. No breaks for lunch and no fatigue. A distance of 72 km per day is a level even modern armies might struggle to achieve while advancing into enemy territory.

Remarkably, cavalry can cover an astonishing 115 km in a single day, enough to make even modern tanks envious. Events unfold too swiftly as players can afford to ignore the issue of fatigue. The average speed of Napoleonic troops was more like 25-40km per day with a later one being a forced march having consequences on the combat readiness due to fatigue and stragglers. Having this OR ticked at least mitigates this shortcoming of the large scenarios. 

(RH) I agree completely with using this OR, but a few comments on movement rates. That is given circumstances of no obstacles, and confidence in a lack of enemy forces. The player that does choose to move at these rates without complete knowledge of their surroundings will likely pay a high price. This is why Visibility is set to 20 hexes in that game - to force players to Scout, and discover what is out there!

Column Movement Restriction (CMR)

The debate about this optional rule is similar to the reasoning behind Melee Terrain Modifiers. During the Napoleonic era, commanders avoided using difficult terrain because it made it hard to control and direct their troops.

Historically, obstructed terrain was an area belonging to skirmishes and this rule ON simulates this very well. However, most of the game scenarios were designed in the old days without this rule in mind and this may make some of them unplayable as cities / villages can now be extremely difficult to assault and control.

On the defense, commanders are better off to take defensive positions in obstructed terrain like villages creating a strategic safety island virtually impossible for the attacker to assault: a village hex can be packed with a large formed battalion boosted with a 6-gun battery and a couple of skirmishes companies. It’s a show stopper for an attacker.

In fact, the melee terrain modifier OR already penalizes the attacker as is and motivates the defender to occupy villages and woods despite the disorder and the necessity for reordering. Hence, it is rather concluded that it is best to have this OR unticked but to have melee terrain modifier enabled. 

One problem remains however if disabled – players can conduct unhistorical flanking maneuverers through woods which were not really passable in reality for large masses of men. For more advanced players seeking further realism, the way to discourage woods flanking maneuvers is to agree with your opponent to adjust PDT file so infantry columns in woods can cover only one hex per turn, demotivating unhistorical behavior of marching through woods.  This can be easily done changing one line on the PDT file corresponding to the relevant scenario.

(RH) At least in the "Standardized" PDT files a unit in Column can only move a max of 2 hexes in a Forest... 1 if there's an elevation change. The Standardized PDT subject is discussed in this blog post.  

Weak Zone of Control (WZOC)

This optional rule provides units with a limited ability to move in front of the enemy, rather than becoming completely immobilized. There isn't much debate on this rule, so it's advisable to enable it.

Partial Retreats (PR)

No Melee Elimination (NME)

NME should be enabled to prevent unrealistic zone of control (ZOC) kills that can lead to entire brigades being eliminated in just a single turn. The Partial Retreats optional rule should not be used in conjunction with NME as they will effectively work against each other.

Line Movement Restriction (LMR)

The difficulty with advancing in lines was their sensitivity to terrain and order. The irregularities of the terrain caused the ranks to become ragged; the battalion bowed in the middle and sometimes broke completely in half. The long line made the troop more difficult to maneuver and to turn. For these reasons, commanders used lines only for short distances and over open terrain with no serious obstacles. There was always a risk of disorder when advancing in line formation.

Enabling LMR should encourage players to adopt historical tactics, using columns for maneuvering, as using the line formation becomes risky.

(RH) I think using this rule encourages players to move their forces in Column too frequently, which then leads to more melee - as fire power is greatly reduced in Column formation. Also, with both terrain elements causing Disorder and use of the Movement Threat Disorder OR we get a healthy amount of Disorder taking place as it is. So for these reasons I generally prefer not to use this rule.

Multiple Cavalry Melees (MCM)

It's recommended to enable it in order to provide cavalry with the impactful charging power they deserve. Charging cavalry possessed substantial momentum and often faced difficulties halting their charge, as seen in the ill-fated British cavalry charge at Waterloo.

Multiple Infantry Melees (MIM)

On the other hand, when it comes to MIM rule, it's advised to disable it. This prevents the use of blitzkrieg tactics, where multiple infantry units can attempt to break through the same enemy unit one after another. Such coordinated actions would be highly unlikely, especially on foot and considering the 10-15 minute turns.

(RH) Agreed - if you want two battalions to attack a single hex, have them both melee at the same time.

No Opportunity Fire Against Skirmishers

This OR holds no significance when playing with MDF + ADF enabled, regardless of whether it's turned on or off.

No Detached Melee (NDM)

This OR simulates the leadership factor at the critical moment of the battle as by all means melee was the ultimate morale test for a unit. Charging forward to face a brutal death was not for the faint of heart. As mentioned earlier melee was a rare sight of Napoleonic warfare.

Similarly, just as white-collar workers today often exhibit greater enthusiasm in their tasks when their CEO walks into an open space office, the presence of a general and being under the watchful eye of a high-ranking officer made a significant difference in motivating units to act aggressively and engage in melee. In summary, this OR not only adds a historical touch that enhances realism, but it also discourages players from being overly aggressive ignoring the personal motivations of their pixel soldiers, and highlighting the importance to maintain command and control. 

(RH) I agree with the use of this rule but two important notes on this. 1) Cavalry is exempt from this rule - so if you have some squadrons on a long range raid they will be able to capture supply wagons, for example. 2) Detached units are not able to capture Objective Hexes. If they aren't under the direct control of their superior officer then they aren't going to be making strategic decisions like what key points to take and hold. This reinforces the underpinning of all period armies - they had specific command structures for a reason. You can however detach a unit to hold a position. The smallest cohesive unit is the Brigade. If with their leader the units will be in command. The leader may be Detached from his superior, but that does not impact his forces in this regard.

Mixed Organization Penalty (MOP)

This rule effectively portrays the downsides of coordinating units from different organizations. This issue persists even in modern military operations, as there isn't the same level of cohesion between different units as within a single unit. In Napoleonic times, this challenge would have been even greater, considering the lack of real time communication tools and strong sense of regimental loyalty ("esprit de corps") resulting in the rivalries between different regiments, which often hindered effective coordination.

To demonstrate the cohesion and coordination problems consider two infantry battalions from different brigades or divisions tasked with assaulting an enemy position: the first battalion is to attack head-on, while the second is to flank the enemy.

If you're the commanding officer of the first battalion, you might hesitate to rush into the assault. Instead, you'd likely be more cautious, allowing the flanking battalion to engage first. This seems reasonable, as the flanking battalion should endure fewer casualties, so letting them to initiate the action makes sense. By charging ahead first, you risk drawing enemy fire and bearing a higher chance of personal failure, while the flanking battalion may join later with fewer losses and claiming the victory.

A battalion commander concerned about his career would be reluctant to push hard forward without waiting for the second battalion to attack. The issue is, the second battalion commander faces the same incentives. Consequently, both battalions might proceed cautiously, causing the brilliant plan of engaging the enemy head-on and flanking them to fail.

When both battalion commanders are from the same regiment, they're likely to have cooperated successfully before, building the necessary bonds and trust through various combat situations, bivouacs and social gatherings. If they're from the same brigade but different regiments, their shared experience and personal connection might be limited. Moving up, away from the brigade level, the chances of effective cooperation diminish further at accelerated rate.

Adding to the complexity, battalion commanders lead hundreds of individuals, each with their motivations to avoid the risk of leading the charge. Orders were never executed with mathematical precision, consistency, or standard timing. Anyone who has served in the military knows that factors like personal motivation can lead to varying levels of effectiveness.

Overall, this OR simulates the reduced level of cohesion via morale mechanics inevitably leading to a reduced combat effectiveness of units from different brigades stacked together.

Optional Melee Resolution (OMR)

With the MDF optional rule enabled Turns are already broken down into phases so this OR becomes obsolete. In case you have exceptionally strong feelings about MDF and disable it, it is strongly recommended to have OMR rule enabled as it prevents historically inaccurate blitzkrieg tactics.

(RH) - This is my preferred rule and in fact it renders MDF "obsolete", as it was introduced much later. LOL!

Strict Line of Sight (SLOS)

In the game, players already possess a notable advantage compared to historical commanders since the in-game maps are flawlessly accurate. In reality, commanders relied on their own cartographer units to survey potential battle areas and reconciling it to whatever maps were available and these were often of a questionable quality.

Furthermore, obviously Napoleonic era commanders lacked the ability to instantly pinpoint locations and gain immediate Line of Sight information. Assessing sight lines required a staff officer to be dispatched, who would either conduct the assessment themselves or delegate the task to a nearby unit. This process consumed time as messengers had to travel back and forth.

Hence, this OR eliminates the unrealistic "god's eye" effect from the game, making it more in line with historical realities.


As mentioned, we have a mixture of agreement and disagreement - but the beauty is that various combinations of the OR's can be used in order to make the game system behave the way you wish.

As we close out todays article I want to point you to a previous post we made about How to Play, as beyond the OR's there's a variety of ways you can play the games. You can check out that article here. How To Play WDS Games.

Again, we have setup a thread on the forum where this article can be discussed if you are so inclined. The comments section below doesn't allow interaction and easy response... you can visit that thread here. You do not have to be registered to read - only to post.

That's all for today edition. We'll have the next installment up within one to two weeks.

(Edit - you can read the Second Installment here.)




  • Juan Modesto

    Very dear Alex and Rich:

    I have read thoroughly, studied carefully, these five installments. I have learnt so much and enjoyed even more that I am deeply grateful to you both.

    This work is impressive.

    I dream in similar series of instalments regarding the other two series I’m fortunate to have: Musket and pike and First World War campaigns.

    Eager to see these enhancements on staff work tools.

    Thank so much for the incredible élan you have pushed to John Tiller’s heritage.


  • Bill

    Outstanding articles. I really appreciated the commentary and rationale from both Alexey and Richard. I believe that the 4.07 updates have generated an excellent blend of historical realism and playability to the Napoleonic series of games.

  • Rick

    Great article – immensely helpful! 4.07 has lifted these games to an impressive level. Thank you for all you do to support these games.

  • Raymond

    I agree that 4.07 has enormously improved the game. I mostly enjoy the AI together with co scenarios. Thank you!

  • Gary Stuart

    Great article. While I’m here may I request that the ‘Reachable Hexes’ view defaults to the reachable hexes of the lowest movement point unit that is selected. It’s a great view option but if you select a hex with a commander in it the view defaults to his movement limit which is not helpful at all. Thanks for all your work this series is always getting better!

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