Tuesday, 23 August 2022



Firstly, it must be remembered that, unless I’m missing something, Soldiers of Napoleon (SoN) does not really use historical divisional organisation for army composition: If it did most infantry brigades would comprise three battalions without artillery but, they don’t. Most compose 4-6 units with attached artillery. What we are most likely looking at when we talk about SoN brigades are really bath-tubbed infantry divisions - or, at least, that's how I'm looking at it.

Looking at historical divisional organisations, I have decided to work out composition by running two basic mechanisms, side by side, with a piece of fudge wedged in between.

  • For each full 1000 infantry (500 cavalry) in the historical division the SoN brigade will get one unit. Generally, there shouldn't be rounding a up of fractions here. If the infantry division has 4999 men it should get four units, not five. Doing it this way will produce four unit SoN brigades more often and it will give the units within a division a more variable stand count. Rounding fractions will nearly always lead to SoN brigades of five or six units all with 4 stands each. Sometimes divisions will comprise fewer very big units and sometimes the number of units may need to be increased but in general, dividing by 1000 (without rounding) will be the rule of thumb.
  • To work out the stand count, divide the number of infantry in the division by 250 (125 cavalry), rounding fractions. If the infantry division has 4999 men it gets twenty stands to divide amongst its four units. How the stands are divided between the units is more art than mechanism: It’s generally a fudge, pure and simple.

Looking at some bath-tubbed British and French divisions (SoN Brigades), this is how I’m going to do.

Example 1: 2nd Division, Houdelet (Fuentes de Onoro, 1811). Comprising 17th Legere (1224 men); 70th Ligne (1078 men); 31st Legere (1583 men); 47th Ligne (1606 men). This gives a total of 5491 men. This firmly gives a five unit SoN brigade with 22 stands. Now comes the fudge. There are 2807 Legere and 2684 Ligne. This gives three units of Legere (simply because they outnumber the Ligne) with 11.2 stands and two units of Ligne with 10.7 stands. However, applying more art than science, I’m going to call it three units of Legere each with 4 stands, and two units of Ligne each with 5 stands. To this, in Peninsular fashion, I would attach a single two gun battery of 8pdr foot artillery. I would need to look up the division’s history / battle performance to determine unit quality.

Example 2: 7th Division, Houston (Fuentes de Onoro, 1811). Comprising 51st Light Infantry (590 men); 85th Light Infantry (387); Chasseurs Britanniques (839 men); Brunswick Oels (593 men); 7th Portuguese (713 men); 19th Portuguese (1024 men); 2nd Cacadores (442). This gives a total of 4588 men for four units with 18 stands. To give the feel of 7th Division (Wellington’s intended second Light Division) I would represent this division as follows. There will be a unit of Veteran Light Infantry (Shorncliffe trained) represented by the 4 stands, a unit of trained Light Infantry ( representing Chasseurs Britanniques / Brunswick Oels) with 5 stands, one unit of trained Portuguese Line with 4 stands and one with 3 stands; the remaining two stands will be trained Cacadores fielded as musket armed ‘SoN Detachments’. I would probably attach a single two gun battery of 9pdr Portuguese foot artillery. At least, that would be the way to do it 'properly'. However, I’d probably lose a stand of Cacadores and add a stand of Portuguese Line (increasing the second unit to a 4 stand unit), then I'd split the remaining stand of Cacadores and simply use it to increase the skirmish factor of the two Portuguese units from 2 to 3: I’d do this because its much less faff than detachments, and 3 stand infantry units are brittle.

Example 3: Cavalry Division, Cotton (Fuentes de Onoro, 1811) Comprising 1st Dragoons (388 men); 14th and 16th Light Dragoons (378/362 men); 1st Hussars KGL (414 men); 4th and 10th Portuguese Cavalry (312 men). Total 1854 troopers for (dividing by 500 for cavalry) three units with (dividing by 125) 15 stands. However, because this division didn’t operate as a single entity I’d ignore the mechanism for unit numbers and increase the number of units to four and split it into two brigades – possibly only fielding one. The first would be a ‘brigade’ comprising a unit of Dragoons with 4 stands and a unit of Light dragoons with 3 stands. The second would be a unit of Light dragoons with 4 stands and a unit of Hussars with 4 stands. There might be a temptation to convert one of the Light Dragoons to Portuguese cavalry, or even increase the number of units still further and have a lot of little units but, the Portuguese cavalry didn’t contribute very much to the battle and lots of little light cavalry units can still still Harass and thus make them slightly OP for their size; consequently, as the smallest contingent, I would choose to ignore their representation on the table. I’d probably attach two 6pdr guns (horse artillery) to the entire division, possibly one gun to each ‘brigade’.

So that’s it, that’s how I would represent historical formations on the table-top in a Soldiers of Napoleon game. I hope it is useful to someone – or, at least food for thought.

Next up, for SoN, generic brigade lists for British and French. Followed by troop types.

1 comment:

Jim Walkley said...

Always interesting to read your thoughts James. Although my own set up is far less impressive than yours what you write like this is always food for thought. Having played various rules for Napoleonics from WRG to Age of Eagles to FoB and Shadow of the Eagle my biggest fudge is basing as I would rather play than rebase.
I will be particularly interested to read if you have further thoughts on skirmishers in SoN. I have only played one game but, to me, they were not overpowered but that may be my poor dice scores. I suppose it would be possible to reduce skirmish points so some units would be 0 where they would still be able to reduce the effect of opposing skirmishers but not score hits. In practice though this might reduce skirmish power too much. Best not to rush into this sort of change. One of your big games would provide more evidence than several of mine.
Apologies for the ramble. Best wishes. Jim