A Treatise on Napoleon in Russia



Some helpful hints at beating the Russian Army


See my treatise on BGW for guidelines regarding the use of leaders, ranged fire modifiers, and meleeing tactics.


Strengths and weaknesses of the Russian Army


Russian command and control:


The greatest benefit to the Russian army is it's two army commanders: Barclay and Bagration. They provide an additional die roll modifier to help reorganize and rally the Russian troops. They perform in the same way as Ney and Grouchy in BGW. They are another link in the chain of modifiers The Russian command chain can be seen as thus: Overall Army Commander-to-Sub-Army Commander-to-Corps commander-to-division commander-to-brigade commander. That is 5 die roll modifiers for reorganization and rally. In Comparison: the French chain is: Army Commander-to-Corps Commander-to-Division Commander-to-Brigade Commander. That is only 4 die roll modifiers. A clear advantage to the Russians.


An explanation of Russian Command Radii:


The Russian Army and Corps commanders have the same unlimited range as all other Army and Corps commanders in the BG Series of games. Their Division commanders have a range of 4 hexes, and their Brigade commanders have a range of two hexes.

Special note: Except in scenario 7a, the Russian 2nd Army of the west has huge

gaps in it's command chain. This mainly concerns the reserve troops. (2nd Converged Gren. Div., 2nd Cuirassier Division, cossacks, and militia troops) The reason for this is that there is no reserve commander for these units.


The Russian Regular Infantry


The regular Russian infantryman was a serf, or virtual slave, pressed into army service generally for life. As his only choices once being pressed into service were execution for desertion, a return to slavery if desertion were successful, or life with his regiment, he was prone to stay in the ranks with his fellow soldiers. The Russian serf, made soldier, was inured to hardship, and is given a fanaticism modifier which gives your Russian opponent the assurance that unless blown to extinction by gunfire, that Russian battalion will be around for battle in the next turn. The regular Russian infantry division is big enough to survive many casualties, yet small enough to be easily commanded by it's division and brigade commanders. Except for it's limited ability to detach skirmishers, It can be considered to be the equal of any other infantry division in the BG series of games.


The Russian Guard Infantry


The Russian Guard infantry was broken down into 2 Divisions. The very large Guard division, and the smaller 1st Converged Grenadier Division.


The Guard Division: The Guard division was broken down into 3 brigades of

six battalions each. Due to it's size, and the size of it's battalions, it is difficult for it's division commander to be effective in rally and reorganization. Since, however, that it is used mainly in a defensive role, and known to never rout, this is not a serious handicap.

The 1st Converged Grenadier Division: This division in most scenarios has no division or 2nd brigade commanders. It is a small division, and if used defensively, is not hampered by it's lack of division or 2nd brigade commander.


A note about scenario 7a, Kutuzov Turns to Fight (with a complete command staff)

This scenario is in wide distribution within the NWC. Almost all omissions regarding commanders have been filled. This means that any lack of commanders mentioned in this treatise have been rectified in that scenario. There are few breaks in the Russian chain of command remaining. These will be dealt with in following sections.


Russian Militia


The Russian militia are very low quality troops. Most Russian players will confine them to the woods, except for the militia Jagers. Since the militia troops can't form square, and perform poorly in offensive melees, they are almost useless in the open. The militia jagers are very versatile troops, and despite their low quality rating (3), they do a lot of damage as skirmishers. They also go a long way in reducing the French superiority in light troops. In the Russian militia we find breaches in the chain of command. There are no division commanders (except for the Smolensk militia). There are also no brigade commanders. That is why it takes them so long to rally and reorganize. In Scenario 7a, all of the militia divisions have commanders. This additional link in the chain of command allows them to reorganize almost as fast as line infantry.


The Russian Regular Cavalry


Horse for horse, the Russian regular and Guard cavalry are equal to their French

counterparts. But, here, is where we find another break in the chain of command. The Russian cavalry corps are in fact organized as divisions. Historically they are also called divisions. There are no true corps commanders, so they cannot reorganize as quickly as the French cavalry. Due to the limited number of separate cavalry commands, it is easy to stretch out the Russian cavalry along his whole front. He will have to either break them down so that many will be out of command range, or he will be forced to fight with unfavorable numbers at the chosen position of your main attack.


The Russian Cossacks


The Russian Cossacks are also large divisions and not Corps. They will have as difficult time reorganizing as the regular Russian cavalry. The Divisions are also very large, and it is very difficult for their division commanders to stay in command range of all of his brigade CO's. Much has been written about the fear inspired by the Russian Cossack. What the French player needs to know are these two facts:

  1. Cossacks and all cavalry that carry lances defend at 75% of their total strength.
  2. While meleeing regular infantry, that is not disordered, cossacks do not receive the X3 modifier that other cavalry receive when meleeing troops not in square. This means, that if your infantry is not disordered, they need not fear the cossack. They need not go into square. If they do go into square, the cossack is not affected any more than if the troops stayed in column or line.

The Russian Artillery


The Russian artillery is at the same time the greatest menace to advancing French troops, and an unwieldy tool. Although the size of the Russian batteries gives them incredible striking power, even at their maximum range, there is a heavy disadvantage to their size. First of all, it is almost impossible for more than one Russian battery to fire from one hex unless one or both have been severely weakened. This means that the Russian player will have to have long rows of batteries to be truly effective. If the batteries deploy into extended line, they cannot put one half of that line with another battery in extended line. Secondly, due to their size, they cannot put many troops in the same hex to defend during melees. If the Russian player is not smart enough to remove his guns, a maximum stacked hex of infantry should be able to beat it in combat odds, and remove it from the game. Another disadvantage suffered due to the size of his batteries is that he can't leave just 6 guns to defend a small place. He has to use 12. This becomes all the more important as you string out his defenses.


The Main Advantages of the French Army at Borodino




The French army can deploy many more skirmishers than the Russian Army. Proper use and protection of these light troops will give you an advantage to reaching the Russian main battle line.


Use of the skirmish line:

The French player can use his mass of skirmishers to push back the skirmishers of his opponents while keeping most of his formed units out of reach of the Russian artillery.


Protection of the skirmish line:

Everyone must beware of the opponent who will use a few squadrons of cavalry to overrun your skirmish line. Here are a few ways to beat this tactic:


same hex as the formed Bn's. This will force some formed troops to stand under heavy cannon fire, but the Zones of Control belonging to the formed Bn's will stop the cavalry from simply overrunning your skimishers. The additional skirmishers with the formed battalion will make your opponent seriously think about exposing his valuable cavalry to that kind of punishment.


Keep your own cavalry on hand, and in range to attack any enemy cavalry foolish enough to try overrunning your skirmish line.

Organization of the French Cavalry:


Unlike the organization of the infantry corps, the cavalry Corps have a reserve cavalry commander: the famous Murat. He adds a fifth die roll modifier to the French cavalry. If a player maintains the 3X3 Rule (see BGW treatise), and Murat's rating doesn't turn yellow, the French cavalry can count on a much higher rate of reorganization than his Russian foe.


More versatile artillery:


With their much smaller batteries, the French can get more shots per phase than his Russian opponent. He can also place batteries singly, and add more troops to defend them. He also can fire from more directions than his Russian opponent. This is the key to effective counterbattery fire.


Engaging the Russians in effective counterbattery fire:


Due to the Russian postions at Borodino, it is very easy to cause massive artillery losses to Russian guns. To do this, you must get into positions which will allow

you to enfilade the Russian Guns. (A short definition of "enfilade fire" as it pertains to the BG games: If the battery is facing so that it can't hit your battery, it is in enfilade.) If you fire at an enemy battery in enfilade, you receive a +2 modifier to your fire.


The best positions for doing this are: The woods facing Semenovskoye Village, The woods facing the Grand Redoubt, and Borodino village. Woods offer a -1 die roll modifier to his fire. Villages offer a -2.  That means that your batteries in the village can face any direction, and your opponent does not get the enfilade bonus. In effect I'm stating place your batteries in circular formations in safe places, and fire at his batteries with the batteries he cannot hit.


Broad strategic tips to help ensure as costless a victory as possible


General points to live by in NIR


Spread out his defenses:


Simply by threatening all of the possible avenues of attack, with mixed forces, you can spread out his artillery and cavalry over a long, thin area. In the areas outside of your main attack, do nothing except let him know you are there, don't attack unless he shows signs of moving his forces toward your main area of attack.


Never attack along his whole front!!!


He has chosen his ground, and built defenses. A frontal attack along the whole line will guarantee total failure! And keep your feigning troops out of cannon range!


Once he has spread out his forces, then choose your area of attack:


At this point, you should direct most of your reserve cavalry, a strong force of infantry, and as many batteries as you can muster. Keeping these batteries in a staggered defense may keep him from trying to send his troops into certain



Be patient!


Unless your opponent has a very obvious weakness, don't gamble, and give your counterbattery fire some time to work. Remember, you have many turns and a lot of artillery ammunition to do as much damage as possible.


He who tries to win the battle of Borodino by noon, will lose by 11AM.


This concludes this article on NIR. Bear in mind that every situation and scenario is different, and that no single article can cover every situation. Many points mentioned in this treatise refer to, and are directly related to my previous treatise on BGW and the Battleground series of games.

Return to the main Tutorial Center page.

This page updated on 08/11/02.