French Artillery Tactics for the Talonsoft Napoleonic

Battleground Games:


Each nation in the Napoleonic period possessed its own pattern of artillery, but basic design and employment was very similar. There were two principal types of artillery piece: cannon (termed ‘guns’), which had a length of twelve calibre’s or more (i.e., twelve bore-diameters in length): and shorter-barrelled weapons or howitzers which were intended for high-angle fire rather than the direct fire of ordinary cannon.


To understand deployment we must first grasp the use and purpose of our artillery. Remember that artillery is no use alone, but as part of the ‘All Arms’ equation, it is deadly and necessary to achieve the desired objective. Artillery is best used to disorder the enemy from a long distance, check any advance, and create a gap in the enemies line.


As the French we have three ‘gun’ types:

‘A’ 12 pdr Battery

‘B’ 6-9 pdr Battery

‘D’ Horse Battery


  1. (‘A’) These are our principle field pieces. Against the British forces we have range supremacy, as they have no equivalent pieces in their arsenal.
  2. (‘B’) Our secondary field pieces and back-bone of our artillery compilation.
  3. (‘D’) Horse and light pieces, best used for fire and manouver or leap- frog tactics.


As mentioned it is essential to understand what role you intend for your artillery:- for me the following applications apply, not only for their historical authenticity, but proven effectiveness on the many fields of battle I have partaken in my years of NBG gaming.



So now we have our applications, we now need to choose our target? The most effective way to gain results with our artillery is by hitting your targets flank, or ‘Enfiladed’ fire. This is any point from which the target has no LOS (line of sight) to the unit performing ranged-fire upon it.


Once you have your target, you can now start to search for the locations to sight your batteries, as well as determine what batteries will best suit to secure your objective. When reconnoitring the ground the following considerations should be in your mind:-


  1. Were ever possible, always sight your batteries on high ground, through this your guns will receive a +1 modifier against ranged fire for every level they are higher than the unit firing against them. Therefore the higher you get the better their defence.
  2. Unlimber behind hedgerows, or a village hex, again you receive a +1 modifier against ranged fire, this is why in BGW the British batteries situated on the 130 elevation ridge NE of La Haye Sainte are such hard targets. Not only are they receiving a +2 modifier for elevation advantage, but also a +1 for being situated behind a hedgerow, giving a defence modifier of –3 against the assailant. So unless you can catch these batteries in Enfiladed fire, (which will still only reduce the odds to even, given you are firing from a 120 elevation) forget wasting rounds.
  3. Choose locations that are a safe distance back from your own front line, and were possible provide cover 2 or 3 hexes to their front for your infantry to take refuge from enemy fire, whilst at the same time protecting your own guns from cavalry threats.
  4. Set up a field of fire on your target. By this I mean no matter which way your opponents units face one of your batteries catch them in Enfilade. I should point out that this is not always easy, but pays dividends to carefully study the ground before finalising your battery positioning. I can not point out how important it is to take your time at the beginning, as this will save you loosing valuable time in the heat of battle re-positioning your guns, and also providing opportunities to your opponent whilst they are limbered.



Now we have covered the use and positioning of your artillery, lets move on to some useful facts and tips.


  1. Any unit other than a leader that takes refuge in a formed square, will negate the charge bonus effect of that square, therefore there is no point in covering a battery with a sq thinking you will be safe from cavalry.
  2. Artillery exerts a threat zone to its front and will prevent cavalry from overrunning it, however you will probably still loose in melee, so in this situation, either limber before the charge, and hope that you will only loose a few tubes, or best put that barrier I place.

These rules do not apply to the 16bit engine.


Finally your horse batteries. Use these as a deterrent on your flanks, to ward of enemy cavalry, for clearing built up areas such as villages, and to go forward just behind the main assault. These batteries are particularly devastating at a range of 2 hexes, as well as keeping concealed and at the last moment move, unlimber and fire.



Golden rule: Never over expose your batteries, if threatened best to retire and fight another day, than be captured by the enemy.



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This page updated on 08/11/02.