Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Grid wargames - some thoughts thereon.

Formations on a square grid battlefield.
I really ought to be in the garden right now, but - the heck with it.

I received a fortnight ago my copy of Bob Cordery's Developing the Portable Wargame.  Even after a fortnight I have barely dipped into it, yet it has already got me doing a lot of thinking.  Added to this was his recent blog posting anent a commercially available 'hex' grid system and the effects of over-large unit bases overlapping the 'cell' edges.  Here was my response to his remarks (the pictures have been added, of course, to lend a little colour).  In the following pictures, I hope the square 'cells' are sufficiently clearly delineated by the + markings.

One of the consequences of thinking about gridded war games has been to consider how my Napoleonics might 'fit'. This hasn't gone any further than my brain so far, but might well see the light of day.

Consider my standard 24-figure infantry Division. A Divisional column occupies a 9cm x 8cm 'footprint' - easily contained within a 4"x4" (10cmx10cm) square cell. But what of the same division, deployed in line, say, for defence? It might then occupy two, three or four 'cells'. That seems to me no bad thing. 

24-figure divisional column - easily accommodated by
4-inch squares.  This Division maintains an 'all round'
(orthogonal) interval of 1 square
My cavalry units (Brigades) do present a small problem, as, arranged 3 ranks of 4 figures they occupy an 8cm x 12cm 'footprint'; 2 ranks of 6 figures, it is 12cm x 8cm. Were I to go down this track, the Cav Brigades would have to be reduced to 8 figures, OR I'd have to endure accept the overlap.

French Division deployed into 'regimental' lines.  Although I
don't maintain a regimental organisation in this scale,
this informal effect would be the same as if I did.
Although the latter would not be wholly satisfactory, I think I'd rather have the overlap in depth, rather than width, and arrange my 12-figure cav units in 3 ranks of 4.

Austrian Uhlans in Brigade Column.  Note the 2cm
overlap in depth.

Austrian Cuirassiers closed up in successive lines.  Here the
unit overlaps in width 1cm on either flank.

I also think that in a system like this, the full Division and Brigade columns ought to maintain an 'all round' interval of 1 cell (orthogonally only on a square grid).
Austrian Division in route column.  The depth of the column
 would be 3 squares orthogonally. It ought to be more, of
course, but I refuse to have a single file of figures
to represent a column of route! 

I'm tempted to expand this as a posting on my own blog spot. Especially considering that I received my copy of 'Developing the Portable Wargame a couple of weeks back.
(I might be forced, in a separate posting, to suggest 'Army Lists' for my 11th Century Byzantines, as well... :-D)

Barely sooner threatened than carried out: here it is.  It brought me to considerations of whether one might accommodate route columns in such a system.  I don't think Bob does, but in any case, he maintains a regimental organisation within similarly scaled Napoleonic formations.  Route marches will most likely be absorbed into the system with little or nothing needing to be said or done.


  1. Interesting post.

    I confess I have not done anything with gridded games (yet?), but it seems to me part of the idea is formations are sort of abstracted out in the sort of games Bob and others do with gridded games. But that could be a false impression/assumption on my part. And even if it were true that doesn't mean you or others can't go your own way on that. After all, the important thing is what works for you.

  2. In the scale of game I'm thinking about, it would the units (regiments and battalions) that would be 'abstracted'. The reason for this is that my Napoleonics run a dual scale. Those French formations are either the 15th and 41st Line infantry regiments, or 7th and 8th Divisions, forming part of III Army Corps. The cavalry would also represent regiments or brigades, depending upon what scale of battle I am depicting.

  3. Archduke Piccolo,

    You make a lot of very interesting points, all of which have given me something to think about.

    At present (and I must stress that as nothing is set in stone as yet) my current draft PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME rules use units that fit into a Hexon II hex. I think of the individual units as being brigades/regiments, with three or four infantry units plus some artillery and possible a unit of cavalry grouped together as equalling a division. It works … but I have yet to consider the ‘problem’ of – for example – using a divisional attack column. That would certainly occupy more than a single grid area.

    If I moved over to 4-inch/10cm squares rather than hexes, I could do as you have done, and would be able to fit three or four infantry units or two cavalry units into a grid area … but I still could not get a whole division into one.

    This is something that I will certainly have to give some more ‘think time’ to over the coming months … but my current main project is to re-write my SCW book so it will have to stay on the back burner for a few weeks first.

    All the best,


    PS. I look forward to seeing you Byzantine Army Lists!

    1. I recall your Napoleonic system being roughly the same scale as my BB4ST game, but with regimental/brigade tactical units. In many ways, your system solves some of the problems I have encountered. I mentioned that generally Divisions comprised hust two of the three arms, but that was not quite correct as I was aware at the time. The Austrians and Prussians both experimented with all-arms Divisions (The late wars Prussian Brigades were in fact Division sized). My system is flexible enough to allow for such things, but it is not so easy to formalise it.

      Having said that, my system of larger 'cells' might have made certain problems you might encounter easier for me to deal with. We'll see, no doubt.

      As my Byzantine Army has been built for the DBM rule set, the army list I have in mind will incorporate its basing conventions. It will, therefore, incorporate mixed-arms infantry and cavalry - as will the opposing Bulgar light and heavy horse. I'll look into this in the next few days.


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