Well it’s taken a while, but here is the first draft of Tricorn, being my adaptation of Shako Napoleonic rules for the wars of the mid-18th Century.
Tricorn has actually been around since the mid-1990s, when the Wargames Association of South Pembrokeshire (W.A.S.P.) used it to fight the battles resulting from a massive War of Austrian Succession campaign that I organised and umpired. Although we didn’t use it for Napoleonic wargaming, we found Shako (with some modification) to be be ideal for our needs, being sufficiently fast-playing to play a reasonably large 12-turn campaign battle in a single evening and also great for playing large historical refights to a conclusion in a single day. However, while Tricorn existed in our heads, we never actually got around to writing it down! Then, having perhaps having had ‘too much of a good thing’ during the campaign, we moved on to other projects and Tricorn (along with the Seven Years War) was largely forgotten until late in 2020, when I played a Shako 2nd Edition game with my new chum Phil Portway.
That game (in which Phil’s French were absolutely trounced by my frankly rubbish Spanish army; I may have mentioned it before, but I mention it here again in case anyone missed it) set my mind whirring and I was determined to finally set Tricorn down on paper! Of course, a procrastinator’s work is never done, so ‘flash to bang’ has taken 18 months! That said, the time spent thinking about it has enabled us to have several playtests and make several minor (and some major) refinements to the rules.
Although these rules are aimed initially at the Seven Years War, they’re also eminently suitable for the War of Austrian Succession, the War of Polish Succession and the Silesian Wars in the European Theatre. I will expand these to include North America, India, the Turkish Wars and the ’45 Jacobite Rebellion and I’ll also add army lists for pick-up games.
Note that this is not a complete ruleset and you’ll need a set (or at least an understanding) of Shako rules to play Tricorn. These are designed primarily with Shako 1st Edition in mind, though will work perfectly well with 2nd Edition. I’ve cherry-picked a few of the vanishingly-rare elements of 2nd Edition that I liked (e.g. generals’ initiative and divisional morale results), but quite a lot of the rules below are specifically related to removing things that 2nd Edition brought in! 🙂 In the ‘unlikely’ event of a dispute between players, these Quick Reference Sheets (and the conversion notes, which will follow in a future post) take precedence, then the 1st Edition rulebook over 2nd Edition.
Feel free to cut’n’paste these four Quick Reference Sheets. They’re graphics files, so just right-click on them to save them and/or print them off.
In a future post I’ll detail the various rule changes more fully and illustrate some examples of play, but these QRSs should be enough to get experienced Shako players started for now.
Also feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments section below and I’ll answer them as best I can. If there are any amendments to be made, I’ll come back to amend this page, so that the correct version is always in one place on my blog. Amendments will be listed at the bottom and the version number will always be shown for each Quick Reference Sheet (to make things easier for myself, the version number on each QRS will only change if that QRS has been amended, so each QRS might have a different version number).
I’ve added a ‘Tricorn Rules Resources’ button to the list of categories on the right of the page, which will provide a link straight back to here, without having to wade through dozens of other posts relating to scenarios, games, units, etc.
Lastly, my thanks must go to Phil Portway, Andy James, Mike Eynon, Peter Thomas and Lewys Phillips at The Carmarthen Old Guard for the recent play-tests and encouragement, as well as the ‘Old Guard’ at W.A.S.P. for the original concept and playtesting; Gareth Beamish, Jase Evans, Al Broughton, Martin Small, Andy James (again!), Chris Jones, Chris Howells, Rob Wright and Bruce Castle, as well as our much-missed friends Doug Weatherall and Sidney Jones, to whom Tricorn is dedicated.
[Edited to add: These rules are designed for play with 15mm figures. My typical frontages for units are 60mm for an infantry battalion of 12 figures (80mm for a large unit of 16 figures), 75mm for a cavalry regiment of 12 figures (100mm for a large unit of 16 figures) and 40mm for an artillery battery (single gun plus crew).]
[QRS Page 1 (above) edited 1 May 22 to v1.1: Artillery will stagger a target if it equals or exceeds the MR of the target (the same as musketry). This was an error copied over from the original Shako 1st Edition QRS, but we’ve always played it this way and it was actually changed for the 2nd Edition. Thanks to Maurizio for pointing it out.]
[QRS Page 1 edited 16 May 22 to v1.2: Skirmishers hit on a 5 or 6, not 6 as previously written. Thanks again to Maurizio for noticing the error.]
[QRS Page 2 edited 16 May 22 to v1.1: French infantry may now move at Column speed (8 inches) when formed in Ordre Profond, but may only wheel at half speed. The ‘French Stuff’ section on Page 4 has also been amended accordingly.]
[QRS Page 3 edited 16 May 22 to v1.1: Cavalry units providing rear support may not be Blown.]
[QRS Page 4 edited 16 May 22 to v1.1: French infantry may now move at Column speed (8 inches) when formed in Ordre Profond, but may only wheel at half speed. Additionally, two battalions may not form Ordre Profond if one or both are Staggered.]
If you’re familiar with Shako 1st Edition, you might be wondering why I’ve bothered, considering that the rules included a page of Seven Years War rules. Here are a few of my random thoughts, in no particular order:
1. The original ‘SYW Supplement’ included some incorrect assumptions for the period, especially with regard to brigade organisation, which the rules assumed to be the same as a Napoleonic division. This is not correct; brigades were essentially the same as they were in the Napoleonic Wars, being typically 4-6 infantry battalions or 2-4 cavalry regiments strong in most armies and commanded by the equivalent of a Major General. In the 18th Century, divisional-sized bodies of troops were known by various non-standard titles such as Corps, Wing, Division, Line, Column, etc, but they usually amounted to much the same thing as a Napoleonic division, usually being commanded by the equivalent of a Lieutenant General and comprising two or more brigades.
2. To compound the above, the rules went on to state that rear support had to come from troops of a different formation. While that was often the case with regard to brigades, it wasn’t true of higher formations. When deployed for battle, an army would be divided into divisions/corps/wings (typically Centre, Left, Right, Left Cavalry, Right Cavalry and perhaps Reserve, Advance Guard and Rear Guard – these last two often formed largely of light troops), with a general taking command of each sector of the line. These could each then form a number of lines within their own sector and therefore be self-supporting. Formations did occasionally support the rear of other formations (e.g. the Old Dessauer’s Second Line at Mollwitz), but this wasn’t typical.
3. In the original Shako rules. infantry battalions in line formation were far too vulnerable to frontal cavalry attack without forming an unhistorical phalanx of battalion squares, as not only do the cavalry often get better factors than the infantry, the infantry are immediately broken if they lose. Cavalry (especially heavy cavalry) are also a lot more numerous during this period, making it doubly dangerous to be a footslogger when using Shako. Hasty squares were disallowed in the Shako SYW Supplement rules, but squares formed during the player’s movement phase were not. Historically, successful frontal cavalry charges against well-formed lines of infantry were incredibly rare during the period and this is what prompted the need for ‘Solid Lines’. Cavalry can still win against them, but the chances of doing so are massively reduced.
4. Artillery was hopelessly under-ranged in Shako. Time after time when setting up historical scenarios, we’d find that batteries placed in their historical positions were a very long way out of range of the targets they were historically damaging by fire.
5. Manoeuvring in line formation using the original rules was very, very slow, particularly when wheeling. This is what prompted the increase in infantry movement speed and removal of the 50% movement penalty when wheeling. The arbitrary limit of 45 degrees when wheeling in line isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it does stop the ‘nippy small unit wheeling on to a flank’ syndrome without slowing down larger formations and its a mechanism used in other rules systems for the same reason (e.g. Fire & Fury).
6. Infantry movement rates have also been increased (from 4 inches to 6 inches in line) in order to speed things up. Musketry range and rear support distance have also been increased to match (at 15mm scale these were all 4 inches, now they’re all 6 inches) and this also means that you now have just enough room to place two battalions in column on the flanks, between the two lines of an army (standard Prussian practice) and still be able to give rear support with the second line.
7. I was never fan of the single movement rate for all cavalry types. There are arguments for and against having different movement-rates, but I simply like the different cavalry types to have advantages and disadvantages beyond their baseline combat/morale factor. However, you’ll note that unlike the infantry movement, I haven’t massively increased their movement rate and in the case of heavy cavalry it has actually been reduced. Cavalry simply didn’t spend their time galloping around the battlefield at full pelt and most manoeuvres were performed at the walk.
8. The most controversial of all the rule changes was the Cavalry Fatigue rule. This was something we brought in almost immediately with my original group at W.A.S.P., as it was a mechanism we were already familiar with from Napoleon’s Battles and it worked well. However, the lads at Carmarthen Old Guard weren’t convinced… until we played the Lobositz scenario, when the cavalry battle just went on and on and on and on and on… so much so that the infantry lines never got to fight! The Cavalry Fatigue rule represents the cumulative fatigue effects of combat on the horses, as well as the attritional losses, men detached to escort prisoners, etc, etc. It’s clear from reading the writings of cavalry commanders such as Von Warnery, that cavalry once committed to combat, were essentially a one-shot weapon to be husbanded until the critical moment. An infantryman could fight all day if he had to, but horses quickly became blown when too much was asked of them. As an optional rule for campaigns, casualties accrued from cavalry fatigue could be marked separately and restored to the unit after the tactical battle.
9. I brought in flank and rear support bonuses for cavalry in order to encourage players to keep their cavalry in linear formations. Our Lobositz playtest quickly degenerated into a confused and swirling mass of units, with little attempt at formation cohesion. There didn’t seem to be any reason not to bring in this rule and it’s worked well in subsequent games. However, this rule only applies against other cavalry, as it might otherwise make it too easy for cavalry to overcome infantry by cunning use of support modifiers.
10. I’ve allowed rear support bonuses for infantry assaulting towns and fortifications, as these assaults were often conducted in deep, columnar formations formed by successive battalions in line and it therefore seemed appropriate to encourage those tactics.
11. In Shako we often found that occupied towns could simply be bypassed and ignored. Consequently we allow the garrisons of towns to fire as skirmishers (though out to 6 inches rather than the full 8 inches) and this helps to make them more of a thorn in the side of an attacker. However, I’ve reduced town-defender’s firepower against charges on the town, as the amount of fire generated by the defender is simply not going to be anything like the firepower of a battalion volley and it’s also split around the perimeter. I’ve also made a slight change in that the defender has to fire at each attacker individually.
12. Battalion Guns are the aspect we probably agonised over the most. Early playtests demonstrated that large numbers of battalion guns, if classed as regular Light Foot Artillery, could have an enormous (and unhistorical) impact on the game. We initially tried abstracting them into infantry firepower, but that proved unsatisfactory, so they were brought back onto the table as physical gun models, though with reduced firepower when compared to other artillery and their range reduced to reflect their infantry close-support role (and reflecting Frederick’s ‘Instructions’, which dictated that Battalion Guns open fire at no more than 1,000 yards and switch to canister at 500 yards).
13. The French ‘Ordre Profond’ formation was added late in the day and still needs to be playtested. It might prove to be too fiddly and may therefore be relegated to ‘Optional Rules’.
14. I’m still mulling over rules for the Prussian-style attack in ‘Oblique Order’; mainly because no two authors can quite agree on exactly what Frederick’s ‘Oblique Order’ actually was! I was thinking that for that classic ‘advance in echelon’, as seen at Leuthen and Zinna, we could extend the front and rear lines of a unit forward and backward by 2 inches, thus allowing Flank Support to units deployed in that manner. I don’t think that giving ‘Solid Line’ status to such a formation would be appropriate, however.
15. Oh and I only used the term ‘Solid Line’ because I couldn’t think of a better phrase… Please do suggest a better one!
Anyway, enough waffling…
Sorry for the slow output since February! Mrs Fawr has been rather ill and that’s consequently stolen much of my available time and mojo for writing. I have however, been painting like a demon, have written some scenarios and played a couple of games, so there’s plenty to come.