I’m not claiming to be an expert on the period (or a clever writer of rules), but in response to Barry’s questions perhaps I can kick some discussion off here regarding the ‘Republic’ period of RtoE?
Modelling the character of the Old Régime armies like the Austrians and the Prussians for the period c.1792-96 (and beyond) should hopefully be relatively straight forward. Think classic SYW horse-musket doctrine, but with a few late 18th Century ‘modern’ overtones (manoeuvre columns were used, significant use of light infantry all be it in limited numbers, and the formation of semi-independent commands approximating something close to divisions and even corps – although invariably temporary bodies). i.e It’s not all ‘linear’! Some of these ‘modern’ overtones might be restricted and the tactical flexibly limited if your Austro-Prussian-Anglo-Spanish-Russian commander is rated as unimaginatively or poor (as they indeed were sometimes), but beware of portraying the Old Régime forces as always out-dated, purely linear armies, who popular myth tells us stood rooted to the spot, mesmerised by ‘brilliant’ or ‘new’ French tactics - as the latter ran rings around them.
These comments aside I would have thought the key aspect (in terms of getting at the flavour of the earlier period) is going to be how you choose to simulate the way the French armies fight. This might be tricky within the context of a broad set of ‘Napoleonic’ rules, as special mechanisms will be needed that capture the early French armies’ somewhat anarchic character: on the one hand, tactically flexible, sometimes unconventional and occasionally brilliantly victorious – but more often than not, unpredictable and fragile, with disastrous results. The commander of a French Revolutionary wargames army should perhaps be elated and frustrated in at least equal measure!
At the beginning of the wars, for example, some of the old regular army units might still have retained a degree their old professionalism and were capable of fighting well, as might a few of the better motivated National Guard formations (although the latter’s training and manoeuvre abilities might be restricted) – but most regiments were in poor shape, denuded of quality officers, of poor morale, and potentially even mutinous. In the early campaigns of 1792 they ran away in droves.
Revolutionary zeal, and combat experience (painfully gained), gradually improved things for the French through the rest of 1792, 1793-94, but the erratic characteristics remained in varying degrees from army to army, brigade to brigade, and (I suspect) even battalion to battalion within the same regiment – at least until the demi-brigades of the final amalgamation of late 1795 came into full effect.
Off the top of my head, I wonder if early French battalions will require some form of random ‘Revolutionary Fervour’ rating, coupled with an ‘officer quality/ unit training’ factor that might have some affect on manoeuvre and fighting abilities, as well as morale? One thing is certain – rules will have to be found (if not already) to handle grandes bandes skirmisher mobs, and LOTS of skirmisher shooting with resulting attrition effects on the enemy, remembering that (at least to begin with) the French adopted these tactics not because of some clever innovation, but because many of the mass volunteer battalions of 1792-94 didn’t have enough training to even manoeuvre in basic column, let alone fight in line.
If you intend to introduce random events like Under the Lily Banners, there are of course a few things you can layer in for the early period such as interfering Representatives on Mission from Paris, and nervous commanders who might decide defection to the enemy is better than the guillotine!
Just my two cents worth to get us started.