"All resources will be used to make the army ready for war." - Napoleon, 1813

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Setting down the Basics

Our current forces in all their glory!  ;-)

Although the Internet, plastic boxed sets loaded with instructions, and an increased number of high production quality and well thought out all-in-one type rulebooks have lowered the barriers of entry into Napoleonics considerably, there is still a lot to figure out before the first miniature order is placed.  I'm not even talking about researching uniform details, figuring out the appropriate figures, or even choosing an order of battle or generic national template to base your force on.

Most rules sets are pretty flexible when it comes to basing and units sizes and figure counts.  They may have a preferred scheme that they suggest, but players personal tastes as well as  resources of time and money can usually be accommodated in most cases.  I've mainly looked at General de Brigade, Lasalle, Black Powder, and Waterloo  We've decided to go with Black Powder of many reasons, but certainly its flexibility is a big plus.  With no official structures dictated to us like some game systems, I spent a good amount of time over the last couple of years seeing what others had done across the blogosphere taking into account visuals, playability, and attainable painting goals.

Line Infantry Battalion in line formation and attack column with skirmish screen.

Although I'll deal more directly with the Order of Battles we're basing our forces on in a later post, I did want to mention a few things before going any further.  First off, unless Eric and I are invited to bring our toys to join in some big battle in the big city reenacting the Big Battle of Suchandsuch, we're never going aspire to reenact a historical battle.  Although some game scenarios we play might be inspired by some actual occurrence, they still are going to be purely products of our imagination greatly assisted by resources like Charles S. Grant's Scenarios for Wargames.  Ultimately history will be our guide, not our master.  Striking a balance between historical accuracy and flavor and more generic flexible organization and playability.

When trying to figure out our basing scheme and miniature count, I knew we wanted our units to look and feel like proper battalions, etc., but not be so large that we would struggle to complete a single brigade.  Also factored in was room for formations and maneuvering on the table top.  For our generic line infantry battalions I settled on 24 figures on 4 bases for our standard size with 6 figures on each base.  Again, I thought 6 figures instead of 4 gave the unit a fuller wider feel, and 4 bases being less unwieldy than 6.

Prussian Fusilier Battalion in line formation and in skirmish.

We can always take bases away to represent a smaller unit, and always add more stands later for large battalions.  Perhaps for militia/conscript units like Prussian Landwehr or French Provisional battalions, I might try going with 5 figures a stand to give these units a slightly understrength and also less ranked up/orderly appearance.  For some light battalions like Prussian Fusiliers, I decided to go with 4 figures per stand to give the unit a looser appearance and to give a bit more room for the skirmishing and firing poses.

For cavalry we're going two per base with 12 models in the standard unit.  To me this represents about 2-3 squadrons, and 16 models about 4. Although I have to do some more research on how artillery works in Black Powder, I'm initially collecting 3 guns and 1 howitzer to form a battery for my Prussians.  Perhaps 2 guns for horse artillery.  Then there's the appropriate battlefield footprint to consider especially behind the guns.  Also, we'll figure out limbers, ammunition caissons, supply wagons, ambulances, etc. etc. as we go, but try to keep all the bases 50mm wide if possible.

 Jager Battalion/Detachment and Cavalry Regiment

Our basic base size is 50mm X 50mm for infantry and cavalry, and 50mm X 100mm for artillery.  As suggested in Black Powder this conveniently makes our frontages universal.  This took the longest to finally determine as we wanted a close order appreance but also a little room to show off the rank and file miniatures.  50mm strikes a nice balance between the cramped look of a 15mm frontage per figure and the little too open 20mm.  Having the base 50mm deep helps accommodate firing lines and other poses.

Other odds and ends such as skirmish line voltigeurs or volunteer jagers will be based in pairs (which is how they operated) on a 50mm X 25mm base with 2 bases (and 4 figures) per battalion.  To help distinguish the more ultra light units such as a Prussian Jager battalion, I will increase the base size to 50mm X 50mm, keeping only 2 figures a base on 4 bases.  If nothing else this will allow me to craft more scenic bases as I'm doing with my Prussian fusiliers (4 figures to a base).  Still, it also helps accommodate the various running, loading, and firing poses, and again help differentiate them from my musketeers on the table top by giving them a looser more open order appearance.

 Brigade and Division command stands.

For command models and such we're keeping to circles and ovals.  Individual mounted messenger type models such as adjutants/Feldjagers/ADCs will be on a 40mm base.  Brigade commands will be 2-3 (mounted and/or foot) figures on a 75mm base with higher commands based on a 120mm x 90mm oval.  Division commands will have 4 while Corps and Army stands will have 5+ as needed.  I think keeping with a simple circles and squares basing scheme really helps with the army visuals as well.  If for nothing else, it doesn't have any odd or non organic shapes that might distract the eye when viewing the table top.

As you can probably tell from the pictures, we're mostly using Litko bases for our project.  They have a nice medium thickness (ours are 3mm).  Not too chunky, but thick enough to help with movement and  protect your minis from handling.  Also, they are quite easy to magnetize which we'll cover later.  The only drawback is that it takes FOREVER for them to arrive when you place an order.  Even going through the local game shop as they have the same headache with Litko.  We ordered 300 but got 200.  Still we should be good for awhile. :-)

Up next (but not nessarily in this order) will be blurbs about magnetizing our bases and army transport, planned army organization and Order of Battles, more about our basing scheme (the painting, ballast, and flock part), and some actual WIP/painted minis. :-)

Immer Vorwärts!


  1. Very nice organization and planning. I've also chosen Black Powder for the very same reasons you've state - which I believe the authors had in mind in the first place. Best wishes on your project. Best, Dean

    1. Thanks Dean! Some of this basic information that I'm going to be posting might not be too interesting for veterans, but I'm hoping newcomers to Napoleonics like Eric himself will find this site very useful. Especially future recruits to our local group. :-)

  2. I look forward to seeing what you do with BP, I think you will find it very enjoyable.

    1. Well, knowing the guys I will be playing with, I'm sure it will VERY enjoyable. :-)

  3. There's nothing more delightful than starting a brand new project is there?
    Looks very nice so far, just 24 in a Prussian battalion seems to be a rather low number.
    Is that owed to a certain OdB or is this some BlackPowder men to model ratio?

    1. Yes, pretty exciting. The main reasons for our basing and model count are pretty much covered above in the second and third paragraph. There's no way we're going to paint up 36-40 model battalions given our resources of time and money.

      As mentioned above, since we're not reenacting one particular battle we're also not needlessly limiting our armies/units based on the unit strengths recorded on a particular day in history. Although the focus of our forces are firmly from the period of August through October 1813, the same battalion that would have 800+ men on August 1st would have 500+ on the first day of Leipzig. Our battalions will have a good general look and feel, and can always be tweaked through Stamina points in BP, or by adding or subtracting stands later.

      Rules-wise, we're not going to be using GdB, but I think the unit footprint of a 32 figure Prussian battalion on 60+mm bases is still very comparable to ours. I haven't used Casualty Caps since the mid 90s so I don't think figure scale truly matters anymore just like ground scale that is always out of whack. I'd guess our figure scale is somewhere between 1:25 and 1:30 for a sanity check, but then again artillery messes things up again. Lasalle uses generic 24 model units and BP is flexible but suggests a standard unit is 24 to 30.

      All in all, we had to strike a balance that works for us and our standards. I'm also confident that our armies will be very playable on the table top alongside others using slightly different schemes.

  4. Very nice and interesting post, Jason. Certainly your basing scheme models mine and it has worked for us (I wish I had gone with 50 mm wide bases rather then 40 mm, but way too far down the road now, plus my gaming colleague uses 40mm bases, so it worked for us). I have just ordered some ovals for my divisional commands, I just did not like the rectangles I was using. As you know for infantry battalions that can fight in either closed or open order, I have done exactly what you have done. I still playing around with skirmishers, I just based up a bunch on singles bases, but I am still thinking about it. I plan to have 4 figures to a skirmishing company.

    Any great post, I will stayed tuned.


    1. Thanks John. I definitely took notes from your "A Retrospective" post last January, and when Eric witnessed the Guns of April game at Adepticon using 50x50s that really sealed the deal for us.

      I agree on your command stands. While the minis were wonderful, I never liked the rectangle shape either for reasons already mentioned above.

      While Skirmishers look good on individual bases, ease of movement and additional protection for the figs from handling influenced our scheme. Plus we're not going to play skirmish level Napoleonics either.

  5. I like your planning and way of thinking with this project. Look forward to seeing it develop.

  6. Looks like you have your work cut out there! Just remember that the Prussians did not structure their troops like other nations did. Take a look at Martins Befreiungskreige Blog... he has great post on this (although geared towards R2E).