Review of 2 by 2 Napoleonics Rules

I recently discovered 2 by 2 Napleonics by Rod Humble, John Rigsby and Eric Sprague. They are simple but elegant way of representing corps level actions with units as either brigades or regiments. Here is an overview of the rules and my take on them.

Where to get the rules

The rules are available in different formats from the original author, Rod Humble. We used Version 2L RvH with additions by John Rigsby and Eric Sprague.


2 by 2 Napoleonics: Napoleonics 2mm wargames rules

Scale of game

The rules are designed for 2mm figures to be played on a 2ft by 2ft table (hence “2 by 2″).

As mentioned the intended figure scale is 2mm. But our play test used 15mm and really it doesn’t make a difference.

The ground scale is 1” is between 100 and 200 yards. We used Big Bases so actually it was 2″ to every 1″ mentioned in the rules.

Each unit represents a regiment or brigade. Small infantry units have less than 800 rank and file, common sized between 800 and 1999, and large have 2000 or more. Each side represents a corps with supports (approximately) and multi-corps battles are possible.

Each unit is meant to be on a base 1″ wide although the rules mention that some players go for 40mm wide bases. My Big Bases are 80mm wide and I chose to double base all units so they are also 80mm deep. The exception, for me, is artillery which I based on 40mm x 40mm.

Each turn is nominally 30 minutes.

Kind of normal rules

There is much about 2 by 2 Napoleonics that is kind of normal and you’ll have seen in other places. However, even here there are touches of innovation, it is just less than occurs in the rules sections I cover later.

Types of units

The rules give standard types of unit. The different types of unit differ in movement, shooting, and melee.

Branch of service Unit types
Infantry Guards/Grenadiers
Line Infantry
Light Infantry
Cavalry Heavy Cavalry
Light Cavalry
Artillery Foot Artillery
Horse Artillery

HQs are not really units, more like markers.

Line infantry are the mainstay of most armies. Militia are second rate troops. Guards/Grenadier are elite infantry. Light infantry are purely skirmishing troops. Guards/Grenadiers, Line Infantry, and Light infantry can also be defined as “small”, “normal” or “large” in size. Militia can only be “normal” size.

Cavalry is divided into heavy and light. Heavy Cavalry, for example, includes both French Guards, Cuirassiers and Dragoons. Hussars, Chasseurs, and other types of skirmishing cavalry are classified as Light Cavalry.

Artillery is divided into foot and horse.

Unit status

There are four status values for units:

Pinned: May fire. May change facing but not other moves. Rally to remove pin.

Disrupted: May not fire or move. More vulnerable to attacks. Rally to remove disruption.

Rout: Chance of being destroyed (1 or 2 on 1d6; or touch an enemy unit). Otherwise move it’s maximum movement allowance away from the enemy and then become disrupted.

Destroyed: Removed from play and counted towards victory conditions.

Pinned and disrupted status are indicated by the only marker in the game. This is a piece of cotton wool or tissue paper. For pinned units place the marker along the front edge of the unit. This has the nice visual effect or resembling smoke from musketry fire. Place the marker on top of disrupted units. No marker is required for routing units because it is a transitory state and the unit then becomes disrupted. Destroyed units just disappear from the table.


Pinned and disrupted status prevent movement but otherwise movement is pretty flexible. The type of unit determines the maximum movement allowance. Within that limit, movement is very flexible as units can pivot, wheel, spin, and move directly to the rear at no cost. They can even move sideways but at a cost of x2 distance. Only Light Infantry can enter woods.


Infantry and artillery can shoot. Shooting is resolved by rolling 1d6. Units are more effective shooting to their front but can also shoot out of other faces. A number of factors affect shooting, for example first fire by infantry gives a +1. You need these positive modifiers because you need a 5 or more to affect the target. A result of 5 is Pinned, 6 Disrupted, 7 Rout, and 8+ Destroyed. So, to have any chance of destroying your target, you need at least a +2 and score a 6.


Melee occurs if the front part of the attacker’s base contacts any part of an defender’s base, and the last 2″ of any movement by the attacker was straight ahead. Each player rolls 1D6 and adds modifiers. Higher wins and the difference in scores shows the result. The possibilities are: draw => reroll the dice; difference 1 or 2 => loser Rout; difference 3+ => loser Destroyed


A rally removes a disrupted or pinned effect from a unit. To attempt to rally a unit must be within 6″ of a
HQ unit in its chain of command. Note that under normal circumstances it is also impossible for a unit to rally if an enemy is within 2″ of it. Exceptions being Guards units and units whom the HQ is in base to
base contact. A HQ may always attempt not add additional modifiers.

Order writing

There is no order writing.

Distinctive/interesting features

Infantry that fire will stale

The rules differentiate themselves by two core mechanics, the first of which is the glue of war:

This is the trait of Napoleonic infantry to refuse to budge once it had started firing at an enemy. This made the commitment of units an important decision, as the general was unlikely to regain control over them again for some time.

The first volley of an infantry units gains a bonus (+1). However, once it has fired an infantry unit is automatically pinned. This means it can continue to shoot but cannot move and (for most units) cannot rally until the enemy is beyond 2″. This means that once an infantry unit fires it will keep firing until any nearby enemy are defeated or is itself destroyed.

I really like this mechanism. Simple but elegant way to reflect the friction experienced during Napoleonic warfare and strikes at the heart of the column versus line argument.


The authors believe another key characteristic of the period was the evolving battlefield:

Napoleonic battles were rarely “set piece” battles. Units would arrive in clumps and make their way towards the front, often arriving from the flanks. This gives a very different feel than a battle where the units are all lined up facing each other at the start.

By default only 25% (10AP out of 40AP) of the troops start on table. The remaining troops are expected to arrive in march order but on a semi-random schedule. Each side gets two reinforcement points. For the attacker one of these can be on a side table edge but other reinforcements points are on the friendly base edge. Before the battle the players line up reinforcements in march order next to each reinforcement point. Twice during each of their own movement phases, a player may dice for reinforcements (1d6). The next reinforcement unit appears near the reinforcement point on a 3+ if from the rear and on a 4+ if from the flank.

The author argues that this gives the players choices. They can launch an attack early, without their full force, but also before the enemy has received reinforcements. Or they can wait for their entire to arrive. If both players do this then a grand set piece battle will result

Orders of Battle

The rules include a template army containing:

  • 1 x HQ
  • 10 x Line Infantry
  • 1 x Heavy Cavalry
  • 2 x Light Cavalry
  • 2 x Foot Artillery

This army comes to 39AP.

There are also army lists for British, French and Austrian. Clearly a lot is missing e.g. Spanish, Portuguese, and other European nations.

Comments and oddities

Quite an interesting set of rules and well worth a try. The first volley and pinning of infantry that fires is super elegant. These are also tied to the minimal book keeping necessary; only a single marker (cotton wool) is necessary to represent all status values.

It might take a few games to remember the tactical factors, particularly as they are different for melee and shooting.

Movement is super flexible. I kind of like this. And I like the fact the flexible movement applies to everybody (unlike Shako which only allows French to be flexible).

I’m less convinced by the reinforcement rules. The author cites the evolving battlefield as distinctive feature of the period, but I’m not convinced this is true for the Peninsular War.

I like the fact combat is resolved by rolling 1d6. Nice and old school.

There don’t appear to be much benefit to attacking flank and rear. I guess this is because of the size of the units (brigade or regiment) and the assumption that the sub-units can respond appropriately to attacks from any direction. Seems a bit odd to me but play testing would reveal if my concerns are just old fashioned expectations.

Light infantry appear to be skirmishers. Of course skirmishers were a key element of warfare by both the French and British. But I’m not aware that the British got whole brigades of skirmishers, which is what the army lists give them. British Light Infantry could and did skirmisher, but not as a whole brigade.

2 thoughts on “Review of 2 by 2 Napoleonics Rules”

  1. I’ve flirted with using 2×2 Napoleonics over the years but something never seemed quite right. I think it’s that is seems to me to be a division/corps game rather than corps/army level.
    Take out the deployment/reinforcement rules – or make them depend upon the scenario – and the available mindspace could be used to being in column, line and square effects. Beef up the modifiers for flank and rear attacks – though flexibility of movement might need looking at then, a possible fly in the ointment.
    Light infantry could be used at that lower scale, as the pre-detached, brigade skirmish screen.
    I’ve tested none of this, so it is ideke musing but the 2×2 rules’ elegant basic combat/morale mechanism is so intellectually attractive that it might be worth the attempt to give it a setting. That’s said, I’ve read rules before with mechanisms that are intellectually immensely satisfying but practically redundant.


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