Cavalry – Impetuousness

We’ve covered the basic movement and combat of cavalry but we’ve I’ve not yet gone over a very important aspect of Napoleonic Cavalry which was their impetuousness. This can be seen throughout the wars and in all nations that were involved. I’ve included some sample statements below from websites which I’ve used as sources during my writing of these rules. These show not only the cavalry’s impetuousness but also on occasions their commanders (looking at you Ney).

The first instance of the British cavalry throwing away an opportunity and charging on in blind fury occurred on 21st August 1808 at Vimeiro, in Portugal. Led by a Colonel Taylor, the 20th Light Dragoons were sent against the French infantry reserve whom they caught in column and overran. Taylor thereupon lost all control of the 20th and they raced on past the now fallen infantry to a distance of over half a mile. At that point they were charged by Marshal Junot’s cavalry reserve and horribly cut up, taking fifty per cent casualties and losing their commander. The battle was, nevertheless, a British victory and Portugal was liberated: but, of the 720 British casualties suffered during the battle,
over half were from the 20th Dragoons.
” – Waterloo Association

Hussars of all nations tended to suffer to an even greater degree from the same faults as Napoleonic cavalry in general, that is they were impetuous and difficult to control and although generally having excellent moral they tended to get carried away.” – History of War

Charging cavalry is like a fired projectile, whose effect is incalculable. The sight and sounds of the advancing line of enemy had an unsettling effect. If the officers felt any anxiety, they never showed it. They seemed eager to close with the enemy.” – Napoleonistyka

However, the third phase of the battled occurred near the village of
Vierzehnheiligen when Ney, without orders, directed two regiments of light cavalry and
five infantry battalions to attack.32 Although Ney’s impetuous attack initially proved
successful, he soon attacked beyond the range of the supporting French units on his
flanks, Lannes to his right and Augereau to his left.
” – Napoleon’s Cavalry: A Key Element to Decisive Victory

D’Hautpoul (1754-1807) was a giant of a man, with enormous body strength. He was a self-confident and very proud individual. In contrast to Nansouty, d’Hautpoul was a fiery commander eager to charge at any time. In 1794 at Aldenhoven he crushed enemy cavalry twice as numerous and was promoted to the rank of general. In 1806 at Jena Hautpoul led the 2nd Cuirassier Division (1st, 5th and 10th Cuirassiers).” – Napolun


Taking this into account and following comments from the play testing, I think it would be suitable to implement a special rule for impetuousness for certain cavalry units. There would be three versions of this rule for use with different cavalry/commander units depending on their historical personalities.

Impetuous (4+)

Impetuous (5+)

Impetuous (6+)

The roll for impetuousness would be taken after any combat takes place in the previous action and before any morale test in the following action. Units would roll a D6 for their Impetuousness any units which roll the specified value of above are free to take their morale test and act accordingly afterwards. Units which fail this roll will immemidately carry out their fastest move towards the nearest enemy unit and if they make contact commence with melee.

Any units which fail the test and carry on their attack must continue to roll for this test each action until their unit regains its self control.

It’s likely this rule will need further tweaking as always, and I’m always open to suggestions for improvements so please feel free to leave any comments below with your thoughts.


Waterloo Association

History of War

Napoleon’s Cavalry: A Key Element to Decisive Victory




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