What I have not really found, however, is a set of Napoleonic rules that work well with figures of this size. (Given the girth of the figures, they are closer to 54mm in feel.) I can only do so many Napoleonic skirmish games before I end up recycling the scenarios. My plan was to use The Sword and the Flame for them, but with 24 figures for each French ligne infantry unit, that is going to take time.
So when I saw a battle report of a group in the Netherlands using 54mm Napoleonics figures I perked up. Especially when I started counting figures in the pictures and it looked like they were using infantry units of eight figures and cavalry units of four figures. The report said they were using the rules About Bonaparte by Partizan Press and so I set about finding the rules. It turns out that I could only find them available for sale at Caliver Books in the UK (On Military Matters in the US did not have them), so I put them on my wish list and waited until I found a more compelling reason to make a larger purchase before getting them.
I have had a few frustrating bouts with the UK postal system, so I am always hesitant from ordering anything there. Now that Baccus 6mm miniatures are no longer sold in the US (Scale Creep Miniatures is no longer carrying them), if I need to expand any 6mm armies or fill out a unit, I will probably have to bite the bullet and deal with it again.As it turned out, Cigar Box Battle Store came out with a new mat using a 6" square grid and they promoted it at the same time as promoting a new book called Tin Soldiers in Action (which I will review in a future article) by Partizan Press. This too was only sold at Caliver Books, so I decided to finally place my order and get the two rule books.
Production Quality of the Book
Basing and Unit Sizes
Formations, Groups, and Movement
This reminds me of both DBA and Dux Bellorum. In DBA if you break up your formations you will quickly become "PIP starved" and you roll low and cannot move all of your units. In Dux Bellorum groups can only be formed of like types (shieldwall infantry with shieldwall infantry, warriors with warriors, etc.), limiting the number of units that can maneuver together.
Note that there is a Command Radius for commanders, so units far from their commanders require additional orders to compensate for the extra distance.
All of the traditional rules for movement – formation and facing changes, unit interpenetration, wheeling, oblique, about face, withdrawing, sidestepping, deploying skirmishers, joining groups – are all in there. Be aware that formation changes take a full turn unless Veteran or Guard.
As you might expect from a set of rules designed for 54mm figures, the table sizes are probably expected to be a little deeper than normal. Deployment zones are 16" in from the baselines, infantry in line formation moves 8" per turn, and musket range is 16". So if you are using a 6' by 4' board, troops on the deployment lines will be in musket range from the beginning and cavalry will be in charge range on Turn 1. No, no 6' x 4' tables for you with these rules!
By my rule of thumb, a "typical" Napoleonic battalion should have a shooting range of approximately the same distance as the frontage of that unit. Given that the units are roughly 8" in frontage, the ranges seem a bit long. It also does not, in my opinion, have the proper ratio of volleys until contact, or two volleys by a unit in line standing and firing at a column charging in. There is no defensive fire available against a charge coming in, same as with CCN. I guess I am too influenced by my days playing Column, Line, and Square.
Support, Firing and Melee
Regarding skirmishers: they are overpowered, no doubt about it. They are +1 die when shooting and -2 dice when being shot at. Are you kidding me?
Army Lists and Periods
AB covers more than just the Napoleonics period. There are period rules for the Age of Marlborough, the Seven Years War, the French and Indian War, the American War of Independence, the American Civil War, and the colonial wars. Given that the last encompasses breechloading rifles and gatling guns, I am surprised that they did not include the Franco-Prussian War too, as that is still a very colorful period.
- Tracking formation by unit,
- Free-form movement rather than controlled by a grid,
- Gave Commanders a meaningful purpose in the command & control mechanic,
- Expanded the number of modifiers to firing and melee,
- Rather than increasing the distance retreated by a thrown Flag it created a whole new system for ignoring, adding and doubling flags, and then creating new combat results based on how many flags remain,
- Expanded the system of providing support, but turned it from a rule to a resource.