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"Basing considerations of a new player.(General de Brigade)." Topic

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Napoleon 197425 Sep 2018 5:36 a.m. PST

Hello everybody !

I'm a new player and I'm still learning things about miniatures wargaming. I'm interested of being able to play corps level games with battalions as the basic units. I'm interested at conserving space as much as possible so as to be able to play big battles like Borodino in a reasonable table.

So I started basing my figures like this :

I use 1 figure per company (1/72 plastic figures) for a French Battalion. Then I get the company frontage 24 meters equals 1 cm( the ground scale) which is the width of 1 figure. A total of 6 cm per battalion in line formation. The Prussian battalion is 4 figures in 5.33 cm and so on. I managed to even have the right column depth this way. I know that depth of the line formation and the column en masse formation is overly distorted anyway and I can't do anything about that.

The question is that I could possibly try to have the correct depth of a square formation (about 1.2 cm in this ground scale), by putting less figures in a separate square formation that will be put aside and will replace the current formation in game each time a square is formed.

Is the square depth so important in actual game play to do something like that? There will only be 2 figures on the separate square base, but it will be the correct footprint on the table.

As for the game system I'm planning to re-calculate all the distances in General de Brigade according to the new ground scale I'm planning to use.

I really want your opinions about this way of basing, as I haven't seen it being used elsewhere and I'm afraid that it may be wrong.

Timmo uk25 Sep 2018 11:51 a.m. PST

I don't play GdeB but I spent a lot of time working out frontages and unit sizes for the rules I do play. I can't confirm your maths without sitting down with the references I used but if you want to fight big battles like Borodino then I think you need to look at a rule set that is primarily concerned with fighting actions of that scale rathe than upscaling a set primarily written for a division or two a side.

Nothing to stop you using a different base that is only used to represent the unit in square formation, if you want to.

You could do Borodino and other massive battles with GdeB if you had lots of time to play the game but I'm not sure you'd find it the most satisfying option. One thing you could consider is getting hold of Avalon Hill's Napoleon's battles rules. They had a Borodino scenario, for the entire battle on an 9' x 5' table. Units are brigades. If you based the infantry as per the AH rules you could use the same units for GdeB, if you were fighting a smaller action, say a division or two a side.

If you took a look at the Blucher rules that would give you another system for fighting big battles, in a reasonable time in a reasonable space.

There will be lots of differing and valid options and opinions on a subject like this with many different rule suggestions. I'd urge you not to jump in too quickly. You may even want to make up some sample units in card and trying playing out the rule sets to see how they fit your basing ideas before you start painting. With any Napoleonic project I think it's wise to not under-estimate the sheer amount of painting time needed, even with six figure battalions that's a lot of line infantry needed, for a major battle.

evilgong25 Sep 2018 4:35 p.m. PST

If you're looking to do monster battles such as Borodino, and want to show unit formation, and nominal company structure – you might find other elements of representation a struggle.

As you identify, unit depth is way out – it almost always will be with figs representing units in non-skirmisher games.

I wonder if there is any benefit to be gained from sweating the representational scale too much. After all your battalions will be at historical strengths from c.400 men to c.1000 – are you really going to base a unit of 580 men differently to one of 650?

Why not lump them at an average size and assume that any nominal disparity is subsumed into the spacing between deployed units.

As Timmo mentions, Blucher is keyed to big battles (albeit units are sorta brigades) and the nod to formation is a simple marker for foot in generic 'anti-cavalry' and BUA defending postures / formations.


David F Brown

22ndFoot26 Sep 2018 6:15 a.m. PST

I can only agree with the esteemed author of the rules and with Timmo.

General d'Armee, also by Mr. Brown, is another excellent set of rules. These, as suggested, go with a standardised size for battalions, cavalry regiments and artillery batteries. I know that a Lardie group, I believe including the author, recently played Waterloo using them. I've been running some gaes set in the Peninsula with a few divisions on each side and they have been fanstastic.

Another approach for really big battles is to use a computer moderated set such as Carnage & Glory. I have been lucky to have participated in several big battles using those which were run by their author. Computer rules are not to everyone's taste but C&G is the best of the bunch and cares only about the frontage of the unit. The computer does all the work and remembers what formation everything is in.

davbenbak26 Sep 2018 7:09 a.m. PST

I have done a lot of work with 1/72 figures. What I didn't get from your post was how many figures per base? Only your square formation mentions two per base. One thing that I would caution you of is that the more bases you have, the more the figures will get handled. Also, the figures themselves do not weight much. My advise would be to use something thick and heavy for you bases. I have based 1/72 ACW figures two to a one inch square base with three to four bases per unit. After several conventions they were pretty beat up. It's just too easy to grab the stands by the figures when moving, realigning or changing formations.

Teppsta26 Sep 2018 2:45 p.m. PST

Another thumbs up for General d'Armee. Even better than GdB …

Napoleon 197427 Sep 2018 3:55 a.m. PST

I'm really sorry for my late response, but I had to wait for 3 days until I could post something (new members policy). For me not being able to respond, to at least thank you all for the advice and most important not responding to the author that honored me by posting his advice here, was painful. Anyway…

So first I have to elaborate a little on my basing.

davbenbak : My line formation is 1 base of 6 figures for the French, 4 for the Prussians, 10 for the British and so on…

The aesthetic of the thing is that they will be in firing position. The same battalion when in column will be represented by another base of 6 or 4 or 10 or whatever figures in column or double(division) column in marching position. The square should be 4 figures(assuming the French battalion from now on) back to back and 2 on the 2 sides of the square. All firing. I think you can get the idea. So in theory for a complete French battalion I need to paint 18 figures to be able to represent those 3 different formations-bases. But in practice not everyone battalion in battle will be in line or in column or in square at the same time, so I can have 1 square-base available to use for every three columns and possibly 1 line-base for every 2 columns. It's just a modelling idea, that I want when in line to see men firing, when in column to see men marching e.t.c.

Also I should be more clear about my goals. I haven't started painting for a Borodino project. I only have a French infantry Brigade right now…lol.

Of course I have to learn the rules and this will include games at the brigade level first. And as my armies grow I can add more complicated scenarios and finally bigger battles. What I really wanted to say is that I want a ground scale that would allow me to play a big battle sometime in the future. And I explain: if 1mm in my basing system equals 2.4 meters. This is a 1/2400 ground scale. If Borodino was a 8km by 6km area, it means that doing the math the table should be 3.3m to 2.5m table. This is a "reasonable" table.

About the gaming system. I bought and read already a game based on core level using battalions("March Attack"). My impression was that for the sake of simplicity and quick play many things were abstracted and oversimplified.

I think from what I have read in my first read of the General de Brigade rules, that they are the most accurate, detailed and realistic set of rules that exist for the Napoleonic era. I wouldn't like to give up detail and realism for ease of play and speed. I'll be playing solo anyway and I can have a gaming table in my house set at all times, so a battle lasting days actually is not a problem for me. Where I live there are not many clubs and the one I know everybody is crazy for WW2 or else fantasy…

So starting at the Brigade unit level(Blucher, Napoleon's Battles) is already a big abstraction for my taste. General D'Armee is a set of rules I'm planning to buy, but I'm not sure what is the real difference from GdB. The unit level is battalion in GdA also AFAIK. But I'm going to watch more reviews and also study the video of mr. Brown in youtube.

I also read some reviews on the "Carnage and Glory 2" game system. What a beautiful game…I'll probably get it also. I like the idea of not using dice. I'm really bad at that…lol.

Mr. Brown I like the idea of assuming that nominal disparities are subsumed into the spacing between the deployed units. Thank you for the advice. I was too much anxious about unit depths. But this idea that the brigade is at least deployed in the right front as well as depth is so comforting.

But I didn't understand your first sentence. What are the other elements of representation that will be a struggle in big battles ? Could you please elaborate ?

Thank you all for this friendly welcome in this forum ! And your precious advice.

I'll be posting often while I'm building my armies !!

P.S. My calculations about company fronts and ground scale are as follows. A French company has a nominal strength of 120 men. In 3 ranks we have a 40 men frontage. If we allow a 60cm file width we get 24m frontage for a French company. I company equals 1 figure of 1cm width. So 24m equals 1cm. This is a ground scale of 1/2400. Companies of other nations with higher nominal company strengths will have wider company frontages. than 1cm.

Timmo uk27 Sep 2018 1:24 p.m. PST

"General de Brigade rules, that they are the most accurate, detailed and realistic set of rules that exist for the Napoleonic era"

That's entirely subjective and whilst they are a very good set of rules I don't think they are the most suitable for what you want to achieve long term. I'd do some more reading before going too far. What GdeB models is battalions, light companies and guns by the pair but to achieve that it needs large numbers of bases/figures. If you have six figure battalions you have one light company figure. Have you thought about how reducing the figure count so drastically will effect the game play? I think you'd need endless markers to make it work.

What you are proposing in terms of basing would probably work for Blucher. I'd also do some working out in terms of how much time it'll all take to paint. If I was setting out to achieve what you want I'd be looking at 6mm and a different rule set.

Your 2.5m deep Borodino table is far too deep to be practical to play across.

Napoleon 197428 Sep 2018 4:40 a.m. PST

As I can understand I definitely have a lot of reading to do. I'm missing many important parts of the rules and of game play.

I suppose I could simulate the figure counting with percentages, but then as you mention I would need a marker for each individual battalion for each individual turn to keep track of casualties. A simple let's say dice wouldn't be enough since the numbers will not be integers. And in big battles that would simply be a logistical nightmare.

On the other hand I'm probably too inexperienced to appreciate the goods of rule sets like Blucher or Napoleon's battles. But I can't get how formation changes are incorporated and simulated in these systems.

For example if a brigade firing. How many battalions are in line and how many in columns? How many are in the front line and how many are in reserve ? These factors would affect the brigade's firepower, casualties taken, morale and so on. I haven't read much of Blucher(only what I could find in some reviews), but a single block of figures in a brigade how is it possible to represent all these situations?

Another example is charging. How many battalions are charging and how many are supporting? How many battalions are being charged and how many are supporting them ? What are the reacts? Are they in line or in column. Is there a brigade general present or not? All these are important factors for the result.

Are all of these factors abstracted ? And how ? And by how much ? I suppose I have to buy the rules read them, only to see that this is not the kind of game I want to play?

I understand that I must probably forget about playing big battles in the battalion level…

Perhaps Carnage and Glory 2 that uses battalions as a base unit and real numbers in terms of distance and casualties would be a solution.

I don't know really…

About painting time I paint about 1 battalion in 3 formations (18 figures) per week. So 52 battalions per year.

Thank you Timmo from protecting me from some very difficult problems I would have to face.

Timmo uk29 Sep 2018 12:28 a.m. PST

You're very welcome. I went through a number of similar thoughts when I got back into Napoleonics 20 odd years ago. I'm trying not to protect you from difficult decisions : ) but rather to offer an alternative view that might help you decide your direction based on my own problems in getting to grips with the period.

Looking back the questions that I'd want to answer for myself are:

What do I like painting the most? (Since anything Napoleonic takes hours and hours of work)

How much space have I got to set up the game?

What type of battle do I want to portray and thus what sort of game am I after?

What do I need to buy to achieve all the above?

How long will it take before I can play a game?

Is all the above a realistic proposition?

Just to make sure is there anything else, like another period, I'd rather do?

I got some of the above right and some took me a long time to realise that I'd not thought things through far enough before starting. That resulted in wasted time and effort.

If I was starting again I'd do something very different to that which I now have.

My own view is that any big battle horse and musket army takes ages to paint, literally years, so you may as well buy the best figures, whatever they may be in your own mind. Cost should perhaps be irrelevant since you don't need to buy them all at once.

I'd spend a lot of Google time looking at images of games played in different scales at different tactical levels with different rule sets.

The other approach you could take is to find a Napoleonic or Borodino tactical board game and convert the card counters to your very small units. So really you make yourself a 3D version of the game. You can scale the board up to a maximum comfortable table width (5 or 6 feet) and then scale up the counters by the same amount to see what you could fit in that space in terms of miniatures.

Personally there is no way on earth that I'd paint up three sets of figures to be able to show each battalion marching, firing or in a square simply because you are tripling the workload that is already onerous. Figures in March Attack pose suit all formations. That decision alone may mean plastics aren't the best option and that might be one of the really difficult decision to make.

As a bit of an eye opener, Google 'Bruce Weigle' and take a look at his big battle 6mm games of the Franco-Prussian war. If I was starting the hobby afresh his is the approach I would take without doubt. He shows one effective way of fighting a big H&M battle.

davbenbak03 Oct 2018 5:38 a.m. PST

I would also recommend Carnage and Glory II. It would work well with your basing choice. There is a very active yahoo group and you can usually get a same day response for the author himself with any questions you might have. I have the TYW/ECW, Napoleonic and ACW versions. It's my go to convention rules set. The best part about using it for solo play is that you can leave your table up for as long as you want and the computer remembers everything for you between gaming sections.

Napoleon 197403 Oct 2018 3:02 p.m. PST

I'd like to report back about my progress following you advice.

davbenbak: I already bought Carnage and Glory II and I think that having the computer keeping track of everything and me having to concentrate on tactics and strategy is a great advantage of the rules. The army lists are extremely detailed and you can actually see each battalion's details and situation down to musket type and number of bullets just by hitting a button.
You can also download ready made army lists from battles played in clubs worlwide for free. And there is no dice. Everything is calculated in each step by the actual data and nothing seems to be left on luck. As you say the basing in the 1'' = 50 paces scale is very close to mine. And I can easily go further down to 1'' = 65 paces just by building a ruler in that scale. I don't have to re-calculate anything since everything is calculated in actual paces and number of men. I think I'll stick with these rules for a long time.

Timmo : I found the fantastic diorama like battles of Bruse Weigle. Thank you for the reference. 6mm is definitely the way to go for large battles at the battalion level.

About the "getting started" questions:

1) I like painting Napoleonics. I'm a modeler and I thought that I could use my modelling time to get started with wargaming.

2) I can have a 12 to 5 feet table open in my "gaming" room for at least the weekends

3) I'd like to start by playing battles at the battalion level. I can now understand that playing the really big battles (Austerlitz, Borodino, Wagram, Leipzig e.t.c.), require playing with brigades as the basic unit. Even in my relatively large table. Or else using 6-10mm miniatures to further reduce my units' frontage. On that front I'm reading reviews about ESR here in this forum and elsewhere. It seems a very well supported game system that you can play multi corps games in relatively small tables whilst the basic unit is still the battalion.

4) The cost is not an important consideration as it is allocated in a long period of time.

5) I can paint 1 battalion per week, which is 1 brigade per month. So I need 6 months before I can play a 3 brigades against 3 brigades scenario on my table. I think this a realistic proposition for a humble beginning with Napoleonics.

6) I'd like if possible in the future to be able to play games of AWI, Seven Years War and generally any H & M period. But Napoleonics is the most important for me right now.

I would also add 2 "modelling" questions. What I want to actually see on the table and what I can paint. I want to be able to see from a 30 cm playing distance the uniform of my soldiers.
Also I have found that I really can't paint smaller miniatures than 20mm with a satisfactory result. The time it takes to paint a 15mm miniature, because of the caution you have to exercise in order to paint in a smaller surface, is almost equal to that of painting a more detailed 1/72 plastic or 20mm metallic miniature. So you can see that the actual criteria fall more in the "modelling" category than "wargaming" one.
As for the plastic or metal question I know that with proper reference and review ("Plastic Soldier Review" site), you can find plastic figure boxes of high quality made for the wargamer in mind that provide 24-30 marching and firing figures at the cost of 0.20 to 0.25 Euros per figure. By using thick and relatively heavy bases, you can handle the stands without touching the figures. Something that should be done regardless of course.

So I decided to start accumulating knowledge by reading different rule systems and in the mean time I plan to base my figures individually and use magnetic tape to be able to use any basing system the rules I use each time require.

About using 6mm or 10mm I'm planning to buy some and try to paint them. See what it looks like and what the frontages will be in that case. For playing really big battles at the battalion level with Carnage and Glory II, March Attack or GdB.

Thank you both for showing me the "right" way.

Napoleon 197427 Nov 2018 11:17 a.m. PST

Hello everybody !

I'd like to report my progress in wargaming. I started playing-learning the GdB rules in my table using unpainted miniatures. What a fascinating game. For what it's worth I did the math of my figure basing system and I'd like to share it with anybody interested here.

The reason that I'm sharing it with all of you is that I've read a lot about the barrier of entry in this game being the number of figures needed. In my basing you can use 1/6th to 1/8th of the figures proposed in the rules and still have the genuine GdB experience. So you can paint 6 or 8 brigades in the time you would need to paint just 1.

The second reason is that you can increase the ground scale to double or triple. So instead of having a division level game you could have a corps level game in the same space. A corps level game could become a multi corps level game and so on. This would require more time as the rules are not designed for this, but you wouldn't lose a single detail from the rules and the battle!

So I explain. Companies in GdB have 4 to 10 figures. In infantry in double ranks the frontage of a company is the number of figures divided by 2 times 0.8CM to 1CM allowance per figure if using 15MM miniatures. Since I choose to use 1/72 figures instead, I choose the upper limit of 1CM so a 4 figure company for me would have a frontage of 4/2X1=2CM. A player using 15MM figures could easily do the math 4/2X0.8=1.6CM frontage for his 4 figure company.
Now I say: Instead of using 4 figures in 2 ranks I will use 1 figure in a single rank to represent a company. In 1 base of 1CM width. This way I get double the ground scale and 4 times less figures to paint. If I want to represent a 5-6 figure company with 6/2x1=3CM frontage I will still use 1 figure with half that frontage 3CM/2=1.5CM. I still have the same new ground scale and 6 times less figures to paint.
Again for what is worth and whoever is interested. The whole basing table from GdB rules becomes :

4 figure companies : 1 figure with 1CM frontage.
5-6 figure companies : 1 figure with 1.5CM frontage.
7-8 figure companies : 1 figure with 2CM frontage.
10 figure companies : 1 figure with 2.5CM frontage.

Then I create the battalion using 1 figure per company with the appropriate frontage. For example a French battalion of 36 figures would become a six figure battalion with 1.5CM frontage per company-figure i.e a 9CM battalion in line.

Then I half all the cavalry and artillery Frontages:

6 figure cavalry squadron : 1 cav figure with 3.6CM frontage
7 figure cavalry squadron : 1 cav figure with 4.2CM frontage
8 figure cavalry squadron : 1 cav figure with 4.8CM frontage

And for artillery :

3 models battery : 1 model battery of 6CM frontage.
4 models battery : 1 model battery of 8CM frontage.
6 models battery : 1 model battery of 12CM frontage.

I didn't do the math for skirmishers and cossacks, but I think you can follow the logic and find out yourselves.

Finally you must half all the distances in the game.

Figure count is not an issue since the only information you need is how many figures a battalion represents and how many skirmishers it may deploy if any. If you can't figure out from the different total frontage of each unit, a label with the number of figures that each battalion represents in the game is needed. Then you can simply use the game tables as usual for casualties.

If for whatever reason you don't have 4 figure companies in your games(usually British and French early battalions). You can assume in the beginning of the calculations that 3CM frontage companies equal 1CM in my system and instead of halving the frontages and distances in the game you can divide everything by 3. Then you get an even smaller ground scale for your games. Your choice.

In this idea you don't get the visual spectacle that you get in a usual 1:20 figure ratio GdB game. This visual spectacle is very important for many wargamers. But for others like me who love this game but wants to play more and paint less, I just propose a solution.

So in my opinion the amount of figures needed is not a barrier in this game.

P.S. You will certainly need to use a magnetic tape for your figures. A single figure based on a 1CM width base will not stand on its own…lol

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