Writing a Wargame – Musketry

For Factors and attributes that have already been decided please visit the Napoleonic War Game page.

EDIT: Following a suggestion from user Altair1371 on Reddit the firing dice mentioned further down this page will change to 1 die for every 200 men.

Also, ‘Stress’ & ‘Misfires’ will be combined into one die roll called ‘Steady’ which will still be passable on a 5+.

While we contemplate the base sizes a little more from my previous post, let’s move on to another aspect of Napoleonic warfare. Namely, Musketry fire its accuracy and effect.

It is fairly common knowledge that musket fire was largely inaccurate due to a number of factors. Soldiers were not trained to ‘aim’ their musket but rather just to reload and fire. It wasn’t until after the wars that the command ‘aim’ came into effect.

How accurate was a musket? We know the ranges of the musket from my previous post Writing a Wargame – Part III. Also from that article we found a information from www.napolun.com in regards to hits at long range and effective range.

– at 160 and 320 yards out of 200 rounds fired at a large target, approximating the size of a formed infantry company, the following number of hits was obtained“:

Musket160 YardsAccuracy320 YardsAccuracy
Prussian 1782 Musket6432%4221%
Prussian 1809 Musket11357%4221%
British Musket11658%5528%
French 1777 Musket9950%5528%
Napoleonic Musket Accuracy

So we’ve some data here showing that muskets could hit 50-60% of the time at effective range while hitting 20-30% at long range. But this test was conducted under an environment where the firer could take time, not worry about approaching enemy soldiers, actually killing men in front of him, not worry about being shot by the enemy and also not have the distractions of the general sounds of warfare going on around them – in other words ‘battlefield stress’. I suspect all of these factors has an affect on whether a soldier was a) able to reload effectively and b) actually fire his musket.

Further on in the article I cited above from napolun.com, there is an interesting snippet on the effectiveness of muskets in combat and what factors would play a part in that effectiveness:

  • Misfires could consist of up to 20%. According to Colonel Elting during prolonged firing the soldier had often to clear the vent of his musket with a pin carried on his pouch belt, and clean the barrel which fouled after 50 or 60 shots.
  • Stress. The experience showed that the niceties of regular volleys were impracticable on the battlefield. Quite often the musketry took place outside of the real killing zone. The sight of enemy continuing his advance was enough for some and they began blasting off as soon as they had loaded their muskets. It was contagious. Once individual soldiers fired their muskets (without the order from their officers) the others began firing too. Within moments the entire battalion was covered with smoke. The fast firing relieved anxiety and occupied troopers’ minds and bodies. Some soldiers were so stressed that they loaded their rifles time after time but they never fired. (After one of the battle of Gettysburg the discarded 37,574 rifles were collected and sent to Washington to be inspected and reissued. Approx. 24,000 of them were still loaded, and 75 % of them had 2 to 10 rounds in the barrel. One rifle had been stuffed to the top with 23 rounds !

As we have no hard data to go on from combat in the era. We will have to rely on our first table while adjusting slightly for ‘battlefield stress’. At present I’m willing to go with a general 50% hit at short range and 20% at long range. But we also have to account for the 20% misfires that could occur.

The easiest way to account for all of these factors is to have a number of speed rolls when firing. when I refer to speed rolling I’m talking about the act of rolling the brigade as one group together for those at are firing.

We could then reduce the firing into a number of separate rolls to have a more realistic idea of firing in Napoleonic times. These rolls would be for Stress, Misfires and Hitting.

STRESS

Our second bullet point above shows that our of a number of rifles taken from the Battlefield of Gettysburg for analysis a high percentage hadn’t been reloaded properly. 75% had more than one round inside the barrel. This makes it fairly simple to introduce a mechanic to that effect. Using a D6 or a D10 you can determine the number of men that wouldn’t fire due to ‘Battlefield Stress’. As D6 dice are more readily available i’d rather use these throughout our system. Therefore, to simulate battlefield stress, a soldier would theoretically only fire his weapon on a 5+ (which works out as 33.34% chance, slightly better than reality but usable all the same).

MISFIRES

The first bullet point states that 20% of weapon fires resulted in misfires. Again, this should be fairly simple to show. Of those soldiers that successfully passed the first test they would roll a further D6 with a 2+ (83.35% chance) showing that his weapon was fired without incident.

HITTING

Effective Range

Using our table at the beginning of this article we have the stat showing roughly 50-60% of time soldiers were able to hit the target. So let’s stick with 50%, on a D6 that would be a 4+ (50% chance)

Long Range

Using the same table, it shows that hits were only made roughly 20% of the time. Converting this into a dice roll gives us a 6+ (16.67% chance).

EXAMPLE

So let’s use our largest battalions and smallest battalions in the game, the Russians and Hungarians.

They both decide that they will spend 1 action to form their 4 battalions in to line and 2 actions to move their battalions 2 moves, bringing them within musket range of their enemy. They then would spend 1 action to give fire.

UnitMenShots (6 Shots each)‘Stress’ Successes (33.34%)‘Misfire’ Successes
(83.35%)
Effective Range Hits
(50.00%)
Long Range Hits
(16.67%)
Russian Line2,48414,9044,9694,1422,071690
Austrian Line (Hungarian)5,23231,39210,4668,7234,3621,454

There are two points here, I obviously don’t expect people to be rolling 10,000 dice at a time, so we need to establish the firing dice of each unit. Also, these stats are assuming that the unit is firing on a unit formed in line also. So ignoring the second point for now let’s suggest our smallest unit would use 6 firing dice for its 600 men. That’s 100 men per firing dice.

The number of dice each Unit/Country would receive per battalion:

Unit/CountryMenFiring Dice
British Line1,07611
French Old Guard (Pre 1809)9459
French Old guard (Post 1809)8018
French Line (Pre 1809)1,04910
French Line (Post 1809)8258
Prussian Line6617
Russian Line6216
Austrian Grenadier9489
Austrian Line (German)1,18812
Austrian Line (Hungarian)1,30813
Firing dice per unit

So following on from our last post, we’d still essentially be managing our units at a brigade level, as the Brigade Commander may display the strength of the Brigade. For example a Brigade Commander may have an indicator showing that Brigades strength is 1,400, meaning we would roll 14 dice initially.

Taking our previous example of the Russian and Hungarian infantry and replacing the men with firing dice:

UnitMenShots ‘Stress’ Successes (33.34%)‘Misfire’ Successes
(83.35%)
Effective Range Hits
(50.00%)
Long Range Hits
(16.67%)
Russian Line2,484248731
Austrian Line (Hungarian)5,23252171472
Example of a four battalion brigade of Russian and Hungarian infantry firing in game

EFFECTS OF FIRING

So what about the unit receiving fire? Per 1000 shots fired at a unit in effective range there would be casualties roughly on the scale of 100-150 per short range volley and 0-50 on long range (very rough estimates). When accounting for an action turn of firing (6 volleys) these would equate to 600-900 casualties per short range and 100-300 per long range. These casualties would be spread across the entire enemies brigade rather than one particular unit. At present I imagine distributing any effects of firing evenly amount the forward battalions of the enemy.

So if we go with Option 6 or 7 from our previous post (i.e. commanders have dice that show casualties for the Brigade) so for each successful hit on a unit you would reduce the battalion strength by 50 men. So for every two successful hits on a brigade they would lose 1 firing dice.

However receiving fire also had an effect on the morale of the unit, and I’m toying with the idea of having morale markers on individual units where each successful hit reduces their morale by one pip or they suffer a morale marker. Every time that unit wants to advance on an enemy within range it would have to pass a morale test before doing so. Failure would mean not advancing, these failures would also prompt the other units in base to base contact with them to also take a morale test. If one other unit fails that test within the brigade then the whole Brigade moves back a certain distance while taking a certain amount of damage (D3?), if three or more fail in total then the whole brigade routs and makes a full move back towards its own deployment zone while taking damage (D6?).

Commanders of brigade can use actions to reduce the pips of morale damage on any battalions under their control.

SUMMARY

We have set a number of factors all of which aren’t set in stone yet as I’d love to hear further opinions on this.

We have:

  • 1 Firing Dice for every 200 men in a battalion.
  • ‘Battlefield Stress’ tests for units wanting to fire (5+ on a D6), which could be adjusted depending on the skill of the unit.
  • ‘Misfire’ tests for units (2+ on a D6).
  • ‘To Hit’ Scores of 4+ at Effective Range and 6+ at Long Range.
  • Damage of 50 men per hit inflicted on the Brigade and 1 morale Pip on the Battalion.
  • Morale tests for Battalions wanting to move towards (as well as receiving fire from the enemy).
  • Commanders can use actions to improve morale of their Battalions.

As always I would love to hear any comments or ideas.

Also early days yet, but how does “Vive le France” or “Le Chapeau” sound as a title?

16 thoughts on “Writing a Wargame – Musketry

  1. Peter –
    Here are a few more references that may be of use:
    https://kabinettskriege.blogspot.com/2018/01/how-close-ranged-were-mid-eighteenth.html

    https://www.clausewitzstudies.org/mobile/principlesofwar.htm
    Clausewitz’ histories on various battles and campaigns available on above site, also are larded with valuable info.

    A consideration for battle damage calculations is that it seems for every casualty, there was likely another man or two who were assisting the wounded soldier, carrying them off to the rear, getting more ammo or water, “going for help”, serving as a runner, “fixing” their weapon etc.

    Hope this helps.
    – Doug B.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Should you get to the point in your rules journey where you throw your hands up, there’s this: https://freewargamesrules.fandom.com/wiki/Warhammer_Napoleonics

        On my parallel journey, Ive found that the Blucher rules are a bit fiddly in resolving combat. My gaming partner and I found there wasn’t a lot of movement on the table either. We are going to give it another go, but this time getting rid of the Infantry Fire ‘Volley at 1 Base Width” rules and instead forcing Combat (melee) at that range. The Combat (melee) rules have advances and retreats which my readings have found were characteristic of much of Napoleonic combat. If that experiment fails, we are shifting over to Et Sans Resultat which my friend has played and likes.
        Early on he advised me to base my Baccus 6mms on 20mm squares in 2 ranks. That was very helpful since they have been flexible in trying out with different sets. You might also try using cardboard unit prototypes until you are happy with your rules. That’ll let you see if you want to use base sizes based on historic numbers or want to go to generic battalions without having to rebase and reflock.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. In connection with battalion sizes, and since Clausewitz has been mentioned, let me report what Clausewitz said about the large Austrian battalions: namely that the extra men were ‘in a sense wasted’. I think he meant that the large battalions were unwieldy and inefficient at bringing all their force to bear effectively. Part of that story would be their ratio of ~50 men per officer, as against 35-40 for other major nations and 22 for British. (Per the table on ‘Rod’s Wargaming’.)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Agree with Chris and Clausewitz! I’m currently fooling around with an Antietam game in the ACW. In doing research, the big brigades (especially the Union ones) didnt suffer casualties in proportion to their size compared to the smaller ones. Smaller brigades in some cases suffered 40%+ casualties, while very few big brigades suffered anything near that. Maybe it was because many of the large units had relatively untrained men and their commanders were reluctant to push them too hard, fearing panic and rout might set in?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Peter – The Official Records were my source of information on Antietam losses, specifically Series 1 Vol 19 parts 1 & 2 . Here’s a link to them: http://simmonsgames.com/research/authors/USWarDept/ORA/Volumes.html Obviously , there are other battle loss rates that can be researched to build a fuller picture.

        The late Dr. Paddy Griffith of Sandhurst in ‘Battle Tactics of the Civil War’ maintained that despite longer ranges from rifle-muskets, the ACW was largely fought at ranges not too dissimilar from the Napoleonic Wars . This was because of the obscuring effects on line of sight of trees, rolling hills and other terrain as well as gun smoke. His views have provoked controversy, but I tend to agree with him.

        A problem I’m currently ruminating on is: If being on the defense presumably allows you to take at least minimal cover (pile up fence rails, lay out your kit, identify bad folds of ground in your field of fire) then why was there so much back and forth fighting over the Cornfield, especially by the Confederates?

        I’m thinking that there might be some benefit (and/or hard to control troop reaction) to conducting “pursuit fire” on a retreating enemy. If there was a desire to keep taking free unopposed shots on your former tormentor, its easy to imagine the defenders chasing the repulsed attackers and becoming overextended.

        There are also cases where troops become territorial over a piece of ground (on hills, bridges and towns) but it’s hard to see that happening over a cornfield.

        If you have any thoughts on this, please post them here.
        Thanks,
        – Doug B.

        Like

      3. Peter – The Official Records were my source of information on Antietam losses, specifically Series 1 Vol 19 parts 1 & 2 . Here’s a link to them: http://simmonsgames.com/research/authors/USWarDept/ORA/Volumes.html Obviously , there are other battle loss rates that can be researched to build a fuller picture.

        The late Dr. Paddy Griffith of Sandhurst in ‘Battle Tactics of the Civil War’ maintained that despite longer ranges from rifle-muskets, the ACW was largely fought at ranges not too dissimilar from the Napoleonic Wars . This was because of the obscuring effects on line of sight of trees, rolling hills and other terrain as well as gun smoke. His views have provoked controversy, but I tend to agree with him.

        A problem I’m currently ruminating on is: If being on the defense presumably allows you to take at least minimal cover (pile up fence rails, lay out your kit, identify bad folds of ground in your field of fire) then why was there so much back and forth fighting over the Cornfield, especially by the Confederates?

        I’m thinking that there might be some benefit (and/or hard to control troop reaction) to conducting “pursuit fire” on a retreating enemy. If there was a desire to keep taking free unopposed shots on your former tormentor, its easy to imagine the defenders chasing the repulsed attackers and becoming overextended.

        There are also cases where troops become territorial over a piece of ground (on hills, bridges and towns) but it’s hard to see that happening over a cornfield.

        If you have any thoughts on this, please post them here.
        Thanks,
        – Doug B.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Very interesting, thank you!

        If I were writing rules to try and represent what you were describing I would be tempted to have the following:

        Defense
        I presume you have already tinkered with giving the non-active player a 6+ save to fire to represent the minimal cover?

        Victors Pursuing
        a unit that was victorious having some kind of impetuous rule, where they would have to pass a leadership test or similar in order to stop pursuing their enemy (maybe with a modifier to their roll?) , they would then take the same test next turn to see if they stop pursuing (without the modifier maybe). Each time they pursued they could either:

        – cause certain amount of damage to their enemies each pursuit.

        Or

        – have a roll to fire at normal but with modifiers (i.e. -1 to hit due to the troops being over eager in their pursuit and not taking the time to fire effectively).

        Alternatively
        If a unit is fleeing and fails to rally in any following turns maybe that unit could suffer either a static amount of damage or a minimal fluctuating amount of damage (D3?) from each enemy unit within a certain distance? (Rifle range?).

        Territorial troops
        On your last point, I would be tempted to have a unit either having some kind of morale benefit (+1 when having to suffer any kind of morale test). Maybe with a test of some kind once it moves outside of a certain distance of a terrain feature?

        Apologies this may not be what you meant at all, and I’ve written these in a way that can be compared to the rules that I’m writing due to not knowing what attributes you’re using etc.

        There may be a more elegant solution. Chris Pringle who has commented a couple of time on this blog and who I’ve spoken with on the Baccus forum has a published set of Rules (Bloody Big Battles) and may be able to give you an alternative view as well.

        Hope this helps, apologies if it doesn’t!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Peter – The Official Records were my source of information on Antietam losses, specifically Series 1 Vol 19 parts 1 & 2 . Here’s a link to them: http://simmonsgames.com/research/authors/USWarDept/ORA/Volumes.html Obviously , there are other battle loss rates that can be researched to build a fuller picture.

    The late Dr. Paddy Griffith of Sandhurst in ‘Battle Tactics of the Civil War’ maintained that despite longer ranges from rifle-muskets, the ACW was largely fought at ranges not too dissimilar from the Napoleonic Wars . This was because of the obscuring effects on line of sight of trees, rolling hills and other terrain as well as gun smoke. His views have provoked controversy, but I tend to agree with him.

    A problem I’m currently ruminating on is: If being on the defense presumably allows you to take at least minimal cover (pile up fence rails, lay out your kit, identify bad folds of ground in your field of fire) then why was there so much back and forth fighting over the Cornfield, especially by the Confederates?

    I’m thinking that there might be some benefit (and/or hard to control troop reaction) to conducting “pursuit fire” on a retreating enemy. If there was a desire to keep taking free unopposed shots on your former tormentor, its easy to imagine the defenders chasing the repulsed attackers and becoming overextended.

    There are also cases where troops become territorial over a piece of ground (on hills, bridges and towns) but it’s hard to see that happening over a cornfield.

    If you have any thoughts on this, please post them here.
    Thanks,
    – Doug B.

    Like

  4. Peter – The Official Records were my source of information on Antietam losses, specifically Series 1 Vol 19 parts 1 & 2 . Here’s a link to them: http://simmonsgames.com/research/authors/USWarDept/ORA/Volumes.html Obviously , there are other battle loss rates that can be researched to build a fuller picture.

    The late Dr. Paddy Griffith of Sandhurst in ‘Battle Tactics of the Civil War’ maintained that despite longer ranges from rifle-muskets, the ACW was largely fought at ranges not too dissimilar from the Napoleonic Wars . This was because of the obscuring effects on line of sight of trees, rolling hills and other terrain as well as gun smoke. His views have provoked controversy, but I tend to agree with him.

    A problem I’m currently ruminating on is: If being on the defense presumably allows you to take at least minimal cover (pile up fence rails, lay out your kit, identify bad folds of ground in your field of fire) then why was there so much back and forth fighting over the Cornfield, especially by the Confederates?

    I’m thinking that there might be some benefit (and/or hard to control troop reaction) to conducting “pursuit fire” on a retreating enemy. If there was a desire to keep taking free unopposed shots on your former tormentor, its easy to imagine the defenders chasing the repulsed attackers and becoming overextended.

    There are also cases where troops become territorial over a piece of ground (on hills, bridges and towns) but it’s hard to see that happening over a cornfield.

    If you have any thoughts on this, please post them here.
    Thanks,
    – Doug B.

    Like

  5. P-
    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Your ideas were similar to what we’d been contemplating doing, so it was good to get some reinforcement of their validity.

    After our last game of ‘Blucher’ (at Antietam), my gaming partner and I had decided to not use “Volley Fire” in our next game. By forcing use of Combat (aka Melee) at close range, we hope to get more advances, retreats and overall sense of movement on the table, which had been lacking before.

    Your idea on a unit making a roll for Impetuousness rather than it being automatic is a good one.

    We are also adding in ‘Army Morale’ points which will affect Victory Conditions and Morale rolls. Points will go up or down based on unit Retreats, Advances, Eliminations and capture of select terrain and/or designated Objectives.

    Please continue to keep us posted on your progress!
    – DB

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting posts. I really think you need to ditch a separate firing phase. Extreme range is 2”. That will become very confused when you actually try to play. Better to simply have an attack order. Either the brigade marches up and drives off the defender, is driven off itself or a firefight ensues.

    I wouldn’t hold much store by those accuracy figures either. If they were correct extended fire fights would have been impossible as everyone would have been killed within half an hour

    I would reserve shooting for artillery and perhaps make skirmishing a separate type of attack.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny you mention this, I’ve just been having the same thoughts running through my mind. In that instead of two phase, they’d be one phase for both where units would hit on 6’s. But at long range they’d have half the dice and effectice all. I will give further thought about reserving the shooting though.

      Like

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