19th Century Rules

19th Century European Wargaming Rules

These wargame rules are geared towards the European warfare in the period 1860-1880. The inspiration for the rules comes from the following books and rules:

  •  “One-Hour Wargames” and “Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe 1815-1878” both authored by Neil Thomas.
  • “The Portable Wargame" authored by Bob Cordery
  • “Waterloo a la Carte!” Napoleonic game from the blog http://flagsofvictory.blogspot.com.au which hosts a number of rulesets/games.
These are fairly standard, and hopefully simple, rules with the following added:
  • Cover does not make any difference to combat. Instead units can sustain a greater number of hits. This does mean committing a unit to defend a wood or building will mean they are unlikely to leave the area they are defending once they start to sustain hits.
  • Movement is variable with units roll the dice each time they want to move.
  • Artillery bombardment is used to disrupt units, making it more likely other attacking units score hits on the disrupted defenders. This makes artillery units supporting attack rather than sitting back and blasting the opposing units at a distance.
  • Once units are committed to a battle formation when engaged in combat. It is easy to deploy units into battle formations, but not so easy for them to move once deployed. You will need reserves nearby to move and exploit openings in the defence.


The following unit types are used. 
  • Infantry
  • Skirmishers
  • Dragoons  
  • Cavalry
  • Artillery
  • Commander
Most units are based on two stands. The exception being the commander which is based on one stand.
The positioning of a unit stand represents the formation of the unit. Units can be either marching (one behind the other) or deployed for battle (side by side).

On the left an infantry unit in march formation and on the right infantry deployed in battle formation
Note - If your units are singly based, just use markers to show marching or deployed.

Sequence of play

Players take turns to activate their units. Once a player has activated all their units, control passes to the other player. This IGOUGO approach continues until the end of the game.

To start the game both players roll 1D6 the highest scoring player may choose to go first of second. Re-roll any ties.

Unit Activation

All units with the exception of a commander can move, attack or charge once per turn. Commanders either move or rally units.


Only units in march formation can move.

The standard unit movement allowances are:
  • Cavalry 12”
  • Skirmishers 9”
  • Infantry 6”
  • Artillery 6”
  • Commanders 9”
When moving a unit roll of 1D6 and adjust:
  • A score of 1 or 2 and 3” is subtracted from the unit’s movement allowance
  • A score of 5 or 6 increased the unit’s movement allowance by 3”.
  • A score of 3 or 4 make no adjustment.
A unit may move up to their adjusted movement allowance, but may never exceed it.

All movement must be in a straight-line unless starting and finishing movement on a road.

Units may turn at the beginning and also at end of their movement.

Movement must cease once a unit comes to 6” of an enemy unit, unless the units is moving directly towards an enemy with the intent to engage them in combat (shooting or charge).

If a unit has been deployed for battle, then they will consume 6” of their movement allowance to change back to a march formation. If there is insufficient movement allowance, then cannot move and remain in battle formation. Units may not change their formation if they are within 6” of an enemy unit.

A skirmish unit roll 5 and is able to move 12" their adjusted movement allowance (9" skirmish movement allowance + 3" for rolling a 5). The measuring still is a 12" piece of square dowel with masking tape applied to show 3" and 6" bands.


Skirmisher, artillery and dragoons units may move through other units.


As soon as a unit beings to shoot, place the units stands side by side in a battle formation. 

Shooting involves rolling a number of D6 depending upon the unit type.
  • Infantry - range 12” roll 3D6
  • Skirmishers - range 12” roll 2D6
  • Dragoons - range 12” roll 2D6
  • Artillery - range 12” roll 2D6 (see bombardment rule)
To shoot units must have line of sight to the target unit. This can be blocked by terrain and other units.

Units can only shoot forward with a 45 degrees field of fire. If a unit has to turn, then reduce the shooting D6 by one.

Shooting must target the closest enemy unit in their field of fire, except for artillery if they are performing a bombardment.

To cause a hit a 4+ is normally required. If the target unit has been disrupted by an artillery bombardment, then a 3+ is required for a hit.

An infantry unit shoots at the closest enemy unit in its field of fire (shown by the measuring sticks). Infantry roll 3D6 requiring 4+ to hit. They score 1 hit.
NoteUnits in this period were able to deploy into attack formation quite quickly, and so units are not penalised for deploying into a battle formation. They are penalised in movement however for reforming into a march formation.

Artillery Bombardment

Artillery rather than directly shooting at a target can choose to soften up a target with an artillery bombardment. A successful bombardment can disrupt a unit and allow other attacking units a greater chance of causing hits.

An artillery bombardment has a range of 36”.

Identify the target unit and roll 2D6 on a 4+ the unit is disrupted. Place a marker next to the disrupted unit to remember.

A unit may only be disrupted once for the turn. Multiple disruption on the same turn make no difference, they still remain 3+ to hit.

Artillery attempt to disrupt an enemy infantry unit to support an attack. They roll a 5 and 1 so are successful as they need a 4+ on either dice to cause disruption. The target unit is marked with smoke to indicate it is disrupted. When attacked hits will now be caused on a 3+ rather than 4+.

Units which are disrupted are in a vulnerable position when shot at or charged. Hits are caused with a 3+ instead of the normal 4+.

At the beginning of a players turn, remove disruption markers.


Only cavalry and dragoons can charge. Cavalry can charge all units and dragoons can only charge skirmishers, artillery and other dragoon units.

Charges may never occur against units in cover.

A charge occurs when a cavalry or dragoon unit is able to move into contact with an enemy unit which they are allowed to charge.

Charges are resolved with simultaneous D6 attacking rolls from both units engaged. Cavalry and Dragoons roll 4D6 with the initial contact As with shooting a score of 4+ is required to cause a hit, or 3+ is a unit is disrupted.

Unless the charging unit or defending unit is eliminated, they remain in contact and will undertake another round of attacks in the next player turn. However, without the charge impetus cavalry and dragoons only roll 1D6.

Where two units are locked in combat, other units may not shoot at them.

A cavalry unit successfully charges a depleted infantry unit which has sustained 4 hits (indicated by green dice). A 1 or 2 rolled would have landed them short of their target with variable movement. They are deployed in battle formation once they touch the target and will roll 4 dice because of the charge momentum. The defending unit will roll 3 dice because charges and melees use simultaneous combat.

Eliminating Units

A hit represents a combination of casualties, exhaustion and disorder caused to a unit by combat. Units are eliminated when they exceed 6 hits.

If a unit is in cover, then they can take another 3 hits before being eliminated. For example, an infantry unit in a town would only be eliminated after exceeding 9 hits.

Note - this approach to cover does mean once a unit has exceeded 6 hits they will not be able to leave cover without being eliminated.

An infantry unit shooting at skirmishers defending buildings rolls another two hits (on the red dice). The skirmisher unit has sustained 8 hits (units in cover can sustain and additional 3 hits over the standard 6 hits) but will be eliminated now as the additional two hits will exceed 9 hits.
Optional Rule - adjust the number of hits based upon unit quality.
  • Poorly trained units = 5 hits
  • Trained units = 6 hits
  • Unit with a high √©lan = 7 hits


Terrain effects units in the following way:
  • Woods - only Skirmisher units can enter and get cover
  • Towns - only Infantry, dragoons and skirmishers may end their move in a town, only one unit may occupy a town. Units in a town get cover and have a 360 degree field of fire.
  • Marsh/Lakes - impassable to all units.
  • Rivers - impassable except at bridge/ford.
  • Roads - All units move an additional 3”.
  • Hills - Artillery line of sight is not blocked by units or rough terrain.
  • Rough Terrain (Fields and Fences) - Provides cover for all infantry, dragoons and skirmishers against shooting only. They do not provide cover if charged.
  • Entrenchments - only infantry and artillery units may use entrenchments and can take an addition 6 hits before being eliminated. However, once placed in an entrenchment they must remain static and entrenched for the game’s duration.


Both armies have one commander. The commander base represents the army’s reserves which can be fed into the battle to bolster struggling units. 

Commanders either move or attempt to rally units within 12” of their position. 

Commanders that have not moved they can attempt to rally up to two units. First select one or two units to be rallied. Allocate the two rally D6 to the units. Roll the D6 and on a score of 3+ the rally is successful remove 1 hit from the unit. If attempting to rally just one unit, two hits can be removed.
Unsuccessful rallies, when a 1 or 2 is rolled, result in the commanded taking 1 hit.

Commanders are removed from play once more than 6 hits are sustained.

Enemy units may attack commanders if they are the closest unit. So be careful where you position your commander. 

A commander attempts two rallies for the infantry unit in battle formation which has sustained 4 hits (indicated by the green hit dice). Both rallies are successful with a 3 and 6 (rolled on the red dice).
Optional - poorly equiped or led armies have commanders who can withstand only 5 hits and well led and provisioned army commander can withstand 7 hits.

Army Resolve

Once all a commanders reserves are used and they are removed from play. All the remaining army units may not move towards enemy units or charge, but my continue to hold ground and shoot.

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