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"Black Powder: Assault Column Size Questions" Topic

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1,198 hits since 1 May 2010
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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CPBelt Inactive Member01 May 2010 6:07 p.m. PST

Looking over the Black Powder formation rules tonight, I just want to make sure that I am correct about attack column formations for various sized units. Would these be legal assault formations? If I have a 24 figure unit then this really would be the only way to form an attack column?

12 figure unit: 4 wide x 3 deep

24 figure unit: 6 wide x 4 deep

30 figure unit: 6 wide x 5 deep

36 figure unit: 6 wide x 6 deep

Sparker Inactive Member02 May 2010 2:29 a.m. PST

My understanding is that for a 36 model fig Bn each 6 models are based on a stand 45mm wide by 40mm deep, in two ranks fo 3 files, conforming with the same base sizes as General De Brigade and ITGM, and as supplied with the Perry plastics:


The Bn consists of 6 of these bases, arranged 2 wide and 3 deep to form an attack column, and one behind the other to form a march column.

Trajanus02 May 2010 2:54 a.m. PST

I assume you mean "Attack Column", not that it matters much as its a nominal formation, historically speaking.

Page 15 "the column must be at least as many men wide as it is deep". So your examples qualify.

If you look at a real French battalion column, based on any frontage, it is a thin rectangle not a square but such are the joys of figure basing, depth is always wrong.

Its not really possible to show a formation 200 men wide by nine ranks deep.

We base 36 figures on 6 stands of 6 figures, each in two ranks. So our "Attack Column" is 9 figures wide by 4 deep which looks slightly more accurate but don't loose sleep over it!

Trajanus02 May 2010 3:03 a.m. PST

To follow Sparker's led, seen from above our 36 figure,6 stand "Attack Column" looks like this:


Sparker Inactive Member02 May 2010 2:53 p.m. PST


Your column differs from what I was trying to explain, but I must admit bears a much stronger resemblance to the real thing – I guess with Black powder its just as 'legal' so I might try it. Would have to throw out all my movement trays though!

Kind Regards,


ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP02 May 2010 3:46 p.m. PST

A Civil War regimental "Attack Column" (never actually called that in the regulations) would be either a Column of Divisions or a Double Column. Each formation was two companies wide by five divisions deep.

Trajanus03 May 2010 4:53 a.m. PST


As I'm sure you know the French used Column of Divisions too (hardly surprising, American ACW drill being derived from the French).

Which was my point regarding the fact that wargames depth is all to hell, the width of two companies being a heck of a lot longer than the depth of five divisions!

Trajanus03 May 2010 4:59 a.m. PST



Sorry about that but yes, it does look more like it.

Funny thing is that the more units you have formed this way on the table the better it looks. Can't think what that's all about but there you are!

I stumbled into it while re-basing from another rule set that just happened to use 36 figure units!

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP03 May 2010 9:42 a.m. PST


Yes US drill was a direct translation from the French. However, on the issue of column depth-vs- frontage, this could vary a lot depending on the size of the regiment and the type of column. A column of divisions was normally formed "closed in mass" which is 6 paces from the front rank of one division to the front rank of the next division behind it. When you allow for file closers this is very dense, indeed. The total depth of the column would be less than 30 paces. However, if you had an understrength regiment with say 300 men in it, a company frontage would only be 12-15 paces meaning the column would be nearly as deep as it was wide.

A column could also be formed at half or full distance, this meaning the spacing was either half of a company frontage or a full company frontage. A Double Column was always formed with a full company width between divisions. This would make the column two companies wide, but the equivalent of five company-widths deep. A column of companies would be even deeper compared to its frontage.


Trajanus03 May 2010 12:41 p.m. PST


"A column could also be formed at half or full distance"

Yes of course, something that in general discussion I always forget!

Indeed this just adds to the problem where wargames are concerned, as our depth is not only wrong its fixed by having to use bases to mount our figures.

A British battalion operating on a company frontage (approx 20 meters) could be anything from 25 – 190 meters deep depending on the intervals.

Even at quarter distance (the most common for field movement) it was still 20 x 50 meters.

That's the contradiction, Assault/Attack Column (which was generally 'Close') is too deep on the table top, while Columns of Maneuver are too shallow!

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP28 Dec 2018 7:01 a.m. PST

Gee, I notice that many of the napoleonic gamers swear and got ballistic about "they always fought in line and just used company or division columns to move around the battlefield, but not to fight". Yet Casey's and other ACW drill manuals, which attempted to distill best napoleonic practice into something to teach armies how to fight, say……

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP29 Dec 2018 2:03 p.m. PST


Casey's manual was about 40 years after the napoleonic wars and I would expect that it illustrated the best practices developed by military expects after study of that major war. The effect of increased range of the rifled musket AND the use of percusion caps and minie balls had been thought about but there had not had real world experience to get the changes in tactics into writing- that was largely shaken out in the early days of the ACW. Notice that Casey shows both lines of battle (e.g. the thin 2-3 rank lines) and lines of battalions in division column. This tell that both of these were considered valid attacking formations.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP29 Dec 2018 2:10 p.m. PST

For Black Powder napoleonics, I am going to allow brigade (or multi-battalion) formations to attack in columns of division IF they are in that formation at the start of that turn AND they do not move in a more violent manner that a wheel at the start of the turn before moving straight at the enemy. The expectation is that the head of those columns would be screened by light troops or skirmishers……..This will reduce the "zippy sports-car battlion" effect. ….Note that the battalions in the diagrams are NOT separated laterally by distances which would allow them to deploy into a line of battle.

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