Rules and Army Lists for Napoleonic Wargaming by Arty Conliffe
Shako permits players to fight Napoleonic battles at two tactical levels. We have tried to make each level as distinct as possible. At the lower level, players use battalions and regiments as the basic tactical units to resolve corps-level actions. This appeals to the player who believes that Napoleonic warfare is best simulated at this fundamental unit level and who enjoys the tactical specificity and regimental detail appropriate to that scale. Most of the smaller historical engagements (certainly up to 40,000 men) can be simulated with this version.
At the higher level, entire divisions are used as the basic tactical units, permitting players to refight the largest battles of the period in the roles of army commanders. Here, the detailed operations of the regiment give way before the massive strokes typified by the epic clashes; primarily, player-generals consider the "big picture". Both games share some mechanics, but each provides an entirely different gaming experience appropriate to the level it attempts to simulate. Because the rules are quickly understood, a game may be concluded in a single evening at either tactical level of play.
As in all previous periods, the nations that fought during the Napoleonic wars employed battle systems. It is important to simulate how these systems operated, and to represent the fundamental differences between them. Despite tactical advances compared with previous eras, armies during the Napoleonic wars still functioned in relatively clumsy formations which could easily be thrown into confusion. Consequently, Shako simulates the difficulties inherent in moving and maintaining order within large formations. The system of Orders used in Shako emphasizes the pre-battle planning and battle management necessary to fight such battles.
With all their similarities, armies nevertheless employed different battle systems. Therefore, a Shako French army is doctrinally different than the British (or other powers), without applying artificial and highly theoretical mechanics such as increased melee ability for the French and firing advantages for the British. Such traditional modes of simulation over-simplify these fighting systems and mislead gamers. Shako’s Combat Deployment modifiers reflect both the differences and similarities in the battle systems. We hope you’ll find that your battles have a believable (Napoleonic) look to them.
A good way to begin Shako is to read the entire rulebook through without stopping; then read the specific sections more carefully. Then, each player (or you can do it solo) should take a single mixed division of about a dozen units or so, and fight it out in a small area of the tabletop. This will enable players to get the feel for the game. Because of the simple firing and melee mechanics, Shako can be played with many units, but it is always best to start small just to get the procedures down. After a few games, you will be playing larger games and will rarely need to refer to your Quick Reference Sheet.
You will be responsible for assembling your units and forming them into Division (and Corps in the higher-level game). You will create the battleplan by giving orders to these division, and then change it as required by the circumstances of the battle by issuing new orders and committing reserves. Each command decision, though easy to adjudicate, powerfully influences the battle’s outcome.
Shako provides the ready-made army Orders of Battle for players who wish to organize pick-up games and tournaments with a minimum of pre-game activity. Each army has a reasonable chance of defeating its opponent. Your response to Shako will guide us in creating scenario and campaign supplements. Until then, we encourage experienced players to organize their own scenarios and campaigns. -- Arty Conliffe
Quick Reference Charts and Counters
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Frequently Asked Questions
firstname.lastname@example.org – Published: 31.01.2008 – Updated:
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