My gaming club has had difficulty selecting a ruleset for Napoleonics. Part of it comes down to Simulation vs Game. Part of it is having to rebase or double (or triple) the number of figures needed (and associated expense). And Part of the difficulty is the reputation of Empire (whether correctly or incorrectly) for being overly in favor the French.
After trying Empire III (for others amongst the group its re-learning) it quickly became clear that 1) the rules are not always clear and lack examples and 2) the charts/flow charts are clunky taking up a lot of space and do not always contain all the information/exceptions without reference to the rulebook. At times it seems like Empire V is needed as reference help interpret what was meant in Empire III (were using III as its less detailed/more simplified)
All of which is background to how to handle skirmishing. Can one cavalry regiment on an entire attack front neutralize skirmishers? Do retreating integral skirmishers that must "withdraw" have to stand down for the entire hourly round per the rules? Should they be able to fallback to their units? Can they count for infantry mass in close combat? Is allowing integral skirmishers to fire each impulse (1-3 times per round) on top of the skirmish combat round to much? (potentially allowing a single regiments skirmish company to cause up to 6 castings of casualties (360 men) per hour.
I've read 5 or so threads on the Yahoo EmpireNapoleonics Groups that go back and forth on this. Here are just a few of the recurring thoughts:
*Empire V is terrible and Empire III's skirmish combat got it right!
*Empire is a Corps/Divisional game, the actions of skirmishers should be abstracted! and it Goes Faster!
*What do you do about integral skirmishers that must withdraw, what can they do as part of their unit for the rest of the hour?
*What should be the width of the skirmish determination be (this apparently changes whether you use Emp. III, Rep. to Emp., or Emp V.)
I'm not sure what the solution is as of yet. The rules seem to work well for non-integral skirmishers, e.g. entirely unformed units. They go out and do their thing at the beginning of the round and if they lose they stand down for an hour. If they win they continue to screen the units behind, tie up enemy artillery etc. Without the skirmish combat round there is no "driving off" the enemy skirmishers, each side with skirmishers retains all the tactical advantages of them. However, with integral skirmishers you run into issues with 1) what do with them when they loose; 2) does it best reflect skirmish conflict for both a skirmish round and then integral skirmishers being used tactically; and 3) does #2 led to integral skirmishers being everywhere all the time beyond what is properly reflected in a single hourly round.
At the moment I'm almost inclined to the Empire V, solution. There was an interesting quote attributed to the Great S. Bowden on one of the threads to affect of "the fate and actions of a single battalion are of no consequence on the scale of Empire".
I expect there will be more discussion on this to come.