Reviews of Grand Tactical Rules 1870

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1870 Grand Tactical Rules for the Franco-Prussian War by Bruce Weigle1870

(Jean-Philippe Imbach, Sept-Oct 2001; translation courtesy JB)

After thus ‘beating the drum’ for one of my favourite historical periods, it’s time to talk about these new rules rightly dedicated to the war of 1870.  Like all productions from across the Atlantic the presentation is irreproachable, very ‘professional’ and superbly illustrated with drawings, diagrams and photos of magnificent gaming tables (in 6mm).  An A3 card play-sheet accompanies the 100-page or so rulebook.

One element, with a frontage of about 3cm equates to a battalion, a battery or two cavalry squadrons.  The number of figures to each element depends on their scale: from three 15mm infantrymen to about fifteen (in two ranks) for 6mm.   Twenty-five centimeters on the table equals one actual kilometer and a game turn corresponds to half an hour.  In fact the scale of the game is clearly ‘strategic’ and perfectly appropriate for this period.  Note however that another scale of play is offered for smaller engagements, where the number of figures per unit is doubled, though paradoxically without changing ranges accordingly(!)

The rules scarcely take up twenty pages, including examples: they are well-presented and clear.  The mechanisms are of the very traditional sort, easy to learn and aimed at mass confrontations.  So it’s goodbye to tactical minutiae.  Nevertheless, I would have been happier if movement hadn’t been simultaneous.  Of course this way gives a little more realism, but to the detriment of the speed and the clarity of the game.  In effect the player is always tempted to move ‘in reaction’ to his opponent rather than ‘simultaneously’.  In fact the rules do contain a few glitches that the unscrupulous player will be able to exploit.  Manifestly the author is leaning on the side of re-fights, and ‘between gentlemen’ at that.  Actually the only aspect missing is rules for fatigue (but they could easily be added).

The rest of the booklet, i.e. over 80% of the pages, will delight lovers of this period.  The historical notes - on the on the equipment, the tactics, etc. - are particularly well done and fascinating, and avoid the usual pitfalls (like Prussian battalions at full strength throughout the campaign): manifestly the booklet is the fruit of a real effort of in historical research.  What’s more the fifteen [Sic] scenarios suggested on over thirty pages are very well done, with particularly interesting ‘what if’s’.

Half the scenarios cover the classic frontier battles - Wissembourg, Froeschwiller and Spicheren- the bloody actions around Metz - including Mars-la-Tour, Rezonville and Gravelotte- St. Privat- and the surprise of Beaumont just before the disaster of Sedan (which we are fortunately spared).  Six other scenarios concentrate on the frenetic efforts of the Gouvernement de Defense Nationale to liberate the besieged Paris.  You can, for example, lead the Army of the Loire at Coulmiers, Loigny-Pourpry or Beaugency.

Add to this a dozen pages of OOB’s (perfect for running a campaign) and an annotated bibliography.  What’s more 1870 benefits from its own web-site ( where you will find errata, questions and so on.  To conclude, this booklet is recommended equally to beginners (for it’s historical notes) and to veterans (for its scenarios).  You will also find here a simple (but improvable) rule system for refighting the great battles of the time.

1870, rules for refighting the battles of the Franco-German War of 1870.  Published in English by Mediaeval Miscellanea.  Approximate price: 180F.


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1870 Grand Tactical Rules for the Franco-Prussian War by Bruce Weigle1870
Miniature Wargames Magazine  (no. 224)
'1870' Franco Prussian Rules

My first thought on these rules were along the lines of "oh yes, another set of Fire and Fury style rules".  But, although they are designed for division and corps level games, they are remarkably different.

The rules are well-made and fairly well laid out in a spring-backed book, with the now almost compulsory stylish front cover and lots of pictures throughout, along with examples of firing, charges and morale to help when the going gets tough and the brain hurts!  The rules include thirteen [Sic] scenarios and lots of information on the weapons used and order of battle for the armies.  To start, the stand ratio (six figures for 6/l0mm and three for 15mm for infantry) represents between 200 to 300 men, so each battalion is present as the smallest sized gaming unit, by a stand, three stands to a regiment, etc.  This single battalion can operate independently, if so desired, so you still have some control over individual units, but the crux of the rules seem to revolve around command and control and how good (or bad) is your commander.

They work down from the corps command to the lowest brigade with a limited number of order chits, depending on whether you are French or Prussian, and how many divisions are in that command.  The divisional officers have an additional job of 'yelling' at the brigade commander if he, for whatever reason, does not carry out his instructions.  This is by adding both command values together - if you pass all well and good.  This is a system that I like, and gives another level to the game, also a reason to have your officers close (but not too close) - to the battlefront!

The firing is fairly straightforward, with each battalion having three or four points of fire, so you can mass several battalions together with even an opportunity to fire during a move. But, as each turn represents 30 minutes, this is understandable.  Chassepot and Dreyse Needle rifles are included, as they have to be, along with the Bavarian Werder rifle and the Mitrailleuse machine gun.  The Prussians cannot fire at long range with their rifles, although the Werder and Chassepot can. With artillery, the difference is just as noticeable as training range and accuracy tell, and the Prussians have all three, so you can suppress and cause casualties before they get in range with those Chassepots.

My only criticism so far, is on the number of morale tests to be taken, which seems rather a lot.  But, on the whole, a very good set of rules and a must for anybody who loves the period.
Reviewed by Barrie Brown


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I have often  asked which figure scale I prefer for wargaming.  The answer is not a simple one though.  As a mortgage holding father of three I don’t have cash rolling out beenof my sock drawer, so 25mm (or 28mm as is now the vogue) are not really an option for me except for skirmish actions.  And so my current armies are in 15mm.  As I also like to play larger scale actions I have been tempted recently by various 6mm ranges for both there relative cheapness, and the possibility of fighting reasonable size battles on my less than reasonably sized dining table.

However it is not just cost that attracts me to smaller scale figures, but also the opportunities they present for more accurately reflecting the tactics of the more modern period.  It seems to me very difficult for wargamers to even approximate the tactics of a large Napoleonic action with 25mm figures.  When you get to the American Civil War I feel that the maximum scale that is practical is 15mm, otherwise both armies deploy in rifle range of each other.

Years ago I owned both armies for 1st Bull Run, in 5mm blocks produced by Mini-Figs.  And I was able to fight the whole battle, including strategic movement on a 10x6 table.  It looked great, and the whole feel of the game compared with the relative skirmishes of 25mm was a revelation.  The difficulty though was finding rules that gave the feel of the battle you were trying to fight.

I was very interested then to receive a copy of 1870 for review.  These are described as Grand Tactical Rules for the Franco Prussian War, and they are designed specifically for use with 6mm figures, (but work well with 15mm as I found in testing).  The rules encourage you to think big, large scale sweeping movements, mass charges, defense in depth.  Consequently deployment becomes an important consideration.  The games fought under 1870 move quickly, and the rules are so simple that the action did not get bogged down in debates about literary interpretation.

The author describes the rationale behind the rules as “…simplicity, large scale, and speed, a rule set which could be quickly read and understood, and which enabled the players to move rapidly through multiple turns without getting bogged down in extraneous detail.”  And I believe that he has succeeded, using 1870 puts you in the place of the Army or Corps commander.  Instead of concentrating on the fine detail of the deployment of skirmishers, or angles of fire, you leave that to the competence of unit commanders.  Instead you need to ensure that lines of command and communication are maintained, and that your reserve formations are in the right place.

The rules include useful Quick Reference Sheets and are clearly presented and easy to follow.  They include illustrations of formations available to the various armies, and how to represent them on the tabletop.  Throughout period photographs and illustrations are used to supplement the text.  While well drawn diagrams translate potential problem points within the rules.

However with 1870 you are not only buying a set of rules, your are purchasing a complete introduction to the period.  Included is a detailed historical background, weapons details, excellent Orders of Battle and fourteen fully detailed historical game scenarios.  If this were not enough, the volume also includes an extensive and annotated bibliography, and tips on creating 6mm terrain.  All that is missing is uniform details and standards for the combatants, although some of this information can be obtained by studying the wealth of illustrations included.
All in all an excellent volume that I have no hesitation in recommending.  1870 is available from the UK distributors, Caliver Books price £17.99

-- JOS


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1870 Grand Tactical Rules for the Franco-Prussian War by Bruce Weigle1870
MWAN Sept/Oct 2001

Is an 8 ½ ” X 11” glossy 104 page effort with color ($25 with postage $4.95 for US and $8.75 overseas).  This is a beautiful effort by someone who has really studied the period!  Bruce reports “1870 was originally conceived to accommodate very large armies, and thus was designed with 6mm figures in mind.”  He also states it adapts nicely to 15mm with “no changes in basing or scale needed.”  The basic unit, in this attempt to recreate corps sized battles, is the infantry battalion/two cavalry squadrons with a single base representing each in 6mm and 15mm.  D10 are used; each turn = 30 minutes; 1 figure = 60-65 men in 6mm or 200-300 in 15mm; and 1” = 100 meters with 10” = 1 kilometer.  You can play the regular corps-sized rules or use what is called a “double-scale” version for smaller battles which doubles the number of stands per unit.

Units (battalions, cavalry stands, artillery) are assigned combat points (infantry/artillery = 3 for example) and when that number reaches zero [the base is eliminated].  Units are also ranked as to morale (Garde Nationale = 5 to Prussian/Imperial Troops/Zouaves/Turcos/Chasseurs d’Afrique = 10).  There are command stands for brigade (1 figure), division (2), and Corps (3) which render orders and rally troops; each has a command radius (4-8-12”) and orders are given at the brigade level.  The sequence of play is as follows: command & control phase, order activation, movement, fire, and melee with morale being checked throughout each phase.  Cardboard order chits are utilized to denote unit action and these actions are influenced by order activation (brigade, division and corps command stands are rated on a scale as to the “professional competence of the commanders and staffs involved”).  Movement is 8”/foot in line and 15+” for cavalry.

Bruce offers much historical information and background throughout the rules set as well as illustrations and examples of the rules mechanics.  In addition, there is a very nicely done designer’s notes section (10 pages with great information!) and 14 scenarios with full page maps.  Information presented in each scenario includes historical situation, mission, notes, alternate scenarios, and orders of battle.  Maps are well done.  The orders of battle is 13 pages long and very helpful in putting together armies for the period.  Bruce includes an excellent bibliography with personal comments on each book (get the rules if for no other reason than this!).  There is also a four page foldout stock paper section with the rules for reference during games.  I am highly impressed with the effort and quality of this rules set – Bruce has done an excellent job in writing and presentation – his enthusiasm and knowledge of the period is evident though the set!  You know how we like to have reference materials handy that cover a period quite completely?  Well, this would be a perfect example of such a work!  If you have any interest in the FPW and are looking for something that will  give you a lot of information to get going, hey, this is it!

Highly recommended and congratulations, Bruce!

-- Hal Thinglum


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1870 Grand Tactical Rules for the Franco-Prussian War by Bruce Weigle1870
The Courier

This well illustrated and researched 105 page rule book is probably the best I’ve seen on the Franco-Prussian War.  For most periods that statement would have to be qualified for level of play, i.e. skirmish, company level, battalion, operation, etc.  However, the defining combats of the FPW all involved corps and divisions, so the Grand Tactical approach is almost a must for the era.  My appreciation is at this point entirely from textual criticism.  I have to admit to a lack of play test, but perhaps that can be remedied since there seems to be only a ¼” difference in the “battalion” base frontage between 1870 and my brief WAR IN THE AGE OF NAPOLEON THE LITTLE, also an attempt at grand tactical rules.  These rules were designed for 6mm, but can presumably be played with smaller numbers of more visable [sic] figures on each base.  Bruce’s 6mm games on spectacular terrain can usually be witnessed (and participated in) at HMGS EAST conventions.

First, a caution for those who downgrade the quality of rules by the degree to which they exceed one post card in length.  At least 80% of the booklet consists of orders of battle, historical notes, bibliographies with reviews, quotations from participants, etc.  Even the rules sections are interspersed with historical examples and how they relate to the rule mechanics.  In effect, a history course on the war in question.  The mechanics are fairly simple, mainly involving rolling of D10, low being a good thing.  There is also a web site with errata, ordering information, and an e-mail POC for questions.  One of the three "errata" notes suggested to me the degree and quality of the research effort:

“In the Orders of Battle (page 93), a couple of 6-pdr batteries were left out of the Saxon XII Corps artillery “regiment”.  The correct listing should be: 4 x 6-pdr, 2 x 4-pdr, and 1 x 4-pdr HA batteries (the other HA battery is shown with the cavalry division, where it usually was assigned).”

1870 is also the first of the major published rules to notice that the Bavarians used a trap door conversion of the Austrian Podewils and Werder (Werdl?) with brass cartridge, and to reflect the difference in the rules.

I believe the price is around $25 for a slick ring binder 108 page volume.  It is not only a rule book, but an excellent one volume reference on the Franco-Prussian War.

-- Pat Condray


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1870 Grand Tactical Rules for the Franco-Prussian War by Bruce Weigle1870Wargames Journal

Whilst I was preparing this scenario, the climax of the Imperial Phase of the FPW, I received a copy of some FPW rules, 1870 from Bruce Weigle, based in the USA.  This very fine set of rules that have helped me to complete a lot of gaps in this study.  They are designed for Grand Tactical engagements and hence are ideal for battles this size and make a good alternative to rules such as Volley and Bayonet.

They are available from Caliver Books, priced £18.50 plus postage (15% in UK).  They are worth a close look, not just for the rules, but for the wealth of details that would help plug the holes in any student’s study of the period.  In addition to these rules a set entitled 1859 is also now available.  These cover the 2nd Italian War of Independence.  It includes the Battle of Solferino and I will be linking a review of the rules and a battle report and scenario for both of these in a future issue of WJ.


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