01 April 2013

Rank and File: A Playtest

Well for our playtest, I went with a brigade aside with my new Brunswickers versus the French. I am trying to test all the rules I can, but have not used any cavalry. I have stuck with the rules as written here with no modifications. I have also decided to use a couple of very large units just to see what would happen. In my armies I have generally 4 and 6 stand battalions, I believe this might be a bit small for this set of rules. I also should at this level, being using 1 stand artillery batteries but I just do not like this look. So a reason for doing this play test is to see what happens, so I can make some adjustments.

So you can keep track, the caption refers to the photo above it. All phases are bolded red, while the turns are bolded blue. First up is the French:

As you can see there are 4 units of infantry. One legére unit in skirmish order and one formed. There is also a unit of Guard as well as a large unit of ligne. All are classed as regulars except the Guard which are veterans, the formed units start in March column, both units can move 12" in a turn in these formations. The units are all 4 stand except the ligne who have 8 stands. The rules allow between 4 and 10 stands for infantry and cavalry. I wanted to see what would happen with different sized units. I suspect the 4 stand units might be a little brittle, especially with the 50% rule
The Brunswickers have 4 units all classed as regular. One unit is 8 stand, another 2 infantry units are 4 stands in size and the Foot artillery unit is 2 stand. I suspect the artillery will be quite lethal. They are classified as medium artillery in this scenario so have three ranges of short (8"), medium (16") and long(32"). Each artillery base fire 4D6, 2D6 or 1D6 depending on the range. Point blank firing with double canister at 2" is also allowed, but rather then hitting on a modified 4+, they hit on a modified 3+. I like this as I believe in some games artillery are under powered.  Since they are Foot artillery they move at 8' per turn. Unlimbering costs half there movement allowance
Well here is our first move, I used a 6x4' terrain for this scenario. Units in march column can actually use double march as long as they are outside of 12" of the enemy. In this case I did not double march the troops but you can see they rapidly closed, in just the first turn. The marking stick is in 1" increments. The game has 7 phases. The first is the declaration of a Charge, you have to be within charge range (contact within a normal movement allowance) to declare a charge. All phases aside from movement are simultaneous in Rank and File. There is an optional rule that says they can be blinded   from your opponent.  On the first turn no units are in range for a charge, nor does the second phase of Rally pertain to this rule. 

The third phase is Initiative for First Movement and this is diced for each turn and is the only phase that is not simultaneous. Essentially each player throws a single D6 (I use two different colour die, the black die is the Brunswickers). Another optional rule is the die may be modified by the Bde Commanders rating. In Turn 1 the French won the toss. The French move first and then the Brunswickers, as you can see there was a general advance. The photo was taken at the end of the turn
Turn 2, no Charge or Rally yet. The Brunswickers won the initiative this time , so their Movement phase was first. The units on each side have now assumed their combat formations. The Brunswick Artillery unlimber after moving 4" (to change formation costs half the movement allowance), The Leib form in to line, the large Brunswick Light battalion forms into attack column while the smaller unit remains in reserve in column of march. The French battalions of skirmishers advance to screen the formed légere. The Guard and the the large Ligne battalions form into attack columns.   As you can see from the measuring sticks some of the units are in firing range of each other. 

The next phase Firing can now take place. Firing is simultaneous, meaning that no casualties are taken until both sides have fired. So let us go through each unit in sequence. The Brunswick artillery are within 16" so they fire at medium range, meaning 2D6 for each stand. Units can split fire so each stand can be thrown for separately. But in this case since there is one target, we will say the battery (2 stands) throws 4D6. They fire at the the large line battalion in attack column. All successful hits in firing or combat are on 4+, but is modified. A very simple table is utilized to modify the score required to hit. So lets apply the modifiers, well the artillery has moved in the turn so that is a -1, but the target unit is not in line so that is a +1. So a 4 on the D6 will result in a hit. 4D6 thrown and 3 hits! In this ruleset each stand has a hit capability of 3, so in this case 1 stand has been lost. I love it! No further die to throw, but since the firing is simultaneous, the stand is not removed yet. Let's move to the next unit the large Brunswick light battalion. They are within 12" a long range shot (close range for muskets is 6"). They have 3 stands in the front rank, so they get to throw 3D6. Again hit on a result of a modified 4+. The modifiers are -1 moved, -1 target is skirmishers, -1 at long range. This is of course a modified score of 7, but the rules say you always hit on a 6 and miss on a 1, so this overrides the modified score. The Brunswickers throw 3D6 and get 1 hit. The last unit to fire is the French skirmishers, they have a muskets but if they had rifles, their close range would be 8" and their long range would be 16". Again they hit on a modified 4+ and have 4D6 to fire. They have moved but an optional rule for skirmishers is that if they have only moved half their movement allowance they can fire without penalty. They are at long range so -1, but are firing at a unit not in line so a +1. They will hit on 4+. They have 2 hits, not enough to cause a stand removal but marked with a die and carried over to the next turn. The stand from the French ligne is now removed, as they are not in range to fire back. 

Next phase is Morale, and a morale test is taken whenever a stand is lost. The ligne are a regular unit so they start with a morale of 4. This is modified by using the morale table, they have lost 1 stand so -1. That's it, they throw a 1D6 get a 5 so pass the morale test and remain in good order. 

The last phase is End Turn, but no army morale test required yet and the Bde commanders stay where they are. End of turn 2, as represented by the above photo.
Turn 3. The large Brunswick unit Charges (the first phase of the turn) the the French Skirmishers and they flee. Units being charged have 3 options: Flee, counter charge or stand. The skirmishers withdraw facing enemy 2D6, they interpenetrate the formed Légere unit behind them without penalty as they are skirmishers. The Brunswick unit in this phase advances to within 2" of the skirmishers before they flee. A fleeing unit can not fire in the firing phase but a standing unit can before melee happens. No Rally needed. 

So Initiative next, and the French win. They move first, they advance the Légere and Guard towards the large Brunswick unit. The Ligne advance towards the Leib. In their movement phase the large Brunswick unit forms into line, while the smaller unit advance 1/2 and then forms into line, the Leib advance and wheel to face the advancing Ligne. A lot of units are in firing range.
I use the white dice to record hits on a unit while the simultaneous firing is taking place.  I plan to apply casualty markers at the end of the turn, but the die are great to keep track of the process before stands are removed. The Fire phase is simultaneous. So lets look at the Brunswick first. I should also note that I have used the optional rule of a 22.5  decree firing arc, you can see the gauge in front of one of the Brunswick stands. This is enormously useful as in this ruleset as you can split fire and in this fire fight you can see that both the Légere and the Guard are within in range of the Brunswickers. So this go from right to left, the Brunswick artillery fire at the advancing Ligne as do the Leib battalion. The artillery have 8D6 as they are  at close range and get a +1 modifier for firing at a unit not in line.....7hits! The Leib fire 4D6, as usual you hit on a modified 4, but although they have the same +1 modifier as the artillery they have a -1 modifier for having moved......3 hits. The Ligne are getting mauled and will lose 3 stands but not yet. The large Brunswick unit then fires (little problem here as they have charged this turn and a charging unit can not fire but we will carry on), they split their stands with 3D6 on the Guard and 5D6 on the Légere.......2 hits on the Guard, but all 5D6 miss on the Légere. The French fire back. The Ligne have 3 stands in the front rank so 3D6......1 hit on the Leib. The Guard fire 2D6....miss, the Légere fire 4D6.......miss. The Brunswick have won this fire fight. The 3 stands are removed from the Ligne.
Up next is the Morale Phase. The only unit taking a stand loss is the Ligne,  so they test. They are Regulars so start at a 4, but they are modified -1 for each stand lost so test on -8, but remember a 6 always passes and they throw a 6, they remain in good order. 

The End Turn see the Bde Commander joining the Ligne in their advance (I should have the stands 2x2 here in the photo, but forgot to before I too the photo) End of Turn 3
Turn 4. The three forward French units Charge, 2 on the large Brunswick unit and 1 on the Leib. They all advance within 2" of their targets. The 2 Brunswick units decide to stand. They are really going to lay into the French in the Fire phase
The side dice for Initiative the Brunswick win and move first, as you can see the reserve Brunswick lights wheel into position to fire into the flanks of the Ligne as do the artillery. 

The three Brunswick units Fire on the Ligne cause 11 hits in their volley, they already have 1 casualty left from Turn 3, so they lose all their stands, since the Fire phase is simultaneous they get to fire back but again with just 2D6, and miss. They Ligne is gone. But they have an attached leader, so he has to take a casualty test. Four stand lost so 4D6, hit on a 6........hit once, go to the leader wound table, throw a D6.......1, only a scratch gallops off in safety. The large Brunswick unit in line fires, 1 hit on the Guard and 1 hit on the Légere
Charging units have to take a Morale test if they lose a stand in their  Charge. The Guard have lost a stand, they are Veterans so they have to pass a modified 3. They have -1 for losing a stand but are +1 for having support, they throw and get a 3 so they pass. 

As above you can see the 2 units advance into the Melee. As this is a multiple unit melee, all die are added for each side. So lets go through it. I find Melee usually complicated in rulesets, but this is really a breeze. The Brunswick have 8 stands, in the first round only the stands in contact as well as a stand with an overlap has die. If we look above you can see that there are 5 Brunswick stands in contact with the Légere and 3 in contact with the Guard. The Guard have just 2 stands in the front rank and the Légere have 4. To hit on Melee it is again a modified 4+. Lets look at the Brunswick on Guard first. So the Brunswick have 3D6 and hit on 4, no modifiers, the Guard have 2D6 but hit on 2 (+1 for being in attack column, +1 for being veterans). The Brunswick get 1 hit and the Guard 2. Now lets go to the Brunswick on the Légere. 5D6 on 4D6, both hitting on 4.........2 hits each. So the Brunswick have a total of 3 hits and the French have 4. It would seem that the French have won, but they have not,  as the Brunswick have an attached commander who is worth one hit (does not actually cause a casualty), this causes a draw in the Melee. As Melee has to be resolved each turn in this ruleset, we immediately go to a second round in the same turn
As you can see stands have been removed for the second round of Melee, the Brunswick are down to 6 and the Légere have lost 1. In the second round the Brunswick have 4D6 against the Légere 3D6 and 2D6 against 3D6 Guard. The reason for the additional D6 for the Guard as that in a second round of Melee all stands in a battalion have become involved. Again all units hit on 4 aside from the Guard who hit on 2. The Brunswick have 3 hits and the French have 6, a decisive French victory. As the Brunswick commander is attached to a unit that has lost 3 stands in Melee, 3D6 are thrown to see if he is hit, all misses.
The Brunswick battalion now is unsteady and withdraws 2D6. Both French units advance to the position formerly held by the Brunswickers. 

End Turn, well the Brunswick commander stays with the withdrawing while the French commander moves up and joins his Guard unit. Also in the End Turn phase we assess for Army Morale and to see if either side has reached it's Break Point. To calculate the Army Points. Essentially each multistand infantry or cavalry unit is worth 2 points and Artillery stands are worth 1 point. So our Brunswickers had 3 infantry battalions and 2 artillery stands=8 points and the French had 4 infantry battalions=8 points. The Army Break Point is half the Army Points, so both sides have an Army Break Point of 4. At the end of Turn 4, the only lost unit is the French Ligne worth 2 points so the French Army Break point of 4 has not been met. 
Turn 5. The two French units and the one Brunswick unit all decide to Charge each other. The Brunswickers wheel about 60 degrees forward (up to 90 degree wheel allowed) and charge the French Guard while at the same time the French Légere advance to take the Brunswickers in the flank. All units are moved towards each other until they are 2" apart.

Rally, the Brunswick commander had hoped to rally the unsteady light battalion to the far left lower part of the above photo, but realized that the battalion had lost 50% of it's stands thus making it impossible to rally. A unit at 50% stand loss can not rally from unsteady or rout condition, and automatically fails any morale test it has to take
Initiative, the French win and move their skirmishers with in range of the Brunswick Cannon. The Brunswick battalion to the left move sideways in line 4" to have a better firing position.
Fire, and essentially the Brunswickers are highly successful causing 5 hits on the French, including enough hits on the charging Guard, while the one French unit that can fire the skirmishers miss.
Morale, The French Guard being Veterans and having a Commander attached pass the morale test (this is an error as they had dropped to 50%, so unable to pass a morale test, but I decided to carry on to illustrate the multiple melee)
Melee, so here we have a 4 stand Brunswick unit being assaulted by a 2 stand French Guard unit in attack column and a 2 stand French Légere unit in the flanks. It take 3D6 to melee the Guard and 1D6 to melee the Légere, all hitting on 4+. While the Guard has 1D6, hitting on 2+ and the Légere have 2D6, hitting on 4+, but it is doubled because of a flank or rear melee so get to throw 4D6. Alas for the French they are again unlucky in the die throw and lose 3v1, the 1+ from the attached commander is not enough and the two French units withdraw in unsteady condition 2D6.
Turn End, well the French have still not reached their Break Point, but essentially the Guard and the Légere unit have both reached their 50% mark so can not rally or pass or morale test, so I have given victory to the Brunswickers. End of Game


  • This game has the simplest and most effective combat mechanisms I have seen
  • The movement rules are also quite uncomplicated
  • By turn 3, I was essentially playing the game from memory with minimal reference to the 2 page QRS or to the book
  • I could not really assess command and control as there was just one command group per side. I liked the ability of the Commander to attach and effect melee, morale and rally. I found it odd though that there was no command radius
  • The artillery were overpowered, and I believe that when using two stands to represent a battery, I will treat it as one stand for the rules. Using 2 stands is purely a visual thing for me.
  • I had some discussion on TMP re using 4 stand units and there was recommendation to use a D10 or D8 for morale rather then a D6, I will think about this

In my next post I will discuss the Command and Control rules from the ACW supplement and how I can use them for the Napoleonic era as well as looking at some amendments to the rules for company sized skirmishing units

I apologise for the length of the post, but I learn from writing out the detail, and hope it will also be helpful to new players.



  1. A comprehensive and helpful review as always, thanks.

  2. Brilliant talk through of the rules John, I will be off to purchase these and maybe use them instead of general de brigade

  3. They sound like a good set of rules, nice one John.

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  5. Goodness, why would you *apologize* for the length of the post; the detail is what gives the reader a good feel for how the rules would play out on the tabletop.

    Re: the artillery - I agree, I don't like the looks of a single gun representing a battery - 2 bases looks a lot better. A deployed battery also usually had a frontage roughly equal to that of a battalion in line, IIRC. That being the case, I would think that single base representing a battery would very seriously distort the ground scale and really over estimate the lethality of artillery, especially if several batteries are combined/deployed adjacent to one another. Of course, both of these issues are easily "fixed', if they do indeed prove to be issues on further play of the rules. Also certainly need to throw some cavalry into the next one!

    BTW, I noted from your last post that you're located in Mass., which I hadn't realized. Might I inquire as to where in the Commonwealth? (feel free to write to me directly, if so inclined and yet prefer not to make it public). I'll be running a (non Napoleonic) game at the HAVOC convention this weekend (located just outside of Worchester, in Shrewsbury).


  6. Thanks for the rule review. I've never played "Rank and File" but I like the simplicity.

    I'll check these rules out - especially the ACW version

    Who doesn't need a new ruleset?


  7. Thanks John - I have a play test of the rules coming up myself so this was very useful....

    Like you my units are usually 4 to 5 bases - could you not just count each base as 2 and remove on 6 hits instead of 3?

  8. Thanks.

    Peter, I have been trying to find the info re the size of an artillery battery in line, for some reason it was quite difficult. I thought it might be 1:1, but most sources said 0.5:1 which just does not seem right. I will contact you off line.

    Miles: it does seem like a game focused on ACW

    Steve: You certainly could do that, I think it would be less fast paced, the rules writer suggested changing the hit per stand to 4, I will look forward to your play test

  9. Very well done review, John. I'm definitely going to pick these up to give them a go. Thanks!

  10. Very interesting and thorough review, John. Great post!

  11. Excellent review - very thorough. I also agree re the artillery. Personally I favour two or three models (3 if there is a howitzer) per battery on the table. I've found the same artillery problems with other rule sets too - mainly too underdone (a lot of points paid for something that doesn't quite work etc) One rule set I thought actually got the balance right was Elan (which I believe is still available on line for free).

    R&F looks like a very interesting set of rules but there is so much to compete with nowadays! Nonetheless, a great post and very useful indeed John.


  12. My comment is bit in late but it's a great battle/rules review. Bad luck for the french unfortunately.
    Thanks John

  13. While I have not had the opportunity to play Napoleonics in years, I can feel the pull of it thanks to your excellent AAR. The 28mm forces look wonderful and I'm sure the French will soon be back to extract their revenge!

    And here I'd been thinking you were in Canada.