My concept for Revolutionary Wars is a wargame that attempts to model on the tabletop the battles of the late Eighteenth Century and the early Nineteenth Century, roughly the period from the American War of Independence through the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleon’s wars, through to the various wars that followed. As I want to recreate the tactical challenges of the period, the basic unit is the battalion, with a player commanding a division of several brigades, perhaps a dozen battalions.
As I’ve learned more about the period, one of the things that has constantly surprised me is just how flexible and fluid tactics were, even those of supposedly conservative and hide-bound armies. The need for close-order drill and geometric formations has often overshadowed the subtleties and sophistication of the armies of the period.
Likewise, the posturing and rampant nationalism of many histories hide many of the more interesting features of the battlefields of the period. Perhaps the best example of this is the French cavalry charges at Waterloo. English histories tell us both that the charges were futile and stood no chance of success, yet at the same time, that the British Army (usually ignoring their erstwhile allies) barely withstood the onslaught, and that the battle was a ‘close-run thing’. Something is amiss here, as both statements cannot be true.
In Revolutionary Wars, I’ve attempted to dig into the actual events and find accounts from all sides to recreate the tension and challenges of the battles in a deeper way than that presented in popular histories. At the same time, I’ve tried to keep the game easy to learn and play, and fast-paced so that you can finish a good-sized battle in a couple of hours.
The rules are generally quite conventional, harking back to the early days of wargaming in many ways rather than relying on innovative turn structures or clever initiative or command mechanisms. The focus is instead on keeping the sweep of battle flowing quickly so that the commander’s decisions have an immediate impact as they react to the enemy and attempt to control the flow of a rapidly-changing battle.
The important part isn’t the detail of each how each interaction is modelled. Rather, the key is that the outcome of each clash or interaction should match what history tells us, regardless of how the rules get there.