French Old Guard too strong?

Home Forums Historical Black Powder French Old Guard too strong?

Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • Author
  • #188725
    East Norfolks

    I have been play testing numerous times a very simple scenario of a French Old Guard infantry battalion (standard size unit in Attack Column) charging a British Guard infantry battalion (large size unit in line).  The French win virtually every time!  Is this correct?

    I have the British stats at a seemingly very powerful 9/5/3+/5 with First Fire and always declare a counter charge under the Steady Line rule.  Even when the British disorder the French unit with the initial pre-counter charge firing (which they do most times given they have 6 shots), it is still not enough.

    The French unit stats are 8/4/3+/4 with the appropriate modifiers for Tough Fighters and Attack Column.  I think it is the latter that is making them so powerful.  With the Attack Column modifier, they are saving everything on 2+, which seems to make them almost unbeatable, especially with a Stamina level of 4.

    Have I got the above correct or am I missing something/getting something wrong?



    First, any unit with a 3+ morale save, that gets buffed up to 2+ is going to be tough to beat.  In essence, it would take on average 24 hits to produce the 4 unsaved hits needed for it reach shaken. Historically, I am unaware that the Old Guard was every defeated in a close combat melee.  But it is not invulnerable.

    A more effective tactic would be to use artillery, since saves against artillery since saves from artillery fire, suffer a -1 to -2 negative modifier and units in attack column don’t get the +1 positive modifier when hit be artillery.

    So, ideally, you inflict one hit at long range, then bring in a battery of RHA at medium range, 2 D6 hitting on a 3+ since you are firing on column, the Old Guard saves on a 5+, so you have a good chance of getting a hit.  Even if you don’t disorder, the Old Guard and it charges, next you get 3D6 hit on a 2+, saving on 5+ producing 1-2 hits and a 50% chance of disordering the Old Guard.  The break test has a good chance of being suffering -1 to -3 on the Break Test table.  Remember the Break Test occurs on the Hand-to-Hand table.

    My point is simple.  The Old Guard is a deadly infantry unit, but like all infantry, it is vulnerable to artillery. Ideally, you have some cavalry around to further impede the Old Guard’s advance by forcing it into square, where the artillery can have a field day.

    Garry Wills

    There is certainly a case that these units are given too many bonuses and special rules, however one thing I do is modify the close combat such that if an attack column charges into contact and fails to break their opponent, then they are forced into a disordered line formation, losing the +1 attack column bonus. This is a beefed up version of the CoE’s modification but seems to mimic what actually happened in the line vs column contests. It also encourages the attacker to prepare the assault with skirmishers and artillery attacks, as described above.



    East Norfolks

    Many thanks for the comments – good to know I wasn’t doing anything wrong technically!

    I actually started looking at this issue after re-reading a thread from last year on large units where we concluded that a large British Guard unit technically had the stats 9/5/3+/5, which seemed really powerful especially when paired with First Fire and Steady Line.  However, working through the maths and playing testing, they were still being beaten on a simple 1:1 basis against the Old Guard, which I was struggling to understand.

    I’m still not sure if I quite agree with the balance here – would an Old Guard battalion in column really consistently beat British Guard battalion deployed in line?  It never happened in reality so we don’t know but all similar actions of other British units in line vs French units in column would suggest not.

    Achieving a broadly equal position for the two Guard units would seem more sensible.  Garry’s suggestion of a house rule forcing into disordered line if the initial charge doesn’t break is really interesting – I’ll take a look at my CoE again for this.  Failing this I will have to rely on other tactics just as Mike has set out – I agree with all these.

    Thanks again

    Big Al

    Can I just ask where you get 8 attacks for the Attack Column? For that matter, why have the British got 9 attacks? If these are standard units, they only have 6 attacks, 8 if a large unit.

    Your example also shows why Useful Rules should be applied carefully and sparingly, not loading up and making units invincible.

    something else that you have mentioned is that closing fire often causes disorder due to the number of shots fired, but you have never mentioned the number of casualties caused by the closing fire. Firstly, First Fire causes the reroll of misses, not double shots, unless you are still using BP1.
    Secondly, the number of casualties caused is extremely important.  The number of casualties caused by closing fire causes a break test before hand to hand combat begins. Should the unit become Shaken, it will take a break test in the event of a drawn combat.

    Remember that a unit only counts the -1 for either disorder or shaken. They are not cumulative. However, either effectively negates the charge bonus.

    East Norfolks

    Hi Al

    Thanks for the feedback.

    I may well have got some of this wrong – hence my questions to the forum.  However, please remember this was purely a very simple theoretical question on a 1:1 scenario of British Guard in line vs French Old Guard in column.  I totally accept that in a full game there is much more you can do (as Mike points out).  Anyway, answers to your questions are below:

    – 8 H2H attacks for the French comes directly from the Epic Battles rules – see attachment.

    – Same for the British Guard.  EB lists Standard as 7 H2H attacks, so 9 if large which, as mentioned, is what I am using for this unit.

    – I didn’t talk about causalities as the thread was getting too long.  Also, I found it wasn’t that effective.  To be clear, I am talking about the Steady Line rule, pre-counter charge firing (so no Counter Fire +1 to hit bonus).  This means (I think) that before the H2H combat begins, the British get a one-off firing round of 6 shots hitting on 4+ i.e. on average 3 hits.  The French then save on +2 i.e. quite likely to take no casualties.  However, with shooting 6 dice, Disorder is much more likely to be inflicted on the French and, I find, is crucial for the British when moving into the combat phase.

    – Completely confused on your First Fire point?  Have I got this totally wrong?  BP2 (page 102) and EB says you get an extra dice the first time you fire, not re-roll misses…

    – Yes, I am clear on the Disorder and Shaken not both counting as a -1.  The point is more that I can never get the French anywhere near Shaken in this simple scenario.  As mentioned, the best opportunity seems to be on the first round of combat when the British have the Charging +1 bonus and hopefully the French have a Disorder -1.

    Hope this is clear but I would be happy to receive any further friendly feedback if I have got it wrong.


Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.