Musings on Arty Conliffe’s Shako

I’ve collected together some interesting Shako I ideas from other people. I’ve reproduced them here mainly so I don’t have to go hunting for them again.

Adjusted Cavalry MRs

I found two related bits about the unrealistic distinctions between Napoleonic Cavalry types.

Brian McCormack from Shako Discussion forum.

What one has to remember is that we can’t get hung up on what a calvary unit was called, but what it did. The real distinction between “battle cavalry” and light was that the battle cavalry hadn’t spent the day before the battle reconning the enemy, etc. They had FRESH horses, which is by far more important than who was wearing boiler plate, etc.

I was one of those who argued for a generic 4 (including French Dragoons), an general heavy 5 (French Currassiers, British Dragoons) and a super heavy (6) — Guard Currassiers au Cheval, Saxon Heavies, British Guard etc. The sixes should be very few and far between. No Austrians would rate a six, and I have my doubts about any Prussian or Russian units, but could probably live with such a few.

Dave Brown in Wargames Illustrated 180 Sept 2002, p. 12-13

Dave argues that Napoleonic cavalry should be divided into only two categories:

  • Elite and/or heavy cavalry capable of shock action (i.e. well trained, riding well rested, large horses)
  • The rest, i.e. lighter more general purpose cavalry including campaign weary heavies.

He entirely does away with the conventional “Medium” wargames cavalry. “If your dragoons are well mounted then they are classed as heavies (such as British Dragoons) but if your dragoons have been out scouting for the last three months and turn up on the battlefield on nags then they are classed as ‘non-heavy’ or general purpose cavalry (such as French dragoon regiments in the Peninsular).” “Good chevauleger regiments like the Polish Chevauleger were actually capable of shock action.”

Dave goes on to note that Shako’s Second Rate cavalry is nearest to his general purpose cavalry.

Canister in Musketry phase

Phil from Shako list …

One thing we came up with that helped is to allow artillery to fire (canister only) in the musketry phase if it did not fire at all in the artillery phase. Voila, an opportunity to prevent enemy troops from closing and its a lot tougher nut to crack from the front.

Generally we let them fire at anything, BUT, we’ve also flipped the range chart a bit. If artillery can fire defensively in the musketry phase (ie after movement) you no longer need an overly long 18″ canister range to get one shot at cavalry before it runs over you. We put the ranges at 0-9″ Canister, 9-27 Normal, 27-36″ Long (similarly for horse/light artillery but shorter), so firing at anything in canister range isn’t as much leeway as there used to be.

Steve Phenow ….

In our games of Shako, artillery fires in both fire phases if it wants. We assume based on the ground scale, that a turn is around 15 min., a Napoleonic battalion engaged would be wrecked and out of ammo after 1 hour, but likely less.

Artillery with three loaded ammo boxes can throw out a lot of shot in an hour. So we allow it to fire ball in its usual phase, and canister, if there is threat to the artillery’s front in the musketry phase. It takes a minute to switch to canister, so it is clearly allowable in the time scale we are representing.

Of course the duration the enemy under goes the canister has a lot to do with casualties inflected, so if the battery fires in both phases it will switch, and lose some effectiveness, hence we add a -1 to the roll.

We also allow the use of double canister. However this has to be prepared, so the battery may
not use ball shot in its fire phase. It fires canister in the small arms phase.
Double canister adds a 1 to the die roll.

We also allow horse batteries to pivot and fire. However they do so at a -1 in the turn they do so.

A natural 6 with positive modifiers allows two kills.

Batteries placed adjacent to a square, corner touching, are never meleed. As long as the square is intact, the guns work. However squares do not do well in infantry attacks, so the guns usually are captured and go to the winner of the field.

Terry Grinner …

Following your lead, I am thinking about allowing artillery to opt to “hold fire” in the Artillery Phase. They could then fire canister at full effect during the musketry phase, but only at units charging the artillery itself. A “Hold fire” order would not prevent the artillery from being able to move during the Maneuver Phase instead of firing. Thus, artillery who got to move first would have the option (using AS) of backing out of enemy charge range or standing and giving the charger a whiff of the grape.

Artillery may fire canister during the Small Arms Phase at a unit making contact with it’s stand. Such fire will be at “-1” if the artillery already fired during the Artillery Phase and at “+1” if it did not fire. Movement during the Movement Phase will negate any fire during the Small Arms Phase. Normal stagger rules will apply.

Infantry and Artillery cooperation

Alan Crowther Prague Czech Republic (Steve Phenow also uses this rule)

To enable artillery to deploy in front of the lines and offer it some protection way not us the Spearhead rule that a support weapon can fire through an other friendly unit .We could adapt this by letting artillery deploy in front of but touching the infantry then in melee the infantry do the fighting and only if they lose would the artillery be eliminated. Also the infantry could still fire but with a minus to let the gunners reach there line. Arty may like this as it is his rules that inspired the thought.

Terry Grinner

You guys may have already hit upon the solution to my problem. Allow an infantry line to support
an artillery battery. The line touches the back of the gun and is the unit meleed if enemy units
attack the gun. The gun may fire in the Artillery Phase and the infantry may fire (@ -1) at
units that charge it and the gun during the Small Arms Phase. If the infantry lose the combat,
the gun is destroyed.
I don’t know how either of you handle this point as it wasn’t mentioned, but I would also say if
the supporting infantry is lined up so that one of it’s flank lines and one of the artillery’s
flank lines are aligned, you count the artillery as flank support for that flank of the
infantry. Then, if the infantry also had flank support on the other flank, it would not have to
attempt Hasty Square. Thus, this infantry/artillery combination could be used on the end of a
defensive line to defend against cavalry. If properly supported, it would also be strong enough
to meet attacking infantry on an equal basis.

Spanish List

Published by Geoff Waldon on the Shako discussion forum.

NB that the numbers in brackets are MR totals.

Infantry 1800-1809 1809-1812 1813-1815
Line infantry 6 7 12
Second rate infantry 17 16 12
Unreliable Infantry* 10 6
Light Infantry+ 5 6 6
(110) (106) (108)
Dragoons 1 1
Hussars/Cazadores 1 1 3
Second Rate Cavalry 2 3 3
Irregular Cavalry 2 2
(21) (24) (21)
Foot Guns 1:30 1:15 1:15
Horse Guns 1:30 1:30 1:30
(131) (130) (129)


  • Line infantry to 1809 are foreign units in Spanish employ, and guards. After 1809 these may be British trained uniformed regulars instead.
  • Second rate infantry are standard Spanish line units.
  • Unreliable infantry are town militias, usually poorly trained and often without uniforms. Up to half of these units may be deployed as skirmishers representing guerrillas who have temporarily decided to assist the field army.
  • Up to 1812 light infantry fight as second rate line if deployed in close order, otherwise as skirmishers. After 1812 they may be line/skirmishers.
  • Irregular cavalry are guerrillas. They fight mounted as second rate cavalry, but may dismount as skirmishers in difficult terrain.
  • No army guns allowed.
  • Linear doctrine army.
  • Skirmisher ratio 1:6


1800-1809 1810-1812 1812-1815
1. 7SR;lLi;1SRc (28) 5SR;lReg;lSRc (22) 4SR;2Reg;lDr (25)
2. 1Dr;lSRc;4SR (20) 3SR;2Reg;1SRc (20) lSRc;2SR;3Reg (21)
3. lHus;2Reg;2SR (18) 1Hus;2Reg;lSR;lLi (19) lHus;3Reg;lLi (20)
4. 5Reg;lLi;lLtDr (28) 5Reg;1Li;lLtDr (28) 5Reg;lLi;lLtDr (28)
5. lHus;4SRc (16) 2Hus;4SRc (20) 2SR;2Hus;2SRc (20)
6. 6Unr;3IrrCav (21) 4Unr;2IrrCav;3SR (23) 2SRc;4SR (18)
(131) (132) (132)

Historical Oddities

Steve Burt on The Miniatures Page: Shako said:

Historicity a bit dubious in some areas:

The ‘super French’ syndrome – French are the only ones who can move & change formation. I know they moved faster, but the advantage wasn’t as great as the rules portray

Squares too vulnerable – Even steady squares regularly get broken by cavalry (typical roll is cavalry on MR 2 vs square on MR 4, so the cav only need to roll up 3 to break the square – about a 1 in 6 chance).

Some of the compulsory actions are a bit whacky – cavalry are compelled to charge enemy in reach, even if it is suicidal to do so.

1 thought on “Musings on Arty Conliffe’s Shako”

  1. Could do with some help translating a Battle during The First Serbian Uprising into shako

    Battle of Deligrad


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