Writing a Wargame – Strength, Firing Dice & Resolving Attacks

As always please check out my Napoleonic War Game page for the latest information on rules and adjustments to date.



After comments from user Altair1371 on Reddit about the effectiveness of firing on columns and the columns effectiveness themselves, I’m removing the +1 to hit modifier when firing at a column and giving the column +1 morale and the enemy it’s approaching a -1 morale penalty (at present). The reason for this is due to an attack column was often 50 men wide and 16(ish) ranks deep, the men inside the column felt fairly secure from small arms fire due to the many bodies around them and also it was still tightly packed enough to be enough of a deterrent for cavalry in many cases.

An attack column of this approaching a thin firing line 500 men wide 2 men deep (in the case of the British) was designed to punch through the line and effectively split the battalion in two. Also once in that position you’re already in a firing line against the rest of the line with enfilading fire. Imagine being at the point in the line where the French attack column will hit, you’ve got a couple of dozen buddies in immediate proximity against 600+ French fusiliers. Scary sight. Which was why the French used it. Many movies and TV shows show a very British point of view of the French attack where swathes of men are being cut down by fire, but the fact remained that if the column reached the enemy, the enemy would have fled, it was just a matter of time.

Ear in mind that firing from column would have been fairly ineffectual with only the first 150 men able to fire and if they did so the column would likely stutter. Therefore there will be no shooting while in column formation.


Following on from the 1st game test posted on here and further tests conducted after. The morale of 8 is a little too low for standard units and has resulted in a push and shove scenario much of the time with neither side making a large gain or even firing their muskets!

After adjusting this value to 10 the units closed much easier and would commit to firing at each other. More test will be needed but at this point I’m using 10 as the starting morale of a unit.

Any unit that is reduced to 0 morale during the course of the battle, is removed from play as the brigade would simply leave the field of battle and refuse to fight further.


On my test I showed the full strength value of the brigade and then had to work out with some maths how many firing dice that would equate to depending on their formation.

To make this a little easier I’ve decided to change the strength number to a ratio of 1:50. Therefore a British Battalion of 1000 men will be strength 20 etc, the full list of strengths are at the bottom of this post. A hit will still have the same effect (a unit loses 50 men) but it should be easier to track this way. This may well be adjusted further if this still appears to complicated when combined with the number of firing dice.

Firing Dice

This will be adjusted to suit the strength of the unit more easily. So a ratio of 1:4 for dice to strength means the British will have 5 firing dice (20 divided by 4) full table at the bottom of this post for the values by Nation/Units. For a quick reference sheet, I’m considering including the following table:

StrengthFiring Dice
Relationship of Strength to Firing Dice


That’s the updates over, let’s get to out next part. We need to finish off the attacks a unit can carry out and by this what happens when they reach each other and touch bases?

Combat in the open very rarely happens between two infantry units as can be seen from this extract from the Wikipedia on bayonet attacks:

“The bayonet charge was a common tactic used during the Napoleonic wars. Despite its effectiveness, a bayonet charge did not necessarily cause substantial casualties through the use of the weapon itself. Detailed battle casualty lists from the 18th century showed that in many battles, fewer than 2% of all wounds treated were caused by bayonets.[36]Antoine-Henri Jomini, a celebrated military author who served in numerous armies during the Napoleonic period, stated that the majority of bayonet charges in the open resulted with one side fleeing before any contact was made.”


My first option to resolve base to base contact is to have each unit take a morale test. The lowest holds while the higher withdraws so much distance while taking 1 damage for each pip of difference between their morale scores.


My second thought was that the base that is made contact with (the non-active player) would immediately withdraw 10cm and suffer D6 Casualties (from the successful unit firing on the retreating unit).

This may have to be altered when combat is made in built-up areas or dense terrain, but my current thinking would be Option 2 for open area combat and an adjusted Option 1 for built-up areas or dense terrain. My adjustment would possibly be, the victor would still take 1 damage to represent casualties from the combat.

Let me know what you think, or whether you think I’m missing a neat rule I could implement that would accurately represent this.


Nation/UnitStrengthFiring Dice
British Line226
French Old Guard (Pre 1809)195
French Old Guard (Post 1809)164
French Line (Pre 1809)216
French Line (Post 1809)175
Prussian Line134
Russian Line123
Austrian Grenadier195
Austrian Line (German)246
Austrian Line (Hungarian)267

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