Guidelines for Historical Scenarios using Shako

As I start looking at writing more historical scenarios for Shako I thought I’d compile some guidelines for Scenario design. Mostly these are based on the Shako rules or suggestions in Fields of Glory.

An appropriate size of battle

Not all historical actions will suit being played with Shako. Some will be too big, some too small, and some just so one sided they might not make a balanced scenario (it is a game after all).

The introduction to Shako says it is for battles up to 40,000 men, and Fields of Glory gives each side a Corps (roughly). The basic units are infantry battalions and cavalry regiments. The Orders of Battle in the rules are for a Corps of 3-4 strong divisions, about 30 units in total, and equating to about 26,000 men. Looking at the orbats the implication is that 26 infantry battalions, 4 cavalry regiments, and 4 artillery batteries is about the smallest size the game is intended for, however, some people do play with half these numbers, and much larger is also possible. Fields of Glory aims for 20-40 units per side.

You can use Shako to refight battles involving multiple corps, however, you might consider:

  • Making the scenario focus on a significant part of the larger battle. For example Fields of Glory has two such scenarios from each of Austerlitz and Borodino, and one from Waterloo, but in each case makes no attempt to recreate the entire battle.
  • Using the Large Battles option for scenarios .

Scenario Description

The following are provided for each scenario in Fields of Glory:


“Shako scales are flexible approximations” (S1.1 Game Scales, p. 1). Fields of Glory doesn’t have a specific ground scale either. The Fields of Glory maps are drawn, however, such that an infantry battalion in line will have a frontage of 4″ to 6″ on the table in 25mm or roughly 2 2/3″ to 4″ in 15mm.

But this isn’t too much help in drawing scenario maps, at least for getting a starting point. I use 15mm figures with a infantry battalion on the table having a frontage of 90mm (3 x 30mm). Given a real battalion had a frontage of about 90m when in line, this suggests a ground scale of about 1:1,000 (all rather rough these calculations). So 1′ on the table is roughly 300m. The recommended 15mm table size (64″x40″ or 1.6m x 1m) therefore represents an area 1.6 km x 1 km and my 6’x4′ table (1.8m x 1.2m) represents 1.8 km x 1.2 km. In 25mm the ground scale might be 2/3 of this or 1:667 meaning 1′ on the table is roughly 200m.

Fields of Glory recommends representing only the essential characteristics of the battlefield on the map. When you lay this out on the table you can add aesthetic elements, i.e. trees, fences, bushes, small buildings – all with no game effect.

Mark predetermined divisional deployment areas on the map. Ditto for arrival frontages of off table reinforcements.

Order of Battle

The scenario orders of battle should be based on the actual forces available. Units which played no part in the battle can be included or excluded to adjust scenario balance.

Fields of Glory focuses on the game Division, i.e. a independent command of some thousands of men. A game Division might represent a historical regiment, brigade, division or weak corps. Particularly small divisions can be combined. The suggestion is to ignore the actual units within the division and assign numbers of battalions and regiments based on the size of the historical division using a ratio of battalions to men somewhere between 1:600 through to 1:1,000. Cavalry used the infantry ratio or was amended to ensure a realistic and proportional representation. Fields of Glory reduces the artillery ratio to 12-16 real guns to one Shako battery. These ratios are quite high but apparently makes for smaller, more playable, scenarios. This will result in 20-40 units per side. The constituent historical units affect the moral of the division, hence of the game units.

If the top down approach of Fields of Glory doesn’t appeal, then you can look at the constituent units as the starting point. According to the Shako rules one infantry battalion or cavalry regiment represents 400-800 soldiers for a unit on campaign. I couldn’t find it explicitly stated but I believe one artillery model represents 8 guns (this is suggested by the artillery ratios given in the Large Battles optional rules). Based on a glance at the OB in the back of the rule book Shako is intended for battles involving at least 26 infantry battalions, 4 cavalry regiments, and 4 artillery batteries (but they can go up considerably from this).

You can apply “kills” to small but important units at the start of the game. The Morale Rating (MR) dictates the number of kills a full strength unit can take, so normally units can take 2-6 kills. Taking 1 kill off an unreliable unit (MR=2) is effectively 50% loses, whereas it is 25% for a Regular unit (MR=4) and only 17% for Guards (MR=6). Shako also allows Large Units to get an additional kill (S2.3.1 Unit Breakpoint: Large Units (Optional Rule), p. 3).

The Order of Battle must clearly define which troops are Deployed on-table and which are Reserves off-table.

Note: Shako suggests attackers should have 20-25% additional units for a balanced game (S17.3 Victory Conditions/Attackers, p. 34).

Scenario Notes

The Scenario Notes in Fields of Glory make observations on the historical battle, and outline scenario specific rules to reflect this. The notes are divided into sections for French, Allies, and Terrain.

For the French and Allied sections examples include:

  • How Army Guns are deployed.
  • Number of ADCs, if it varies from the norm.
  • Special deployment rules. Examples include option for a division either deploying on/off-table, and facing during deployment if relevant for the scenario.
  • Redoubts are always explained, including, who can deploy in a Redoubt (usually an infantry battalion or an artillery battery, but not both), whether the defenders can move out (they usually can’t), and which sides the Redoubt protects (always the front, but possibly not other sides).
  • Arrival time for off-table reserves, including possibility of randomized arrival or whether they have to be announced before they arrive.
  • Initial orders for specific divisions where these are essential for the scenario. Usually this means the division is under Defend orders, sometimes for the entire game.

Terrain: Examples include whether rivers are fordable (by default) or not and by which troop types, finding hidden river fords, bridges, impassable terrain (e.g. rough ground), plateaux, stone walls, fortified town sectors, weather (specifically rain and/or mud), etc.

Victory Conditions

Shako assumes the scenario will have specific victory conditions. By default use the Army Breakpoint rule (S12.5, p. 24) with a time limit on the attacker. Fields of Glory usually defines victory based on the number of enemy divisions broken relatively to one’s own losses within a time limit. Levels of victory (Glorious Victory, Victory, and Limited Victory) are sometimes specified.

Fields of Glory has one scenario, The Battle of Montmirail (p. 28-29), where victory is awarded on points for capturing terrain (specifically villages). Normal time limit applied.

Game Length

Pick up games in Shako are 15 turns long + 1 turn per Bonus selection taken (S17.3 Victory Conditions/Attackers, p. 34). Fields of Glory assumes 12 turns but gives an optional rule for variable game length which results in games 10-15 turns long (p. V).

Shako Large Battles

Shako also offers a variant for Large Battles (S15.0 Rules for Large Napoleonic Battles, p. 18-30). The basic unit becomes the division, with several corps being on table at the same time.

In the Large Battles option, one stand represents a 600 infantry or 400 cavalry, alternatively an infantry regiment contributes 3 stands and a cavalry regiment contributes 2 stands. Gun models represent 16 weapons.

As a stand (30mm wide) is now roughly a battalion (90m in line) the ground scale now roughly becomes 1:3,000, so my 6’x4′ table represents 5.4 km x 3.6 km.


Conliffe, A. (1995). Shako: Rules and Army Lists for Napoleonic Wargaming. Quantum Printing.

Leach, C. (1997). Fields of Glory: Napoleonic Scenarios for Shako Rules. Quantum Printing.

Chris Leach also provided some clarification on the Shako yahoo group.

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