Wargame Rules Review
When Empire 3rd edition was published in 1981 it introduced many revolutionary concepts to miniature wargaming. Until then, wargames were played to determine a winner, and they used rules which dictated the course of play and specific outcomes to various encounters. Jim Getz and Scotty Bowden believed that the study of history and the knowledge of history should not be separated from wargaming any more than the realities and limitations of rule mechanisms dictate, and that these mechanical interruptions should be minimized if by no other method than that of common sense. Because of this fundamental difference, Getz and Bowden used the word "simulation" to identify their rule sets and differentiate them from other war games of the "old school". The purpose in developing and publishing Empire III was not to provide a new game, but rather to give the wargamer a tool with which to create and accurately simulate historical conflict. In this, Getz and Bowden succeeded on a grand scale.
Hundreds of thousands of miniatures have since been painted and based for the Empire III game, as new wargamers are recruited and begin building corps and armies for upcoming campaigns and engagements. In fact, there are so many Empire-compatible armies on the market today, that competing wargame rules writers readily adopted the Empire basing system with 19 x 12.5 mm 2-figure infantry stands, or multiples thereof.
Empire III became popular at gaming conventions, because so many players have the troops for it. Important engagements like the Battle of Borodino (1812) can be fought with a dozen players per side, each of whom brings an historically accurate army corps to the gaming convention, or acts as an upper echelon commander. Questions about the rules are resolved amicably with enemy corps commanders across the table, because Empire players are historians first and foremost.
Quick Reference Charts and Counters
Empire portrays the Napoleonic battle on both the grand-tactical and tactical levels. To convey to the player the difference and varying amount of time required for the solution of tactical and grand-tactical action, Getz and Bowden have developed the Telescoping Time Concept (TTC), in which simulation time may be compressed or expanded, depending upon the amount of activity on the grand-tactical and tactical levels. A complete "turn" in Empire, which encompasses an entire cycle of the TTC, is called an hourly round. A battle which last for six hourly rounds is a simulation of 6 actual hours of battle. As time progresses, troops still marching on the campaign map may come close enough to the battlefield to become engaged.
The smallest tactical elements in Empire are the artillery section of two guns, the infantry company of 120 men, and the cavalry squadron of 120 men. These are grouped into batteries, battalions, regiments, brigades, and divisions of the correct strength. A maneuvre element (ME) is the basic unit to which operational orders are issue and by which grand-tactical movement is executed. The typical ME is an infantry division, cavalry brigade, with their attached artillery, or an artillery grand battery. Infantry brigades with an Elite morale classification or higher may be defined as MEs at the player’s discretion. Mixed task forces consisting of infantry, cavalry, artillery, and engineers my be defined as MEs under certain circumstances.
Grand Tactical Movement
MEs which are unengaged, i.e. outside the 8" tactical engagement range for infantry or mixed MEs, may conduct grand-tactical movement at a march rate of 60" (2400 yards) per hour on roads, or 4800 yards if force-marching, which incurs one fatique point. Thanks to MEs and grand-tactical movement, Empire players may move their unengaged infantry divisions and cavalry brigades across uncontested ground in giant leaps, and devote more time to the tactical engagements which develop when opposing MEs come to within 8" infantry or 12" cavalry engagement range.
National Characteristics, Firepower, and Morale
Empire includes 23 pages of leader ratings, cavalry, infantry, and artillery morale classifications and other relevant information. This section is exceptionally well researched, complete, detailed, easy to read and understand, and unsurpassed even today.
The photo shows the 2nd battalion of the Bavarian 11th Infanterie-Regiment ’Kinkel’ based for Empire. The battalion is deployed in column of division with grenadiers formed up on the right wing and the light company (Schützen) in skirmish order in front of the formed troops. Empire rates the light company attached to Bavarian line infantry battalions as semi-skirmishers. The figures are 15 mm Minifigs based on 19 x 12.5 mm infantry company stands of the Empire game system. Grenadiers and Schützen have had tissue paper plumes added to the Raupenhelm.
The leader and troop ratings sections in Empire, alone, are well worth the money of an entire rule set, because they can be used to rate and compare Napoleonic troops regardless of which rules are actually used. Many rules writers overlook the issue of national characteristics, either because they have not researched it yet, or they want to publish the information in many separate scenario booklets which need to be purchased in addition to the rules. So, if in doubt about the training and morale status of a particular Napoleonic troops type, regiment, or elite company, at a certain point in time, Empire is the quickest, most valuable and reliable source.
Please join our Miniatures Forum to find fellow wargamers in your area who share your interest in the Napoleonic period of warfare. The Miniatures Forum is a social network portal for modellers, wargamers, and miniature collectors.
Empire is the right choice for students of military history interested in a realistic simulation of Napoleonic warfare at the grand-tactical and tactical level. 176 pages do require a serious investment of time and thought, to read and understand the rules, let alone master them. However, anyone with a good understanding of Horse & Musket warfare should be able to command a maneuvre element without prior study of the rules, if the other players are prepared to teach as the engagement unfolds. Empire models the real world situation so closely, that an Empire novice may formulate his tactical moves in English while an experienced commander pulls the relevant chart and computes the results.
Frequently Asked Questions
– Published: 16.10.2006 – Updated: 18.06.2008
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