Sunday, April 26, 2020

Neil Thomas "Napoleonic Wargaming" Rules for Seven Years War?

One of the distinct trends I've noticed after lurking on the Neil Thomas Rules page on facebook is a question posed more than a few times about using the NT Napoleonic rules for battles set during the Seven Years War (SYW).  Heresy, you ask?  Not really.  

Mr Thomas has already answered your questions, and the good news is that they're in the Army Lists section of the Napoleonic Wargaming book.  With a few minor adjustments to the rules (recommended by Neil himself in the Napoleonic Wargaming book), you can slug it out 18th Century style until your heart is content.

Go from this....
To This! 
(I made this photo from the cover of the NT Napoleonic Wargaming book.  This is not a real title.  No challenge to Mr Thomas intended.  Used without permission, etc etc etc.
I've posted a few times on the page usually to no comment but one of the tick-off boxes on my blog goals this year was to post the conversions and instructions on how to run 18th Century battles using the Napoleonic rules from the book.  First of all, let's properly cite our sources so we don't get in trouble:

Looking in the Chapter entitled "Napoleonic Wargames Armies" p 105, you will find Army lists for almost every major theater of the Napoleonic wars, including early Republican wars (ca 1792).  One of the key characteristics of armies in those battles were that they were organized along the lines of the "ancien regimes" and fighting linear battles similar to the Prussians and Austrians of 40 years earlier.  In fact one of the key detriments to Prussia, Saxony, and Austria in the early Napoleonic wars was their tendency to cling to linear doctrine.  

So imagine my surprise when I happened across page 111 in the "Napoelonic Wargaming" book!  

There are rules for fighting an "Old Regime Army" from 1792-1806, along with special rules to use to make this army, be it Austrian, Prussian, Saxon, etc, a model of a smaller, linear force from a half century previous.  Reading over the suggestions and special rules, it makes fighting an SYW totally plausible.  

Those rules follow, and if you dont have Napoleonic Wargaming (you should buy it if you don't), you can use the Napoleonic rules from "Wargaming: An Introduction" by Mr Thomas and you'll get more or less the same effect.

  • The special rule "linear tactics" is especially important - which doesn't allow a unit to use an assault column.  Therefore the only formations allowed are line and columns.  I don't allow squares, either.
  • Armies are limited to 1 artillery battery, and all artillery hits on a 5-6 now.
  • There is also a cool rule in there called "Small is beautiful" where armies may only be composed of 6 units, and given the highly disciplined and trained manner of 18th century troops, you do not have to take a morale test when the first stand is lost.
There is guidance for army composition and it has a decidedly SYW flavor to it, allowing up to 7 infantry units, 1 single elite grenadier unit, 1 artillery unit, and a fixed number of heavy and light cavalry units.  the light cavalry have carbines which is great and period appropriate.

I also plan to add some flavorful rules for Prussian drill, Austrian stubbornness, and commanders.  I also intend to keep light units fighting as light battalions.

My plan is to test the rules out in a SYW battle on my table, possible using a scenario from the One Hour Wargames book, but forces picked from the Ancien Regime Army in Napoleonic Wargaming.  Stay tuned!


  1. Excellent spot Steve.
    I have completely missed this.
    You've also given me the idea as to how the rules could be used to co-ordinate battles in a SYW French & Indian War campaign.
    I must have another look at the Napoleonic NT rules.
    I think the thing that put me off before was the limited number of units, but perhaps that's a bonus, as you say, for SYW.

    1. Thanks Darren. I think the NT rules have alot of promise for really any Horse and Musket era battle, as long as the requisite period rules are in place. The rules are very forgiving and honestly some of my favorites.

  2. Duc, I don't think one has to observe the game scenario parameters of any NT game. He just provides guidelines to play.

    The naps rules are very traditional and I don't see any reason why both sides can't have the Ancien Regime armies.

    As a general thought about the period... I favor the thinking that the column was not a magic "mass" weapon, and all it does is allow poorly trained troops to move faster on the battlefield. It is certainly weak in firepower, and they were NEVER deployed side by side the way most wargames allow you to fight them. They always had enough space between them and the next column to deploy them in line should the enemy not crumble and they would then deploy into line and shoot it out, just like in previous wars.

    In the end, Napoleonic wars are really differentiated from previous wars by the operational and strategic advantages of the larger, better organized Corps. There's not a lot of difference at the tactical level. If you've a 7YW battle with massed guns, it's no different from a Napolonic battle with massed guns.

    So certainly no reason for these to not only work but work well for the period. As for special rules...less is more!

    1. Cheers Alex you and I see eye to eye on these rules no question. I plan on playing a SYW battle with them soon and I'm pretty excited about them.

      I think this is an often overlooked component of the Napoleonic NT rules, that you can do Ancient Regime armies.

      Personally I feel like the numbers of units isn't as important as the ratio of unit types ie infantry, elites, artillery, light and heavy cav etc.

      Hoping I can find some time to fight and blog a battle. I'm on a work call now as I type this lol!

  3. Good find in the book Steve. I have the book and would never have naturally looked there for SYW inspiration.

    As an aside, I wonder if NT has another book in him, I do hope so.

    1. I'd love to see that too, Norm. He has a great, universal concept in his 4 x base rules that work well and are hard to beat. I'm going to see how a good SYW game goes with them.

  4. I will stay tuned! "Napoleonic Wargaming may be the only Thomas book I do not have. Perhaps I have settled in on Napoleonic rules and need look no further?

    1. Jonathan if that's the case I envy you, sir! My group has been on the fence about rules for years.

      If you were keen to try this, you could simply use the Napoleonic rules from Neil Thomas' Wargaming An Introduction book and just apply the changes above. I use single base units, too, although that is going to be a subject for a different post!

      What rules do you play and prefer for Napoleonics? I meant to ask this on your skirmisher post.

  5. We did quite a linear period games just using basic NT. As you say, just have lines and March columns, no assault columns, no squares.

    When everyone is in line, the initial deployment is critical (which is why it can be fun to do the army deployment from March column into line bit of the battle too).

    1. Martin I honestly never thought about the deployment a la seven years war style! That adds a whole dimension to the battle and brings some new decisions to make. Thanks for commenting!

    2. The deployment phases certainly adds some period flavour and requires a degree of forward planning. You certainly need to be able to visualise where the units are going to end up, which an lead to some inadvertant errors..

    3. Yep and I was thinking you have to plan where units are in the line of march.