Home Forums General Game Design Sources for Historical Movement Rates

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    You may be able to defeat SYW Austrian Grenadiers, but they wouldn’t stand a chance against my mounted archers commanded by Saladin! ūüôā




    As it was mentioned earlier in this thread, I thought I’d point out that Die Fighting II is up for pre-order. I’ve just ordered one and look forward to going through the DVD when it arrives.



    Avatar photoMcLaddie

    It is up to the individual end consumer of any set of rules to decide the level of knowledge they want demonstrated. If they wish a detailed breakdown of exactly which data was used, and which discarded, and require this verified, then probably better to produce a new set themselves.


    Well, I’m back from a long weekend carousing.¬† I agree, it is up to the individual gamer to decide, absolutely. It is also up to the designer.¬† The difference is the designer creates a new set of rules doing that detailed breakdown to whatever level they chose.¬† It is the designer who is the only one¬†who could¬†verify all this…for the consumer. If they are claiming there is some connection between historical evidence and the game, it is something they should be able to do…they’ve already done it to produce the game.

    A few designers do that already. Rich Clarke of TooFatLardies has a 7 part series on how Chain of Command and historical evidence/tactics etc. match up.¬†¬† It states at in the middle fo the page and goes up from there.¬†¬†¬† http://toofatlardies.co.uk/blog/¬†¬†¬† Other designers simply argue against even attempting it, saying it is impossible, no one cares, it isn’t important…etc. while claiming they¬†have made those connections…

    I always bear in mind the basic advice given to me many years ago by someone who has spent his entire career in military statistical analysis. That is: Who are your sources, not just what they have written. The victor or the vanquished? The meticulous planner or the risk taker?  The person or their biographer? For personal or national propaganda versus historic record?

    The who¬†is definitely¬†important… but with enough sources, statistically speaking, the who of the source will either fade into the background [all sources ending up giving very much the same information on the same issue] or those differences statistically begin to be significant [the meticulous planner gives a far different response than the risk taker], in which case you have to do more work to produce an average.¬† Again, that is why I used three sets of sources to compare when determining an average : Battlefield reports, Military men’s estimates, and then what troops practiced.

    Add to that the simple variants common with all battle accounts:
    Are the troops well rested, fed, led and motivated as they will move faster by default than those that are tired, hungry, poorly commanded and disgruntled?
    How accurate is the recording of distance?
    How accurate is the recording of time elapsed?
    How accurate was the data received by messenger or signal?
    When those variables can be fully quantified and adjusted for each data set, only then can there be grounds to claim a valid statistical average that is more than just an educated guess. Insist on a tighter acceptable range for the speed, the more suspect the answer.

    Of course. All important considerations.¬† So, what do you do when you can’t¬†determine all those variables because the sources are two hundred years old or unavailable for analysis?¬† That is a very common problem for simulation designers in all fields. [and historians for that matter… ]¬† One method is what I gave above, but it is only one of many.

    If a games designer chooses an average rate of movement that plays okay for me in a game that gives an enjoyable representation of a certain period of history from my personal perspective and level of knowledge, then for me it’s a successful product.

    Of course, what gamer would want it any other way?  The question here is what perspective, level of knowledge is the designer after and the what, how and why of portraying that history.

    One issue that seems to recur in your comments is seeking the ‚Äúaverage‚ÄĚ movement rate of troops in actual events to base the design of rules around.

    Just to be clear, I am not basing a set of rules on an average movement rate. Certainly not any more than other rules sets.  That was an assertion from Bob J.

    Of course military commanders had/have an understanding of what their units are capable of, not just on how far they can march or advance. But the question is within what level of detail we are trying to replicate at a tactical level, how we define the boundary between operational and tactical, and if so whether the historic sources that we have access to, provide us with evidence at that level.

    If the a unit’s capabilities change with the level of representation, I suppose that would be important to include.¬† That understanding is important in portraying command because those ‘averages’, the commander’s understanding of what unit could do, what the basis for all planning, before the battle or during it in the moment.¬† “What can be done?”¬† Commanders made decisions, sent the units out and THEN things happened. Then commanders had to deal with the results.¬† To many games have the variables occurring first and then the player makes decisions based after the variables have occurred.¬† The player roles a die and finds out that he can only issue three commands this turn because of screw-ups etc., so what’s he going to do¬† now? In the real world, the commander issues five commands an only three got through.¬† Games that have a wide variation in movement basically forces the player to be an opportunist with his own troops, not a planner or even an estimator.¬† Many say that Napoleon was an ‘opportunist’, but that was in respect to the enemy’s movements, not his own troops’.

    An average is just that, around which any variations hover.¬† Having those averages match what battle reports, AND military men¬†AND what speeds were practiced provides the players with a similar consideration in scale to the actual commanders… which is one of the goals of a wargame, right?

    Thanks for your comments. We do agree in many places. The issue is what history and how to portray it with the game designer’s tools:¬† the game mechanics.

    Best regards,  Bill


    Avatar photoMcLaddie

    And the only example cited in the threads was for Napoleonic infantry, is there information around for the other arms of service in that war?  I always wondered if there was an official difference between the prescribed rates for the various types of cavalry, for example.


    Absolutely. There are a number of period studies, reports and military men answering those questions–basically because, for them,¬†they were important questions. I’ll be glad to give¬†sources, but from what I’ve seen, the prescribed rates were the same for all cavalry, but the speeds that¬†different types of cavalry were worked at varied.¬† It also had to do with the size of the horse rather than¬†just the type of cavalry.

    Best Regards,  Bill


    Avatar photoMcLaddie

    repiqueone wrote:

    You’ll certainly see some fine examples of long posts here, whether you should even attempt to challenge for the title is debateable.  If brevity is the soul of wit, then I fear some are witless.

    This after your long posts?¬†If you are going to raise a dozen different issues with your long posts,¬†long posts are going to be¬†the result. [Note how the¬†length of posts increased after you showed up.]¬†¬†¬†I love the little sayings like “brevity is the soul of wit” being your effort to be brief.¬† How about simple, short answers for simple minds with a short attention spans? In your case I get the¬†feeling your pithy digs are simply a way to avoid and deflect the issues, like¬†what is actually the average rate a man¬†can walk.¬† 3 to 4 miles?

    Historical wargame design is an unavoidably complex subject with some simple answers that you insist are far, far more complex. Make up your mind.

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    Your response is a thoughtful one, for all that will get you!





    Thanks for the reply, especially the reminder that data sources may be unavailable, especially in today’s warfare where the assumption seems to be that the data’s collected from computer based systems so everything will be available. Judging from the performance of many major utility companies to transfer data between different systems, I actually think those looking back from two hundred years in our future, will probably be having the same discussions we are here.

    Your comments also made me ponder one humorous question:

    If a unit had been on “a long weekend carousing”, what allowance would a commander have to make for their tactical movement rate on the next day? ūüôā



    Avatar photoWhirlwind

    There are a number of period studies, reports and military men answering those questions‚Äďbasically because, for them, they were important questions. I‚Äôll be glad to give sources, but from what I‚Äôve seen, the prescribed rates were the same for all cavalry, but the speeds that different types of cavalry were worked at varied. It also had to do with the size of the horse rather than just the type of cavalry.

    Yes please.


    Avatar photoMcLaddie

    If a unit had been on ‚Äúa long weekend carousing‚ÄĚ, what allowance would a commander have to make for their tactical movement rate on the next day? :-)

    Well, if I was to do it like current military men, using the same methods that other posters have detailed from their military experience, I’d do the following:

    1. See if the answer had already been enshrined in the current military lore [see: Tactical Manual  TM 1043/2013 : Inpediments to Movement and Other Pedometrics] 

    2. Have the men take several long weekends carousing, then note how well they move the next day and find an average.

    3. Find the men in the group that are still able to keep to a steady, ¬†‘non-carousing’ movement rate and make them the pace setters the day after said carousing.

    Military men are nothing if not methodical.  That profession produced the original button-counters. 


    Avatar photoMcLaddie


    Period authors tended to put information about cavalry, infantry and artillery speeds peppered throughout treatises and studies which makes it frustrating to dig it out. ¬†Battle reports do the same thing, giving the information where pertinent or known rather than in a table. Most all cavalry and infantry regulations and manuals have that information about expected movement rates etc. ¬†Happily, most all are available on google books or archive as are the books below. ¬†Nafgizer in his Imperial Bayonets collects some of this information. ¬†Nafgizer and Naval and Military Press also publish a number of the period books such as this one…. It is an exception, where the movement rates etc. is the primary topic of a period book:

    A Series of Military Experiments of Attacks and Defense…with Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery made in Hyde Park in 1802 and on the Island of Jersey in 1805… ¬†by a Lt. John Russell, 96th Regt. ¬† [and that is just a part of the title]

    In it he carries out a series of experiments in movement and time. For instance,  Experiment 3d has cavalry advancing on infantry, starting at 400 yards, being given the orders to trot, gallop and charge at different distances, while the soldier[s] fire.  The result was that the cavalry covered the distance in 49 seconds and the infantry got off three shots.  Half the book is analysis, remarks and then notes where the results are compared to other contemporary authorities.  Here is the face page diagram:

    Note the ‘quick march’ and then ‘step out’ and charge… which was a longer stride.

    Military Field Pocket Book by Sharnhorst 1798 and 1801 translated by Captain Haverfield 1811.  In the appendix he writes down the rate of march and movement for infantry and cavalry.

    For instance, page 7 of the Appendix:

    “A small detachment may gallop for 5 minutes without halting, if the horses are in good order. ¬†Thus, calculating 500 paces to each minute; 2500 paces can be performed in 5 minutes. ¬†When the above distance is to be exceeded, it is necessary to move at a trot, which however cannot be continued above 1/2 hour. ¬†A part of cavalry many perform 300 paces in 1 minute, 6000 in 20 and 9000 in 30 minutes at a trot. ¬†Thus a common German mile (4 English miles) may be performed in 1/2 or at the utmost, 3/4 of an hour, provided the party is to halt immediately afterwards.

    Treatise on the Science of Warfare in two volumes 1805 by Colonel de Vernon was vetted by a panel of French Marshals before it was used as a text to train French army officers at the Polytechnic. It has such information peppered all through it as well as tables about times and distances,  even the distance[s] at which to deploy for battle.

    There are a number of military treatises written between 1800 and 1815 [and dozens after that] which provide the sources for historical movement rates. ¬†I’ll list those in a later post. ¬†There are a number of methods for determining the rates from battle reports and the like. ¬†Just one instance. ¬†For instance, Bernadotte on the day of Jena moved only 8 miles in six hours. ¬†This was viewed by Napoleon and his peers as criminally slow. ¬†By comparing that to the movement during the day of other corps as well as before and after the day, you not only get an average rate, but also what were considered extremes… and inexcusable extremes. ¬† The same is true for the battlefield. ¬†Again, you get a clear range of expectations to work with.

    Best Regards,  Bill

    Avatar photoWhirlwind

    Thanks very much for that Bill.

    Avatar photorepiqueone

    That’s all any of us do, is “work on it.” ¬†I find that those who stay in the fray, keep up the good effort, and run the race as best they can-seem to deal with age, and for that matter adversity, much better than those who do not. Sounds to me as if you are doing that.

    Intellectual activities, such as wargaming at its best, contribute mightily to our dealing with life, if for no other reasons than the problem solving nature of most games, and the human interaction. ¬† The internet is a mixed bag in that regard, but my wargaming friends are bright, interesting, and great fun to be with. ¬†Our monthly “big” game is a¬†highlight.

    Activities, whether reading, writing, running, gaming, or simply enjoying someone’s company whom you like are, along with a good supply of champagne and Scotch, the secret to a happy life. ¬†I’m glad I stumbled upon you here. You always had something interesting to say.


    Avatar photoMcLaddie


    As I promised, here is a list of some of the more popular military publications written between 1788 and 1840 in English that I know of. Each give calculations for expected movement rates on the battlefield and on the march just as Scharnhorst does. ¬†In most cases you have to dig for the authors’ calculations. Fortunately, they and more are all available on Google for free:

    Remarks on Cavalry by Prussian General of Hussars  Warnery  Translation 1798

    A famous book that speaks to the maneuvering and movement of regiments and brigades

    The British Army as it was-is-and should be  with illustrated with Examples from the Peninsula   Colonel Campbell  1840

    This critique of the 1840’s British Army is useful in the examples and discussion of how the army was and had become. Campbell fought in the Peninsula

    A New and Enlarged Military Dictionary  Charles James  1805

    This is fascinating because it gives the definitions of period terms like ‘pace’ and what was important to military men of the time.

    Campaign of the Left Wing of the Allied Army in the Western Pyrenees and South of France 1813-1814  Capt. Batty.  1825

    This is useful for the march times and explanations of the maneuvers or just part of the British Army and its allies… with comparisons.

    Instructions for Hussars and Light Cavalry acting as such in a time of war  G. H. Rose  Translation 1799

    This is a translation of a French work. Gives a lot of basic information about movement and maneuvering.

    Principles of Military Movements chiefly applied to infantry Col Dundas  1788

    In the back of this book dealing with the maneuvering of brigades, there are a number of passages with expected movement rates for troops like the one I quoted.

    Rules and Regulations for the Cavalry 1795

    Again, The British regulations that discuss movement and average expectations.

    Rules and Regulations for the Formations and Field Exercise of His Majesty’s Forces  1798

    This describes more of the larger formations  and for all three arms.

    Rules and Regulations for the Manual of Platoon Exercises, Formations and Field Exercises for Non-Commissioned Officers.  1807

    This is small unit regulations and rules, but again the estimates on movement rates are there.

    Elements of the Science of War¬† Vol 1-3¬†¬† William M√ľller¬† 1811

    Famous. This work even has artillery and small arms ordinance tests as well as movment rates for the different arms.

    The Theory of Infantry Movements  Vol 1-3  1823 Antonio Suasso

    A similar study to M√ľller¬† for just infantry.

    Duty of Officers Commanding Detachments in the Field. John Ormsby  Vandeleur  1801

    This gets into expected movement rates of smaller units.

    Essays on the Theory and Practice of the Art of War  [translations of French and German writers.]   Vol 1-3  1809

    This work has a lot on engineering, but there are some essays on the movement of troops.

    Manoeuvres of Horse Artillery  General Kosciusko [Polish Officer in French Service 1800]

    An interesting book dealing with more specific topic.

    Tactic of the British Army reduced to Detail with… the evolutions of the Battalion, Brigade and Line.  James Cunninghame  1802

    Again, the large movements of Brigade and [battle] Line is what you would want to look at.

    Practical Guide for the Light Infantry Officer  Capt. T. H. Cooper  1806

    Again, a specific topic, but with movement rates and operations for light infantry.

    Instruction Concerning the Duties of Light Infantry of the Field.  General Jarry  1803

    This is probably the premier book on light infantry for the period… Jarry was a French officer who headed the Prussian military academy until 1801 when he moved to England and was involved in their first officer training efforts.

    Military Studies by Marshal Ney written for the Use of his Officers  1803  Translated by Major James 1833

    This is Ney’s view on how things worked and how he wanted them to work in his Corps. In it he gives his expectations for movement rates and maneuvers.

    This doesn’t include original battle reports and memoirs, but are rather military men condensing what they feel is the important information for other officers.

    Best Regards,






    Avatar photoWhirlwind

    Thank you very much for compiling that list Bill, very kind – lots to occupy my reading time!

    Avatar photoMcLaddie


    I realized just today that I probably left out the one period study that speaks directly and in detail to the question of movement rates:

    General Jarry  Treatise on the Marches and Movements of Armies  translated by R. Rochfort  1807   97 pages    Jarry was a French Officer who was hired by the Prussians to run their military schools before the Revolution. Around 1800, he left Prussian service and worked with the British to establish their military academy.  I believe the work is available through Archive.

    He also wrote what is probably the most comprehensive work on light infantry tactics before 1810.

    Best Regards,





    Avatar photoWhirlwind

    Thanks very much for that McLaddie.

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