So it looks like you lucky wargamers will have three (I say again, 3) new Napoleonic rule books coming your way in the next month or so. The even better news is that they serve different preferences for game type, so there's no need to worry about choosing. You can just buy all three!
At the skirmish end, there's the Napoleonic supplement for the well-regarded Muskets and Tomahawks FIW rules. The supplement is called Shakos and Bayonets:
Of course, the solid middle ground (the product for those discerning wargamers who prefer the 'classic' game) is covered by Shadow of the Eagles. Should be on sale in a week or two:
And at the 'big battle' end, we have Absolute Emperor
from Osprey. It's good to have another book in the Osprey Wargames series that takes on an historical subject, and the author should be congratulated in fitting a set of Napoleonic rules into a 64 page book costing £12.99:
Calling All Grognards
So, instead of asking "Does the wargaming world really need a new Napoleonic rulebook?", certain people will now be asking "Does the wargaming world really need three new Napoleonic rulebooks?".
The answer, of course, is "Yes". The question was answered way back in 1962 by Donald Featherstone, who wrote in War Games, 'there are almost as many rule books as there are wargamers'. Our hobby is made up of a collection of individuals - or in other words, this is a bottom-up hobby. We create it for ourselves. People who want to write some rules go ahead and do it, and in the digital world they can throw their hat in the ring and see if other people will like (and buy) their work.
Worried about the fragmentation of the hobby? Well, news just in, the hobby has always been fragmented. That is its nature. It's nothing new. So revel in the choice available. No matter how many rule books are out there, you will quickly find your group of friends or your club will settle on 2 or 3, and you can (or should) enjoy comparing and contrasting the games you have with them. Who knows, you might even settle on just one. For a while.
And so of course, in a year or two, Shadow of the Eagles will probably be forgotten and the next new rule book will be on the market. C'est la vie. Why did I write a set of Napoleonic rules? Because it was fun, and I enjoyed doing it, and I enjoyed the process of bringing it to market and seeing it commercially published. I have a feeling that most rule books come into existence for the same or similar reasons.
And, I have a copy of Absolute Emperor on order. I'll probably never play a game, but I'll enjoy seeing how the author solved his particular set of challenges. And my knowledge and enjoyment of the hobby will be enhanced. So there.
Rant over - 'til next time!
Like waiting for a bus, three then come along at once! I'm looking forward of course to SotE being releases and from what I've seen, they will certainly form one of my core rules for Napoleonics. Over the past few years I've settled down to core rules I enjoy and have got to know them well, so that I can enjoy my games with them, wheter it be playing or creating a scenario etc. No more trying to remember multiple rulesets, famous last words of course!
I agree Keith.
I like having rules for skirmish through to grand tactical, with several options to choose from. I find that there is 50–90% in many of them that I find useful and perhaps novel, but none of them are completely right for me—completely in line with your quote from the Don!
What does make me livid is when authors 'repackage' (I call it out as plagiarism) existing mechanisms and ideas and claim that they have produced something new.
I like rulebooks, though if the tree mentioned, I think it will be your that is getting my pennies :-)
I'll have to check out Absolute Emperor - I have a soft spot for grand tactical.
I'm eyeing that Osprey release.
Thank you for this Keith. Good luck with your new book, I shall be getting one as it's you! Go-to rules that one is comfortable with and stand the test of time? - for me your "Honours of War" has not gone out of date since my first games in 2016, merely gets slightly adapted for the task in hand. Looking forward to seeing what the new "big battle" rules have to offer as that is the scale one really needs to tackle Napoleonics in my view.
Keith - as you have surveyed the market I'd be interested in a recommendation. I like to run big 28mm multiplayer games that can be played with most players using an FPS only. By big I guess I'm thinking a 12 foot table and 20+ units a side with about 6 players.
Any thoughts which set(s) work for that type of game being doable in about 3 hours?
Stu, my first thought would be Black Powder. People are familiar with them and they can be speeded up and/or simplified quite easily, for example by tinkering with brigade morale. See for example:
Black Powder post
I've also come across these simple rules. Haven't played them but maybe worth a look:
Hope that helps.
Creating a good ruleset is like an acrobat trying to balance between historical accuracy, simplicity and having fun. Judging with how much care you have designed your Honours of War rules for which I am an addict ;-) , I am sure that your new book will have all the above qualities and more! I wish the best of success!
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