Book Review: Field of Glory - Napoleonic
Paul Robinson checks out the latest addition to the Field of Glory rules, 'Napoleonic', the combination effort between Slitherine and Osprey.
Those people at Slitherine and Osprey have done it again with this brand new addition to the Field of Glory series of wargames rules! Following up the successful Field of Glory Ancients and Medieval Rules and those for the Renaissance period they have ventured into the very popular Napoleonic period, with a set of rules authored by Terry Shaw and Mike Horah.
They do say that one should never judge a book by its cover. I have to say that in this case you do really need to ignore that cliché. Do judge this by its cover! Now whilst it is the rules themselves and their mechanisms that are clearly the most important thing you do have here a very tactile hardback offering. From the quite superb illustration by Peter Dennis showing the head of a French Infantry Column about to crash into Austrian Grenadiers to the cover’s colour and even the font, it all just fits together perfectly and makes you want to pick the book up and look inside. I particularly like the quote from Napoleon running along the top of the back cover: “Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever”.
Okay so it looks good, so what. Well the first thing to note is that one of the authors co-authored the Field of Glory Ancients and Medieval set and is an internationally successful competition wargamer. The second thing is the continuation of the high production values inside. We have at the start of each main chapter a full page of art from Osprey Publishing (along with other pieces dotted through the text). These are from several different artists (Christa and Richard Hook, Graham Turner, Steve Noon and Patrice Courcelle) but they clearly have been carefully chosen as their styles blend together perfectly to give the book a nice consistent feel. In total there are 25 different pieces of Osprey Art. Also in common with other Field of Glory products the rules are illustrated with numerous photographs of very well painted model soldiers supplied by Front Rank Miniatures, Old Glory UK, Steve Barber Models and Offensive Miniatures. Again these all blend together to give that consistent feel through the book. Clearly the art and the photos are not meant to be comprehensive but provide suitable inspiration for the wargamer (be they new to the hobby or an Old Grognard).
The rules themselves are of course what you will really be buying the book for and they do not disappoint. I have played a great many sets of Napoleonic Rules (despite my first wargaming love being the Ancient and Medieval Period) and I think these give the best balance between playability, historical accuracy and just plain looking like the real thing.
Each Unit on the model battlefield represents a brigade or regimental size formation (i.e. several infantry battalions or cavalry regiments) or a group of artillery batteries. The concept behind this, which is probably obvious to experienced gamers is really helpfully explained in the rules and set in the relevant historical context. A really nice touch I thought.
Units are then given different ratings for their Elan (how well they fight), Training (how well they can respond on the battlefield) and any Special Capabilities (such as being Guard, Impetuous, Lancers or Shock Troops eg Cuirassiers). Most infantry have muskets but of course the rules cater for those that have rifles. This system allows the rules to represent the whole cross section of real life troops of the period from the enthusiastic but poorly trained Prussians of the last years of the Wars through the excellent all round Kings German Legion to the keen but ill-disciplined British cavalry. Also you have the ability to attach skirmishers, artillery, additional officers or even cavalry to your units to give them some extra umph! Infantry is also divided into Unreformed and Reformed marking the differences between the fancy new fangled French way of doing things and the more sedate methods of the Ancien Regime! And of course the rules let you represent all the varieties of Cavalry in the period from Cossacks, through Hussars, Lancers, Dragoons and all the rest.
The rules allow you to do all the things you’d expect and cover charges (Assaults), movement, firing by infantry and artillery, forming square, fighting in buildings and the general affects of terrain etc. Some of the concepts will be familiar to those who have played other Field of Glory rules with Cohesions Tests to check morale, Points of Advantage (PoAs) to establish the effects of firing and the outcomes of Assaults and Complex Move tests to carry out those tricky manoeuvres. Also you have a camp which in this case is called a Line of Communications marker and represents those vital supply lines to the rear of your army that need protecting. The way Generals (Commanders in the rules) work is a little more detailed than other Field of Glory sets and of course this extra detail sensibly represents the complexities of commanding the large armies of the time. The mechanism is basically one where there are different levels of generals with different skills levels and this affects the number of Command Points they have to direct their troops.
There are excellent full colour diagrams (produced by Baueda) which illustrate and clarify various aspects of the rules such as wheeling during a charge, how defensive fire works, target priorities, multi unit fire and more. Again a nice touch common to all the Field of Glory sets and these will help the novice to get to grips with the rules really easily.
One of the neat things about the rules is that there is hardly any need to remove any bases! You get to keep virtually all your pretty figures on the table throughout the game. Other then when a unit is totally destroyed you will only ever need to remove one base (Units are made up of either 4 or 6 bases) to show that it is Spent – in the case of infantry this is a unit that has broken but subsequently rallied and for cavalry when they have taken a certain amount of shooting hits or received hits in combat.
The rule book itself is a complete package, as in the one of the Appendices you get eight Army Lists – one Anglo Portuguese, one Spanish, one Ottoman Turkish, one Russian, two French, a Prussian and an Austrian. These cover the main armies of the period so I suspect anyone with Napoleonic figures can get going straightaway. The lists are set out in what most people will recognise as the normal format for such things ie what is the minimum and maximum numbers of the various troops, what size units are they in and what is their Elan, Training and Special capabilities and of course the points cost. Also there are two orders of battle for the opposing sides in the two historical battles of Plancenoit (1814) and Sacile in 1809. This shows that the rules are not specifically designed for “competition” style even points match ups but are also intended be used to re-create the great battles of the time.
Finally at the back of the book you get a number of playsheets that summarise the various mechanisms in 4 pages. However as the rules part of this book is only 88 pages (including the artwork, photos and diagrams) these are really icing on the cake.
Overall I think the rules are ideal for the beginner with high production values, a realistic but highly playable set of mechanisms, integral army lists and an excellent pedigree in the Field of Glory stable of rules and army lists. The more established gamer should also enjoy this set with its elegant balance between detail and playability and the ability to play a large Napoleonic battle in an evening!
There are two books of army lists planned to support the rules the first being Triumph of Nations which will contain armies of the Later Napoleonic Wars, so the 1812 Invasion of Russia, the Hundred Days Campaign etc.
The 2nd volume Triumph of Nations will cover the early campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars including the Egyptian Campaign and the Peninsular War. So keep your eyes peeled for these!Field of Glory Napoleonic wargames rules, normal price £25.00 or $34.95 (ISBN 9781849089265), will be available from all your normal outlets! Be sure to check it out on the Slitherine site as well!