Thursday, May 29, 2014

Big Battles for Small Tables.

In recent times, I have decided once and for all to renounce all hope and expectation of obtaining an 8ft x 6ft - or maybe a 9ft x 5ft table tennis table - for my war games.  It just ain't gonna happen.   There's just no space for one.  I will have, then, to content myself with my 6ft x 4ft table, and other, smaller, possibilities, or, if I want big: it will have to be the front or back lawn.  
 V Army Corps, with 24-figure tactical units representing Divisions.
At 1:200 scale, this Army Corps comprises 90 figures including
Marshal Ney and his ADC - 18,000 troops and 32 guns.
(Infantry Front Rank (I think) and artillery and Corps Command
 The consequences have to do with the size of units I favour: 24 figure infantry for Napoleonics; 27 figures for American Civil War infantry; 36-figures for mid- eighteenth century and Marlburian.  The last of these will be on 20mm bases as well. Cavalry units are smaller, roughly half the numbers, except for my Marlburian, where the Horse units comprise 24 figures.  Neither is that great a 'fit' with a small table, unless the battles themselves are very small.  

Beginning with the Napoleonics, methought to bring in alternative organizations, such that a battalion might become a brigade, or even a Division.   Some weeks ago I posted a play test exploring combats between brigade/Divisional columns against line.  In it I posted a possible Army Corps formation in which each of my 24-figure infantry units constituted a brigade, of which two made up a Division.  The Corps comprised 3 infantry divisions, a 12-figure cavalry brigade, and one or two guns (picture below).
Army corps with 24-figure infantry tactical units representing
brigades.  Two brigades made up a Division. At a figure scale of 1:100,  each model gun with 4 of
a crew represents 16 guns.  This Army corps would have an
overall strength of 16,400. (All figures Minifigs).
But before developing a rule set for this organization, I have decided to go for an even larger scale battles, with each figure representing 200, and each gun or vehicle representing 30-32.   In the lead picture, the centre Division (XVI Division) is shown deployed in two lines with voltigeurs thrown forward in skirmish order.  The question remains whether a rule set at this sort of scale ought to include this level of detail.  Many would argue not, but I have a feeling the option at least ought to be available.

Close up of  XVI Division deployed: successive lines, and skirmishers ahead.
Further to this philosophical question: do we want infantry faced with cavalry attack to be seen in square or not?  My preference, broadly speaking, is that such formations be shown explicitly, but I can understand (at least at some level) the contrary view.
 Even were we so to do, what form should a Divisional Square take: two 12-figure squares, as above; or a single 24-figure square as below?  More than likely the practicalities of game mechanics will decide.
 Below are depictions of the two options of a French Division being menaced by Austrian Horse (Cuirassiers and Dragoons) approaching in some kind of column formation.  More than likely the formation of choice of cavalry will be in successive lines of 6 figures - i.e. a block of 2 ranks of 6 figures apiece.  Something additional to think about.
 At this kind of scale, and taking the frontage of a 600-man battalion in a line of 3 ranks as being very roughly 120 yards (perhaps a little more), it would appear that 1cm on the table should represent perhaps 30 yards (or paces or meters, take your pick) on the ground.  Possibly it should be more, but let's run with this c1:2700 ground scale.  My 6'x4' table-top, then represents a battlefield 3 miles broad by 2 deep.
At this sort of scale, effective musketry ranges would be roughly up to 5cm (150 yards).  It would appear that Paddy Griffith's method of enacting all musketry and close combats with this 5cm separation between opposing forces might well become the combat system of choice ...

Before concluding, it seems to me a time scale has to be looked into.  What does a bound represent, and how many represents the hours of daylight?  At this juncture, I incline to a bound of one hour, with a 'day' comprising as follows:

May 21-July 20: 1 morning half-light, 16 full day, 1 evening half-light, 6 full darkness
July 21-August 20: 1 morning half-light, 14 full day, 1 evening half-light, 8 full darkness
August 21-October 20: 1 morning half-light, 12 full day, 1 evening half-light, 10 full darkness
October 21-November 20: 1 morning half-light, 10 full day, 1 evening half-light, 12 full darkness
November 21-January 20: 1 morning half-light, 8 full day, 1 evening half-light, 14 full darkness.

Do I want to go into this detail?  For campaign work, more than likely.  For pick-up battles, probably not.

Note that at this point so far we are looking at army composition, and ground, figure and time scales, and the choice what to depict.  This is before we even begin a substantive rule set.

To be continued...


  1. Very interesting to read your thoughts and careful analysis. You have my sympathy at being stuck with the smaller size table and I'm sure your 1:200 is the best if you want to represent full Napoleonic scale battles. My group is successful in representing large battles at 1:100 scale on a 12 feet x 6 feet table. Ground scale is 1 inch = 75yds so that covers up to 5 or 6 miles. 24 figures to an infantry brigade sized unit and 9 for cavalry, cannon model about 16-24 guns. Those thin card buildings in your second photo are very nostalgic....I wonder what happened to mine....crushed beyond recovery in a box of scenery I suspect.

  2. Thanks, Chris. Your ground scale sounds about the same as mine: 1cm to 30 yards is very close to 1" to 75. Mind you, my ground scale may well be a minimum, and something like 1cm to 40 yards or even 50 might be worth considering. But this will make the artillery frontage, already problematic, even more anomalous.

    Those cardboard buildings, along with several from the Usborne 'build this' books, make excellent and lightweight wargames terrain, but aren't what you'd call very robust. Those two are already showing signs of needing some kind of reinforcing.
    Cheers, and thanks for the link (I have dropped by a few times),

  3. Familiar ground which I have yet to fully address for myself. I don't have time right now to fully comment but you mind it useful to revisit some of the early posts on rules on

    1. Thanks for reminding me, Ross. I've been meaning to 'regularize' my contact with Paul Leniston's blogs, but for some reason it kept not happening. All sorted now! I think, though, I will (for now) go in for my slightly larger tac units.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. OK, last night's comment seems to have vanished. Let me try to remember what I typed. These are fairly disjointed observations/questions.
    1. I think the equation of 1 gun stand to 30 may be problematic since all artillery will be forcibly concentrate into mini grand batteries. Have you considered something like 1 gunner represents 4 or 6 guns. The ground scale for a model would be out for a single 6 gun battery but at least it could be deployed where appropriate while a concentrartion of several batteries would have the right frontage.

    Still on scale, at 1:200 that means your 600 battalion equates to 3 figures which resumably matches the said 4cm distance when deployed in 1 rank. So presumably firing would be 1 rank deep?

    Re skirmishers. They are problematic at this scale but they are such an important if not defining feature of the period that I think a lot is lost by factoring them in. To my mind they are best treated in fairly abrstaract terms such as having a few skirmishers deployed as a marker of the strength and presence of a skirmish line for the division rather than being treated as a unit.

    There was something else but I've forgotten.

    I am very much looking forward to see where you go with this.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Ross. I think they do help with the thinking. As it happens, I do tend to equate gunners with number of guns, which then brings me to the model scale. A four-gun battery has very roughly 100 personnel (not all are gun crew, but l;et that go). I place 4 figures with each gun, which gave me, at a figure scale of 1:25 (my current organization) 1 gun model represented 4. Probably for the Austrian 6-gun battery, 3 of a crew would be suitable, but I tended to fudge it there. The Austrians had a heck of a lot of guns anyhow.

      With the 1:200 scale, we have 800 gunners represented: 32 guns (I rounded it to 30, but I'll probably stay with 32). I accept that this really represents the Corps Reserve park, rather than the guns attached to the divisions themselves. We might do a little fudging there with the divisions having a 'shooting range' out beyond what would be musketry range.

      The fact is, I have only limited numbers of guns anyhow (a deliberate policy) with only 8 (possibly 9, though the 9th gun seems to have gone walkabout) for close to 700 horse and foot.

      Firing would indeed be one rank deep. Somehow or other, I still have to make the columns 'work'. The odd thing is, that they might well do, simply for the sake of the gamers' convenience, and for no other reason. 'We'll manoeuvre and fight in columns because it's a chore to do anything more complicated.' Well, it's an idea.

      I certainly like the idea of Divisional deployment into successive lines being an option, and with skirmishers ahead. Strictly speaking they would represent something like the French 'Grande Bandee', or the notably thick skirmish lines deployed by the British. Other nations will probably be less well served in this regard, skirmishers being limited to Jagers, and, possibly being a bit generous, Austrian Grenzers.

      I'm toying with the idea that specialist light infantry may deploy up to half their formation as skirmishers (the main block being the reserve), and specialist riflemen their whole formation (which don't amount to full Divisions anyway).

      This is really going to be 'Old School' stuff: casualty removal, individually based figures, and formation sizes will vary as well. Although the standard Infantry division will have 24 figures, some will have 20, 18 or even 16 figures, I do have smaller 'units' of specialist light troops (Jagers and 5/60th Rifles), which will be classed as brigades.

      To be sure, they aren't to represent a 'Rifle Brigade' as such; more representative of a practice used among several armies of 'brigading' light companies on an 'ad hoc' basis (the French Grande Bandee is a case in point).

      Having got this far, I realise, i have really written up my next posting on this topic! So I have copied and pasted it as such, and will add to it there.


  6. Hi Ion

    I have just found your blog, and was interested in your thoughts on campaigns. They are very similar to my own.

    I designed my campaign, and my wargame rules, to allow me to fight multi corps battles with 28mm battles on a 6x6 foot table. The scale was not important to me, the "look" and "feel" was more important. I wanted to have sufficient space on the table to have open flanks, rather than pile the figures on shoulder to shoulder.

    My basic "unit" is also a brigade. I like to have squares, lines and column. I have skirmish combat in my wargame rules, but do not have skirmishers on the table.

    I look forward to reading how your wargame and campaign rules develop



    1. Thanks for your comments, Paul. I have off and on visited your campaign blogs for some time now - two or three years at least. I quite like your concept, and what I end up with will no doubt owe something to what I have picked up there. I'm still leaning towards larger formations and/or Army Corps sizes, but as I am starting more or less from scratch (other than 1700 or so Napoleonic figures) I'm keeping an open - or at least ajar - mind.