A view on line v column and a suggestion re mixed order

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    G Scase

    I just wanted to clarify a couple of things and make a suggestion regarding gameplay.
    Firstly, let’s be clear here – actual close combat between column and line rarely if ever happened and line certainly didn’t countercharge a charging column (though happy to back down if you can give me an actual historical example).
    Historically a column would close and either the line would fall back in some disorder with the columns following them up OR would stand and halt the column by firepower. If it did stand then the column would try and form into line if it could. The line could charge the stationary column.
    (Incidentally, at Waterloo, D’Erlons “column” was actually 9 battalions in line formation, one behind the other which is why the Heavies cut through them so easily).
    As I understand it the “close combat” in Napoleonic Black Powder is a “representation” of both the very close volleys and also the “Stress” of these critical moments of conflict.
    On the subject of Mixed Order. The term, so I understand, related to a demi-brigade of a battalion in line flanked by two battalions in column.
    The Mixed Order in the book obviously relates to throwing out skirmish screens, which both sides did and which tended to nullify each other.
    My suggestion (which is within the rules as such because Mixed Order is only under the Advanced Rules) is to accept that the use of these screens is implicit within the general stats and generally ignore them other than for diorama purposes. They no longer block artillery anyway and the columns still save on 3+. I would still use small units of skirmishers to hold buildings, and light battalions or small units, but I think that “mixed order” general skirmishers do not affect the game that much and are an unnecessary complication.

    Garry Wills

    Mixed formation is apparently over used anyway. The rules state that a third of the battalion is deployed as skirmishers, and hence get 1 dice firing. The Napoleonic supplements allow this formation to represent a single British or French company, i.e. 1/10th and 1/6th of a battalion. However, technically only the light battalions in the Napoleonic wars should be allowed mixed formation. That’s even ignoring the fact that Wellington’s light coys were organised into separate battalions on the day of battle.

    BP II also seems to allow artillery to fire through the skirmish element even at close range, so its usefulness seems to be curtailed anyway.

    All the best


    Dr Dave

    Contemporary accounts (French and British) speak of the French being halted by British fire and then countercharged by the line. The series of “moral shocks” would hopefully be enough to make the column falter and fall back. Paddy Griffith explores this process at some length in “Forward into Battle” and cites several examples of the British driving the French off on this manner. It’s not just firepower.

    You may well be right about not bothering with individual companies of skirmishers shooting. It can be a lot of fannying about in the weeds during a big game.

    G Scase

    Absolutely right, but in normal wargames rules terms a countercharge is usually a charge at a charging enemy, not one that has already halted. I only mentioned this aspect because there was a comment elsewhere about a Steady line being able to countercharge in the COE rules which i don’t have. If those rules do allow a countercharge as a charge response then we really need a proper view from the authors as to what the charge phase is meant to represent. I accept that it means more than actual contact in hand to hand terms and reflect close up fire by troops inc their skirmish supports and the morale effect but is it really meant to also represent close order fire (in addition to the rule for closing fire, the grand hurrah from the general and a charge into a halted column (in which case the column should only hit on a 4+ as they would no loger be advancing). I personally will stick with the ordinary closing fire and then if the British win the H to H then they will “follow up” in what would effectively represent a countercharge in the way you describe

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