Introduction to the WDS Napoleonic Battles Series - Second Installment

Greetings,

Welcome to the second installment in our series focused on the Napoleonic Battles games. We have received plenty of positive comments from the first installment and we're glad to hear people are enjoying these posts. If you are reading this and are really passionate about another series of our games - and would like to be involved in making something similar happen for them you can drop us a line at Helpdesk@wargameds.com to discuss further.

We will follow the same presentation format set forth in the first installment. If you haven't read that you can do so here.

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.

So let's jump right in to todays content!

Artillery, with its ability to project formidable firepower over long distances, should play the key role in determining the location for Main Resistance Line (MRL) on the defense and determining the axis of advance on the offensive. Accordingly, it provides the backbone of the armies’ deployment and this is in line with historical realities as battles often revolved around Key Artillery Positions (KAPs). The Raevski redoubt at Borodino serves as a prime example of a KAP strategically positioned at the center with an advantageous field of fire.

Whether on the offensive or defensive, choosing the right KAP can create lethal killing zones, forcing the enemy to abandon their positions. Let’s explore the essential principles and practical cases on how to manage artillery effectively within the game.

Firepower

Beginning with the basics: field artillery comes in various sizes, ranging from 3-lb to 12-lb (or higher in some instances). Each type of artillery has its own Firepower (FP) at different ranges. It is crucial to familiarize oneself with the artillery park available for each scenario and to understand the FP values each piece possesses at different distances.

To access this information, you can press F2 when in the game and open the PDT dialog, which contains comprehensive FP tables for various nations and artillery types.

However, this can be impractical in scenarios with numerous gun types and the PDT is not the most user friendly report to navigate. Fortunately, for most of the titles, game developers provide summary tables in the form of a WEC pdf (Weapon Effect Chart) found in the manuals folder. Make sure to keep this pdf open whenever you start a scenario and have it open as you progress through.

(RH) With the release of the 4.07 update for Waterloo and the Demo the WEC has been incorporated with the Summary Info document under the General Help menu option (pressing F1). This data will be included for all games with the series release, but will not be game specific until a later version... we still have a lot of work to do on Standardization and so this will be a disconnect for the time being. You can see a full copy of that Summary Info document here.

Using the WEC table is vital when deciding where to position your guns. For instance, heavier 12lb guns, like the French 12-lb, have longer ranges and remain quite deadly up to 8 hexes (FP 6.2). At ranges 9-11, their firepower sharply drops to end at FP 3.6. This has implications on the artillery deployment and targets prioritization. Elevated positions with good arcs of fire should be prioritized for 12-lb batteries. On the other hand, lighter pieces have only marginally lower (20-25% less) FP at shorter ranges of 1-2 but significantly lower (~-50%) at mid to longer ranges. Accordingly, it is best to deploy these lighter batteries in positions where they are more likely to face enemy assaults, such as behind earthworks and on the MRL.

(RH) A tool which was incorporated as of the 4.02 versions is a Range Check tool. This can be helpful when determining placement locations for your artillery batteries, among other things. To use simply click a hex on the map as the starting point, press and hold the Shift key and then left-click and hold on a distant hex. The distance between the two points will be displayed. The display clears when you release the mouse button. This coupled with the "Visible Hexes" (Hotkey V) will give you both range and LOS data in a single image, like the one below.

Another illustrative example highlighting the importance of the FP values table is the use of howitzers.  Shorter range does not necessarily mean higher FP. Taking the example of the Prussian 7-lb howitzer: these guns have optimal FP at ranges of 8-11 but significantly lower FP at ranges 4-7. Consequently, the ideal position for a Prussian 7lb howitzer battery is 11 hexes away from the enemy, where it can maintain FP of 4.8 and operate safely from the enemy's reach. At 11 hexes range Prussian howitzers are also the best tool to be used for counter battery fire outgunning even heavier French 12-lb guns which have only 3.6 FP at 11 hexes. 

For some titles WEC pdf is not available and it is recommended to create your own table using Excel or some other spread sheet program so it can be referred to as the scenario progresses. 

(RH) While still a work in progress, so not applicable to all titles and all scenarios, we now have Fractional Fire values available in the PDT files. What this means is instead of having a radical drop off from a "5" to "1" within a one hex space, and then remaining at one for several more hexes until the max range is achieved - we can gradually step this down in increments. Solid shot would gradually loose momentum as it traveled - either through the air or bouncing on the ground - but not suddenly become less lethal over a couple of meters. These fractional fire values have been implemented in the "Standardized" PDT files for 15-minute turn scenarios in a half dozen titles thus far. Further work continues on this aspect and will be rolled out when significant progress has been made.

 

Artillery Deployment

As mentioned in the introduction, dominating artillery positions often serve as the backbone of army deployments where infantry is positioned in support of artillery, and the overall disposition is anchored on Key Artillery Positions, abbreviated as KAPs.

Any scenario should be started with terrain analysis, identifying KAPs. The element to consider is the arcs of fire for artillery. In fact, artillery perceived threat is as equally important as the actual. This applies to both offensive and defensive operations, as players are rarely willing to hold positions under artillery fire and are more likely to abandon the killing zone. Likewise, spotting the 36th heavy gun battery positioned on an elevated site, behind a stream, with an open field of fire over 10 hexes, would effectively lock this zone for the enemy as assaulting head on would be extremely costly.

Below is the example of Raevski redoubt from the Borodino scenario. The killing zone is 6 hexes long after which there is low ground with no line of sight. If assaulted frontally it would take the French infantry two turns to make it through the killing zone. Maximizing the length of the killing zone should be the top priority when considering Key Artillery Positions (KAPs).

Identifying KAPs should occur during Turn 1, before any movement takes place. Doing so earlier in the game as a priority helps to avoid unproductive artillery movements. Thus, it is best to assign batteries to their respective KAPs during Turn 1, before commencing the movement phase.

Key features of KAPs include:

  • Elevated positions
  • Positions behind impassible terrain (creeks, water)
  • Positions in obstructed terrain like woods, villages (questionable from historical perspective however) *
  • Positions behind a defile: infantry can be deployed in a defile either in square of line formation negating enemy access to the guns but also being concealed from the enemy fire creating a formidable defensive setup.
  • Positions which would enable to fire enfilade. Enfilade losses trigger -2 to the enemy morale for the purpose of morale check and routing enemy units is the best way to break up their formations.
  • Positions behind broken terrain like walls, hedges, embankments to negate a cavalry charge bonus.
  • Positions behind field hexes which has typically higher movements cost.

* (RH) An important note regarding Artillery handling from 4.07 on. A battery may no longer unlimber within a Forest hex or Village unless there is a Clear hex bordering that hex. This is to replicate that the battery would be deployed along the edge of the forest in order to have the greatest field of fire, but also room to work and have their caissons deployed within reach. Obstructed terrain did not lend itself to smooth artillery operations. It would also prevent the battery from limbering up quickly and moving away in the event of a threat. If a battery does deploy in such a hex it will not receive the terrain modifier protections (arrow below), for the same reasons.

Concealing the guns behind your own formations and revealing the guns just before the offensive fire phase is another historical trick which may have a devastating impact on the enemy morale. Seeing a large battery unexpectedly appearing on the flank of the attacking force, may trigger a decision to disengage and pull back. However, once engaged it may be costly and time consuming to call off the attack presenting the enemy with a difficult dilemma. Sometimes it may be even worth it to refrain from deploying artillery at your chosen KAP until the enemy is committed into the relevant sector.

For these reasons, aim to maintain an artillery reserve to disrupt enemy plans or to rectify your own mistakes when surprised by the enemy.

Stacking, Protecting and Escorting Batteries

As of 4.07, the maximum stacking which will produce FP is 8 guns. It is historically accurate as batteries took up a lot of space to operate: a typical 8-gun battery would require around 100 meters to the front allowing for the limbers, the space for the guns and intervals in between to minimize damage from enemy counterbattery fire and which was needed to rotate guns in order to limber up. Thus, within the game, 8-gun unlimbered battery requires a full hex to operate, masking any other units behind it.

The implications of the above is not to stack two batteries of combined size above 8 guns in one hex as only 8 guns will be able to fire and the rest of FP capacity will be wasted due to space shortage. To achieve the maximum FP per hex, batteries have to be stacked in a hex making up to 8 guns maximum, ie one 8-gun battery, two batteries of 4 guns each and so on.  

The extended line function can also be used to add flexibility and in case there is a need to cover a larger front with artillery by breaking up batteries into half batteries. This approach allows for better coverage across a wider area.

In all cases, protecting artillery batteries from enemy attacks is vital. As a general rule, lighter pieces are to be deployed at the MRL within the enemy striking distance and always require protection by infantry.

An optimal one hex stack for MRL would comprise of: 

  • one artillery half-battery of 4 to 6 guns.
  • one large infantry battalion available, formed in line to minimise casualties from enemy fire.
  • a couple of skirmish companies to boost the numbers within the hex and improve odds in melee combat
  • a leader to boost the numbers for melee purposes.

 

(RH) Using the above image for reference (it can be clicked for a full sized copy) I want to make several comments on the stacking subject. You need to be aware of the ramifications of choosing to place multiple units in a single hex.

Frontage - Looking at the arrows you will see the value "Front xx%" for both formed units. This is the amount of the 100 meter frontage this unit takes up when considering ranged fire combat. A 5 meter gap is calculated between units so in the above example the artillery battery, being the "top" formed unit gets priority and so all of its guns are able to come to bear utilizing 75% of the available space along the front. The infantry battalion that is in Line "below" it then only has 16% of the frontage available to it for use - this is calculated by the number of full companies that can be brought to bear - so with both the gap accounted for and the men in a full company, and the 3-rank formation all taken into consideration we are using 91% of the available space to fire from. Unless there is only one single large unit you will likely never see 100% of the frontage being used. In this example it is not a huge deal, as the primary purpose in having the deployed infantry unit in the hex is for defense, not offense. See section 5.3.9 of the User Manual for further details on the newer stacking rules.

Skirmishers - these units must be kept below the 1/8 max stacking limit set forth in the PDT file. If they go above this they loose the special protections offered to them from the Skirmisher formation. So in this case the two companies pictured are considered to be deployed in front of the other units in loose order so that fire can pass through them without causing casualties. 

Leaders - only the highest position leader is used for calculations. So, if a Divisional commander and Brigade commander are stacked together only the Divisional commanders values are going to be used. The leaders position is denoted by the letter next to their picture. If there is no letter then they are a "secondary leader" and the only effects they have on game play are for melee resolution and determining replacement order in the event of upper echelon casualties. However, all men are placed at risk of becoming casualties. So it is prudent to only stack multiple leaders in the same hex if you are well out of harms way. You can read more about Leaders in section 5.4.1 of the User Manual.

Mixed Organization - we addressed this in the first installment, and it comes into play when creating stacks. You are making a stack to give you a defensive benefit - make sure it is a cohesive unit, and not a mob made up from all elements of your army! (Artillery are exempt from this rule precisely for the reasons being illustrated in this section.) 

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Heavier batteries are best deployed further to the rear and may not necessarily require infantry protection within the stack. However, it is best to maintain a distance of up to 9-10 hexes (for 10-minute turn scenarios) from the enemy lines. This precaution is necessary as the enemy's cavalry can cover such distance in one charge. It is a good idea to keep a couple of infantry battalions in reserve next to heavy batteries. In the event of an enemy breakthrough, these reserve units can move forward and block the enemy's advance using Zones of Control (ZOC).

For further details on in depth deployment refer to “Defense in depth” chapter (to be published in the third installment).

Finally, during the march while advancing in hostile territory or moving into positions close to the enemy, it is advisable to stack artillery with a formed unit. This tactic helps to prevent the enemy from overrunning the guns through sudden cavalry charges.

Field Artillery Types: Horse, Foot and Howitzers 

Foot artillery is generally best deployed at KAPs and/or central positions where they are less expected to maneuver, or at least cover shorter distances in case they need to reposition.

Horse guns are best used on the flanks. They are also the preferred artillery type to be added to a diversionary task force, which maneuver aggressively to draw enemy attention away from the main point of the battle.

On the offensive, horse guns can be moved forward in concentrated numbers, creating a local firepower superiority that imposes a dilemma for the enemy: either call up reserves, abandon their positions, or be outgunned. In the image below the French player massed 21 horse guns creating a local FP superiority over 14 Russian guns:

Over the next two turns, four Russian guns were knocked out, and the Russian artillery reserve had to be dispatched to stabilize the situation. 

Howitzers have a unique feature of being able to fire indirectly. However, this type of fire is notoriously inaccurate and should be used:

  • In emergencies, hoping to achieve a lucky hit in the middle of the enemy battle line, causing routing and disorder. 
  • Whenever the enemy is formed in dense formations, taking up multiple adjacent hexes. 
  • And only when there are no ammunition restrictions for the scenario.

However, indirect fire can lead to a good result when its fire is concentrated: 

In the above image the French used the three hexes in the defile (marked by white arrows) to threaten the Russian earthworks behind the stream. There is no direct LOS on the French units as they are located in the low ground. Anticipating this move, the Russian player had massed 24 Licornes for indirect fire on the defile at optimal distances of 5-6 hexes, maximizing Licornes FP:

After three turns of bombardment, the French infantry had to abandon the defile due to mounting losses and disorder. So, indirect fire can bring results, but it requires a concentrated effort on the narrow front.

Ammo 

Last point to be considered and not to be overlooked is the ammo stock available. Some scenarios have restricted amounts of ammo. It should be part of the protocol: 

  • Checking the ammo stock on Turn 1.
  • Assessing the risks of ammo shortage considering the number of turns.  

If the ammo stock is found to be insufficient, certain steps can be taken to optimize its usage:

  1. Medium range is to be set for artillery defensive fire via Adjust Auto Defensive fire dialog preventing ammo waste on long range targets. (From the AI Menu within the game.)
  2. Targets priority discipline is to be followed which involves refraining from firing at the enemy unlimbered batteries, skirmishes, leaders and lonely enemy units at the longer ranges. 

Summary

  1. Have WEC pdf open during the scenario. Create your own FP chart (example in xls file ) in case WEC pdf is not available. Look up FP values, prioritize and assign artillery positions to ensure the most effective use of artillery types on the battlefield.
  2. Choosing Key artillery positions (KAPs) as early as possible: analyzing terrain and assigning batteries to its positions.
  3. Maintain an artillery reserve.
  4. Aim to maximize unit staking numbers on MLR via a combination of artillery, infantry in line, skirmishes. Always cover your batteries with infantry unless 10 hexes away from the enemy. Escort guns while on the move where possible.
  5. Foot artillery: best positioned on the center of the battlefield. Horse guns on the flanks/flanking forces/diversionary attacks. Howitzers, can be used for concentrated indirect fire if ammo stock allows.
  6. Check your ammo stock and calculate ammo per turn available.

The Napoleonic era was the last one where cavalry played the key tactical role and arguably this period was the high-water mark of the cavalry, where ancient warfare technology use was blended with modern era military science. Notably, the greatest cavalry charge in history was at the 1807 Battle of Eylau, when the entire 11,000-strong French cavalry reserve, led by Joachim Murat, launched a huge charge on and through the Russian infantry lines. After the Napoleonic wars cavalry's role and effectiveness on the battlefield significantly diminished.

The tactical abilities of Napoleonic era cavalry are accurately depicted in WDS Napoleonic series. Using the cavalry arm effectively is the foundation of combined arms doctrine offering wargamers a rich experience and variety of tactical choices. In this section we cover the principles and tactics of cavalry deployment, relating it to the historical context and emphasizing the nuances of battle deployment, charging and leveraging cavalry effectively in simulations of this era's warfare.

Battle Deployment

Whether on the offensive or on the defensive and operating in the critical points of the battle within 10 hexes from the enemy it is recommended to deploy cavalry either to the maximum stacking (either in the number of troops or number of counters). This is necessary to prevent friendly units routing through the cavalry formation disordering the stack.

(RH) For the games which feature Regiments for cavalry you should maneuver over long distances as a single formed unit, to cut down on the number of units you need to move. Break down into squadrons when coming into contact with the enemy however. Not only is it more historically accurate, but in the event units become Disordered you may have a couple of squadrons do so - rather than the entire command.

For similar reason, to prevent disorder by friendlies, cavalry should always be deployed in echelons of two or three lines deep with at least one, but ideally two hexes in between.

Historically, If too densely deployed, a whole cavalry formation was at risk of being disordered. Factors like, poor visibility, fear, lack of horsemanship skills, horses/men hit by enemy fire and natural obstacles created the “domino effect” and compounded the disorder. For that reason, cavalry needed space to operate effectively and cavalry commanders aimed to have sufficient gaps (200-300m) between cavalry echelons (squadrons, regiments, etc.), usually attacking in waves (in lines) rather in one massive block.

The first day of the Battle of Leipzig is one of the best examples of cavalry charging while failing to keep distance. At the culmination of the battle, Murat led masses of French cavalry towards the small hill where the Allied monarchs stood:

 

“Murat formed all his cavalry into one line of continuous columns of regiments ... either because he desired to make a great show, or that he held in contempt the weak force which he presumed to face him, he neglected to arrange any reserve." (Gleig)

“….the main point of his (George Cathcart’s) narrative is the incompetence with which the attack was mounted. The French cavalry seemed to advance closely bunched together in columns and certainly in one body only, that is, with no sort of second line or reserve. Inadequate leadership and discipline allowed them to be thrown into confusion by an insignificant obstacle and then seized by a panic and fly before a force of light cavalry, which altogether could not have amounted to 2,000 men.” (Leiven)

In cavalry vs cavalry battles, keeping in depth deployment by echelons with substantial reserve is the key. An officer of the Grand Duke Constantine Uhlans, Bulgarin, wrote that only those who have never actually participated in a cavalry battle talk about two opposite masses or lines of cavalry clashing with each other and fighting until one side was annihilated. Bulgarin wrote that it was not so, usually one side attacked and the other fled, then the victor and pursuer was counterattacked by the second line or reserves, overthrown and pursued in its turn. In such environment, in-depth divisional level formations and reserves were the key to success and this is exactly what players are expected to do within the game: to form cavalry divisions into multiple echelons with reserves positioned in-depth.

(RH) Keep in mind, horses were expansive - they take time to raise & train and are very difficult to replace. The historical commanders knew this and (normally) kept it in mind when they put the cavalry arm to work. This is why Cavalry are worth so many points within the game.

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Terrain is the essential factor for the cavalry to operate in depth. Watch for open ground where your cavalry can operate freely, charging and rotating in waves.

On the operational level, while playing large scenarios on large maps or in Campaign mode, cavalry has two important roles: 

  • Acting as recon force: light cavalry with smaller squadrons is best suited for the role and to be dispatched in multiple directions to locate the enemy forces.  
  • Acting as a main army reserve: a powerful cavalry formation can change the fate of the battle by being dispatched to the critical points. Guard and Heavy cavalry formations at division level and above are best suited for the role as it was historically. Generally, division is the base formation for cavalry operations as this the first organizational level large enough to deploy cavalry into echelons and be rotated charge after charge. Do not spread your cavalry into brigades or regiments evenly through the line. Use mass. Divisional level is generally the first level where the mass can be used.

Cavalry of any type can also act as a screening force shielding the deployment of artillery and infantry from the enemy, making the enemy guessing about your dispositions and intent.

Charging

In fact, charging should be the last tool to be used by a shrewd cavalry tactician. As with artillery, cavalry’s perceived threat is equally important as the actual. Cavalrys mere presence can cause substantial headache to the enemy:

  • Forcing to form square, exposing them to your infantry and artillery fire in combined arms manner. Cavalry plays the key role in combined arms doctrine where we want all arms complimenting each other to inflict maximum damage. This tactic hinges on the effective cavalry use thereby limiting tactical options available to your opponent. Forcing your enemy to form a square not only makes enemy infantry less mobile but also adds +50% FP bonus to your artillery effectiveness.
  • Prohibiting the enemy from screening their force with skirmishes. Let’s look at the PBEM example of Quatre Bras battle where 2nd Dutch division is tasked with holding the line as long as possible until the arrival of allied reinforcements. Identifying lack of cavalry in the French ranks, the allied player positioned his numerous light troops into a solid line delaying the French infantry advance.

The French player rectified the situation by ordering a light cavalry brigade to join the infantry. As soon as the French cavalry was in a striking distance the allied player had to retreat behind the stream to the north giving up the ground. However, the precious time was lost and arguably, the excellent Nassau troops of the Dutch division saved the day by holding the line just long enough until the allied reinforcements arrival.  Had the French had the cavalry in place earlier, supplementing its infantry in this sector from the beginning of the scenario it could have been a different battle.

  • Imposing threat value on the enemy formations making it prone to disorder and routing. This is especially relevant in a rearguard action: forming a mass to create a substantial threat value and to disorder and rout the enemy rearguard.

In general, it is advised that you not commit your cavalry into a charge unless the enemy is badly out of position or is already disordered by friendly artillery fire. Until then it is best to maneuver aggressively, threatening the enemy lines. Remember, time is rarely a major constraint within the game series (with the exception of some rearguard actions). Coordination with artillery and infantry and timing of the attack should be a bigger concern vs rushing the charge asap.

Once decided on the charge, address the following:

  • Where do you plan to end the charge: remember that cavalry can continue moving and meleeing for a total of 3 additional hexes (determined by PDT) that is penetrating the enemy lines further beyond his forward line. This type of movement is not blocked by ZOC making a cavalry a punching power to penetrate deep beyond the first line and eliminating enemy artillery if unprotected and disrupting the enemy defensive set up overall.
  • However, such penetration should never be done by a lonely cavalry regiment stacked into on hex as this would make them very exposed to isolation. The thing to avoid is the mistake which British cavalry had done at Waterloo: a mad pursuit into the arms of the enemy’s reserves with none of their own reserves allocated for a counter charge. Hence the first echelon of the attacking cavalry has to be backed up by a second (and ideally third) echelon made of both infantry and cavalry to melee and push away whatever enemy formation is in their way. A much more disciplined charge would be to send only one or two squadrons, in continue charge mode, ahead of the main attacking echelon forming a ZOC line ahead and also having a second echelon of the cavalry in a striking distance ready to counterattack.
  • There are exceptions, however. There may be a lightly protected enemy grand battery in striking distance, destruction of which would generally be devastating to the opponent's morale. In this case it may be worth it to go all-in.
  • Finally, plan for the Command & Control prior to the charge: ideally the brigade leader has to be placed in the second echelon close enough to keep the charging squadrons in command.

(RH) Keep in mind regardless whether you engage in melee or not, if your cavalry Charges they will be Disordered on the next turn and will require time to regroup and return to good order. Being overly aggressive with your troopers can leave them in compromising situations and finding themselves surrounded and wiped out on subsequent turns. So always keep the future in mind when you commit your forces.

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Before the final charge, while approaching the enemy line from a distance light cavalry can be used in the first line. Their job is to shield the heavy cavalry from enemy artillery and overrunning the enemy skirmishes. As of version 4.07 melee losses vs square are halved so it may be worth it to melee a square with a light squadron disordering it and triggering the melee check due to losses. The heavies are to follow in the second wave two hexes behind to counter enemy cavalry counter charge and to deliver the main charging blow. 

Light cavalry is the optimal type of cavalry to be used to overrun enemy skirmishes. Hence it is best to deploy a few squadrons at each sector and in support of the local infantry division Forward Line. Optionally behind high quality infantry to prevent chain routes or in the lower ground to conceal them from the enemy. If surprised, the enemy skirmishes may be overrun. Lancers are best as shock troops used against enemy infantry but it's best to avoid using them for cavalry battles as they get -25% in defense against cavalry. 

Finally, when in pursuit of the enemy, when presented with opportunity to charge the enemy rearguard, it is best to refrain from charging but enveloping the enemy blocking its axes of retreat via ZOC.  This way you can surround and isolate the enemy in the following turn rather than simply charging them and pushing them one hex towards their axes of retreat.

 

Cossacks

Cossacks form a distinctive type of cavalry found exclusively in the Russian army. These smaller squadrons excel as scouts and screening units. While they are not ideal for defensive roles and cannot be relied upon to withstand charges, their notable ability for routing makes them particularly effective as hit-and-run forces. Following a charge, they will become disordered, and when counter charged or subjected to enemy fire, they tend to break away and rout, swiftly disengaging from the enemy.

In comparison, regular army cavalry, is typically quality B and will not rout easily but will get disordered, outpaced, surrounded, isolated and eliminated. Cossacks are a more likely to escape.

See is the snapshot from PBEM where 3 squadrons of Cossacks made a dashing flanking charge on the enemy grand battery, breaking away the following turn. 

To underscore their value, Cossacks are worth as many victory points as heavy guard cavalry. Consequently, Cossacks should actively seek opportunities to charge enemy cavalry, as neutralizing enemy horsemen presents a more significant advantage than preserving Cossack. Given their smaller squadrons, Cossacks are well-suited for rear-guard delaying actions. Even if they get eliminated, their loss is not a big deal. Offset by the time they have gained for your forces.

(RH) I would just add, weigh closely the victory point cost of any cavalry - it can quickly whittle down any point lead you may have obtained if handled too rashly... 

Smaller squadrons, referred to as "sotnyas" meaning "hundred," possess a higher counter-to-man ratio (counters per 1,000 men). This configuration diminishes the Cossacks' shock capabilities but opens up tactical flexibility in reconnaissance and battlefield maneuver, a principle applicable to all light cavalry units. The following snapshot from a PBEM battle illustrates Cossacks' key role in this context. 

In this engagement, Cossacks were leading the advance forming the first echelon. The main body comprised of the regular army dragoons and line infantry followed in two echelons behind. The leading Cossacks squadron was divided in half to absorb defensive artillery fire, resulting in the loss of 45 Cossacks. However, this sacrifice shielded the main attacking force composed of line cavalry and infantry.

Simultaneously, three additional Cossack squadrons enveloped the Italian right flank, posing a threat to a six-gun battery. With the Cossacks' widespread formation, the advancing forces presented multiple targets, compelling the Italian commander to reposition and withdraw his artillery.

In the subsequent turns, the first attacking echelon, composed of Cossacks, charged the enemy cavalry reserves, causing disorder among their ranks. Although the anticipated loss of this charge resulted in losses of ~70 Cossack, the overall effect was the disordering of the enemy cavalry in the sector, including the retreating horse battery. As the main line cavalry followed, routing some of the Italian cavalry, the Italian forces eventually retreated, ceding the position.

Finally, in pitched battles, break down Cossacks into half squadrons and send them into the enemy flanks using multiple routes to be a nuisance to the enemy in a small spoiling attacks. Your opponent will have to dispatch some of his troops to keep Cossacks at bay. Any enemy line units distracted by Cossacks and not being used in the main point of the battle is your gain.

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And so ends our second installment in this series. We'll have the next one up in one to two weeks time.

Got the itch to explore the Napoleonic Battles series? You can see all the available titles here.

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.

Until next time...  


9 comments


  • InfiniteSlinky

    These blog posts increase my enjoyment in the series. Explaining tactics with the real engine is informative. Looking forward to the next blog post. Thank you,


  • Tom Wanich

    Great series of articles, enjoyed them immensely! Looking forward to the next ones!


  • Alexey

    @Boris, no content on sieges at this stage. But it’s a good point and can certainly be considered for a future blog post


  • Boris

    Is there any advices as to how lay siege or invade a fort with few casualties ?


  • Rudy Allen Malmgren

    I have been studying Military History since I was 9 (1959) and started Wargaming when my Grandfather gave me Avalon Hill’s Waterloo board game. When games started to be available on computer I was ecstatic with joy because now 100% recon was now negated. I have been playing John Tiller’s games from the start but reading these blogs I feel like an amateur buffoon. Now I can use the game mechanics correctly and more Historically. Having studied WWII extensively I was one of those “Blitzkrieg” players with even to me unrealistic victories in Napoleonic Battles. This is really going to be more fun.


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