Source for comparison of Generals?

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ffoulk
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Source for comparison of Generals?

Post by ffoulk » Sun Apr 14, 2013 10:48 pm

Anyone got a recommended source for the comparitive quality of Napoleonic commanders - especially Divisional?

Not particularly fussed whether they're FoG rankings so long as they show comparitive abilities... I seem to make most of my Divisional Commanders 'skilled' and those I don't are probably because of a half-rememberd feeling I got from some book or other I read years back. :?

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Re: Source for comparison of Generals?

Post by MikeHorah » Sat Feb 08, 2014 12:55 pm

I missed this way back so sorry for the very late reply. I have not found anything that does what you ask.

You can get books that look at Marshals and equivalent of course . One snag is that Marshals or Corps Commanders were also divisional commanders at some point and may have been better at the lower level than they were at the more senior one.I have got a book on French Cavalry commanders ( bought s a remainder so I guess out of print) but there is this you can google "The Top Twenty French Cavalry Commanders of the Napoleonic Wars" By Terry J. Senior. The "Napoleon series" which this comes from may have more of this kind of thing.


I did have a go a table, just for 1809- 1812 - as a guide to put in the rules and lists (and for a bit of fun) attempting to classify generals as you suggest. But there are so many at Divisional level over the period you end up classifying 80% of them as competent simply because you can find out nothing about them. Frankly it was a bogus effort of no validity!

And of course any wargames classification is an artificial construct depending on which aspects of generalship we are bothering to model , whereas historians look at the whole man. So for example a commander ( eg Davout) note worthy for ensuring his men were well equipped and properly rationed or the horses properly fed watered rested and groomed and that tackle was well looked after seldom gets considered in our terms. Another is whether they were notable for writing manoeuvre regulations such as Ney - one could argue he was better as Divisional commander than as a corps commander. ( certainty not as a C-in-C where he was dire)

In FOG(N) we combine leadership as for Cohesion tests morale etc and command capacity as in CPs. In many ways the latter is more important in our rules. So what one is measuring there is essentially the professionalism of that commander (and his staff) for which length of service and experience at that level is not a bad proxy. At the Corps level Napoleon always argued it was about the ability to master grand tactics but as he considered Lannes died before he had mastered them he may not have mean the same by that term as others did since most would think of Lannes as one of the best.

All I can offer is to research those you think do rate as skilled or exceptional to see if there is evidence on the web and elsewhere to satisfy yourself that they were- if you want to be able to relate your figures to named generals . On the French side Davout's three Divisional Commanders for his Corps for much of the time - Friant Gudin and Morand - are pretty well agreed to have been top of the tree. I tend to think that individual named Prussian Commanders in 1815 were much improved on 1813.

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Re: Source for comparison of Generals?

Post by Amra » Sat Aug 02, 2014 9:14 am

The easiest way IMHO I think would be to get a copy of "Napoleons Battles" rules , all your work is done for you !

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Re: Source for comparison of Generals?

Post by Saxonian » Sun Aug 17, 2014 10:41 am

Just saw this myself!

The other possibility is to look at the Empire rules system - way too detailed as rules (don't think I ever played a game to any real conclusion :roll: ) - but they do have a pretty comprehensive list of corps and army commanders, rated on five levels for skill and four levels for inspirational effect. Has virtually nothing for the divisional commanders though.

But as was said above, any list will be pretty subjective. And some commanders really should be given different ratings depending on the campaign.

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Re: Source for comparison of Generals?

Post by hazelbark » Mon Aug 18, 2014 3:27 pm

Not just depending on campaign, depending on the day.

Also there are some tough calls. Consider Marshal Ney. You could rate him often as Exceptional because in the heat of battle he was often finding every available troop and getting them into the fight. And his several tenacious retreats he clearly maneuvered and rallied troops. Potentially Charismatic at that.

Remember the ratings are really battlefield, not operational.

But I like to have names for all my commanders.

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Re: Source for comparison of Generals?

Post by MDH » Mon Aug 18, 2014 4:55 pm

hazelbark wrote:Not just depending on campaign, depending on the day.

Also there are some tough calls. Consider Marshal Ney. You could rate him often as Exceptional because in the heat of battle he was often finding every available troop and getting them into the fight. And his several tenacious retreats he clearly maneuvered and rallied troops. Potentially Charismatic at that.

Remember the ratings are really battlefield, not operational.

But I like to have names for all my commanders.

Good point re Ney and operational versus battlefield (or Grand tactical )Napoleon said something like... no better man at the head of 20,000 men on a battle field but once troops were out of his sight....

That said as the player we are supposed to be the one who has the grand tactical sensibility and skill. You can label a figure "Napoleon" and hence Exceptional and Charismatic, but that will not stop you making a complete mess of things in your own right :roll: And the reverse of course. :lol:

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Re: Source for comparison of Generals?

Post by ravenflight » Mon Aug 18, 2014 10:11 pm

hazelbark wrote:Also there are some tough calls. Consider Marshal Ney. You could rate him often as Exceptional because in the heat of battle he was often finding every available troop and getting them into the fight. And his several tenacious retreats he clearly maneuvered and rallied troops. Potentially Charismatic at that.
I'd defintely put Ney as Charismatic... but the thing we have to remember is that the exceptional ability of our Generals is in our hands. Ney has been (deservedly) denigrated because of his pointless cavalry charges at Waterloo, but don't we all have the capacity on the battlefield to do the same thing (or not)?

His ratings are his chances of getting troops to do things. It's up to us as players to put the strategic and tactcical genius into play which wins us the games.

So 'our' Ney can charge into formed British squares with futility... or angle our guns to take advantage of the massed targets.

I'm reminded (given the discussion above) of the two ratings of Tsar Alexander by both Empire (Poor I think) and Napoleon's Battles (Exceptional I think). When I first started with Napoleon's Battles I thought 'when did Alexander do anything exceptional', and then someone pointed out to me... nobody is going to get Russian troops of this period to do something better than the Tsar of Russia. NOBODY. He had a reduced command span because he didn't have the smarts, but if he told those troops to do something... they were doing it as well as French troops listening to Massena or Davout. It was up to us as players to provide the missing genius to make the troops to the right thing.

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Re: Source for comparison of Generals?

Post by Saxonian » Wed Oct 08, 2014 1:18 am

Been thinking about this a bit recently, and the number of command points a general has is really a quite abstract way of representing his skill level.
Realistically, it would represent a combination of skill, situational awareness (from efficient and accurate reports), and the effectiveness of the general's staff (in transmitting and executing his orders).

One thought I have had is that perhaps there could be two levels of morale effect for commanders - i.e. charismatic and inspirational.
Some leaders, such as Ney, Napoleon, Lannes, Alexander, Archduke Charles, Blucher et al aroused real feelings of devotion from their troops, hence a charismatic rating.
Others such as Wellington, Picton, Davout, and any number of others were able to affect their troops' performance by their near proximity, but not to the same extent.
Perhaps allow those commanders designated as 'inspirational' to allow a unit to which they are attached to re-roll one dice as one elan level higher for CT's, or something similar. Not as an official rule change, but as a scenario based thing.

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Re: Source for comparison of Generals?

Post by MDH » Wed Oct 08, 2014 8:27 am

Saxonian wrote:Been thinking about this a bit recently, and the number of command points a general has is really a quite abstract way of representing his skill level.
Realistically, it would represent a combination of skill, situational awareness (from efficient and accurate reports), and the effectiveness of the general's staff (in transmitting and executing his orders).

One thought I have had is that perhaps there could be two levels of morale effect for commanders - i.e. charismatic and inspirational.
Some leaders, such as Ney, Napoleon, Lannes, Alexander, Archduke Charles, Blucher et al aroused real feelings of devotion from their troops, hence a charismatic rating.
Others such as Wellington, Picton, Davout, and any number of others were able to affect their troops' performance by their near proximity, but not to the same extent.
Perhaps allow those commanders designated as 'inspirational' to allow a unit to which they are attached to re-roll one dice as one elan level higher for CT's, or something similar. Not as an official rule change, but as a scenario based thing.

How you model the characteristics and personalities of specific generals depends to a considerable extent on the level of command. Which of them you emphasise and which you don't is variable. John Keegan's the Mask of Command is worth a read on this. And sometimes leadership is best demonstrated before a battle - compare Monty spending a lot of time before Alamein with the troops to boost their confidence with Rommel getting up into the front line. Both approaches had their merits. Monty however did not want to end up " in the bag" like a previous British commander had done in North Africa :lol:

Scenario based is probably right for the sort of variations you want especially as generals developed over time. Although not always improving cf my ( much laboured :roll: ) point on Ney once he got beyond Corps level and demonstrated the " Peter " principle. Others were much better when at the more senior levels eg the elder Moltke. And by 1870 the impact of the staff officers attached to Prussian Corps and Army commanders ( who were of pretty variable quality) was considerable sometimes crucial.

Certainly the kind of personality and leadership that will get soldiers out of the trench or stand when under fire exists from subaltern all the way to the top but the ability to stretch that leadership beyond a small group or cascade it down though the other commanders ( the Nelson touch) is much rarer and requires time and a track record for a commander to establish with an army or fleet. A "little touch of Harry in the night " is not that common- but see Monty . But then if Lee had not been so inspirational the tragedy ( for the ANV) of Pickett's charge might have been avoidable.

Most commanders in this era were average to poor if only because there were so many needed that just being able to receive and transmit orders correctly and successfully might single one out as above average compared with the rest. In aristocratic or class based armies ( including the British) there were a lot of bad generals. Wellington had a devil of a time trying to weed out or render harmless the ones sent to him in Spain by Horse Guards based on seniority.

One way indirectly to model this "swamp" of poor commanders in big armies is to increase the minimum divisional size as we have done for 1792-95 French and another to limit the availability of the higher quality ones in many lists as we have also done. But is only a nod in that direction and to go much further could unbalance it as a game.

We also model initiative levels don't forget as distinct from commanders which is also a measure of overall command and staff competence.

The ability to take the initiative on the battle field itself is probably not a quality we need to model as wargamers seem only too inclined in multi player games to do their own thing regardless of the agreed plan or " orders" . Finding some who can stick to the plan is much rarer :lol:

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Re: Source for comparison of Generals?

Post by viperofmilan » Wed Oct 08, 2014 5:21 pm

The effect of Corps Commanders on initiative rolls needs some tweaking IMHO. As it now stands, an exceptional Corps Commander invariably wins initiative and must attack. This arguably correctly reflects a Napoleon in charge; but what about a Messina? Or a Davout? Or a Wellington? We think better quality leaders ought to have a little more flexibility to reflect those occasions when they wish to assume the tactical defensive rather than launch an all-out assault. One idea that we have been playing around with in our local group is to allow Corps Commanders to add or subtract their bonus to the initiative roll. For instance. an exceptional CC can add 3 or subtract 2 from the initiative roll. A skilled CC can add 2 or subtract 1. A competent CC can only add 1. Obviously, the player must choose whether he is adding or subtracting before the initiative roll actually is made.

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Re: Source for comparison of Generals?

Post by hazelbark » Wed Oct 08, 2014 6:37 pm

I would never choose to be a defender even with a defensive posture.

having control of the initiative for the first two turns is powerful. Potentially too much so.

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Re: Source for comparison of Generals?

Post by Blathergut » Wed Oct 08, 2014 11:42 pm

Likewise...would never choose to be the defender.

We've been using the rule that unless the attacker rolls a +3 or greater advantage, the defender may move starting with the first turn.

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Re: Source for comparison of Generals?

Post by MDH » Thu Oct 09, 2014 8:12 am

Blathergut wrote:Likewise...would never choose to be the defender.

We've been using the rule that unless the attacker rolls a +3 or greater advantage, the defender may move starting with the first turn.
These days it is the invariable option for me! Playing mostly 1790's with my regular opponent as French I rarely have the chance to be the attacker. Fortunately he is a cautious man!

What we were trying to do - game design apart- was to avoid the joint encounter- both sides attacking at the same time in the same place - scenario which was not that common .If you regard a Corps level game as a part of a larger battle going on off both or other sides of the table then it reflects the often observed nature of battles as comprising a series of " acts" with one sector at any particular stage being characterised as attacker-defender, others perhaps quieter ( hold - hold) others mixed ( probe-defend) etc. Turn based games are of course harder to design with this is mind and the FoG(N) approach is but one way of trying to do that and which at least suits the short game by having a potential 16" space between the two forces. Of course if you stretch the table width to 6 feet instead of 5 (28mm) or 5 feet instead of 4( 15mm) that gives the defender a bit more room to manoeuvre within the initial set up area, and to move laterally . The rules mechanisms as such do not depend on standard table sizes to work -while competitions do . For any friendly I say do what works for you and produces a better game .

In my games I regularly find that after the first two turns I am free to counter attack - but with unreformed armies that is not easy :roll: I am getting pretty used now to counter attacking with unreformed armies.

For multi Corps games that are not based on a historical battle it would be quite valid to divide the table into sectors, then determine which side's Corps(s) in each sector has the initiative and give them different deployment zones and activation criteria.

Terry and I did a similar thing for a big 3 a-side FOG(AM) game with each 4 foot sector doing its own initiative D rolls. If one side had won only 1 out of 3 sectors its units in that sector were given a free move after deployment having set down second in that sector , then the overall losing side as normal moved first etc.

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Re: Source for comparison of Generals?

Post by viperofmilan » Thu Oct 09, 2014 4:29 pm

hazelbark wrote:I would never choose to be a defender even with a defensive posture.

having control of the initiative for the first two turns is powerful. Potentially too much so.
Maybe Dan, and on the whole you know I agree. But try attacking with a Spring 1813 French army against anything with more than a max of 2 small average (at best) LC units and 5 mandatory small units of conscript foot (2 of which are poor), and no possible guard. A very tall order, and a situation in which you might well want to defend.

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