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"Why do your rules have 2 ranks of figures?" Topic

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882 hits since 4 May 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP04 May 2018 3:40 p.m. PST

Just curious.
I started out with 1776 rules, that had an 18 figure Regiment with 1 tank of figures, 18 figures wide. It had a nice " linear" look to it.
Thin red line and all that.
Now, all the rules that the Cool Kids play have figures on double rank stands. An 18 figure Regiment would have 3 stands with each stand having 6 figures, with a double rank of 3 figures.
To me that just doesn't "look right". The formation looks too dense, not at all the "loose files" we read about.
Not that there's anything wrong with it. I'm sure the games are splendid. But to me, the game just looks ….. Napoleonic. >gasp< Fetch my smelling salts.

There. I feel better now. grin

Big Red Supporting Member of TMP04 May 2018 3:46 p.m. PST

I use 36 figure regiments in two lines. Are the stands too deep? Probably. Does it look good to me? Yes.

21eRegt Supporting Member of TMP04 May 2018 5:16 p.m. PST

That's one reason we use Guns of Liberty. If you deploy in close order (very rarely) then you model two ranks. In open order or loose files the figures are in one rank rather than some spacing business.

Personal logo herkybird Supporting Member of TMP04 May 2018 5:21 p.m. PST

We always found 2 lines of figures looked nicer, especially in 15mm. 1 rank looked too thin.

Incidentally, the original 'thin red line' at Balaclava was
…rather thicker.


Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP04 May 2018 5:55 p.m. PST

I agree with Winston. The double ranks just don't "look" right even for Napoleonic.

Ivan DBA04 May 2018 6:34 p.m. PST

There's a great of discussion of this in Charles Grant's original Wargame book. (Which is intended for the 18th century, where infantry typically formed in three ranks. He explains groundscale, and that because you are using a relatively small number of figures to represent a regiment, having three ranks would badly exaggerate the depth of the regiment compared to its width. He then conceded that a single rank is the most accurate, because it minimizes the distortion.

But, being a gamer who knew that the look of the thing is just as important as boring stuff like groundscale, he concluded that two ranks was the way to go.

RudyNelson04 May 2018 6:59 p.m. PST

In our rules published in 1986, we used a troop ratio of one casting equaling 20 men. So stands representing a deployment area regardless of the number of ranks, contained one to four castings.

coopman Supporting Member of TMP04 May 2018 7:54 p.m. PST

I didn't mount my Nap. foot in two ranks for until I got the "Napoleon's Battles" rules and they sold me on the look, especially for 15mm scale.

BillyNM04 May 2018 9:02 p.m. PST

Two ranks gets my vote, even with small units. I used to do the 45 in a DBA variant with 14 15mm Essex figures in two ranks on a 6cm wide base. Looked great – really crammed in, as I find Wargames figure spacing often looks more like loose/open order than close order. It was the rules that made me re-base them and use more figures per unit (I now use Maurice) but the figure spacing is pretty much unchanged and still in 2 ranks.

Bill N04 May 2018 9:37 p.m. PST

When I was building wargame armies for other eras I used basing conventions where a single figure would represent troops in multiple ranks. I could probably have devised rules and basing conventions which would have allowed me to do the same thing in AWI. There were a number of reasons I did not.

Looking back though I think one major reason was space. I felt AWI armies were small enough so that I could go with a 1:10 figure ratio, so a 300 man regiment would be represented by 30 figures. Even if the figures were on a base with 20mm front per figure, a regiment where each figure represents 10 men in two ranks would be 60cm or almost 2 feet long. If they were in more open formations they would occupy an even longer front. By instead opting for each figure to represent 10 men in one rank I would be deploying the figures in bases two deep, which cuts the length in half. I feel a regiment a foot long retains its linear appearance well, even if the figures are two deep.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP04 May 2018 9:43 p.m. PST

The OP solution is simple.

You just need units of 72, 36 wide by 2 deep!

skinkmasterreturns05 May 2018 4:14 a.m. PST

I used to do the single rank but my opponents all seem to favor the double rank,so I sold out.

FusilierDan Supporting Member of TMP05 May 2018 4:26 a.m. PST

My AWI units are 18-24 figures 6 to a stand in 2 ranks. I like the look. Since I haven't played the same rules more than 3 times with them I'm not sure rule mechanics has anything to do with it.

FlyXwire05 May 2018 5:07 a.m. PST

I use Muskets & Tomahawks for the FIW, AWI, and ACW skirmsih gaming. Recently, I've been dabbling with the rules as a Grand Tactical ruleset for the ACW, by making modifications to the ground and figure scale, and appropriate changes to reflect formations fighting and maneuvering at a higher level of command. I'm going to do this for my 15mm AWI collection also, and have just started their rebasing work. Along the way, I've become enamored with the look and utility of round bases, and have made my fondness for these known on the forum here, and how they can work for grand tactical gaming too. In fact, the narrow, 2-figure bases I've arrived at for the ACW and AWI are more realistic in their reflected battalion/regimental depths (minimal), than most long-accepted basing conventions, and can still mimic the appearance of fluid 2-rank lines.

Here's a few pictures of some of our M&T, grand tactical gaming just substitute the long regimental ACW lines for AWI ones. Commands and bases conform to small roads, bend along walls and wood lines easily, and convey the look of "thin" linear warfare, not to mention allowing for the closer stacking of Regimental units [echeloned] within their parent Brigade formation depths. Many game-play advantages are achieved, besides conveying those thin lines.

Outside the Box [stand]

20 to 1 figure ratio, 1" = 20 yards ground scale adaptation of Muskets & Tomahawks for the ACW (the AWI conversion is coming!)-

Paddy Griffith once wrote something to the affect, that our miniature figures would eventually get in the way of our wargaming. Perhaps, a little tongue and cheek, but as far as scaling and looks, he had a point IMO.

Durban Gamer05 May 2018 5:42 a.m. PST

A 2 rank possibility appreciates that table space is always more limited than in real life. It also enables one to distinguish by having other, lighter/skirmish types appear in 1 rank.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP05 May 2018 5:51 a.m. PST

I wonder how Paddy Griffith felt about limbers? I love them specifically because they get in the way.
That's when I'm the GM. When I'm a player, I hate them for just that reason. grin

FlyXwire05 May 2018 6:02 a.m. PST

It's kind of like accepting plastic miniatures [and the time to put them together on top of painting]- because that's what's pushed/readily available, or is sold to us as "the way".
I'd like to assert that all the cool guys are playing with single, and/or round bases today. Just talked to a few friends who went to Little Wars last week, and that they feel old and grey (well, they feel their games are old and grey now)…..I still love grand tactical gaming, but there's new ways to look at them literally!

Tony S05 May 2018 6:48 a.m. PST

I don't play any horse and musket rules that require a specific number of ranks on their bases. In 15mm, my French and Austrian Napoleonic figures are double ranked. For my Marlburian French, they are also double ranked. In 25mm my Napoleonic Prussians are individually based, but often end up in double ranks (they are intended for skirmish rules) and my 6mm French and Russians are double ranked if horse, triple, or quadruple ranked if foot. The latter are three ranks of French in two side by side columns, with a mounted officer between them, and a rough rank of voltigeurs out front. They're for Blucher, so there's a lot of room on those bases for 6mm figures from Irregular!

I do it because I like the look. Ground scale is a huge fudge in almost all rules anyway. There's ground scale for movement – that always get fudged when it comes to time scales; there's ground scale for troops – and obviously that gets ignored as even single ranked figures are too deep for unit frontages, and there is ground scale for terrain, as villages and towns are vastly smaller than they really should be for most rules.

But since I play rules that doesn't bother with such strictures on our purely ornamental figures, many of my opponents are not based the same. The British I face with my Marlburian French are all single ranked, and it looks fine. The 6mm Prussians I often face are Baccus, and so are much fewer to a base than mine.

But it all looks good when we start to play. It's just like some of the wildly varying figure scales. My true 15mm Chariot miniatures are tiddly midgets next to some 18mm+ Blue Moon figures, but when the dice start rolling, the whole game looks great.

In my opinion, if you don't like the look of too many figures on a base, than don't base them that way! There are lots of great rules out there that allow you to base any number of figures you want on a single stand.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP05 May 2018 7:52 a.m. PST

For my taste, a two rank line better conveys troops whose weapons didn't contain magazines and who normally deployed in multiple ranks. It's true the normally scale too deep, but seldom so much so as to keep supports further back than they should be. In fact, if my battalion is so deep in scale that I can't put the supporting troops where they belong, I regard it as a sign that I should be representing brigades and not battalions.

Also, I'll sometimes use it to denote troop types in 15mm: troops which can only deploy formed are based in two ranks; troops which can deploy either formed or in skirmisher go on single-rank stands; troops which always deploy as skirmishers go on single-rank stands with more distance between the figures.

FlyXwire05 May 2018 8:54 a.m. PST

Robert, I do that too with the rounders, with skirmishers on larger 1" stands, and able to space out between themselves.
Totally unrelated, but something we're using for our game's utility, is denoting green regiments with their bayonets fixed, and the experienced/veteran Regulars w/o (no fixed bayonets for figures on the skirmish bases either). I can do this because this is a work-up from a collection with a goodly number of figures in it already, and so have the luxury of reflecting the different unit morale grades readily to the eye and most importantly to the game judge ;).

Timmo uk05 May 2018 9:16 a.m. PST

Although I don't yet play AWI my Napoleonic and Sudan troops are both single rank based. I like the the red line look and there are many advantages in game play. For example my Napoleonic French battalions at 18 figures strong only take up 48mm x 33mm, when formed on a two company frontage.

Tight single rank basing makes my table effectively much larger. Single rank basing also allows the tactical formations of the period to be more easily represented and I think they higher level formations look better then they do with double rank basing. With two rank basing squares often look like unformed clumps.

Double rank basing has also given rise to the inverse of reality troops formed in a two rank thin should look like a thin fragile ribbon, whereas skirmish formations would typically be spread over a greater depth than that thin formed line. However, so often on the wargames table the formed line takes up more depth than the skirmish screen.

As popular as Waterloo is to game I've yet to see two critical formations used by the British accurately represented by two rank basing; the previously mentioned squares become clumps and the four deep deployment used by the British at times tends to be ignored.

If I get around to AWI in 15mm I will use single rank basing along the lines noted in Guns of Library single rank for open order and double rank for close order. That seems very natural and logical.

I love the look of your ACW on their round bases and single rank very nice.

I actually think single rank basing is more readily accepted and used in the USA than here in the UK where it seems like 'not the done thing.'

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP05 May 2018 9:38 a.m. PST

Also not an AWI gamer but all of my SYW and Napoleonic troops on unit stands are at least two ranks deep – 3 deep for my 6mm Napoleonic troops. I think they look a lot better

My ACW troops are also multiple-ranked, as they are for Fire and Fury

My 28mm Napoleonics are so far individually based – but I think I will be going with a multiple rank when (or if) I do with unit basing

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP05 May 2018 2:40 p.m. PST

I have 6 figures on my 2 x 3 inch metal stands because that's what fits.

I also like he way it looks.
It gives me enough room between figures, to create my magic bases.

And how dare you refer to me as one of the "cool kids", John! I deserve better than that.

Get cracking on those mounted conversions and Philly Associators? I am dying to see how you paint them.

Kidding aside, you're a very good painter and I want to see what you can do with my KMM stuff.

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP05 May 2018 3:10 p.m. PST

I was sold on 2-rank units when I started playing big F&F games. I like the look a lot. I understand and concur with all the arguments about multi-rank stands being too deep and getting in the way of simulation, but in this one particular case I don't care. I play miniatures because of the aesthetics, and accuracy will always be a secondary concern. I reserve thin single-rank lines of troops for picket lines, where they look quite apropos.

That said, my AWI figures are actually based in single-ranked stands, and only deployed 2 ranks deep when using close order or supported line or whatever the rules label a shoulder-to-shoulder firing line.

Conversely, I've always understood and bought into the V&B/Grande Armee/etc. concept of using a square base containing a diorama to represent the "operational area" of the unit, but I just never liked the look. I don't need my units to have a *lot* of bases, but I do prefer to have at least 4, so the unit can be displayed in different formations. Again, aesthetics over accuracy.

- Ix

Garde de Paris05 May 2018 6:17 p.m. PST

I haven't gamed in years, but have been puttering through Victrix French and British Napoleonic units. 36 for French in 3 ranks; and 40 British in 2.

Thinking of gaming them 1:1, and it really shows how much we get wrong in our other games. There is no way 40 British 2-deep can fire a 36 French 3 deep, let alone in column 4 wide and 9 deep! Mounted as 4 figures per company, the British have to advance their flank units into a semi=circle to bring all to bear.

Thinking of calling them Companies, perhaps as in the old Charles Grant games.


Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP06 May 2018 4:28 a.m. PST

They get more stable condition n slopes.
For napolenics I did want one rank as said looks thinner better for lines, with two ranks for col of divisions which are , if closed up, barely bigger considering part of the discrepancy with the actual base size vs. scale.

But… Then I would have to get my cavalry back a la Empire, widely spread, say 2 per 3 cm ( (15mm figs), which is not close enough. Does not look right. And if I want to kerp cav. And infantry on a similar figure to numbers representation, my infantry lines get wide, cutting down the ground svale.

So line on 2 ranks, more figs, and columns on 4 ranks, closer to the 1/2 to full deployment distance they can have in column, which would be most of the times the allowed "battle space" in case they do need that formation.

Cavalry stays on one rank.

I use regiments or small brigades as units so there are enough minis that it does not look weird.

Redblack06 May 2018 9:56 a.m. PST

It looks like the concept of unit frontages and depths as a relation to movement and ranges has gone the way of the dodo. Other posts here talk about a standard basing for 28mm Napleonics as a 40mm square base with 4 figures in two ranks Posters refer to having larger bases to stop bayonettes etc from breaking off . The games look like moving dioramasa where the presentation of the figures is more important than the scale distances used for movement and firing.

A 40mm square base represents a square not a line as depth equals width If 4 figures represents 100 actual men then the actual formation being represented would be around 10 men wide by 10 men deep. I know that this doesn't allow for the rear ranks compoprised of NCOs officers etc but they are only a small portion of the deployed unit (20% ??)so you are still looking at multirank lines

Of course in reality to reprent scale frontages and depths would require us to base our figures ion long thread like bases ( sphagetti anyone?) making handling and movement a big problem

So whatever basing sstem you use, accept that it will never be historically accurate in scale and get on with the game.See what your fellow local gamers are doing and base accordingly . Basing how you want to will only insure a lot of games where you are providing both harms and probably doing it solo.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP06 May 2018 12:38 p.m. PST

Yes and no.
I use the manoeuvre space.
That is each unit has ( but does nor use all) the good frontage for numbers, and up to the depth it has in attack columns. I am pretty sure it was SOP to be able to deploy, which takes more space than the actual occupancy.
Same with horse.
It does sometimes gets problems when hampered from passing lines for some reasons, mostly the artificial distance moved in a turn. Easily overcome most of the time by carrying over next go.

Btw even one rank of say 1 fig for 10! Which is very very tactical, in 15mm would be over the side with 1-1.5 cm depth (15mm) with a ground scalethat would hover around cm= 2-3m!
It sure all goes better with more figs, longer lines and 6-10mm figs. But then we have the ground scale limits and table sizes limits.
Balance is everything.
The most important stuff is frontage, shooting and movement distances. If off then it is fantasy.

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP07 May 2018 6:27 a.m. PST

Love what you did there FlyX. Do you have a blog where we can see more of that?

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP07 May 2018 6:41 a.m. PST


FlyXwire07 May 2018 8:09 a.m. PST

TY, all of you! I don't want to hijack Winston's thread here, so have penned another thread that lets me ramble away (no personal blog, so TMP is the next best thing) -

TMP link

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP07 May 2018 9:17 a.m. PST

Mine are three to a base. One rank only. Most are four base battalions but there are some with five or six stands. I agree, the two ranks has never looked right to me.


23rdFusilier Supporting Member of TMP07 May 2018 3:32 p.m. PST

I am not sure what the "cool kids" are playing. Or evan what a "cool kids" set of rules are. I play either Loose Files and American Scramble or the Fife and Drum miniatures rules. I doubt either are considered cool but I like them.

And I like two ranks. To me it looks 18th century and looks right on the table. Back when I played 1776 rules we changed the single rank firing to two ranks; again for the looks.

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP07 May 2018 6:15 p.m. PST

I generally prefer two ranks as well. I also blame Napoleon's Battles, then Johnny Reb and Fire and Fury.

Though I won't rebase my Empire forces, because doing so would really make a mess of the simulation.

All my skirmish games are single based or 2-5 miniatures on round bases.

Rawdon12 May 2018 7:46 p.m. PST

I mount my AWI British and Americans (Southern campaign) 1 figure deep. They have the option to deploy two trays deep (close order), 1 tray deep (open files), or 1 tray deep with gaps between the trays (extended line). The French and Hessians are mounted on trays two figures deep because they did not have this flexibility. Apparently neither did Washington's army but I stick to the Southern Campaign.

historygamer13 May 2018 5:08 a.m. PST

Mine are mounted two ranks deep as it looks visually correct and is called for in the rules. Exceptions are troops in skirmish order.

historygamer13 May 2018 8:42 a.m. PST

I would also point out that having multiple figures mounted on a base also reduces the handling and wear and tear on them.

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