Writing a Wargame – Unit Movement

FACTORS ALREADY DECIDED – From previous posts

Scale1:5300Writing a Wargame – Part II
Base RepresentationBattalionWriting a Wargame – Part I
Base Width40mmWriting a Wargame – Part II
Real Time Equivalent for Single Turn10 MinutesWriting a Wargame – Part III
Actions Per Unit5Writing a Wargame – Part III
Factors already decided

So I realise at the end of my last post I said that we’d be looking at formations and their affect on movement, however I’m actually going to bottom out the movement of different units.


We established that infantry would march at 5 cm every 5 minutes (apart from the Austrians who move a little further, but I believe we’ll handle this separately later on in our rules when we look at individual factions). This would mean over the course of a turn an infantry unit would march 10 cm in good conditions (i.e. along a road), but we didn’t look at different ground conditions or terrain.

Before we go into that, let’s look at the quick march for the different nations as well and how fast their rates were:

Taken from https://rodwargaming.wordpress.com/miltary-historical-research/military-historical-research/napoleonic-infantry-march-rates/ with thanks.

So if we scaled down the quick step rates of the nations we arrive at the following distances over 10 minutes:

NationQuick Step (Paces per Minute)10 Mins @ 1:5300 Scale Distance
British10815.53 cm
French10014.38 cm
Prussian10815.53 cm
Austrian 1805 Regs12017.25 cm
Austrian 1807 Regs10515.10 cm
Russian11015.82 cm
Quick Step March Rates by Nation

Most nations are similar at around 110 paces per minute, apart from the Austrian 1807 regs which were at an increased 120 paces per minute. If we then break this down into 5 actions we have the following distance per action (2 minutes):

Nation1 Turn DistancePer Action (Turn divided by 5)
British15.53 cm3.11 cm
French14.38 cm2.88 cm
Prussian15.53 cm3.11 cm
Austrian 1805 Regs17.25 cm3.45 cm
Austrian 1807 Regs15.10 cm3.02 cm
Russian15.82 cm3.16 cm
Turn distance divided by Actions in a turn

This results in a fairly uniform 3 cm per action. Now we’ve calculated the Infantry March and Quick Step paces we have the following movement distances for infantry per action (rounded):

UnitMarchQuick Step
Unit movements

We also have double time to consider if we go back to my favourite source of Rod’s Wargaming we’ll see that under the quickest step troops would move at around 120 paces per minute, however this was primarily used for wheeling and allowing companies to catch up to its unit after passing obstacles etc:

Chiefly to the purpose of wheeling. also in this time should division [companies] double, and move up, when passing obstacles in line, or when in a column of march the front of division is increased or diminshed“.

The Dundas regulations (The British Regulations during Napoleonic times) also state:

A company or division may occasionally run, a battalion may sometimes Quick Step, but the hurrying of a large column or of a body of moving in front [presumably the latter is a reference to line] will certainly produce confusion and disorder. It is never to be risked when an enemy is in presence though it may sometimes be necessary when a post or situation is to be seizes“.

This is an interesting point, battalions and division would run, but only under Quick Step, but also, the would NEVER run in proximity to the enemy. This is something we’ll have to take account of in our rules. This may mean that battalions are unable to Quick Step within a certain distance of the enemy.

In summary of foot troop movement, we have the most common Ordinary Step, used in the majority of circumstances. The Quick Step which was used, but never near enemy units and the Double Time, which was only used during formation changes and redressing of units.

Therefore for the purpose of our game we’ll have an Ordinary Step and a Quick Step, however, the Quick Step will not be able to be used within a certain proximity to the enemy. At present we’ll say this distance is roughly 20cm until we have some kind of firmer evidence to the contrary.


C P Escalle’s “Des marches dans les armees de Napoleon” is quoted on page 291 of Nafziger’s “Imperial Bayonets”.

French cavalry were able to move at 4,800 to 5,000 meters (3 to 3.125 miles) per hour and infantry at 3,000 to 3,500 metres (1.9 to 2.2 miles) per hour. However the Regulations provides for movements of up to 4,000 metres (2.5 miles) per hour. The real problem was artillery and other cartage which could seldom exceed 3,000 metres (1.9 miles) per hour because of bad roads. A mixed arms force would move about 3 kph (2 mph) on strategic movement.”

If we take the above information on French Cavalry movement we arrive at the following for 1:5300 scale over 10 minutes:

Distance Covered in 10 MinsAt 1:5300 Scale
Cavalry830 Metres15.72 cm
Cavalry Movement

This tells us that the Cavalry would move only slightly faster than the foot troops on the march, which makes sense when moving your forces around the countryside.

But let’s take this a bit further and look at the average speeds of horses while walking, trotting and galloping. Taking our information from Wikipedia we have the following information:

GaitDistance Covered in 10 MinsAt 1:5300 Scale
Walk1.17 kilometres22.01 cm
Trot2.17 Kilometres40.88 cm
Gallop7.33 Kilometres*138.37 cm*
*A horse cannot maintain a gallop for more than roughly 2 km

On the gallop Wikipedia tells us that a horse cannot gallop for more than 1.5 to 3 kilometres at a a time, in game terms at scale this is the equivalent of a distance if 37.73 cm across the table. Therefore we would have to limit any galloping to only 1 action choice per turn and no more (fatigue will also have to come into affect here).

If we split these movements over the five actions we have the following:

GaitFull MovementPer Action
Walk22.01 cm4.40 cm
Trot40.88 cm8.18 cm
Gallop138.37 cm27.67 cm (limited to one action)
Cavalry Movement Speeds

So if we return to our unit movement card and add the Cavalry movement per action:

UnitMarchQuick StepCharge
Unit Movements per Action
*1 Action per turn **Cannot be used within 20cm of enemy units


The following excerpt is taken from www.napolun-series.org

A battery would ideally move at the same speed and covered the same distance as did the troops to which it was attached. This distance could be anywhere from a few miles to 20 or 30 miles a day. When a battery moved independently, it was not limited by the movement of the troops and was thus free to cover as much ground as it could. All in all, there was not a great deal of difference in the distance travelled. Such gains as there were resulted from the absence of thousands of marching infantrymen, supply trains and other units cluttering up the roads. The battery was then able to travel without long delays due to the inevitable traffic jams caused by jostling troops.

So all in all horse artillery would move at the same pace as cavalry and foot artillery the same as infantry, this makes our movement card much simpler.

UnitMarchQuick StepCharge
Infantry/Foot Artillery2cm3cm**
Cavalry/Horse Artillery***4cm8cm28cm*
Unit Movements per Action
*1 Action per turn **Cannot be used within 20 cm of enemy units ***Horse artillery are unable to charge


Commanders were generally (pun intended) mounted, so this makes our movement for such troops easier. Commanders will mostly be staying with the units, and at present I imagine commanders will give some kind of morale/combat benefit to nearby battalions.

Adjutants were used to carry messages between generals, these will be used for changing a divisions orders which we’ll get into at a later date.


UnitMarchQuick StepCharge
Infantry2 cm3 cm**
Foot Artillery2 cm3 cm**
Cavalry4 cm8 cm28 cm*
Horse Artillery4 cm8 cm
Generals4 cm8 cm
Adjutants4 cm8 cm
Unit movement card
*1 Action per turn **Cannot be used within 20 cm of enemy units

Looking at the above I believe that this will eventually be condensed to just two lines; Foot and Mounted, and then broken down across the different terrain types.


In terms of terrain, I think this can be broken down into a number of classifications:

Terrain types

These could then be broken down further into woods, villages, rivers etc each with their own rules. But for now lets look at the effects that terrain may have on the movement. We will also have impassable terrain features such as ridge lines etc, but for now we’ll stick to the three above which would affect troop movement speeds.


As it sounds, gentle rolling hills and open land with no real obstables. Here though we may also have Roads, moving along roads should give a bonus to movement or at least no detriment to the movement value of a unit. As a result, we can’t affect our units ability to move through these areas too much, so maybe we should look at movement along the road as a bonus.

Roads, are fairly narrow in comparison to a battalion or cavalry squadron so to get the benefit of moving along a road, the unit would have to be in column formation, otherwise their would be no benefit as those marching in formation off the road would essentially be moving in open ground and would have to still redress ranks after trees, boulders etc.

Therefore we should give a benefit to moving along a road as perhaps +1 cm of movement for a whole move along the road.

i.e. The 48th Regiment of Foot are in column formation and start the turn on a road. Their usual movement per action would be either 2 cm in their standard March or 3 cm in their quickstep. As they are on the road, their movement would now be 3 cm for a March and 4 cm for their quickstep, as long as they finished that actions movement still in contact with the road.

This would have more of a benefit to foot troops than mounted, however mounted troops I believe would travel at a similar pace as to when in open ground due to not having to redress their ranks as much. Therefore I’m willing at this stage to keep the benefit of +1 cm along a road section for mounted troops as well. Should anyone find information that means we should revisit this, please let me know and provide me any links that you can.


Let’s look at how other rules sets deal with rough terrain.

Marechal d’Empire (Polemos) – In Marechal D’Empire (MdE) rough terrain has the affect of limiting all troop movements to 2 base widths (BW), troop movement in MdE is based on the number of bases in a force rather than the type of unit. So a smaller force of 2 BW’s can move 3 BW, a force of 3 BW’s can move 2 BW anything larger than 3 base widths moves at 1 BW. I believe that MdE is looking at this from the approach that larger forces are harder to keep dressed hence the need to moe slower for larger forces. But unless a unit is a column of 2 base widths the rough terrain has little affect on a unit. Breaking down their rules you would move through the rough terrain in either a 2 BW column (while losing a BW of movement) or form into a 3 BW column. Anything wider would reduce your movement by 50%.

Blucher – This set of rules does not consider anything rough terrain, you either have open or difficult.

Le Grand Armee – In this set, using an action for passing through difficult terrain will add a disruption marker to the unit. This does have its appeal, suggesting that once a unit is outside of the terrain it would have to pause to remove the disruption (redress its ranks) before continuing.

So as you can see there are a number of ways we can treat rough terrain. Currently I’m considering rough terrain to have a % movement discount on units for moving through it (in order for them to keep their formations in shape). Whether this is correct, is up for debate.

Using one of my favourite sources RodWargaming we have the following paragraph:

The Dundas regulations therefore see no need for troops to slow down when crossing rough ground or advancing through woods and battalions do not have to stop to reform after negotiating such obstacles provided they were originally moving in Ordinary Time.

This would suggest that movement through rough terrain did not affect the troops if they were marching at Ordinary Time.

We also have the following to consider:

Close Order was prescribed for firing (so that the second rank muskets could protrude beyond the front ranks) and Open Order would seem to have been used for movement. This reflects the fact that the men in the rear ranks need some clear space in front of them. It also helps to prevent them tripping over casualties in the front rank. As soon as the battalion turns right or left this space is reduced to 22″ per man. It is clearly impractical for soldiers to march any great distance this close to the man in front,

So the formation for marching would also have to be open order, with closed order reserved for firing lines. This will be useful when we come to analyse formations a later date.

So my suggestion is that rough terrain would have no effect on troop movement provided those troops were in open order and marching at ordinary pace. Therefore we would assumer that the quick step would not be able to make its full movement in rough terrain and would be reduced to the same as the March. This gives us the following movement card:

Unit TypeTerrainMarchQuick StepCharge
FootOpen2 cm3 cm**
MountedOpen4 cm8 cm28 cm*
FootRough2 cm2 cm
MountedRough4 cm6 cm
Unit Movement Card
*1 Action per turn **Cannot be used within 20 cm of enemy units

I do think that mounted troops may have been able to travel a little faster but we’ll consider this further. Should we split the difference and say that mounted troops cannot charge in rough terrain and there movement is reduced by 2 cm on the quick step, bringing it to 6 cm instead? This sounds more reasonable to me, but I would love to know everyone’s thoughts.


Difficult terrain would be such things as steep slopes, dense woodland, gulches etc. In all cases the movement of units would be seriously hampered. My first thoughts are that Cavalry would be unable to move into difficult terrain at all, while foot troops would suffer a 50% modifier to their movement rate.

At this point I imagine skirmishers would be able to move through terrain without penalty, but we’ll cover skirmishing formations at a later date.

So let’s look at our completed movement card:

Unit TypeTerrainMarchQuick StepCharge
FootOpen2 cm3 cm*
MountedOpen4 cm8 cm28 cm**
FootRough2 cm
MountedRough4 cm6 cm
FootDifficult1 cm
Troop Movement Card
*Cannot be used within 20 cm of enemy units **1 Action per turn


  1. Mounted troops moving through rough terrain, should this be the same as their standard march move or should we set this at another value say half way between the march and the quick step rates, meaning a move of 6 cm per action in rough terrain instead of 8 cm?
  2. Fatigue, we still haven’t covered fatigue as yet, but we should consider fatigue on troops marching at the double.
  3. Skirmish troops, we’ve not yet looked at these but I would imagine that while skirmishing troops movements would not be inhibited in either rough or difficult terrain?
  4. Should difficult terrain be a 50% modifier?
  5. We’ll revisit our base sizes following John’s comments on Part II.

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