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Posted on Apr 26, 2011 in Electronic Games

HistWar: Les Grognards – PC Game Review

By Steven M. Smith

HistWar: Les Grognards.  PC Game Review.  Publisher & Developer: JM Mathé, HistWar Games.  There are four possible versions for sale: Digital Download 39,89€ to full package with printed manual, cartridge pouch (aka a box), operational sheets, CD, and leather USB key at 89,89€. Update: Purchases outside the US will subtract the 19.6% VAT

Passed Inspection: Labor of love with frequent updates (version 02g most recent stable). French and English versions. Manual is very good. Solid tutorials. Editors for maps, doctrine, and order of battle.

Failed Basic: DirectX version 9 only. Screen text often goes outside boundaries.

HistWar: Les Grognards (HW:LG) is a real-time tactical to grand tactical simulation of Napoleonic battles. This game puts you in the hotseat as an army or corps commander, depending on the scenario. HW:LG multiplayer options are email and network. Hotseat can be done by selecting Solo Mode, then Play Both Sides. Scenarios have eleven options from Fog of War to If Orders Can Be Intercepted. Orders are issued while the game is paused and simultaneously executed when play mode is activated. Unit formations are based on the type of unit, for example all three (infantry, cavalry, and artillery) can form a march column but only infantry can send out skirmishers. There are three battlefield views: 2D, symbolic 3D (blocks), and subjective 3D (figures). Only the 2D view represents a unit’s actual position, the others are close. The default directory for PDFs of the operational sheets and manual is “C:\HistWarGames\HistWar\Document\English”. The printed versions of the operational sheets have English on one side and French on the other.

…a must-have for those who love command-level tactical or grand tactical Napoleonic battle simulations

HistWar: Les Grognards is a richly layered simulation with lots of details, even at the easiest setting. I recommend the following series of steps to learning HW:LG. Read Chapter I, Introduction, of the manual. It’s only two and half pages. Then go through the three tutorials paying close attention as it is showing you the basics. Follow the tutorials with a reading of Chapter II, Setup, of the manual and the operational sheet “fiche5La.pdf” (guide to hot keys and symbols). Follow this by reading a section of Chapter IV, HistWar: Les Grognards. Try out what you learned before going on the next section of Chapter IV. Repeat until Chapter IV is done.


Selecting a unit involves placing the cursor until it changes to the outline of the NATO symbol for the unit type. At the far right of the screen will appear a summary of the unit’s size and capabilities. If using the 2D view, a dot will appear in the flag of the corps commander. If the corps commander is selected, all the units in that corps will be outlined and have a dot in its symbol. Left clicking brings up a menu of orders and formations that can be given to that unit. If the corps commander is selected you can give orders to the entire corps.

To move a unit at the beginning of the scenario, hold the right mouse button down and move the unit to the desired location within that side’s starting area (use F8 to see it on screen). All other movement requires giving orders such as scout area, support, or march to area. To march or scout an area, select the unit and the order then move the cursor to the destination and left-click to confirm. While moving the cursor, a line appears from the unit with the distance and time. After giving orders to all of your units, you can check the orders by pressing F8 and select “Orders” from the menu at the top of the screen. All the units with orders will show the different colored arrows and/or lines from the unit to their destination. Pressing “P” toggles between “Pause” and “Play” modes or use the pause/play icon in the 3D views.

In Play mode the units start moving. I recommend switching to 3D figure view (F3) to see the figures marching or riding along, generating little dust clouds. The 3D figure view graphics and animations are good, though not as detailed as some other Napoleonic games from larger companies. The static graphics are very good and compare favorably with those from larger companies.

In both 3D views, the bottom of the screen has a mini-map, icons to bring up different menus, a graphical representation of the selected unit’s subunits, and a summary of the selected unit. Right-clicking on the mini-map moves the camera to that location.

Combat occurs when a unit is ordered to attack another unit or when a unit encounters an enemy unit. Fire and melee occur under the AI’s control. The 3D figure view adds smoke, fire, and soldiers firing or engaging in melee to the animations mentioned earlier.

Anytime during the game you can get the status of how the battle is going by pressing F8 and clicking on the analysis, statistics, or performance reports.

Several other Napoleonic games have map and order of battle editors. Not many allow you to customize the doctrine for each country. Doctrine in HW:LG are the guidelines to the AI on how units will typically react to situations. There are six army doctrines where you designate what formation a unit will use under certain circumstances such as during or at the end of a march. There are two artillery doctrines as to what type of unit would be the primary or secondary target. Unit doctrines deal with support and pursuit such as if a unit has a Defend order will it Engage if Attacked, Engage Enemy Unit (not wait until attacked), or Disengage (avoid combat).

As much as I like HW:LG, it does have some rough spots. Text flows out of the boxes or gets covered up by units, especially when the units are very close in the 2D view. It would be nice if there were a zoom feature in 2D. Occasionally I found it hard to tell if I had successfully completed giving an order. Some orders have dialog boxes and some did not. Support orders were more difficult than they should be as large text boxes would appear with commander’s names, which in 2D mode sometimes covered up the commander’s icon or that of a different commander.

Take the HW:LG documentation seriously about the hardware and driver requirements. It is not “DirectX 9 and up,” it is “DirectX 9.” They do include the DLLs on the CD and the text file “C:\HistWarGames\HistWar\D3DX9_42.dll missing.txt” contains a link on Microsoft’s site where you can get the most recent version of that DLL. Be sure to install it before running HW:LG.

There are a number of community created scenarios and mods built from the HW:LG tools. I recommend the Waterloo v.1 mod as it contains several scenarios covering the three battles that made up the Waterloo campaign.

HistWar: Les Grognards is a must-have for those who love command-level tactical or grand tactical Napoleonic battle simulations. You can spend hours with just the toolkit, building scenarios. I would not recommend HW:LG for the twitch gamer or those who want a mindless time-filler.

Armchair General Score: 86%

About the author:

Steven M. Smith has a life-long interest in history especially the Napoleonic and Victorian periods. He started playing wargames in 1975 and has played miniatures, board games, and computer games. He was the owner of The Simulation Corner gaming retail outlet in Morgantown, West Virginia until 1983. He is currently a member of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society and works for Lockheed Martin in Baltimore, Maryland.


  1. “Orders are issued while the game is paused and simultaneously executed when play mode is activated”

    This is only in the pbem Mode but the review implies it is in all modes. In Multi Player and Solo, all orders are given in Real Time and executed depending upon the Order Delay selected, NOT when the Simulator is “Paused”‘

    However, on behalf of all at Histwar, thankyou for taking the time to do a thorough and positive review. You are right, it’s main strength is the daily support from JMM and the Modders

  2. You’re right. I noted that down when I was playing it, but did not make it clear in my review. If playing hotseat, you can change sides in Real Time as well.

  3. Sorry Steven, I probably didn’t make myself clear. I was not refering to “Changing sides”. I was refering to the fact that Orders are given in :Real Time” in Solo and Multiplayer Modes. Orders are only given when “Paused” in the “Play by Email Mode”.

  4. A review without any mention of the quality of the AI or the difficulty levels to choose from isn’t very good.

    • The difficulty Levels range from “Gronards” – view limited to CinC, Orders Delayed, Info Vague, down in steps to”Conscript” where you can see all immediately and Orders are Immediate

      The AI is very good and has been improved since this review, although I must admit I fight almost exclusively live Multiplayer. One of the major things that makes Histwar unique is the on going responsive support from its developer JMM. I can find a bug or an undesirable behaviour and it is often fixed in a couple of days, a rareity in the gaming world. This has enabled Histwar to develop and evolve rapidly almost custom molding the program to the needs of the players rather than an inflexible “Take it or leave it” model

  5. good review! I would like to say its way better than NTW!!