Never played it, but seen several blogs where it is mentioned. I think the issue with Napoleonic rules is that different aspects assume different degrees of importance depending on the level at which you are playing the game. I like to play at " battalion/ brigade" level, where individual battalions are represented and controlled as part of a brigade, with probably 4 to 6 brigades per side Formations become important, so rules have to factor in time raken to change from column to line or for line to square etc. There is something very satisfying when your cavalry catches an infantry battalion beforeit can form a coherent square! The effects of musketry and artillery fire on unit cohesion/ willingness to advance is key in Napoleonic games, infantry hand to hand less important, but quite significant for cavalry. Command and Control is also pretty important and I have seen a number of different mechanisms suggested over the past 40 odd years of playing Napoleonics, from the minimal to the ludicrously complex. To be honest, I think there are more than enough playable Napoleonic rules out there, from Skirmish level with companies, up to the big battles with several corps per side, without the need to add anymore. It's taken a while, but I think the club Napoleonic players are starting to settle down to a couple of rule sets, although I may be overly optimistic😎
Things changed a lot over the course of the 20 or so years of the Revolutionary period, when Napoleon first came to prominence, through to the classic Napoleonic period after he was crowned Emperor, which I suppose is really 1805 to 1815 marked by Austerlitz at one end and Waterloo at the other. There were significant national differences in the organisation of units, deployment of skirmishers and the effectiveness of same. The French initially had a 9 company organisation per battalion, with 7 fusilier companies, a grenadier company and a company of voltigeurs, who were dedicated skirmish troops, usually the smallest and most nimble men. Around 1808 they changed to a 6 company organisation, with just 4 fusilier companies and the two specialist companies. Light infantry regiments had a similar organisation, but could be deployed as ordinary line or in a more open formation to boost the skirmishing potential. The various French allies tended to have similar structures. British developed in a similar way, but their battalions had a 10 company organisation. There were some specialist light infantry red- coat battalions and, of course, the green- coated 60th and 95th rifle armed. Their companies were often split up to provide additional skirmishing power to the divisions; the longer range of rifles made then particularly effective at disrupting French command and control by picking off officers at relatively long range. The Portuguese were trained and equipped by the British, so had a similar organisation and were often integrated into the British divisions. The only other army that I know a little bit about is the Russian. By 1812 their "typical" infantry division of 12 battalions had two brigades of line infantry and one of jagers. The jagers were supposed to be light infantry, but there is some evidence that they were not particularly well trained for the role, although they were used to hold woods, cover flanks etc. The line infantry battalions consisted iof 4 companies, each divided into 2 platoons. One company was made up of a grenadier platoon and a jager platoon. The jager platoon was supposed to provide some integral skirmishing potential. Austrians and Prussians are an unknown quantity to me. I know the Austrians had Grenzer units, who were specialist light infantry, often recruited from the borderlands of the Empire, but I have no idea about their organisation or effectiveness. I think Nick knows more about Austrians. How to best represent skirmishers is an interesting question, we mainly play '"Over The Hills" and I quite like the way skirmishers are represented. Each unit has a skirmish capability, ranging from A ( e.g British Rifles) down to D e.g Spanish or Neapolitans. You can physically represent the skirmishers of a battalion, but it is not essential. When calculating the effect of musket fire, having a better skirmish class gives you a bonus. Skirmisher screens made up of whole battalions also give some protection against artillery fire- the skirmishers take the first hit, the unit immediately behind will have score to hit it reduced by half, so often suffers no casualties.
I don't know enough about the rules to comment on the general points but on skirmishers there are in general two era in Napoleon's time, pre 1805 and 1805-1815. Also there are 3 types of infantry as far as skirmishing was concerned.
So on the types you have 'Line', 'Light' and 'Dedicated'.
'Line' units generally had no skirmishers before 1805 and 10% to 20% who could skirmish after 1805. The exact time a given nations unit changed from no skirmishers to 10-20% varied.
'Light' units could in theory all fight as skirmishers but usually actually fought with some skirmishing and some formed in support. All nations had some of these all the way through the wars. The numbers/proportion of them varied over time and they had different names. The French and British called the Light battalions/regiments, the Russians Jagers, the Austrians Grenzers, the Prussians Fusiliers. A quick note on the Grenzers. They were a 'Dedicated' unit previously but for some reason the high command tried to get them to fight as 'Light' or even 'Line'.
'Dedicated' units were units that basically all skirmished and only skirmished. Most armies (French being the obvious exception) had a relatively small number of units like this. British rifle battalions, Austrian and Prussian Jagers for example. These basically fought in bad terrain or provided/beefed up the skirmish screen for a number of 'Line' units they were attached to. Quite a few of these were armed with rifles but how much difference they actually made is less certain.
So in the early period, pre 1805, most armies have loads of 'Line' units with little skirmish ability and a small number of 'Light'/'Dedicated' units. The French army was basically all 'Light' and so even units that were nominally Line units used lots of skirmishers to disrupt the target of their attack. i.e. even though they were Line units they operated as 'Light'. The skirmishers were probably relatively decisive during this time.
As the wars continued the non French armies got skirmishers in their 'Line' units and extra 'Light' units. This in effect cancelled out the French advantage and the French Line units became 'Line' - i.e they used less skirmishers. Essentially all armies became very similar as far as numbers were concerned and having 'better' skirmishers becomes a relatively small advantage.
Nice summary Nick; only point I would query is that re French becoming "Line" so using fewer skirmishers. The change from 9 company to 6 company organisation actually increased the proportion of skirmishers in both "line" and "light" battalions. The light battalions were, however, often indistinguishable from line in terms of the way they were used on the battlefield; they did retain uniform distinctions and probably were better trained in light infantry tactics, giving commanders a bit more flexibility in tactical deployment. Typically a division in 1812 would have around one third of its infantry as "light" and two thirds as "line" battalions.
The other area that Harry ought to think about in drafting his rules is the role of artillery. Most rules I have played tend to make artillery, apart from horse artillery, rather static. Reading accounts of actual battles it is clear that artillery, particularly the smaller calibre divisional artillery, tended to move up with the infantry and was often used in attacks at quite short ranges-300 to 400 yards. The bigger stuff in Corps reserve batteries might be less mobile, but could still be moved around and used to support attacking troops at quite close ranges.
As we can see from the above comments, which I think could be replicated in both detail and uncertainty for every arm of the napoleonic armies, there is enough interest and dissatisfaction to drive an endless round of new rule production.
I think this should be avoided at all costs. If we settle on "Over the Hills" as the stamndard club rules then so be it, but I would like to play "Blucher" now and again.