Our first game of Bruce Weigle’s 1866, also using [printed] counters, was quite an epic. We replayed Nachod, where typically the Austrians are counterattacking the Prussians in Bohemia. The Prussians hold a crest and wood thinly, and have reserves coming up. The Austrians have initial strength advantage and reserves, but not much command talent, yet must take the plateau quickly. The game had a welcome, chaotic feel, very strong narrative and with some really memorable events: cavalry charges, massed artillery lines, a Pickett’s Charge (or two), Jäger brawling in the woods, at least five brigade assaults, a mêlée that was fought to a standstill, units halting at the most annoying times, a cavalry force circumnavigating the enemy rear and charging twice without ever once fighting, columns of reinforcements jamming the approach roads, and a series of command choices – go left or right, attack immediately or delay.
It was, if nothing else, bloody, and the Austrian storm columns suffered badly. Both sides felt under pressure, as we revealed in the post mortem, and it would be good to play it again to see how differently it panned out. The rules must be pretty good to generate the excellent period feel, and to control a fast moving style of game. They also do a very credible job of simulating the Dreyse’s effect and Austrian doctrine, but I was surprised at how old style they are – not Old School. While there are large movement distances, there are lots of modifiers, morale checks, die rolls and quite a few tables. I think you would typically be looking at three to four hours upwards for a battle.
Nevertheless, as you can tell, I liked them well enough and will return to these and the earlier titles – 1859 and 1870. Of course Mr Weigle’s rulebooks are famously more than just the rules. There is history, plenty of scenarios, tips on making his beautiful terrain, and a very good bibliography. This is, as they say, quite a package and an absolute delight overall.
Apart from the rules 1870 and 1859 - see issues 41 and 75 of Vae Victis - we know Bruce Weigle for the 2 excellent articles he wrote for us about how to make wargame terrains suitable for 6mm scale - see special issues 7 and 12 of Vae Victis. Now he is back with new rules which enable you to refight the main battles of the Austro-Prussian war. This war ended near Sadowa in July 1866 when the House of Hohenzollern crushed that of Habsburg-Lorraine.
The rules are primarily designed for 6mm figures, yet one can use 10mm and even 15mm ones. The width of a stand remains identical whatever the scale: about 3cm. Only its depth and the number of figures change depending on the size of the figures used. Such a stand represents one infantry battalion, two cavalry squadrons or one six-gun battery. On the gaming table, 25cm equals one kilometer. Also, one game turn equals a half hour.
All these scales are well suited for "strategic" gaming sessions with many corps involved on each side. Yet you may also play in half-scale (so that each side plays with the equivalent of one single corps), or even quarter-scale (that is, with a division per side). Gaming mechanics allow for good playability, which is essential so that you will not only move masses of figures but also make the battles you refight reach a satisfying conclusion.
Each stand is characterized by its morale value (from 6 to 10), its Fire Points (for long-range combat) and Combat Points (for close-range or melee). Unsurprisingly the Prussian infantry, being armed with breech-loading Dreyse needle guns, proves better than its Austrian counterpart which are still using muzzle-loading rifles: to show this, Prussians are given three Fire Points while Austrians get only one.
One can control troops by means of tools such as command range, order chits, and tests using 1d10 based on each general's competence. Movement rate, though fixed, will vary depending on the unit type, its formation, and terrain type. The number of hits scored during the shooting phase is obtained by cross-indexing the Fire Point values and the result of a D10 roll on a table. A target loses one Combat Point for each scored hit and it is eliminated when its number of Combat Points becomes equal to zero. The same table is used for melee but one has to take the Combat Points into account along with specific modifiers which apply to close-range combat. Morale is checked with a d10 roll.
As for other works by Bruce Weigle, two thirds of the book is devoted to very detailed and complete historical notes, scenarios, orders of battle, designer's notes, and a remarkable annotated bibliography almost ten pages long.
The fourteen historical scenarios feature many protagonists. Indeed the 1866 campaign has often been reduced to a conflict involving Prussia to Austria only, whereas the latter can rely upon all the southern and middle German states which feared Bismarck's expansionist views: Bavarians, Saxons, Hanoverians, Württembergers, Badeners and more tried hard to contain the Prussian steamroller.
As for the Prussians, they can rely upon the help of the northern German states, the Hanseatic towns and the newly born Italian state, which leads to opening another front along the southern border of the Austrian Empire.
1866 is both a guide and historical gaming rules as were 1870 and 1859; it is sold at quite a reasonable price given its overall quality: if ever you are interested by this campaign then do not hesitate to get the book, even though you are used to playing historical wargames at a more tactical scale or with larger figures
1866, rules for refighting the Austro-Prussian war; Published - in English - by Medieval Miscellanea (http://www.grandtacticalrules.com). Price: 28€
AUTHOR: Bruce Weigle
PUBLISHER: Mediaeval Miscellanea, LLC
PUBLICATION DATE: 2010
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM: The author maintains a web page at www.grandtacticalrules.com which provides errata, updates and additional resources.
PRICE (with date): $35.00 (in 2010)
REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin
PERIOD COVERED: The Austro-Prussian War of 1866
THE BOOK: Like the 1870 and 1859 rules which preceded it, 1866 is a top-notch product. The book is 124 pages long. It is coil bound with color covers and extensive color throughout. The rules themselves cover the first 35 pages. The rest of the book is made up of extensive scenarios (the maps alone are invaluable), army lists, historical notes, etc.
The author conveniently includes a page which summarizes the new rules and rules changes, so players of 1870 will be able to get up to speed very quickly with the new rules.
SCOPE: 1866 is a set of grand tactical rules specifically tailored to the Austro-Prussian War. Based on the author’s 1870rules it is a system easily tailored to many European conflicts of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
ARMY SIZE: 1866 is designed for fighting the larger battles. Accordingly, it will require fairly large armies. A typical Prussian corps, for example, will require 27 stands of infantry, 8 stands of cavalry, 4-6 batteries and numerous command stands. Stands usually have 4 or 8 figures in 15 mm.
1866 offers three scales of play:
The author recognizes that base sizes are often artificial depending on unit size, tactical situation, etc. However the following basing is offered, though as long as both sides are based consistently, anything reasonably close may be used with no adjustments to the rules:
Scales remain the same for any figure scale, one simply varies the number of figures on the stand.
The Orders System: One of the key mechanism of 1866 is the use of orders. A unit generally requires an order to move. There are three kinds of orders that may be issued: move, charge and reform. During the Command and Control phase order chits are placed next to units upside down. A single order may be given to a single stand or an entire brigade. Most orders are given at the brigade level.
Each player is limited in terms of how many order he may issue in a turn. Basically players get one command per infantry brigade. A command may be used to issue one order chit. Thus issuing an order chit to a single stand uses a lot of a commander’s resources, considering he could move an entire brigade wit the same command!
A unit must roll to activate an order. The chance of success depends on the rating of the unit’s commander, and whether the unit is within the commander’s command radius. Higher level headquarters may be used to influence the activation, or even to allow for second attempts. An average French brigade commander will activate 70% of the time, his Austrian counter part only 60%.
There are three orders that may be given: move, charge or reform. Units do not require an order to fire, change facing or formation, and in certain circumstances counter-charge. When an order is issued a chit is put next to the unit to which the order applies. If activated the chit is turned up and the unit may move. After two failures to activate the chit is removed and a new order will have to be issued.
Move orders allow for regular movement, A Charge order is required to engage the enemy in melee and a reform order allows a unit to recover from disorganization, disarray or rout.
Movement: As one would expect, each unit must be in a specific formation. These formations include reinforced line (the most common for infantry), extended line, square, march column, etc. Units engaging in grand tactical movement move at 150% of normal speed. To use this mode of movement a unit must at least 15” behind the front line troops.
There are various kinds of terrain that restrict movement. A major consideration is that units moving through woods become disarrayed. Such units are less effective and require a reform order to recover. (This is one of the differences between 1866 and 1870).
The most unusual aspect to the movement in 1866 is that it occurs simultaneously! Both players reveal their orders and then begin moving.
Morale Rating: Every unit in 1866 has a morale value from 1 (worst) to 10 (best). An average unit has a morale of 7. Units are required to test morale if they suffer losses, lose a melee, have a commander killed, etc. Units take a morale test to recover from suppression or to rally. In addition, units will take a morale test when charging or being charged.
To perform a morale test, the unit’s morale rating is modified according to circumstances - losses, tactical situation, formation, etc. A die is rolled. If it is less than the modified morale rating, the unit passes. Otherwise, the Morale Results Table is consulted. The more a unit fails by the worse the result.
In addition to unit morale higher formations have break points as well. As divisions lose complete stands, they must check morale as well. A die is rolled - if the result is even the division fails, if odd it passes. Division quality is represented by the level at which units check. Prussian divisions check after the loss of the fourth stand, Austrians after the third, while Italians don’t check until the 6th lost stand! Units that fail the first check may no longer attack, those that fail a second time after further stand losses must immediately withdraw.
Artillery Fire: Artillery fire has an important advantage in 1866: it fires first. All artillery fire is resolved before any small arms fire takes place. Fire resolution is simple and speedy. Add up the Fire Points firing at a given target and roll two dice - one for hits/casualties and one for suppression. The Artillery Hits Table gives the number needed to cause a casualty (a single attack can only cause 0 or 1 casualties) and the Suppression table the score needed to suppress the target. Modifiers on the charts account for enfilades, terrain, canister, etc.
Fire Combat: Each stand in 1866 has a Fire Point Value (generally 1 point per stand, 2 for light infantry). Fire is a simple table. Add up all the Fire Points, roll a D10, factor in your modifiers and cross reference the Musketry Table. The resulting number is the number of Combat Points eliminated from the target. (Combat points are essentially strength points but are independent of Fire Points and vice versa). Modifiers on the charts account for enfilades, terrain, canister, etc. If the fire causes at least one casualty the attacker rolls to see if the target is suppressed.
In addition, fire may result in a Repulse. In this case the target loses one combat point, and must retreat (3” for infantry and artillery, 10” for cavalry).
Charges and Melee: The charge and melee process is fairly straight forward. To charge a unit must have a charge order. The attacker then checks morale and charges if successful. (The only consequence of failing this check is that no charge takes place). The charging unit is then moved to the point at which the defender chooses to fire at it. The defender checks morale then fires. Assuming the attacker has not been stopped or suppressed, a melee ensues.
Melee is also resolved using the Musketry Table. However, it is the Combat Values (not the Fire Point Values) that are used. Modifiers on the Musketry Table are ignored - a separate list of Melee Modifiers is used instead. The side with more losses loses the melee. If a tie ensues, a second round is fought. In the second round un-engaged stands within one inch may be committed to the melee. If there is still no result, each side rolls a die and the high roll is the winner.
Following a melee both sides are disorganized. Post-melee morale checks are made, possible pursuit casualties removed, etc.
Stosstaktik: The Austrian military doctrine of the day had a profound impact on how the war played out. Accordingly, Austrian commanders have certain tactical limitations to reflect this. In essence, the Austrian army is designed and trained to use shock tactics as their primary fighting method. As a result they are more likely to charge, and ignore certain adverse effects when checking to charge. In many cases they must charge. Conversely, they may not advance and fire in the same turn.
Also included is an extensive bibliography, index, guide to building terrain boards and a listing of useful web sites devoted to the period.
In general the rules are easy to follow. In many sections there are good examples with clear line drawings. However there are no examples for fire combat, morale test or suppression. Even if no diagram had been provided a simple text example would have been very welcome. That said, the book is a pleasure to read and is well illustrated with color throughout.
I must admit I was unclear on exactly how Artillery fire works. All guns with the same modifiers are fired using a single die roll. This means that three stands of heavy guns firing together may cause 0 or 1 hit. But three light stands, each with different modifiers for range etc. will have a chance of causing 3 hits. Granted the three heavies have a very good chance of a hit and the three lights very slim chances of any, but it still seems I must be missing something (if I am please correct me).
This booklet is entitled ‘Grand tactical rules for the Austro-Prussian war’, but this belies its content. It is so much more than just a set a rules.
Firstly, what do you get, the size is ‘US letter’, slightly shorter, but wider than European A4, 127 pages of good quality glossy paper, printed in colour. It is spiral bound which means that it will stay open at a chosen page, no spines to break. There is also a heavy duty card insert with the play rules set out and incorporating a handy ruler.
The rules are written with figures of 6mm, 10mm and 15mm size in mind, but I would assume you could scale up the movement tables and ranges for larger sizes.
Do not be put off by the thought of 127 pages of rules, the actual mechanics of play only take up a small proportion of the content. Let me quote the designer’s, Bruce Weigle’s, own words, “...about 80% of the booklet is devoted to supporting material: historical notes, battle scenarios, orders of battle etc. …
Bruce has gathered together masses of information on the war of 1866 and his analysis of events is sound and well reasoned. He provides numerous quotes from contemporary sources, officers’ memoirs from Prussia and Austria, foreign military attachés and newspaper correspondents.
There are 14 battle scenarios, from the major battle of Koniggratz to the small Prussian/Bavarian action at Helmstadt. Each is illustrated with a useful map, orders of battle and a brief description. In the chapter on Orders of battle they are set out in tabular form and colour coded for clarity.
Bruce includes an extensive bibliography, not just a book list, but each title is given a short review on its availability and usefulness. His recommendation that Gordon Craig’s, The Battle of Koniggratz, is the best starting point for the study of the Bohemian campaign echoes my own views.
There are also several pages of chronology for the military events of the year 1866.
There is a section on figure sources, although this will quickly become out of date as companies come and go.
A further section covers making up the game board, and very impressive it looks in the photographs.
This booklet then could almost be described as a good military history of the war of 1866, with a bit of a bias towards wargamers!
My only slight criticism is that some of the otherwise excellent colour illustrations are printed so small that details are difficult to make out, presumably to fit the width of the text columns.
The booklet is available in the UK from Caliver Books for £26, which for what you get, is not unreasonable. For availability elsewhere check the publisher’s website www.grandtacticalrules.com.
There are two other ‘rule sets’ in the series, ‘1859’ which covers the Solferino campaign and also the 1864 war in Denmark, and ‘1870’ which includes the Imperial campaign of 1870 and the republican phase in 1870-71.
1866 is the third of Bruce Weigle’s Grand Tactical rule sets designed specifically for large-scale battles in mid-19th century Europe, the preceding sets being 1870 and 1859. The rules enable you to field several Divisions or several Corps per side. The rules are primarily designed to be used with 6, 10 and 15mm figures, based in stands, one of which represents a battalion of infantry, a half regiment of cavalry or an artillery battery. This scales out at about 1:60-65 men in 6mm or 1:200-300 in 15mm, each turn represents 30 minutes and 1” equals 100m. The intention is that medium to large scale battles can be played quickly with a reasonably historical result.
The set is spiral bound, 132 pages of high quality paper and illustrated throughout in colour and black and white, also included is a 4 page, card quick reference sheet.
The actual rules only account for 35 pages; Phases of play are:
Orders are indicated with chits, other phases being simultaneous with Morale handled during each phase as required. Fire and Melee are handled through amassed points, cross-referenced with a D10 roll for result.
The rules are well laid out and quickly mastered and implemented, the thorough play testing this series has received is evident throughout the design mechanics and presentation.
The rest of the book consists of detailed historical background, tactical notes, orders of battle, and 14 detailed historical battle scenarios. Also included is an excellent annotated bibliography, which should make researching this period a lot easier. Not that you will need to; this book covers just about everything you need to know to war-game the period except for uniform details.
Bruce has a passion for this era of history and this result shows it, very few rule sets approach this level of knowledge and production and I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the subject.