Edinburgh - Orkney Wargames
The Age of Bonaparte
Let's give Boney a damned good thrashing!
My first ever "proper" wargame army was a French "Napoleonic" one, back when I was a spotty teenager in Orkney. My best pal had Russians (an army I secretly preferred), while another kid (now doing something in London) had Prussians. We used those Airfix rules, and as I recall we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. My army was made up of Hinchliffe figures which seemed to vary in size from 20mm to 30mm - often in the same unit. When I left to join the Navy in 1978 I sold them, and I'm afraid I didn't revisit the period until fairly recently. Now I consider the "Napoleonic" era one of my wargaming staples.
Of course, this really encompasses two periods, and I really should treat it that way. The first is "Napoleonic" proper - the wars against France from 1803 to 1815. I have three armies for this - British, French and Russian. Then there's the French Revolutionary War, from 1793 to 1802. I have Austrians and French, but I also have a smattering of other troops for this colourful little side period, including some Sardinians. We actually use the same rules - General de Brigade - for both of them, although we often use Black Powder for larger multi-player games or where time is at a premium. I've used other rules, but none of these match the style and playability of "GdeB", or the fun of "BP".
The Napoleonic Wars
Rules are a difficult issue. For a start, there are several options - many of them good. I began by playing the Airfix Napoleonic rules, written back in the 1970's. At the time I even tried writing my own, but this precocious teenage effort wasn't up to much. Instead we moved over to Charles Grant's Napoleonic Wargaming, whose illustrations were inspirational. After leaving home I never revisited the period for almost three decades, and came back to it almost by chance. I'm now a late convert, and a big fan. Along the way I played the odd Napoleonic game, using other people's troops, and in a variety of scales. These included the fun and quirky Shako, the unplayable Empire, and then Valmy to Waterloo and Napoleon's Battles, which was part board-game, part figure game. I also tried the WRG set 1750-1850, and the number-crunching To the Sound of the Guns. I have to admit that none of these really managed to rekindle the enthusiasm of my youth, or provide that memorable a gaming experience.
When I rediscovered the period I'd already tried out General de Brigade (GdeB) written by Dave Brown, a friend of mine from London. I played several games with him and others at my old club in Loughton in East London, and I liked the straightforward mechanisms and sensible approach. Better still, while rules like Napoleon's Battles used a figure ratio of 1:100, which meant your units were brigades, Dave's rules used a 1:20 ratio, which meant you played with large battalions. This was more like the 1:33 scale I'd grown up with in those Airfix rules, but the system was a lot more fun, drawing its inspiration on another old classic - Peter Gilder's In the Grand Manner.
I went off to live and work in Florida before I could get really hooked, but I tried out GdeB a few times when I visited clubs or shows, and this reinforced my early impressions. Therefore, when I took up the period again, this seemed the obvious place to go for a rules system. I looked at others, including the interesting Grande Armee by Sam Mustafa, which was another of those 1:100 sets, and for a while I tinkered with a free on-line set called Republique. I also tried Wargame Foundry's Napoleon set, which were extremely flaky and full of holes, but they contained a few interesting ideas in them. However, I always came back to GdeB.
Before my "Age of Bonaparte" project really got underway I began playing games with the League of Gentlemen Wargamers, who meet about three times a year in Scotland. While some of its members were devotees of GdeB, others were not, and so they landed up using a set based which developed into Republic to Empire. I found them virtually unplayable - needlessly clunky and over-complicated.
Instead I stick with old faithful General de Brigade (Deluxe) - backed up by Black Powder for faster play.
Click on the rules to read Bill Gilchrist's review of them
I now play large multi-player games with another group called "Anything but a One" (or "AB1). These guys also meet in Scotland a couple of times a year, and for the last few Horse & Musket games we've used Black Powder, produced by Warlord Games. I like Black Powder. They're fun, they give an extremely speedy game, and while they aren't as detailed and as accurate as GdeB, they're flexible enough to do what we want, and give a reasonably historic result. If you haven't picked up a copy yet then I suggest to take a peek at them. They are quirky. Units get burned up quite quickly, but they do exactly what they claim - provide a fast, fun and relatively historic game, set in the black powder era.
In 2010 Dave Brown released a new edition of GdeB, called General de Brigade (Deluxe edition). Deluxe it is - the rules are beautifully illustrated, perfectly indexed and organised, and bound in hardback. Many of the systems have been speeded up or simplified - less factors to wade through - and the playsheets are well laid out, and a model of straightforward simplicity. We've been using them a lot since they first appeared, and we're starting to understand the subtle quirks in the rules. While the original GdeB set was good, this is better still, producing a smoother, faster game. Sure, they won't be to everyone's taste. Some of you will prefer those 1:100 ratio rules, like Sam Mustafa's highly-acclaimed Lasalle set. Others will prefer complicated systems, like Empire. Others will opt for the simplicity of Shako 2, or Black Powder.
For my money though, General de Brigade (Deluxe edition) is the way to go, backed up with Black Powder for larger, faster games.
The Napoleonic War
Anglo-Portuguese Army French Army Russian Army
Austrian Army (1796) Revolutionary French Army (both pages under construction)
French Revolutionary Games: Journal 39 , Journal 41 , Journal 48 , Journal 52 , Journal 69 , Journal 70 & Journal 78
Napoleonic Games: Journal 20, Journal 23, Journal 26, Journal 29 , Journal 30 , Journal 49 , Journal 51 , Journal 52 ,
Journal 53 , Journal 54 , Journal 57 , Journal 60 , Journal 61 , Journal 62 , Journal 63 , Journal 65 , Journal 66 ,
Journal 67 , Journal 70 , Journal 72 , Journal 73 , Journal 74 , Journal 75 , Journal 76 , Journal 83 , Journal 85 ,
Journal 86 , Journal 87 , Journal 89 , Journal 90 , Journal 92 , Journal 94 , Journal 95 , Journal 97 , Journal 98
Journal 99 , Journal 105 & Journal 108
Napoleonic Skirmish games: Journal 113
Seven Years War French & Indian War American War of Independence Age of Bonaparte
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