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"Bath tubbing the Peninsular" Topic

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olicana24 Sep 2018 6:04 a.m. PST

I'm currently collecting and painting units for the Peninsular and, thinking ahead, I'm already considering how I will scale down larger formations (Brigades and Divisions) to enable me to re-fight the historic battles.

Of course I have my own ideas about this largely based around fielding them with half their number of battalions under a single divisional commander but I'd like to know how others approach 'bath-tubbing' in this 'period'.

How do you / would you do it?

BTW, I'm gaming in 28mm; my infantry are mostly based on 24 figure battalions (some are larger / smaller); my cavalry on 12 figure regiments; 2 gun batteries. My collection will have around 24 infantry, 8 cavalry and 4 artillery units a side to pick units from. My table is, at a maximum, 15' x 6'.

21eRegt24 Sep 2018 6:30 a.m. PST

I'd suggest a 3:1 ratio. That keeps the British brigades to typically be one battalion on the field and a twelve battalion French division to be four. This could vary of course depending on what year you look to start out with. This ought to handle all but the biggest battles historically though if your players are of the "gather a thunderbolt" mentality it could be messed up early.

Best of luck with it. I've run some with 15mm figures in the past. Some worked, some didn't.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP24 Sep 2018 8:09 a.m. PST

What I would do is find a set of rules that didn't require me to bath tub the OoB.

22ndFoot24 Sep 2018 8:40 a.m. PST

I've "bath tubbed" the war in the Peninsula using a brigade for a division. I've done Corunna, Talavera, Vitoria and a number of hypothetical actions that way.

Of course it depends how many figures you've got and which battles you want to do.

Long ago we played a series of Peninsular battles at the club I belonged to and finished it up with Quatre Bras as a battle in the Peninsula. The result was very instructive as the French players were convinced that the British army was out there hidden, just waiting for them.

olicana24 Sep 2018 9:59 a.m. PST

What I would do is find a set of rules that didn't require me to bath tub the OoB.

With respect, the rules are not an issue.

Scaling is the issue because I insist on playing with 28mm figures and want 24 figure battalions on a 15' x 6' table. This is the essence of, and reason for bath-tubbing.

As a gamer, and amateur military historian, I know that ground and time scales in every set of wargame rules are based on nothing historical. Cavalry would cross a gaming table and back again, and back again, in the time most rules give as a turn, yet a 60" move is the most I've come across, and most gamers seem to be content with 18" (as am I for a GAME).

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP24 Sep 2018 10:45 a.m. PST

You asked if I would do it, and I said I would not. I think you lose a lot with bath-tubbing at the size and scale you are talking about. Perhaps say a 24 figure unit represents a brigade of approx. X amount of soldiers? IMO, if you want to recreate large battles your basic maneuver element needs to be a brigade. If I were to do it, that would be my perspective.

MajorB24 Sep 2018 11:12 a.m. PST

With respect, the rules are not an issue.

Scaling is the issue because I insist on playing with 28mm figures and want 24 figure battalions on a 15' x 6' table. This is the essence of, and reason for bath-tubbing.

In that case forget trying to refight any Peninsular battles. Bath tubbing is a flawed concept.

olicana24 Sep 2018 11:20 a.m. PST

That is a fair answer.

I was discussing this with the Lads on Wednesday and your point was echoed.

As you say, larger battles can be dealt with perfectly well with rules dealing with scenarios from a different 'command' perspective. We've actually played a lot of Napoleonic battles (miniatures / table games) using Command and Colors, which is probably the absolute extreme of what you are proposing.

But, what I'm after is the 'big battle scenario' using battalion level tactics. I'm not interested in learning 'historical' grand tactical lessons from gaming as these are best learned from reading. I'm looking for a 'game' with a good deal of Napoleonic 'flavour'; 'game' incorporating lower level tactics in a grand tactical situation.

I realise this is not 'real'. It's very 'game'. But, for good or ill, it's how I generally approach table-top gaming.

If I were to go the 'full real' I would have gone 6mm. But, I like painting 28mm figures because I'm reasonably good at it.


Glengarry524 Sep 2018 12:36 p.m. PST

What is "bath tubbing"?

TMPWargamerabbit24 Sep 2018 1:15 p.m. PST

We use 28mm miniatures for our napoleonic battles (mostly historical scenarios) but our unit sizes are much smaller compared to your lovely bigger battalions. We went years ago… long before BP was written, to the smaller unit look but allows us to paint any unit and have true brigades and divisional representation of the battalion count to the historical OOB. A typical French battalion would be six miniatures… based at .59 inch frontage width per miniature (1" depth) for a battalion frontage of 3 inches and using a 80-100:1 miniature ratio. British many be 6-8 miniatures but based on .75 inch per miniature to represent the British 2 rank width formation. Using 50 yards to the tabletop inch give 150 yards for the French battalion frontage width vs. 225 frontage yards for a similar six miniature British battalion. Each tabletop foot or 12" is 600 yards so a mile is representative of three feet on the table. So a 15' x 6' table, common for many of our group games, would be five miles by two miles in surface area. Except for Vitoria 1813 the table size allows all the Peninsular battles to ground scale of tabletop. For Vitoria…. just add more tabletop surface area as needed…..20' x 6' for example.

Thus we avoid the bath tubbing look. Should note we can adjust the battalion sizes by changing the miniature count…. so if a large or smaller unit is required for a particular historical scenario, just add extra miniatures or subtract till correct number (manpower) needed. We are not fixed to anything standardized regarding unit sizes.

Lastly,,, noted the comment on cavalry movement across the tabletop. Our cavalry uses 12-16" basic movement then add in the charge radius movement of 12-16" plus possible additional 6" extended charge movement gives a cavalry unit up to 38" of forward movement in one 20 minute standard tabletop game turn. If forced to retire from combat, in same game turn, you can add another 12-16" plus 4" for the same turn retreat movement by that cavalry unit. This we force players to think about the rapid pace of horse on the tabletop compared to the plodding infantry 8-9" (for columns). For the short discussion….. our musketry range basic is 2", long rang at 4". Most cannon fire normally out to 15".

olicana25 Sep 2018 1:53 a.m. PST

Hi Glengarry,

bath tubbing, as I understand it, is scaling things down without changing the basic game rules.

For example, the rules you are using deal with battalions as the basic unit with brigades as basic higher formations; you wish to fight a large battle where Corps are the higher formation; bath-tubbing the battle might mean that units become brigades organised into divisions; however, regardless of the troop scaling and ground scaling that the 'historic' scenario engenders the battle is fought using the rule's chosen mechanisms (including things like movement and musketry ranges).

In other words, bath-tubbing is fighting large battles as small battles with the number of units scaled down.

Not to everyone's tastes but, for most, a pill that has to be swollowed to fight bigger battles with what you have available (troops and space).

olicana25 Sep 2018 2:05 a.m. PST

Hi TMP'rabbit,

That sounds very good and I'm sure your games are fantastic done like that. Given there are also lots of figures I also bet they look pretty good.


I'll stick with my larger units. I'm a painter as much as a gamer and like the 'look' of larger units too much to change to something more practical.

Also, because there are just a few of us to play, I like games to be a little less 'granular' with each player having to control less units.

Big Red Supporting Member of TMP25 Sep 2018 6:55 a.m. PST

"But, I like painting 28mm figures because I'm reasonably good at it."

Understatement of the decade!

Neil Thomas in his One-Hour Wargames book wrote interesting scenarios, bath tubbing battles from different periods into games based on historical battles with many fewer units.

Other than a battalion representing larger unit such as a brigade (a formula used successfully in the 1960s by Featherstone and in the 1980s by Game Designers Workshop), playing only the crucial parts of a battle or a mini-campaign playing scenarios representing different parts of a battle and combining the results, what are your ideas about bath tubbing the Peninsular War?

mghFond25 Sep 2018 9:54 a.m. PST

I laughed when Olicana wrote he was reasonably good at painting 28mm figures.

He's absolutely superb at it! Anyone who has not checked out his Roman/Carthiginian, Crusades, SYW, and Great Italian Wars collections on his blog, please do so.

Reasonably good…………..yeah. :)

To keep this on topic, I love campaigns but my own local experience with them is they seldom work. But I think bath tubbing is one way to do it, just remember we are not simulating history but playing games and bath tubbing seems a good compromise.

Good luck with this, Olicana, I will be following with interest.

olicana25 Sep 2018 10:08 a.m. PST


my door frames are only so wide, and I'd like to get my head through.

But, though I'm still learning how to paint (especially more quickly), thank you very much for the compliment.

MajorB25 Sep 2018 10:22 a.m. PST

Neil Thomas in his One-Hour Wargames book wrote interesting scenarios, bath tubbing battles from different periods into games based on historical battles with many fewer units.

That's not bath tubbing. He just used the historical battles as inspiration for the scenarios. Nowhere does he claim they are "refights".

Big Red Supporting Member of TMP25 Sep 2018 10:45 a.m. PST

"That's not bath tubbing. He just used the historical battles as inspiration for the scenarios. Nowhere does he claim they are "refights"."

Ok, your correct. However, he uses fewer units to "represent" a scenario based on an historical battle. Running with this idea, those units could be represented by and be played by corps, divisions, brigades or battalions.

Maybe pre or proto bathtubing?

Personal logo The Beast Rampant Supporting Member of TMP26 Sep 2018 8:12 a.m. PST

Is "bathtub" two, separate words?

Jabba Miles27 Sep 2018 2:57 a.m. PST

I think the key if you want to keep at Battalion level units is to make the units smaller.
We play Black Powder for our Peninsular games but use the basing scheme from Shako 2. So a standard battalion is 18 figures, standard cavalry regiment 9 figures.
with the reduced unit footprint you can get more units on the table.

Our first time playing Talavera on a 14x6 foot table

We got a bit bigger on our second game as we added more Spanish to the south and widened the northern valley.

mghFond27 Sep 2018 1:13 p.m. PST

Impressive looking game!

Nick Stern Supporting Member of TMP27 Sep 2018 3:51 p.m. PST

A friend recently ran a Shako 2 Quatre Bras game in 15mm with great terrain and loads of units. Perhaps I'm getting old, but after six hours playing and no end in sight, I actually got bored with moving my division's battalion stands six or eight inches per turn and calculating each wheel. I'd much prefer playing a bathtub game that I can finish in half a day. If the rules are good, then you can get the same bang for much less buck.

Timmo uk28 Sep 2018 1:09 p.m. PST

I'm not sure the Peninsula battles bath-tub very well as they are relatively small battles. Is suppose you could call a model unit of 24 figures a brigade and have two British brigades and one Portuguese per division but how do you handle the artillery and skirmishers?

Napoleon's battles by Avalon Hill took this approach but they abstracted the artillery. I've seen Talavera played out and it just looks weird not having any actual model artillery batteries deployed.

However, by bath-tubbing tactically what you then lack is the relationship and support that brigades were able to give each other within the division and of course how they deployed historically.

Since you want a game (reading your posts) I can't see the point in bath tubbing. I think you'd have a better gaming experience by deploying fewer divisions but comprised of the correct numbers of units.

You can always use historical battles to inspire the topography and the opening situation. For example, Talavera one end of the table as rising hills, the other a town and broad river. An earth work and olive groves are featured. Fuentes a village in the centre of the battlefield. Salamanca defined hills that are tactically important.

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