General de Brigade 2nd Edition

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Napoleon's BattlesBy Richard Moore

Picking any set of rules to play a Napoleonic miniatures wargame with is no easy thing and - luckily - the choice of General de Brigade was already made when I teamed up with the gamers at the Tauranga Wargaming Club in New Zealand.

General de Brigade was the 15mm ruleset on offer - although it is not limited to use for that size figures - and as the newbie how could I refuse?

The scale is one figure to 20 men, a gun is worth two cannon and the terrain is - according to the rules - very approximately 1mm to 1metre.

Basing your figures is no great issue and General de Brigade is fairly unregulated in that way, although common sense suggestions are made. Usually we have six infantry per 30mm x 25mm base, four cavalry (50mm x 30mm) and one gun with four artillerymen (50mm x 30mm).

The designer of GdB 2nd edition, David Brown, has included in his 72-page rules excellent tables to allow you to create the various battalions of the opposing nations - Britain, France, Russia, Prussia and Austria. For example a French line battalion before 1808 would have between 36 and 45 figures on six to nine bases, whereas after that 30 to 36 was the limit.

This helps newcomers - even usually non-wargaming Napoleonic buffs - work out what should be where.

Each side gets a divisional Commander-in-Chief (C in C) and then under him will be a number of brigades - between four and eight - led by a brigade general. The thing I like about this brigade-level look at Napoleonic warfare is that you get into the nitty gritty of battalions and regiments slugging it out.

It looks very impressive (check out the battle of Piave) and while you do have to make sure your units are in the right formations to meet charging infantry and cavalry after a few games the system begins to become reasonably easy to work through. This is great for gamers who want to kill and maim opposition armies, rather than ponce about with hard-to-follow rulebooks!

Game turns are in this order:

  • Initiative (roll two dice, winner has choice to make other side go first).
  • Command (Phasing player issues orders to brigades).
  • Compulsory Moves (Units under retreat, rout or pursuit markers move).
  • Charge Declarations (Phasing player announces charges and conducts them).
  • Normal Movement (Units move).
  • Firing (Phasing player fires).
  • Melees and Pursuit Tests (Hand to hand combat occurs simultaneously).
  • Morale (Morale checks made).

One of the key things we've found with General de Brigade is the importance of morale checks and - unfortunately - the ability to roll good dice. Usually that means the higher the better. Despite my knowledge of Napoleonic warfare my dice rolling is abysmal (to say the least), cursed is possibly a better description. Under the rules this places me at a huge disadvantage.

On a number of occasions my charging cavalry is about to wipe out enemy infantry caught in line when - up pops a 2 and 1, or 2 and 2 and my ferocious hussars just stop dead.

The other day I had a four-gun battery blasting at point-blank range into an important victory-point village and after a 3 and 2, four and 1 and four and 1, I gave up and went for a nearby column instead.

On numerous occasions my infantry will refuse to charge home and - if I'm unlucky - may even retreat away from the fight.

The problem with this is that those cowardly brutes (a gutsy battalion in any other person's hands) will then cause morale dramas with nearby units and on a tight battlefield you can end up having entire sections of your army retreating or routing in minutes.

Oh and my only big whinge about the rules. I can live with a double 6 causing a check for commander casualties - and David Brown deserves a pat on the back for his imaginative and sometimes humourous results - but a double 6 will also cause double casualties.

I copped it once and while accused of being a sore loser (unfair accusation for this never-say-die fellow) I found it so un-Napoleonic (verging on childish) I persuaded the guys to drop it from results as being silly.

Anyway, play a few games and maybe the morale business can be adjusted on a house basis by your fellow gamers.

I do also have to applaud David Brown's attitude towards his ruleset, which seems to me to be pretty much change it to suit your own tastes.

Overall, I reckon General de Brigade 2nd Edition is a super ruleset that is detailed and yet not rigid.

The Battles

General de Brigade comes with several interesting battle scenarios for wargamers to try out. They include historical information about the battle, the protagonists' missions, deployment, orders of battle, terrain and reinforcement schedules. Other scenarios are available from the publishers. Here are the ones that comes with the main ruleset:

  • Vimiero (August 21, 1808): Wellington's British face a French army in Portugal under General Andoche Junot.
  • Borodino (September 7, 1812): This scenario covers Russia's defence of the Raevsky Redoubt against Eugene's IV Corps with reinforcements from Marshal Davout.
  • Waterloo (June 18, 1815): The big clash between the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte.

The rules book includes:

  • Standard Rules and Optional Rules with numbered paragraphs for easy reference.
  • Historical orders of battle for 12 armies that fought each other in six battles.
  • A points system allowing gamers to design their own scenarios.
  • Roster sheets and order markers.
  • Game markers.
  • Explanatory chapter on Napoleonic troop types, their grading and tactical formations.


I really like the General de Brigade ruleset as it allows our group to set-up and play a good-sized battle in a night and larger, more complicated clashes in under a day. They are battles with 500 to 600 troops on each side on a six foot by four foot table (120cm by 183cm). The battles look good, play well and there is plenty of scope for creating new ones.

This second edition of General de Brigade is a winner in my book, even if I get my butt kicked on the tabletop!



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