19th Century Rules

19th Century European Wargaming Rules

These rules are geared towards 1866-1870 European warfare. The inspiration for the rules comes from the books “One-Hour Wargames” and “Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe 1815-1878” both by Neil Thomas.

I use the rules to play imagi-nations games on a 6' x 4' tabletop.
You will require a measure and approximately 5 standard dice (D6) and a handful of matchsticks are used to track unit hits.
Unit types used:

  • Infantry
  • Skirmishers
  • Dragoons
  • Cavalry
  • Artillery
  • Commander
All units are based on two bases, with the exception of the commander who is based on one stand.

The positioning of bases represents the formation of the unit.

The base size do not really matter providing they are consistent. The photos show miniatures on 3" x 3" bases and 2" x 3" bases.
Artillery limbered and on the move 
Artillery unlimbered ready to shoot 
Cavalry column
Cavalry in line ready to charge
Skirmishers on the move
Skirmish line ready to shoot 
Dragoons in line to shoot or charge

Sequence of play

Each complete turn has 5 phases which are performed in sequence:

  1. Formation Changes
  2. Movement
  3. Shooting
  4. Charges
  5. Army Resolve

Before commencing a turn phase each player rolls 1D6 and the highest scoring player performs their actions for the phase before the other player performs theirs. 

This approach continues at the start of each turn phase until the Army Resolve phase, when both players determine their armies resolve.

Formation Changes

Before commencing the phase both players roll 1D6 the highest scoring player may change unit formations first, followed by the loser. Re-roll any ties.

Units changing formation or turning can still perform a move, shoot or charge if the formations allows. 

Units changing formation reposition one of the bases next to or behind the other base.

Units that are turning to face the enemy or to move in a different direction pivot on a central point.

Infantry in column
Infantry change formation to line
An infantry unit has its flank threatened 
The infantry unit pivots to turn and face the oncoming threat


Before commencing any movement both players roll one dice (1D6) with the highest scoring player performing their phase actions first, followed by the loser. Re-roll any ties.

Units that move during this phase may not shoot or charge.

Units are allowed to move only if they are in column formation.

Units move forward in a straight-line at a 45 degree angle from their frontal facing. All movement must be in a straight-line unless starting and finishing movement on a road.

Movement allowances are:
  • Cavalry 12”
  • Skirmishers 9”
  • Infantry 6”
  • Artillery 6”
Movement must cease once within 6” of an enemy unit, unless they are moving directly towards an enemy unit with the intent to engage them in combat (shooting or a charge).

An infantry column prepares to move
Infantry moves 6" straight ahead.


Both players roll 1D6 the highest scoring player may shoot with their units first, followed by the loser. Re-roll any ties. 

Units may not engage in shooting if they have moved.

All D6 rolls hit on a 4+ and have a 45 degree field of fire. Unless they are infantry of any type occupying a town, then they have a 360 degree field of fire.

When shooting units must target the closest enemy unit. This rule does not apply to artillery when there are no units within 12" range.

Artillery may shoot over units.

To shoot skirmishers and dragoons must be deployed in line formation. Infantry can shoot when deployed in line or column formation, but when shooting in column they are less effective.
  • Artillery -  when shooting roll 2D6 and have a shooting range of 36” with a 45 degree angle of their front facing side. If on a hill artillery can re-roll any failed to hit rolls.
  • Infantry - when shooting roll 3D6 when in line formation and 2D6 when in column formation. They have a range of 12” on a 45 degree angle of their front facing side.
  • Skirmishers and Dragoons - when shooting roll 2D6 and have a range of 12” on a 45 degree angle of their front facing side.
  • Cavalry - cannot shoot.
The number of D6 rolled are reduced by 1D6 if the target is in cover.
An infantry unit shoots in line formation using 3D6. Rolling 3, 6 and 4 equals 2 hits.
2 hits tokens (matchsticks) are placed


Both players roll 1D6 the highest scoring player may charge their units first, followed by the loser. Re-roll any ties. 

Only cavalry and infantry in column can charge. All D6 rolls hit on a 4+.

Units may only charge is they have not performed any shooting or movement actions.
  • Cavalry - must be deployed in line to charge. They charge 12” on an angle of 45 degrees from their front facing side into contact. They roll 2D6.
  • Infantry - must be deployed in column to charge. They charge 6” on an angle of 45 degrees from their front facing side into contact. They roll 2D6.
The number of D6 are increased by 2D6 for any of the following:
  • Target is a skirmisher
  • Target is a artillery
  • Target in the rear or flank.
If the charged unit is not destroyed, then the charger (attacking unit) must retire 6”.
The artillery unit is in range of cavalry. It will roll 6D6 because it attacking artillery (+2D6) and flank  (+2D6)

Army Resolve

Army resolve reflects the overall army moral, condition and fighting ability. An army begins the game with 1 resolve point for every 3 units it has available to field. (Round down any fractions.)

At the end of a turn both players add 1 for each key terrain feature they occupied. These are agreed at the start of the game. All bridges, fords and towns generally are treated as key terrain features.

Both players will lose 1 point if any of their units are eliminated during a turn, but only 1 resolve point is lost even if an army has 2 units eliminated.

An army is defeated once their army resolve is zero.


Terrain effects units in the following way:
  • Woods - only Skirmisher units can enter and get cover
  • Towns - only Infantry and Skirmishers may end their move in a town, only one unit may occupy a town. Units in a town get cover.
  • Marsh/Lakes - impassable to all units.
  • Rivers - impassable except at bridge/ford.
  • Roads - All units move an additional 6”.
  • Hills - Artillery can re-roll failed to hit D6 rolls.
  • 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. They get a cover and must remain static in the game.


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


Both armies have one commander representing the command structure. 

Once during a game a player may use their command structure to remove up to 6 hits from any units with 12” of the command figure. 

To remove a hit, or hits, from a unit they must have more than 3 hits accumulated and a unit cannot have hits removed below a minimum of 3 hits.

Once this rule is applied remove the commander miniature.

Commanders move 12” and never shoot. If an enemy unit comes within 6” they must retire to be further away than 6".

Optional - poor commanders only remove hits from units with 6" and good commanders remove hits from units within 18".
A commander is reorganising nearby units 
6 hits are removed from units within 12"

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.

Optional rules 

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

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