Those of you unaccustomed to the sight may well ask yourselves why two fully grown adults are throwing dice, sometimes cheering and sometimes swearing, at a table full of toy soldiers.
But these are no ordinary toy soldiers and what you are seeing is an all-out battle of miniature wargaming.
A Napoleon at War game turn
Here we outline how to move, fire, combat and react with your lead miniatures to the different circumstances that can arise in a Napoleonic battle played out in miniature.
Each Napoleon at War battle is divided into game turns, each consisting of a turn for each player.
Each player’s turn consists of the following phases:
In the Initial Phase, each player checks if they have fulfilled the conditions necessary for a victory, or if either of the armies is too decimated to continue the battle.
During the Movement Phase, each player’s units manoeuvre in an attempt to secure an advantageous position to either fire at or charge the enemy.
To move your units, chose a Force and a unit within it. You can change the unit’s formation before moving if you like. It’s not necessary to move all your units; if you already have an advantageous position, you can save all your energy to make your firing power more deadly in the Firing phase, as we will presently see. A unit’s movement capacity is affected by its formation and the terrain in which it finds itself.
Once you have chosen a Force to move, you must complete the all moves of that Force before choosing another. That is, you cannot move some units from one Force then some from another, then go back to the first.
In Napoleon at War it’s easier to first move the units located some distance from the enemy, or which are not threatened by cannon or musket fire before moving those engaged in combat whose capacity to manoeuvre is limited. In order to move one of these in any way that is not a straight line, you first have to pass a Discipline Test (DT) using the unit’s Discipline score.
Once you have moved all the units you want to from each Force, it’s time to open fire at the enemy (and to be fired at yourself – less pleasant, but unfortunately part of any battle!). During the Firing phase, your units fire at the opponent’s and they return fire.
In Napoleon at War, firing is compulsory for any unit within distance to do so. It makes sense – if you have the chance to fire at the enemy, better to do so than to passively wait for them to send volleys at you!
For musket and cannon volleys, we use six-sided dice instead of bullets; infinitely more civilised. In order for your throw to count as a hit, you have to roll a 4 or higher (4+). This is the same throughout the game so it’s easy to remember. We can compensate for other relevant factors of the battle by adding or taking away dice from the throw.
Once all the hits are added up, you may find that you have to remove some bases as casualties. Careful! If you lose half of the close order bases of any unit, the unit is disbanded and completely removed from the game. Luckily, your skirmisher bases can protect you from some of the musket fire or, if they are more numerous than the opponent’s, help to wear down the enemy.
But, if one of you Subcommanders or even your Commander is too close to the enemy, they can be wiped out by the shots.
If any of your Forces has lost half or more than half of its original units at the end of the Firing phase, the entire Force (normally the size of a brigade) must pass a Morale Test (MT). To do this, we use the Subcommander’s Valeur score.
So, now you’ve manoeuvred, fired (and been fired at!) and you are now set to move to the decisive Combat phase. Now is when your well positioned units can charge the enemy, hopefully with devastating results, and eliminate enemy units from the battle.
However, combat is not so easy: if we charge the front of an enemy unit, they will fire back, obliging our brave soldiers to pass an Élan test (ET) to reach their goal. To pass an ET we use the Valeur score of the charging unit.
If we pass the ET, the moment of truth has come: combat in Napoleon at War tends to be all or nothing since you can not do any saving roll, except if you are defending a building or fort. it’s much more difficult to avoid casualties in this phase than in the Firing phase.
As at the end of the Firing phase, the Forces which have lost half or more than half of their units at this point in the game must pass an MT to continue in the battle.
After settling the combats, some of the victorious attacking units may wish to change their position; perhaps because they have blown a hole in enemy lines and can exploit the situation, or perhaps they have been left too exposed and want to go back to their starting point.
Now is the Reserves and Support Move phase, where we check if we have to get some reinforcements, or manoeuvre our unengaged units to a better position for the start of the opponent’s player’s turn.
The first thing we do in this phase is throw the same number of D6s as in this same turn.
With each dice with a score equal to or lower than the current turn, (e.g. in turn 2, you roll 2D6 and get scores of 1, 3) you get an extra Force from those kept in reserve.
(These circumstances can sometimes be altered by a special rule of the scenario that we are disputing.)
Now it’s your opponent’s turn. Will he be able to outwit you and overcome all the challenges you have set in your turn?