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"basewidths and basing? Is it still a thing?" Topic


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03 May 2017 6:31 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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Art05 Nov 2016 3:42 p.m. PST

G'Day Gents

I shall use only correct military terms so as not to confuse anyone…

Different columns were expected to fulfill particular roles on and off the field of battle. In the French military system, the colonne par section, the colonne par peloton and the colonne par division could all form at full distance to half distance, or mass (in a close column).

However, when actually employed in the field we find some specific roles were typically expected for a given formation. For the French there were two sorts of military marches; le pas non cadence et la pas cadence (route step and in cadence).

A "formation de marche", or "formation de route" was used to march to the field of battle. The colonne par section at full distance was considered a formation de marche, and normally this was in route step and not in cadence.

"Formations de manoeuvre" could be used in waiting, or to march to, or manoeuvre on the field of battle. The colonne par peloton at half distance was intended as a formation de manoeuvre. The colonne par division closed to section distance, or in mass, was either a formation de manoeuvre, or used for a body of troops waiting to manoeuvre on the field of battle. The formation de manoeuvre could be executed in route step or in cadence.

"Colonnes d'action" or action columns were expected to manoeuvre on the field of battle and perform actions other than deploying or forming square. Colonnes d'action was a close column and so as an attack column it was considered to be an action column. This colonne only manoeuvred in a cadence, and the close column was a colonne par division, it could only march in a straight line, and to change directions it has to wheel by its flank.

Thus having to march in a straight line and having to march in cadence was the disadvantage of the action column.

Unlike the British, Napoleon ordered that le pas accelere was to be used for marching, even on the field of battle, and had a cadence of 100.

I hope this helps
Best Regards
Art

Bill N06 Nov 2016 12:40 p.m. PST

I find the statement "whatever you have is likely ok as long as your opponents are similarly based as each other" to be one of the least helpful things that can be said about basing. Give me a set of rules and I can usually make them work. The question is how much do I lose in the process.

There are different basing conventions ranging from a figure representing a certain number of men to a figure representing a certain number of men in a specific formation to a determined or undetermined number of figures on a base with specific dimensions representing a specific unit of a specific size. When a developer start developing wargame rules, the ideal basing convention is likely going to be one of the factors that the developer considers. Since most rules are seeking to reproduce some aspects of warfare reasonably accurately, the space a unit occupies is going to be relevant in setting ground scale which in turn affects movement speeds and weapons ranges and whether units operate as a whole or can operate in subparts.

Until we are dealing with holographic armies I don't see a time when basing conventions become irrelevant. What I want to reproduce with my rules is going to be different than what others want to reproduce and the basing convention that works best for one set of rules may inhibit what the designer hopes to reproduce with another set of rules.

4th Cuirassier07 Nov 2016 2:49 a.m. PST

The most helpful thing about a known ground scale is that you can use Google Earth as a source of overhead shots of your intended battlefields. Using the download version you can measure out a rectangle 2,400 yards by 1,500 yards and whatever is inside it is the terrain at that location that you model on your 8' by 5' table (or whatever you've got) whereon 1mm = 1 yard.

Using this approach I found a remarkably Waterloo-like defensive position in Kent a few years ago and if my solo England invasion project ever happens it's the position the British defenders will be trying to fall back on. Google Streetview then gives you the soldier's eye view of how steep the slopes are, where there are folds in the ground, etc.

I don't know how you'd do this if you use a ruleset that specifies no particular footprint for a unit. You'd have to infer one to work out your table size and then it's likely to be out of whack with things like musketry range.

@ Art: it occurred to me recently that your practice and mine of populating artillery bases with whatever arbitrary number of guns looks right is an instance of treating the base as the tactical unit and the figure as decoration. Fir me it's the only instance; with everything a figure = a number of men (including the artillery crews).

…and re movement rates, my 2mph figure is a road speed. Off-road over uneven ground I'd expect less although the figures you quote are interesting. Was it really feasible for all units to achieve the same march rate to that degree? I suppose it would have been handy otherwise two brigades setting off alongside each other from the same start line would reach the objective at different times.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2016 3:15 a.m. PST

You cannot tease us like this. Where is Mt St Jean in Kent then??? Let us hope there is no Lion Mound……..

Sho Boki Sponsoring Member of TMP07 Nov 2016 4:13 a.m. PST

I vote for primary bases where 3 infantry or 2 cavalry figures are in one line as dense as possible. With these blocks player may build up game bases for every ruleset.

Ottoathome07 Nov 2016 5:50 a.m. PST

When I wrote my war game rules for the 18th century to Nappy era I made it so that you can face any basing system against any other. We've done it too. had everything from individual figures to figures on huge stands as well. At one battle we had one side on 4.5 by 8.5 inch bases with 36 men all on that one stand, versus 18men on three stands of six each, and both were equal regiments. We also had battles with those bases facing 8 stands with 2 men each on them. Worked fine. The only thing is frontage. You have a common frontage and it all works out.

Ottoathome07 Nov 2016 5:51 a.m. PST

When I wrote my war game rules for the 18th century to Nappy era I made it so that you can face any basing system against any other. We've done it too. had everything from individual figures to figures on huge stands as well. At one battle we had one side on 4.5 by 8.5 inch bases with 36 men all on that one stand, versus 18men on three stands of six each, and both were equal regiments. We also had battles with those bases facing 8 stands with 2 men each on them. Worked fine. The only thing is frontage. You have a common frontage and it all works out.

Oh yeah, we completely ignore ground scale. We make up formations that look good.

4th Cuirassier07 Nov 2016 6:34 a.m. PST

@ deadhead

It is Lenham, with the attackers coming from the south-east.

Overhead map (ignore the M20):
link

Switch to Google Earth and zoom in, so that Sandway is on the bottom-left corner of your screen, and move slightly to the right so that Woodside Green is at the top centre-right. Southeast of the railway line and the road name "Headcorn Road" is a V-shaped wood. That's your Hougoumont (and it's been there and that shape for at least 200 years, so it is Napoleonic I Googled an old map). Between there and the crossroads of Lenham itself is the forward slope of a ridge. North of it is a long, open, forward slope. The L-shaped kink on the road north of Lenham with woods north-east of it is Papelotte.

So you fortify the ends of that line. Both ends have dense terrain around them that an outflanking attack would have to march round, and to do so would leave an open centre. The Parish Church of St Mary, with an interesting octagonal tower, becomes your La Haye Sainte along with the rectory over the road. Your light infantry can fire from behind the gravestones and the perimeter wall. Your infantry are distributed behind the ridge with your artillery along its crest, and the heavy cavalry are in reserve in the centre, ready to counter-charge either side.

If you Streetview from various points you get a nice flavour of what a battle would be like. There almost is a Lion Mound actually, on the hillside to the north a post-WW2 chalk cross. link

Once you start doing this over your lunch at work, I swear you never stop. There is a lovely little potential battlefield at Much Wenlock in Shropshire as well. Finding defendable sites is great fun and you can adapt them to the size of your playing area by changing the zoom.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2016 8:10 a.m. PST

Scale is something that is only important if you are:

1. Attempting to fight actual battles on the table

2. Have an interest in the tactical relationships between
time and space.

There is no rule that says a gamer has to be interested in either.

Glenn Pearce07 Nov 2016 8:37 a.m. PST

"The only thing is frontage. You have a common frontage and it all works out."

As far as I can tell, that's it, or as the topic calls it, "basewidths". We have been playing games for over five years now simply using base widths as our criteria. There is no other ground scale used.

We don't have a figure ratio either, we use a flexible base ratio.

Time is variable within any given turn. Any events such as reinforcements are simply given a turn number or a dice roll.

We don't track specific casualties. If required they are assessed at the end of the game.

We use any maps we like including some from Google. We simply size the map to fit our table.

One of the biggest problems we had in the past when using exact scales was changing the size of your battles. It often required a different or modified rule set that could also mean "rebasing". The minimal effect was educating everybody that everything was different and of course remembering it. Today we play any size of battle we want and everything stays the same. The players generally aren't even aware that the size of the battle is different, as nothing changes in the actual rules.

So we don't have old school ground scales, figure ratios, exact turn times, or casualty counting and yet it looks and plays in a manner that makes these requirements disappear. People who have observed our games often comment, "now this looks like a battle". Players often say "I feel the pressures of command". So looks like a battle, feels like a battle, what could be better!

Sparta07 Nov 2016 12:05 p.m. PST

"Scale is something that is only important if you are:

1. Attempting to fight actual battles on the table

2. Have an interest in the tactical relationships between
time and space.

There is no rule that says a gamer has to be interested in either."

Hahah – made my day :-)

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2016 12:29 p.m. PST

Today we play any size of battle we want and everything stays the same. The players generally aren't even aware that the size of the battle is different, as nothing changes in the actual rules.

Glenn:
I don't follow this at all. What is *everything*? I am assuming you are playing a Polemos set of rules. They have Division and Marshall level rules. If you are talking about the size of the armies involved in the battle, Okay. But that isn't how it reads. It sounds like different levels of command requiring different scales. If so, what is the point of having a different 'size' battle if the players don't know the difference?

See my confusion?

Glenn Pearce07 Nov 2016 3:40 p.m. PST

Hello Bill!

Yes, I see your confusion. Your problem is you know too much about me, and of course that is compounded by my clumsy attempt at explaining things. Hopefully I can do a little better the second time around.

I have developed a new set of Polemos rules covering North American Wars 1754-1815 that could be released in the next few months. It has been under development for a very long time.

By "everything", I mean the rules themselves. What changes and goes unnoticed by most of the players is what a base actually represents. In various games it can represent just about anything, a company, battalion, brigade etc. The scenario designer is able to work at any level of command he wants for any given battle. So yes we also have different levels of command at different scales. For example at a small scale a commander might command a battalion split into wings (two bases). At a higher level a commander might command a regiment split into two battalions (two bases). So both the base and the level of the command are on a parallel sliding scale. Also the scenario designer is free to use as many bases as he wants for any scenario. So he can make a battle as big or as small as he wants.

The point is this is all seamless to the players. So one day they game Bemis Heights using 76 bases and the next day Cowpens with 37 bases or 18 bases or 74 bases. It's whatever the designer wants. The players are never stressed about learning new rules for every different size of battle or size of army.

This allows you to play out an entire historical campaign where even some of the smallest skirmishes can be blown up into an interesting game and other then perhaps a few scenario specific rules nothing really changes from the players perspective. You can of course also scale down a large battle to fit a small table or meet a limited supply of bases. This is a huge difference from what we did years ago.

So my friend, did I clear up anything or just muddy the waters more?

Best regards,

Glenn

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2016 4:12 p.m. PST

One thing that I have gotten away from is the idea that ALL battalions have to have the same frontage. When you look at the actual rosters, you find that battalions range in size from 350 to 900 men. Handling this was one of the tactical concerns of the general de brigade. Demanding all be the same size seems silly. Using GdB, I base two ranks deep (it looks nicer than a single rank of figures) and everyone is on a 8mm "pitch" (that is the file width between figures). These figures are tight to one-another and are actually more widely spaced than the actual era spacing! So some battalions have 4 stands, some have 6. All stands of a battalion have the same number of figures, which might be 3,4,5 and even six figures. (@ 6 figures/peleton I then base by section with 12 stands for a 6 peleton battalion).

4th Cuirassier07 Nov 2016 4:56 p.m. PST

If you establish a frontage per figure and a men to figures ratio you end up with varying frontage per battalion do you not? The anomalous thing is then to decide that all units comprise the same number of bases regardless. Frontages must have changed as casualties mounted.

Weasel07 Nov 2016 5:45 p.m. PST

Heck, there are some battles where you'd be hard pressed to find 200 live bodies in a battalion that still took the field :-)

Bill N07 Nov 2016 6:18 p.m. PST

So Glen-If a base can be a company, battalion or brigade, depending on the game, does that mean that you change movement speeds and weapons ranges from one game to the next?

4th Cuirassier08 Nov 2016 2:13 a.m. PST

Glenn, how are the subunits of a battalion or regiment reflected in your rules, where one stand is a brigade?

Eg if we take say a Prussian regiment of 1813-14, you have two musketeer and one fusilier battalions, a grenadier company (possibly detached), and usually a volunteer jaeger company. If stands are potentially companies, then presumably for a company-level depiction, you'd have at least one grenadier and one jaeger stand, plus I guess four fusilier and eight musketeer stands. If one stand can also be a brigade, which one do you use to represent the entire heterogeneous regiment?

The same question would also apply to any mixed formation, eg Russian regiments that had both musketeer and grenadier battalions, Prussian brigades with line, reserve and Landwehr, and so on.

Glenn Pearce08 Nov 2016 8:16 a.m. PST

Hello 1968billsfan!

Only battalions of similar size share a common frontage in our games. In your example we would find a practical common number that might be 450 so your 350 unit would be a single base and your 900 unit would be two bases. On the other hand if 350 was your base number then that would still be one base but your 900 unit would be three bases.

Best regards,

Glenn

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2016 8:29 a.m. PST

Glenn:

Yep, clears things up for the most part, thanks. To echo Bill N's question.

I am guessing. So regardless of the scale or base representation, all distances and movement rates are base widths?

Glenn Pearce08 Nov 2016 8:34 a.m. PST

Hello Bill N!

No all ranges and speeds stay the same. The terrain itself can expand and contract, such as small game more buildings and closer together, bigger game fewer buildings and farther apart etc.

The vast majority of our games are all at the battalion level. Also all calculations are based on the base, so what you actually call it doesn't matter.

Players are never faced with a new set of numbers whenever you change scales. Years ago we did that and it did nothing but create problems as everyone was constantly using outdated measurements. It took us a very long time to figure out that we really didn't need to do that.

Does that answer your question?

Best regards,

Glenn

Glenn Pearce08 Nov 2016 8:41 a.m. PST

Hello McLaddie

Yes it's pure Polemos so everything is always measured in base widths.

Best regards,

Glenn

Glenn Pearce08 Nov 2016 9:58 a.m. PST

Hello 4th Cuirassier!

Nice to hear from you.

"Frontages must have changed as casualties mounted."

Possibly, I understand that if a unit was in a line of battle it tried to maintain its frontage.

"Glenn, how are the subunits of a battalion or regiment reflected in your rules, where one stand is a brigade?"

I think most if not all single stand brigade games simply use a generic base that represents the majority of the units within. We rarely have done that as we still try to reflect the composition of the brigade as best as we can whenever possible. So we generally use two or even three bases for a brigade. It all boils down to numbers. Whatever the composition of the brigade is will decide which bases we use.

Generally all bases are painted and mounted as battalions or regiments. If were actually down to a low level where we need a company base and don't have the figures we just use another base and call them what we want them to be. For periods where companies are more common then battalions then they are painted up and mounted on the same bases as our battalion units.

So in your 1813-14 Prussian example we would try to use three bases for the brigade, one fusilier and two musketeers. If the numbers didn't allow that you could go either way but I would use one fusilier and musketeer. The objective being to still try and give some tactical options that don't generally exist in most brigade games.

It's the same with your Russian regiments and Prussian brigades. Depending on the scale of the action the designer will try and maintain the differences in troop types with different blocks. However, as you move up the scale your forced into more compromises. Keep in mind that this is just an option that allows you to upscale your game using the same rules. And it does so in a manner that gives you more options than most other brigade games. Also the vast majority of our games are all that the battalion level where every battalion/regiment is on the table.

You have a choice on exactly how you want to scale your battle. Not too many if any other rule sets can do that using the same figures/bases/rules.

Does this answer your questions?

Best regards,

Glenn

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2016 1:19 p.m. PST

Another thing that I do, that I think is historically accurate (please add to this- I make no claim to be an expert) is that a unit in line, (say a 6 company batalion)
who are taking casualties, (1/6th of their personel) will NOT remove stands (say they have taken 1/6th casualties) if they are staying in line.

It was important to maintain the frontage and keep your and your companions' flanks covered. They will fill in 1st/2nd rank casualties from the third rank and stay the same width but wider. (Which is what they do if they shake out the third rank to serve as skirmishers).

However, if they have to change formation, then they don't have the drill (at least I've never seen it! If you known something else- please let us know ) to operate with a strange mixture of 2 and 3 rank files. So I guess they would form up into a 3 rank formation per company and do their formation evolutions in the known manner.

So at that time, as a wargamer, I will take away a stand and if that unit later ploys into line, well then it will be not as wide.

Does this make sense? Is there historical backup for this viewpoint?

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2016 9:47 p.m. PST

billsfan:

For most Napoleonic armies, the practice was obviously to use rear ranks to fill lost front ranks, so in an engagement, you could have 'a strange mixture of 2 and 3 ranks… or 2 and 1 ranks. After the engagement, the battalion[s] would 'equalize' the rank and file, obviously shrinking the frontage [the number of files] if necessary.

IF, during a serious firefight they ran out of rear ranks to fill in the front ranks, the SOP was to have the front ranks to shrink on the standard--towards the center. That is what the British did at Albuera, for instance.

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