The free ruleset 2×2 Napoleonics piqued my interest for a couple of reasons. It uses a small scale battlefield of 2 foot by 2 foot (hence the name) and a brigade scale with just the right amount of details omitted. But it also features very interesting pinning mechanics which makes it different from other rule sets.
As soon as a infantry unit fires, it becomes pinned and may not move until rallied. As rallying is virtually impossible when close to an enemy, units get stuck in firing lines slugging it out until one side wavers and breaks. This seems more realistic than the maneuverability of troops in combat in other rules. With the combat units pinned it also makes management of reinforcements more important. Gone are the days where I can micromanage some units to broaden my lines and plug gaps. The only units that can plug gaps are reinforcements now.
Deployment also handles differently. Most of the army starts as said reinforcements and the battle evolves over many turns as fresh troops arrive. Aimed at corps level engagements, maybe as part of a larger battle, this is another interesting approach. Though, I can see breaking this rule from time to time or when playing larger battles.
But first of all I played a test game to see how everything plays out.
The Battle of Lützenhagen
The battlefield after set-up. French in the south with both their reinforcement points at the road. They have an artillery unit on the eastern hill, light cavalry to screen their advance and some infantry marching on the road.
The Prussians are coming in from the north as attackers. One reinforcement point is on the road as well but the other one is on the eastern map edge in order to flank the French. The force compositions are the same for both armies.
A couple turns in. The Prussians (farther away) took the central village (unit on the green plate center is occupying it). They are shaking out the battle line. The French brought up their units and are building a strong cavalry presence on their right wing (left center of the picture).
The French right wing swings around the village. Lancers beat back Prussian Hussars and advance far into the Prussian rear.
Meanwhile the infantry clash around Lützenhagen. French gain the upper hand due to effective supporting artillery. The village remains a though nut to be cracked, though. The French cavalry advance gets beaten back to the start by Prussian reinforcements arriving in the nick of time.
Situation at the end of the game. The French poured reinforcements in much quicker and effectively pushed back the Prussians from the village. The Prussian lines are in disarray. They lost 5 units compared to the French 2 losses.
Given that French losses are cavalry units I judged that the battle was a French victory but not a major one. They took command of the battlefield and inflicted losses but are not able to pursue the retreating Prussians effectively.
Thoughts on 2×2 Napoleonics
The rules worked reasonably well. Detail is not only omitted from the game, though. The rules lack clarifications on many things, making judgement calls necessary on many occasions.
As I expected the pinning rules work quite well and generate interesting board states and decision points. The reinforcement rules made the battle feel skirmishy and piecemeal at times, offered a dynamic change at other times.
In hindsight the way the battle evolved looks believable to me but it wasn’t as much fun as with other rules. The rules need clarifications, some tightening and rewriting for me to use again. Given that 2×2 Napoleonics is entirely free and has been worked on by three people that is neither surprising nor detrimental. It is a nice framework with some fresh concepts.