Sunday, May 29, 2011

Field of Battle, and Field of Battle 2nd edition

Field of Battle by Brent Oman is one of my favorite wargames rules sets of all time. With the release of the second edition expected in July, I thought it would be useful to post a review of the 1st edition (green text) that I did a year or so ago (also posted on Mark Severin's site), followed by a listing of my own House Rules for FoB 1st edition Napoleonic games (brown text), followed by a description of many of the changes in the second edition (blue text, with my comments in purple) so you can skip to whatever section(s) interest you. In most cases, the changes to the second edition of FoB are more a matter of clarification and/or fine tuning the rules, rather than wholesale revisions. The description of the 2nd edition changes is based on the draft of December 2010, and reviewed with the permission of the author. They may well have been (and probably were) at least some minor changes made since that draft.


Field of Battle - Click Image to Close

TITLE: Field of Battle (1st edition, 2006)

AUTHOR: Brent Oman

PUBLISHER: Piquet, Inc.


This is an extremely active and helpful group. There is a FAQ for Field of Battle, a scenario for Eylau 1807 (by yours truly), several versions of the Quick Reference Sheet available for down load, and more.

PRICE (with date): $30.00 (in 2010) * Note that the Piquet Master Rules are NOT needed or used with Field of Battle.

REVIEWED BY: Peter “Gonsalvo” Anderson – While I had nothing to do with the development of Field of Battle aside from providing the figures for and participating in the big playtest game held at Historicon in 2005, I have written 2 rules sets for Piquet (Band of Brothers, 2nd edition; Hostile Realms), and a scenario book for the 1809 Campaign using these rules.

PERIOD COVERED: 1700 – 1900 A.D.

Includes the Napoleonic Wars (1792 - 1815), and also The War of the Spanish Succession (1701 – 1714), Great Northern War (1700 -1721), Jacobite Rebellion (1745) Seven Years War (1756 – 1763), American War of Independence (1775 – 1781), Mexican – American War (1846 – 1848), Sikh Wars, Crimean War (1853 - 1856), Franco Austrian War (1859), American Civil War (1861 – 1865), Maximillian Adventure (1862 – 1867), Austro – Prussian War (1866), Franco-Prussian War (1870 – 1871), Zulu Wars (1879), Mahdist Wars (1881 - 1898)


Field of Battle is a full size ( 8.5” x 11”), 100 page bound rule book with full color cover and black and white interior.

Separate playsheets ( 2 pages only) are included (plain paper – I suggest printing out one of the online files for these ( especially the color version that I did!) on to cardstock), or placing them back to back in a sheet protector (which is what I do).

These rules require a deck of Sequence Cards for each army. Very basic, utilitarian versions are provided on plain cardstock (which must be cut out). These are certainly adequate to play the game, but are unlovely. A much nicer set of standard sized color cards are now available from Piquet. In addition, I have designed my own full color cards for Field of Battle (with the standard of the relevant nation on the backs of the cards) that print out onto Avery Business card stock using a home inkjet printer.
SCOPE: tactical warfare during the Horse and Musket era


Typically a player will control 2 to 5 Command groups, with roughly 8 to 25 units, say about 100 – 200 figures depending upon basing.


Four stand units of Infantry represent about a battalion of 480 – 720 men, four stand units of Cavalry represent regiments of 400 – 600 men, and 2 stand units of Artillery represent 6 – 8 guns with crew. (I have scaled these up to as much as three times these ratios, i.e. 1 infantry unit = regiment of about 2000 men, etc., and it has worked fine).

  1. Ground scale: 1” = 25 yards
  2. Time scale: 1 turn = variable amount of time, from 30 minutes to 2 - 3 hours.
  3. Figure/Base Ratio: roughly 1 figure = 50 men; For 25mm figures, 3 - 4 Infantry, 2 Cavalry, and 3 - 4 crew plus a gun per stand are suggested, but again this has no effect on play whatsoever.
  4. Recommended Figure size: 25/28mm, but not really important; players have used 6mm to 40mm.
  5. Table Size: I have used these rules on tables as small as 5 x 6 feet, and up to 24 feet or more.
  6. Game Length: three to four hours

Basing is not terribly critical to the play of Field of Battle. Provided both sides are based the same, the important part of basing is frontage. Infantry, cavalry and artillery stands should all have the same (or close to it) frontage, roughly 1.5 to 2”.


Field of Battle uses a Sequence Deck to govern the actions that your troops may take. Each side has their own deck, with the composition being determined by the quality of that Army's Commander in Chief. Each deck generally contains three cards each for Move, Artillery Firepower, Infantry Firepower, Melee, and Army Morale, plus 2 Tactical Advantage, 3-4 Move, 1-2 Move One Command, 1-2 Maneuver, 2 – 5 Leadership, and 1-6 Lull cards. The better decks have more good cards and fewer Lull cards. All decks have 27 cards. There are another 11 kinds of special/optional cards that can be used to represent special events, characteristics, etc.; my favorite is the “Sneaky Heathens” card, used in Colonial type games to allow the Natives a surprise move interrupting the European player's actions. The key concept is that, aside from firing “loaded” units, the player can only do what they have the card showing for. Each side doesn't just turn the cards in turn. Each side's commander rolls a Leadership die, ranging from a D8 (eight sided die, numbered 1-8) to a D12+1. The high roller gets to chose whether he will act first or second, but unlike standard Piquet, BOTH sides get the full difference in pips as "impetus" to spend. Each impetus turns a new card, and allows ALL the units of that side to act on that card, if able. When duplicate Leadership die rolls occur, OR one side goes through their entire deck a turn is completed. Thus the flow of events is quite unpredictable, with a marked tendency to ebb and flow! At the same time, the “balanced impetus” means the game is less “unfair” than standard Piquet, and the fact that all units can act on the cards as they are turned keeps everyone in the action – most of the time, anyway!


Movement: In Field of Battle, the player's units are organized into Command Groups, which would typically represent a Brigade or Division. A command Group typically contains 2 to 6 units, but there is no absolute upper limit, and some might have a single unit. Each command group has a Leader (general), and each Leader has a Leadership Die determined randomly but influenced heavily by the army he belongs to (for example, French Leaders in 1805 will, on average, be much better ( have higher Leadership Die types) than Austrian ones, but by 1813 the difference is much less pronounced). When a MOVE card is turned, ALL the Command Group leaders on that side roll their Leadership die against D6 (six sided die) rolls by their opponent. If the Leadership die roll is a “1”, then units of that command group may NOT move on that card. Otherwise, ALL the units in the Command Group will get 1, 2,, or 3 segments of movement depending upon how they scored against the D6 roll. A segment is 8” for Infantry and Foot Artillery, 12” for Cavalry and Horse Artillery. On “Even” Leadership Die rolls, special things are allowed, such as changing facing or formation, resolving melees immediately for attack columns, and cavalry, and so on.

Fire Combat: Infantry and Artillery units may “fire” (asses the effects of fire combat up to that point) at any time, but once they do so, they are marked with a “puff of smoke”, and may not do so again until the appropriate kind of Firepower card is turned by their side, at which point smoke markers are removed. Each unit has a Combat Die type ranging from a D8 to a D12+1, and a Defense Die type ranging from a D4 to D10. Higher die types are better. To resolve fire combat, the unit modifies its Combat die type up or down (hierarchy: D4 – D6 – D8 – D10 – D12 – D12+1 – D12 +2, etc) based upon a limited number of straightforward modifiers for range, formation, etc., and compares their die roll to the opponent's Defense Die roll. If the Combat die roll is higher, for every 3 pips of difference, the target loses a unit integrity. Infantry start with 4 Unit Integrity (UI), Cavalry 3, and Artillery only 2. When a unit reaches zero UI, it routs; if it reaches -1, it is removed from play entirely.
Close Combat: A similar procedure is used to resolve Melee in Field of Battle, but this time only the opposing Combat Die types are used, and both sides modify their die type by a similarly short, straightforward table of modifiers. There are some special provisions for victorious Cavalry and defeated artillery.
Morale: There are no “morale checks” in the traditional sense in Field of Battle (exception – the optional “Resolve” card, which I have yet to ever use in a game), but when combat inflicts damage upon a unit, and the Combat Die roll doing so is “Even”, the enemy generally suffers additional effects, ranging from going Out of Command (like “shaken”), retreating, or routing outright. This greatly speeds up play. At the same time, each army starts the game with a limited number of Morale Points, averaging about one per unit. Each time a unit takes hits, one Morale Point is surrendered for each Unit Integrity lost. When an army reaches zero Morale Points, it is subject to the Army Morale Card. If/when it is turned by an army with zero Morale Points, the army's  Commander-in-Chief roll his Leadership die against a D12, and if the Commander testing loses the die roll, bad things will happen, ranging from one Command Group pulling back and going Out of Command, to the battle ending in a retreat by the entire army right then and there.


Hofkreigsrat House Rules for FoB Napoleonics, 1st ed.

As much as I enjoy Field of Battle, like most other Napoleonic wargamers, I have my own biases when it come to Napoleonic Warfare on the tabletop. The following are some very minor adjustments that I make to the game in order to more closely reflect my own tastes. Feel free to use some, none, or all of them in your own games.

Infantry not in Square versus Cavalry: As a general rule, cavalry attacking infantry in good order frontally will usually be defeated, especially if the infantry is “loaded”. That is as it should be, but I feel that for the Napoleonic era, cavalry is still a bit weak when compared to the infantry. Therefore, we give infantry not in Square fighting Cavalry a Down 2 modifier. Other formation modifiers still apply, particularly the Up 1 for Infantry in Attack Column. 2nd edition note: the second edition has improved the average CD ratings for most Cavalry, and several other rules modifications that may change the effectiveness of Cavalry in the game, so this modifier may need to be re-examined for 2nd edition games!

Foot Artillery Mobility: We allow Foot Artillery to perform one action per MOVE segment, regardless of whether the LD roll is even or odd, and in exactly the same fashion Horse Artillery can perform two actions per MOVE segment. The introduction of militarized drivers during the Napoleonic era greatly improved the mobility of field artillery when compared to, say, the 7 Years War.

Artillery Combat Die Ratings: Considering the lack of bounce through fire, as well as the negative modifiers for Artillery in Melee (which includes last minute defense of Battery fire), we feel that artillery are a bit underpowered as per standard Field of Battle ratings. We therefore rate all Napoleonic artillery UP 1 for CD from the values listed in the main rules. 2nd edition note: The ratings for units have been altered so this may also need re-evaluation for 2nd edition games.

Leader Casualties: We find the loss of leaders on a D12 roll of “1” to happen rather too frequently for our tastes; loss of leaders slows the game down considerably. Therefore, we roll a D20 for Leader casualties instead of a D12.

Corps Command: Where present, Corps Commanders may re-roll any ONE Leadership die roll (even a “1”) of his subordinates (using his own LD type) on each MOVE or MOVE ONE COMMAND card; the new roll, even if worse, stands. This does not subject the Corps commander to a Survival Test.

                 FIELD OF BATTLE, SECOND EDITION                  

AUTHOR: Brent Oman
RELEASE DATE:  September 2011 (hurrah!)

Changes introduced by the Second Edition include:


  1. Leadership Die Rolls: Now only WINNING even LD rolls allow “fancy Business”, but all units may initiate melee on a winning Even LD roll, not just attack columns.
  2. March Column: Units that BEGIN THE GAME (or enter the table as reinforcements) in March Formation may deploy at any time using a MOVE segment for the change; thereafter normal deployment rules apply. (I originated this and have been using it for years - necessary, especially for any scenarios where there are reinforcements marching onto the table!)
  3. Limbered Artillery: Similarly, artillery units that BEGIN the game (or enter the table as reinforcements) may unlimber at any time using a MOVE segment for the change; thereafter normal deployment rules apply.
  4. Skirmishers: ignore terrain penalties for Class II and II Terrain on an winning EVEN LD roll.
  5. Players with multiple command groups must choose which group to roll for first, then move that group. Then chose the next, and roll for an move that group, Then the next, and so forth. You may not roll for all your groups and then decide who to move and in what order!
  6. Leaders: Army Commanders may now ONLY move on a LEADERSHIP card, and only a single (16”)segment. Command group leaders move with their commands, and as many segments as their command rolls, as well as up to 16” on each LEADERSHIP card.
  7. Rout Movement: is now 8” + D6 for infantry and 12” + D6 for Cavalry (less variable than previously)
  8. New rules/clarifications are added for moving into and out of town sections, and across rivers, fords and bridges. (I think these are very helpful)

The variability/overlap between ratings has been reduced somewhat – in other words, it is more likely that RAW and RABBLE units (D4 defense die types) will have CD's of 8, and less likely for them to have higher CD's than prior, and conversely fewer if any CRACK and ELITE units will have CD od 8, and more will have CD of D12+1 than in FoB1. Cavalry have moved up about a die type for CD on average, and Heavy Artillery have moved up somewhat on average, too.


are unchanged, however a semantic change in Sequence deck quality is introduced, now ranging from Abysmal to Poor to Average to Skilled to Excellent (instead of Superior to Excellent). Sequence deck compositions are unchanged.

No significant changes.

  1. Procedure: Melees now only end when at least one side suffers 1 UI loss; if this doesn't happen in a given roll, any effects (Out of Command for units that roll Odd) are imposed immediately, but units remain in contact, hits are *CARRIED OVER*, and another round fought immediately. This continues until at least one side suffers 3 hits or more total(1 UI or more), at which point the melee is over and the loser retreats a distance equal to the total hits suffered in all rounds fought. (this should make Melee more decisive)
  2. Modifiers: a) The UP 1 for Initiating melee applies only on the first round if initiating melee on an Even LD die roll, but for all rounds when initiating on the MELEE card. b) The unit with a higher Defense Die Type gets an UP 1. c) Units that are Outnumbered (engaged by 2 enemy units) get a DOWN 1 modifier, plus there is a new procedure for resolving 2:1 melees.
  3. Results: Units that suffer 2 or more UI in a single round will ROUT; units that lose 2UI or more in a single round vs. Cavalry that rolled EVEN are destroyed.
  4. Pursuit: Victorious cavalry and Natives that roll Odd in their final round lose 1 UI as pursuers; no actual pursuit move is made, and the UI may be regained. There is no Morale point cost for this Pursuit UI loss; however, if this reduces the victorious unit to zero UI it is removed from the game (rather than routing). (I like this change, as I tend to dislike Pursuit rules in general)
  5. Routed units that are contacted by the enemy are destroyed outright, but no additional Morale Points are lost for this.
  6. New rules are added for Cavalry evading from melee against infantry and artillery, and Limbered Artillery and Skirmishers evading from melee. In all cases this occurs AFTER the first round of melee (if they survive without Routing).
  7. Squares in Melee: have a new procedure, but the cavalry vs infantry in square modifier is eliminated (I personally question if this was intentional or an oversight!) (Update 6/4/11 - Brent sent me the final drat, and the modifier is in there is a slightly different form.) Squares may only be engaged in melee on a Melee card, not on an Even winning LD roll.
RALLYING: the procedure is unchanged, but modifiers have changed slightly; the test is now DOWN 2 for Routers at zero UI, but only Down 1 for Routers with 1 or more UI remaining. The TACTICAL ADVANTAGE Card also may now be used to modify the roll.

  1. New rules (harsher penalties) are imposed for armies whose C-in-C has been lost and not yet replaced.
  2. New Army Morale test results – now, if your C-in-C fails the roll, game over; your army retires from the field! If your C-in-C has been lost, the army automatically fails the roll. (I like this change; for large Multiplayer games Morale Points may be tracked and the Morale test taken on a Corps by Corps basis)

MELEE! CARD: This card now allows units within HALF a move segment of the enemy to move into contact with the enemy and resolve melee immediately. There are restrictions: Target must be in line of sight, move must be straight without change of facing (incline move is allowed), and no interpenetration of friendly units is allowed. Additionally, the ½ move to contact may NOT be used across rivers (and presumably streams), fords, or bridges. (I absolutely adore this change; we tested it in two games at Historicon 2010, and I liked it so much I've played with this rule ever since. It speeds up the game, and now the appearance of the  MELEE card is often a big deal, as opposed to fairly ho-hum previously).

TACTICAL ADVANTAGE CARD: May now be used to modify any ONE roll other than an Army Morale check/ (Question: does this include the LD vs LD roll for Initiative?; one would think not but it appears to be allowed by the above). (I like this change, too - it puts a bit more usefulness in this otherwise fairly bland card).

POINTS SYSTEM: a decidedly optional points system is included in FoB2. Points range from a low of 34.4 for a Rabble Light Artillery battery to 127 for an Elite Heavy Cavalry unit; a standard Regular Infantry unit is 60.6. (Myself I'd probably divide these by 5, rounding up/down for a little easier math (to me at least) – that would make the Rabble Light Artillery 7 points, the Regular infantry 12, and the Guard Heavy Cavalry 25. Actually, I probably wouldn't use it at all, but still it can be useful to have for those who like them, and when trying to assess a scenario for balance.)

RANDOM SCENARIO GENERATION: FoB2 includes a system for this; I have no further information about this, but would note that Brent has already done scenario generation in great depth for Theater of War and also Command Piquet previously; I would expect the system to be similar to those, but I could be completely wrong there!


So, there you have it. If you haven't already tried Field of Battle, I would urge you to do so. If you're already a fan of these rules, the second edition introduces many worthwhile refinements but little in the way of radical changes. As the first edition already works very well as written, I think that's a good thing!

**UPDATE April 2012**
I've added a new scenario, with a detailed, annotated battle report illustrating the working of these rules in considerable detail: The First battle of Polotosk.

Good gaming,



  1. Hi Peter

    Thanks for that some interesting tweaks to already solid system.


  2. March Column: Units that BEGIN THE GAME (or enter the table as reinforcements) in March Formation may deploy at any time using a MOVE segment for the change; thereafter normal deployment rules apply. (I originated this and have been using it for years - necessary, especially for any scenarios where there are reinforcements marching onto the table!)

    This was a necessary change. We played a Saratoga game where a third of the British came on in March Column. Their commander chose to keep them in column, but I pulled two triple Moves in a row and surrounded his march columns with American line infantry.

    He was pinned against the corner of the table. He never rolled another EVEN Move roll and was unable to deploy out of column. My patriots just poured fire into the columns until they were wiped out.

    Dave M

  3. Gary,

    Glad you found it helpful!


    Yes, exactly. Many historical scenarios will have troops arriving in this fashion, and obviously no commander would intentionaly advance into combat range without deploying... although it is still possible to catch them in March column if your opponent has good cards and rolls, at least you aren't *forced* to remain in March Column any longer than you want to otherwise due to lack of Even LD rolls.

  4. Thanks, Peter. Looking forward to FoB2.

    I, too, have been subject to the columns moving onto the table getting caught by really good move cards...although, as I recall, this change wouldn't have made any difference for us. Cavalry with three triple moves before the opponent gets a move, what are you gonna do?

  5. Andy,

    At least with the rule change you have the choice to deploy and when for units entering from off the table. You're correct that a hot LD roll resulting in a "triple magic move", especially by a Cavalry command can still put you at risk. Still, you'll at least have the option to deploy some or all units at the first opportunity. The other thing about those grand charges is that they look great at first, but often the cavalry badly out distances their supports, and after an initial dramatic sucess or two, often wind up losing more than they gained as the game evolves.

    Barry and I will pretty much use FoB2 at Historicon this year. Not sure about Tim. See you there in a little over a month!