Friday, October 17, 2014

Big Battles for Small tables: Divisional Formations

15th Division, V Army Corps (represented by 17th Light Infantry)
marching in a Division column.  The carabiniers on the right
and voltigeurs on the left are intended to  give the impression
that the column comprises successive 'battalions' in line. 
 It is considered a war games 'truth' that one should depict in the table the level of detail not more than two grades below the overall command level.  If it's an army level game, then your tactical units are Divisions, or, as Army Corps are miniature armies, we might at a stretch go to Brigade level.  If you want your tactical unit to be the individual man, then what you are looking at is a platoon level game - a skirmish game, withal.
The column of 15th Division advancing with
skirmishing voltigeurs thrown forward.
Figures are Front Rank.
It is one of those 'truths' that has always irritated me.  It seems to me that what is being popularly prescribed for miniatures war games are the restrictions imposed by board war games.   Your cardboard counter, or other form of unit, and the scope of the playing surface - battlefield or strategic map - implies a kind of 'grain' to the game.  Board games by and large are coarse grained.  In a game like Axis and Allies a tank represents an army or, more likely, an army group.
As this Division is represented by a light infantry unit, I
am allowing it double my standard skirmishing capability.
Here, the voltigeur skirmishers have been reinforced by the carabiniers.

My own Big Battles for Small Tables concept is also 'coarse grained'.  That the proposed figure scale is 1:200 right off obviates depicting units below regimental or battalion level.  I could have a formal organisation of 4-figure battalions, but I'm disinclined to do this.  Rather, I am looking to depicting what can happen inside an infantry Division without any formal lower organisation.  This series of pictures shows what I mean: Divisional columns, with and without skirmishers deployed forward;  a Division deployed in successive lines, with skirmishers deployed; and a possible ordre-mixte formation.
15th Division deployed in successive lines, again with a
heavy cloud of skirmishers to the fore.  How this will work in action
I hope to show in my next posting.

One of several possible Divisional ordre-mixte formations.
One formation that doesn't seem to 'work' is the 24-figure Division broken down into 'battalion' columns.  There I have to accept the 'fudge' - much as is done with the Age of Eagles rule set, and allow the single block to stand for all columnar formations.  Or, alternatively, field two 10-figure brigade columns behind the skirmish screen.
An attempt to depict the Division deployed in battalion,
 Regimental or Brigade columns.  Not a very good look in my view.
What in effect I am attempting here is to depict, within the constraints imposed by my figure, ground, and time scales, the internal workings of a Division, but without a formal organization below the Divisional tactical unit.  What I hope this will achieve is that the soldiers themselves carry the information to the Army Commander what it is doing and how it stands.  
11th Division (a.k.a. 33rd Line Infantry), IV Army Corps,
deployed in brigade columns with a screen of skirmishers.
This doesn't look so bad, but I still don't know whether I want
this sort of thing.  First generation Minifigs figures.

11th Division in Brigade columns.

Recent Acquisition:
1. I must welcome the 111th 'follower' of this blog spot.  Unfortunately, I can't tell who that is!  At any rate, I do hope you enjoy what you find herein.

2. I recently acquired (two or three weeks ago now), through the good offices of Brent, who always has his eye on what's being offered on TradeMe, a fine metal battery of Prussian artillery.  A couple of years ago, I rescued a half-finished plastic Prussian Army (Revell, I think) that was about to be 'deep-sixed' by a friend, and offered it a good home.  To this I've added a couple of cavalry units (I've only begun painting these guys - horrible figures, which doesn't help the motivation).  And then came this windfall.  The 'buy now' price was right for me (no percentage in haggling) and here they are.
My Prussian guns, as they were about a fortnight ago.
Not sure of their manufacture.  Possibly Hinchliffe?
 Not much work needed on these at all.  Here I've already begun a refurb of the tyres and metal furnishings of the guns.  since these pics were taken, I've painted all three cannon a lightish mid-blue, and given the gun barrels a light ink touch-up to highlight the details.   I've yet to apply a blue ink overwash to the woodwork.
The guns look like 2x3pr and a 6pr piece.  Not that I'll
concern myself overmuch with that!
 As for the figures, aside from the basing and flocking (now done), there is little more to do on these figures. I did add a little of my gloss-black-and-silver mix to represent churned up water in the bucket (see the battery's right hand gun), and I'm thinking of adding a little yellow and red the the lighted end of the slow matches, but that's about it really.
3 guns, 12 gunners and an artillery officer.  Just the thing.
Of course, for my BB4ST rule set, each gun will represent a Corps Reserve artillery park.  But as it stands, it is a fine looking unit - just right for my Corsican Ogre rule set.


  1. The Prussian artillery look like Hinchcliffe to me. I have a crew that includes the sponger in the bucket man. Have a look at the second photo in this post: .

    I hadn't considered the two levels down rule. Makes a lot of sense. My units are brigades, but they are generally modeled on regiments/battalions.

    My current preference is for big bases and therefore, with the exception of my new 1/72nd scale Dutch Belgians which are being based as singles, I can not represent anything other than a massed unit.

    I am looking forward to seeing what the new Blucher rules will be like. There is the new edition of Napoleon's Battles as well coming, but that won't have any radical changes.

    My current project is doing a small scenario for Napoleon's Battles based on Plancenoit. I am just about to tackle the problem of being able to fit all the figures in what is just a 2x3 foot playing area.

    I am enjoying these posts of yours.

    1. Yes I thought they were Hinchliffe. I have an idea I did look for the characteristic 'H' motif under the bases, but don't recall whether I saw it. Too late to check now!

      I've never really liked the 'big base' gig - even movement trays for individually based figures don't 'do it' for me. I can see the upside of convenience - but I'm not the first to see too close an affinity with board games in such methods. Mind you, that didn't stop my checking out the old SPI Waterloo game for ideas.

      I had a glance at your blog spot and your own Prussian army. Nice conversions of the Airfix figures. But what impressed me most was that bally great Borodino table. That looked really something!

    2. If you meant the 25mm game, yes, the table groaned under the weight. It was way too crowded. Unit depth is an issue and following on from my comment on this post I've started some serious thinking about it in my scenario planning. One observation was that if I have the distance (so what was 2 foot becomes 1 on the table) I need to reduce my 4x4 16 figure brigade to just 2x2 (i.e. four figures - a quarter). I'm still mulling that over.

  2. Your ideas for representing the different tactical postures of divisions or corps have given me a great deal of food for thought. I like the idea of the figures conveying the information instead of being confined to a single square base very appealing, and other advantages of the multiple small bases are that one could detach a figure or base to occupy a strongpoint or BUA, and place bases in single file for column of route approaching the battlefield. I'm looking forward to reading more about your BB4ST rules very much.

    1. Thanks, Arthur. The experimentation is continuing...

  3. I've not heard the 2 level expressed that way before. I have heard it expressed in terms of what an officer should be aware of, something like detailed knowledge 1 level above and below him and a general awareness 2 levels up and down but my impression is that this comes from (relatively) contemporary military training.

    3 levels is quite manageable and even 4 for smaller or all day multi-player games, but of course, few of us have the resources to do that without resorting to small units or small figures. I can't ever see myself going below the possibility of brigade formations if only because there are so many instances of brigsdes being detached or not being deployed contiguous with others.

    However, coming at last to the post in hand, noting thst you have skipped over the dividion in line, which will be needed for Brits at least, I think whether or not you need to show a line of battalion colums vs a column/mass of lines is whether you have awsy to show the added flexibility of the series of small columns vs the solid mass. (Actually I've never seen evidence of any advantage of the solid mass and have trouble figuring out why it was ever used, esp by competent commanders )
    Did I miss how you are going to do squares?

    Bottom line is if it looks good and the advantages/disadvantages are built in yo the rules, then its good.