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"SYW Cavalry vs Infantry - Frontages & Ratios" Topic

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Snowcat07 Dec 2014 5:21 a.m. PST

According to Charles Grant Snr, a mid-18thC cavalry squadron averaging 150 men in 2 ranks occupied approx 80% the frontage of the average infantry battalion of 600 men in 3 ranks.

So based on these figures, I figured that 2 infantry battalions (a regiment) would typically face 2-3 cavalry squadrons (half a cavalry regiment) on a frontage-to-frontage basis.

Does anyone know what composition of cavalry regiment/squadrons did in fact typically face off against the average infantry battalion in this period? And did cavalry regiments usually stretch out in linear squadron-beside-squadron formations or attack in waves of 2-3 squadrons per wave?


olicana07 Dec 2014 11:22 a.m. PST

Hi Snowcat,

I remember looking this up (granted it was years ago) for my Prussian, Russian, and Austrian armies. These typically fought as two battalion regiments and, for battle scale, I wanted to fight at that level per wargames unit. I too needed to know the frontage of cavalry regiments. I looked in Duffy, The Army of Frederick the Great. The frontages of a five squadron regiment and a two battalion infantry regiment were, at full establishment, as near as damn it, the same.

I went for that as a standard and based my horse and foot units on the same frontage regardless of nationality because in war game's terms it works for me, because I don't use rules that 'count heads' or where frontages are overly important.

Personal logo ioannis Supporting Member of TMP07 Dec 2014 11:23 a.m. PST

Let's do our own calculations, assuming 2-ft per infantryman and 3-ft per horseman (at least during the SYW). This is very tight, but that's how they liked it. Also, if we accept 600-men in infantry units (down from 750-regulation strength; at least in Prussian service), then we should also accept campaign strength for cavalry at 120 men per squadron of heavy cavalry. Finally, the 3-rank deployment of cavalry was seldom used, so we accept the 2-rank as the normal practice.

So, 600/3=200x2ft=400 feet or 133 yards for infantry battalion frontage. Make it 150 to account for platoon intervals etc.

And, 120/2=60x3=180 feet or 60 yards per squadron, make it 75 for intervals etc..

At the end, you have a typical campaign-strength battalion about the same frontage as two squadrons of heavy cavalry (Hussars had smaller squadrons to begin with).

At least, that's what I use…

olicana07 Dec 2014 12:41 p.m. PST

According to Duffy on Prussians: Infantry Regt. (2 Btns) 260m; Cavalry Regt. (5 Squadrons) 240m.

For me, that's is similar enough to count as the same.

Westmarcher07 Dec 2014 2:27 p.m. PST

I was ready to offer a similar discourse to those provided by Olicana and Ioannis and I agree with most (if not all) of what they say.

However, on reflection, this seems to be about, "How should I base my miniatures?" "What frontage should I use?" "Should I have different frontages for different types?" And so on.

I think there is a tendency for us wargamers to want our units to turn up like football teams – fixed number of players, same number as opponent's, no-one not turning up. Alas, as we know, life is different as far as combat units are concerned. Units in both sides are not the same size so there is no ‘typical' face off of the type you mention.

But, it does make life a lot easier for us wargamers if we can somehow ‘standardise' our units. And I am all for that.

My preference is 4 close order infantry per rank occupying the same frontage as 3 heavy cavalry per rank. A proportion of 3 foot to 2 horse also works (this works in with Ioannis' calculations and possibly Olicana's basing?)

My standard unit consists of 4 bases. This gives me 4 formations; Line, Attack Column, March Column and Square. My standard infantry and cavalry units occupy the same frontage. Non-standard (i.e., larger) units can be made up by painting extra bases or drafting in bases from other units ‘off the shelf' if the rules allow. Smaller units, self explanatory.

A unit's identity may vary from game to game – most games it will represent a battalion or cavalry regiment. But in some scenarios it may have to play the part of an under strength regiment or one wing or division of a full strength unit.

As for the ‘actual strength' in men or horses within the unit, that is up to you. You can use the formulae mentioned by Chas. Grant, Olicana, Ioannis, etc., (good templates) to establish an ‘average' unit strength as a reference point but don't worry too much if you decide in a scenario that one unit represents 500 men while another represents 700, even though their bases cover the same area of table.

As for unit formation, this depends on orders, the mission or the threat, whether you are acting alone or in concert with others.

crogge1757 Supporting Member of TMP07 Dec 2014 3:00 p.m. PST

I don't have the point on figures present, but for a general guide two escadrons of horse roughly have the same frontage as a batallion. This being the standard estimation for the period of the 1st half of the 18th C were you would see horse formed in 3 or 2 ranks (the latter if under strength) and infanterie in 4 or 3 ranks (again the latter if understrength, and by the 7YW becoming the standard depth for nearly all). I think that should be fine enough, as it was fine enough for ye ole military men then.

olicana07 Dec 2014 3:16 p.m. PST

Also, it depends on what size of battle you are doing as to how accurate frontages must be.if you are playing a small battle, or a small part of a larger battle, then counting heads and having accurate frontages for each unit might be appropriate. Personally, I tend to fight quite large battles so it helps to work on averages as it generally speeds up play.

I don't want to count heads in battles this size (Zorndorf, 1 unit approx = 1 Regt of 5 squadrons or 2 btns. Each regiment frontage 18cm. Some commands are averaged out because some regiments of cavalry only had 3 squadrons – so I added up the squadrons and converted them into 5 squadron regiments and classed them by type as best I could. Likewise, the Prussians had 9 Grenadier Battalions, but they got 5 units. The only exception to the rule was for the Observation Corps units, these were 50% bigger with a frontage of 27cm because they were BIG units of 3 strong Btns each, you can't see them here as they are on the left obscured by the wood. Prussian 10 squadron regiments, four present, were represented by two units each. BTW, troops on red card are off table.):


Snowcat07 Dec 2014 4:19 p.m. PST

Fantastic replies, thank you. I had previously asked a similar question from the wargaming tabletop perspective, but hadn't really gone much past Grant's analysis for the historical reality.

Olicana – I was trawling through your site only last night!

Thanks again all – much to think about now. :)


WCTFreak08 Dec 2014 5:05 a.m. PST

One problem of most of the assumptions here, is the idea one regiment equaling two battalions. That may work for most British, Fremch and Prussian regs. But it was not a rule. The reg is only a category of organization and not of tactics.

olicana08 Dec 2014 5:26 a.m. PST


That's why 'area of interest' was stated. If you want to fight the battles in the western theatre or in colonies it doesn't work quite so easily (though it could, by scaling, be made to, though I'd wonder why you would for smaller battles).

The SYW is a period that covers a whole scope of armies, organisations, world regions, etc. That is what makes it popular I suppose but, because it is so diverse, you'll never get one set of rules to work for everything at one 'battle scale', not unless you can use a table sooooo big you move from one place to another by helicopter.

The OP stated that two battalion regiments were, as I understand it, to be his basic unit. Consequently, answers have been framed in that way. You are picking holes in an argument that has not been made.

As for tactics, they are the same – linear. It matters not that two actual units are represented on a table by one. It makes no difference, from a war game's perspective at all. What is important is that the command groups prefer form up in a line of units. That they move as a contiguous line with two flanks. Tactically speaking, when the line is broken, or outflanked, that is where the problems start. Bringing about the destruction of a line is the essence of 18C warfare – not a unit in line, but units in line. It has nothing to do with how many units form the line.

Piece said. Not trying to pick a fight, but I think your point is slightly off subject and misjudged.

Tricorne197108 Dec 2014 3:54 p.m. PST

Since 1971, my Tricorne rules have used 1"=15yds. A wargame battalion is 4 2x2" stands (6 figures/stand)equaling 600 men. A 1:25 ratio.
A squadron is 2 or 3 2x2" stands (2 horse/stands).
The 2 stand version is 40 files in 3 ranks approx.
The 3 stand version is 60 files in 2 ranks.

Queen Catherine12 Dec 2014 9:09 p.m. PST


Tricorne197113 Dec 2014 3:42 p.m. PST

Not officially reprinted, but we use updated version at conventions. Send me an off line message

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