Monday, August 29, 2016

How many Guns?

In response to my previous blog, it has been pointed out that my proposed system will converge the entire artillery of an Army Corps into a single park.  Divisional or brigade artillery completely disappears.  It is subsumed, abstracted or ignored?

Totally unrelated to this article:  my Brunswick Corps:
Minifigs line infantry, Warrior Jager, Very early Minifigs
uhlans, Italeri plastic hussars, and gun scratchbuilt from
ESCI artillery wheels, homecast metal gun, and balsa trail.
Plastic Duke from an Italieri command set.

Actually the system I have in mind does offer the option of batteries down to single company level to be represented,  but only on an ad hoc basis.  The objection is, however, well made - or at least leads me to think about the matter, and reach a decision I can justify, at least to myself.

The problem I have with scaling in this way I propose (1 figure to 200 men; 1 gun representing multiples of 8 cannon depending on the number of crew figures) is that to  depict artillery down to company level requires a heck of a lot of cannon compared with your other figures.  I have noticed this with Fire and Fury/Age of Eagles, Paddy Griffith's Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun rules, if you're playing an army level game, and my own set. You could fudge it as I have done with the 'Cordery' system, where the 4 guns I have suggested represents 96 cannon.  But 4 cannon seems a lot against maybe 80 figures of the other arms.  Tending to conservatism on such matters, I regard a horse and foot figure to cannon ratio of somewhere between 50 and 80 to 1 as something to aim for. My French Army comprises 560 foot and 168 horse - a total of 728 figures.  So anywhere between 9 and 14 cannon seems about right.
Generals being worked on.  Davout, Bessieres, Gneisenau:
Some Russian and a French general, and Napoleon;
Another French general and a riderless horse.  Minifigs,
except for the Italieri Russian.  Lot of work needed to polish these fellows.

As it happens, the 'Cordery' system is attractive enough to cause me to reconsider.  After all, I am proposing to depict skirmishers as drawn from their parent formations, whereas Age of Eagles simply abstracts them by having 'skirmish-capable' brigades shooting at longer ranges (at a reduced effect for the extended range).  There are practical reasons for doing this (scaling, multiple-figure stands...).   As I have no formal organisation below Division level, and I don't have stands larger than 2-figures, it is feasible for me to depict skirmish screens of 'brigaded' light companies.

It might be argued, then, that single artillery companies ought to be feasible.  It is.  Sort of.  A cannon with a single crew figure would represent under my system a single company of 8 cannon.  But I don't really want to do this, except in some exceptional circumstances.  So, what other options are there?

One is, as I have said before, to allow 'detachments' on an ad hoc basis down to single batteries from the 'central pool' so to speak.  This isn't quite historical, since the odd company was organic to Divisions and/or Brigades, depending upon the army. But there will arise occasions in which a given Div artillery simply has to be placed separately from the rest.

Another idea - not one I like, actually, but let's shove it out there - is to subsume Brigade and Divisional artillery within their respective formations, the single piece allocated being representative of the Corps Reserve only.  Under my rule set, each French Division could be allowed one die shooting (representing a single company) at 'medium' artillery ranges ('heavy' 6pr through to 9pr), this even though no battery is depicted.  This is precisely similar to the building in of battalion guns in a Division or Brigade-level game, even though battalion guns aren't shown.  Incidentally, the idiosyncratic features of the rule set we used in the 1970s could just about have been justified on this ground.  Long 'musketry' range reached out to 12 inches - a whole foot! - for a 9-figure battalion, whole linear frontage was 2.5 inches.  For a long time I felt that this system was much too unrealistic.  Now... I'm not so certain about that.

The problem with this scheme of subsuming artillery companies at Divisional level and below, is that three artillery companies of an Austrian Division ( one for each Brigade plus the Divisional 'positional' battery) seems to me too many to subsume, so I would probably place one 6pr gun on table with 3 crew figures.  This would only very slightly over-represent the 22 cannon of a given Austrian Division.

But that seems to lead to an inconsistency, and I don't want to give my Austrians 25 guns (for an army of fewer than 600 figures) neither!
Artillery of Napoleon's Imperial Guard.  Experimenting with larger sabots.  These are
 trapezoids 7cm deep, long parallel 10cm, short parallel 3cm.  Instead of placing
 the crew off the sabot, I'm thinking of placing them on.
There are practical reasons for this.

At this point I'll diverge a little.  An idea I had associated with my BBforST project was that instead of full Divisions, my 24-figure units could represent Brigades - two Brigades to a Division.  The ground scale would then be 1:1800; the time scale 1 bound representing 40-45 minutes; one figure represents 100 men.  Cannon would represent multiples of 4 for each crew figure.

Under such a scheme, depicting Divisional artillery becomes much more feasible.  An Army Corps could be made up of 6 Infantry Brigades (3 Divisions), a light cavalry Brigade/Division (12 or 24 figures), 3 Divisional artillery companies (3 cannon each with 2 crew figures) and the Army Corps Park (one cannon with 4 crew figures or possibly two cannon with 3 each).

Even under this Slightly Smaller Big Battles for Small Tables I would require quite a lot of cannon for my French army, say.  The organisation would look something like this;

I Corps: 3 Infantry Divisions (144 figures) , 2 light cavalry Brigades (24 figures), 4 cannon (10 crew)
II Corps: 4 Infantry Divisions (8 brigades, 192 figures), 1 light cavalry Brigade (12 figures), 5 cannon (12 crew);
III Corps: 3 Infantry Divisions (144 figures), 2 light cavalry Brigades (24 figures), 4 cannon (10 crew)
Imperial Guard:  3 Infantry Brigades (72 figures), 2 horse Brigades (24 figures), 8 Sappers, 2 cannon (8 crew)
Cavalry Corps: 3 Cuirassier Brigades, 3 Dragoon Brigades, 1 light cavalry brigade, 1 horse gun (3 crew)

That is 560  foot, 168 horse, 43 gunners (16cannon) representing an army of
56,000 foot, 16,800 horse, 4300 gunners with 172 cannon.  I have to admit, from a representative point of view, this army would be by no means over-gunned.  At that, were II Corps to be split up into two Corps of two Divisions (four Brigades) each, then an extra Corps Reserve Park would have to be found, with 4 crew, and the Army numbers would reach 188 cannon.
Placing crew figures on the artillery sabot gives a better 'look',
and makes it clearer where the artillery stands. As each gunner
represents an 8-cannon company, the whole represents 80 cannon.
Probably my 4-man crews will be placed on 8.5/2.5 x 7cm
sabots, the current triangular ones being reserved for 3-figure crews.

That might be 'do-able'. And I'll someday revisit that.  For the time being I am thinking of ignoring the artillery at divisional level or below, and subsuming it into the Army Corps Reserve Park.  But to introduce a little bit of flexibility, and bump up the numbers a little, I'm considering placing 2 guns in at least some of Divisions, each with 3-man crews.  I probably have enough gunners for this, but I'll need to get more guns.

Of course, the artillery of my other armies will require a commensurate increase.

Oh, well...


  1. I don't see how you can go too far wrong if you keep everything in proportion to the origonals- as you are doing. .

    1. Thanks Andy. One thing I ought pwerhaps top clarify, is my (current) policy of making the figure scale constant across the board. That does mean making certain assumptions about how many artillerymen per gun - namely 25 men per gun (a tad on the generous side, but in the right ballpark). This includes all artillery specialists of course, but they all get subsumed into the gun crews.
      Cheers -

  2. I imagine cost has a lot to do with it. If the gun battery occupies the right amount of retail space then it can be one model or ten models depending on the scale gamed at. Frontal is the most important thin with one real world gun tube taking up from 5 m to 20 m depending if its a grand battery or trying to hold ground. By condensing batteries into single models you dilute their power everywhere except where they are deployed and this results in an effect far out of proportion to their firepower when shooting at a single target and if you lose a single battery model and thats all your corps artillery you have almost probably lost the battle! Theres a reason different nations allocated batteries to Brigades, Divisions and Corps and had an army reserve. It allows them to ensure the commander on the ground has sufficient firepower to carry out the local task at hand.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. You are right, Drew, in more ways that one!. The cash costs of the models is definitely a consideration! I have also made some attempt at keeping the frontage reasonably realistic. To that end, I have decided that the 7cm frontage for a 32-gun park (4 crew figures) is a little too tight, and will reserve it for a 24-gun park (3 figures). An 8.5cm (c.300m) seems reasonable for 32 cannon, and 10cm (360m or 400yards) not too constricted a frontage for 40 cannon. Still a trifle on the tight side, maybe, but not unreasonably or even unrealistically so.

      As the battery depth will be constant - 7 cm - and the arcs of fire also, the 8.5cm and 10cm front sabots will be trapezoids, as described in the text.

      I could have made rules that would have led to the loss (silencing) of the whole park, but I propose that will be effected by loss of figures. In the rule set I have in mind, counter battery at beyond canister/grapeshot ranges would even then be a protracted affair with a 'disadvantage' factor (owing to the type of target) being applied. It would take an expected 8 turns of firing by a 4-figure battery of standard field pieces to silence a 4-figure battery. Recalling that an equinoctal period of daylight takes 12 of my game turns, it seems to me likely that the artillery will find better ways to occupy its time!

      All this I hope to explain in a future posting.
      Thanks for your comments,

  3. Haven't had my coffee yet so please factor thst in. I like the Brigade idea however if you stick with divisions and don't want to add more gun models, perhaps the presence of distributed batteries could be shown by placing a gunner with the Brigade/Division. Such a Brigade/Division could then be allowed a proper proportional increase in firepower, particularly vs towns etc and at a longer range than musketry.

    The gunner would merely represent visually the capability. If a grand battery were formed the detached gunners would be relocated to the Corps artillery model.

    1. Ross, that is a very interesting and creative idea. I did think of subsuming artillery firepower within the Division, but your suggested method never occurred to me.never occurred to me. It would answer the objection in respect of Austrian Divisions, which would permit the attachment of two or three gunners per Division.

      I will try out that idea shortly. Thanks,

  4. I've been leaning towards the Corp artillery reserve being represented method, as otherwise you get too many guns as you say Ion. Divisional/brigade batteries subsumed and just assumed to be supporting those units and cancelling out effect of Div/Brigade artillery of enemy. If divisional/brigade artillery is particularly weak or strong then the Corp's reserve artillery gets a penalty or bonus in terms of numbers. Bit simplistic perhaps but provided numbers are kept reasonably proportional I think it might work.

    1. I guess we are entering 'suck it and see' country, here. One idea I had, fairly close to but not the same as Ross's, was that the the Corps artillery inventory be wholly represented by the figures allocated to the Corps Reserve park. If you needed a single company somewhere, you could detach a figure therefrom, and place it with a spare cannon model. Alternatively, each Division might be allocated a number (one, usually) of allowable 1-figure 1-gun artillery detachments. Maybe.

      I was thinking of this for an action in my 'Retreat from Smolensk' narrative (still hanging fire for reasons I am not able to explain, even to myself) in which a single division, with a cavalry brigade and a single artillery company in attendance (24 infantry, 12 light cavalry, 1 gun with 1 crew figure), is acting as a flank guard for its parent Army Corps, when approached by a strong Russian column of all arms. Meanwhile reinforcements are hurrying to the aid of this isolated French Division.

      The fact is, this artillery will have a fairly trivial effect on its own, until (or unless) it merges with the reinforcing cannon (which, having 3 crew figures, will represent 24 pieces).

      I will state here that the method I have in mind for my war games uses single figures, or stands of 2 figures at most. This is of course unfashionable, but there are ways around this, such as 'strength-point' markers, or casualty/disorder/status markers. Personally, I like figure-removal as adding drama to proceedings, but also as requiring nothing further by way of conveying information about a unit's status. But that is by no means to obviate alternative methods that achieve the same end.

      I may see you come Saturday at the Bring-n-Buy.

  5. Archduke Piccolo,

    A very thought-provoking blog entry ... as usual.

    I like Ross Mac's idea, but I'm not sure how it would work in practice as the absence of a model gun might leave to players forgetting that there was some artillery support present.

    All the best,