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"Beginning French at Waterloo... Rank & File Questions" Topic


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Evergreen Highlander14 Jan 2019 1:19 p.m. PST

Hello all,

I am beginning Napoleonic wargaming and am quite amazed by the units I see around the web and in my local area!

I have decided to play in 28mm using Black Powder to start (this is pretty common in my area).

I am building a French army for Waterloo to begin with, as my intended opponent(s) are building British forces. So, I have been reading up on French Napoleonic tactics and forces and have found some wonderful resources. But one thing escapes me. Maybe it's simple and I've just overlooked something:

Do people use 3 ranks for French troops or 2? Most of the sources I've found that I can understand refer to the French fighting in 3 ranks, but I almost always see people modelling them in 2. Am I missing something?

Those of you with experience, please enlighten me. Thanks in advance,

JimDuncanUK14 Jan 2019 1:36 p.m. PST

It is a common convention for 28mm Napoleonic wargamers to base all their close order troops in 2 ranks regardless of nationality.

For example many Black powder units use a 40mm square base with figures 2 ranks wide and 2 files deep. A unit would then have a number of bases depending on its size, typically 6 bases making 24 figures in total.

I have seen others who base 6 figures on a 45 x 40 mm base in 2 ranks 3 files wide.

Ask around your playing group to see what they do.

Winston Smith14 Jan 2019 1:47 p.m. PST


Ask around your playing group to see what they do.

Yes. That's always the best thing to do with a cooperative project.

Just remember that a game has to make allowances for figure scale, ground scale, etc.
Some rules from the 60s and 70s can be quite anal about basing. Black Powder is not. Follow your group.

Evergreen Highlander14 Jan 2019 1:53 p.m. PST

Thank you for the quick responses!

Am I correct that the French fought in three ranks?

I only ask because I may model up a third rank on a thin base to use if I want my unit to look particularly impressive while maintaining the appropriate frontage in battle.

JimDuncanUK14 Jan 2019 2:17 p.m. PST

Yes, French fought in 3 ranks but they also fought in 6 ranks and sometimes fought in 2 ranks and probably other combinations at times.

By the same arguments the British fought in 2 ranks and sometimes in 4 ranks.

Like I said above the wargaming convention is to model close order forces in 2 ranks of figures.

Evergreen Highlander14 Jan 2019 2:43 p.m. PST

Thank you JimDuncan for the guidance!

JimDuncanUK14 Jan 2019 2:49 p.m. PST

No problem.

Just stay compatible with your playing group.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Jan 2019 6:37 p.m. PST

In part the two ranks is a compromise between making the units even more ridiculously deep than they are already, and good looks.

setsuko15 Jan 2019 3:41 a.m. PST

Yeah, it's because in reality the formation would be far wider than 12, 16 or however many men wide you make it. So using a 1:1 ratio for depth but a 1:20 or whatever ratio for width makes the units look even more disproportionate.


That said even two ranks is "wrong" as well, but it looks better so I think that's why everyone ended up doing it. Almost all wargames are completely off when it comes to proportions anyway, don't even get people started on depth of artillery bases.

John de Terre Neuve Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2019 5:17 a.m. PST

Stick with 2 ranks, says the person who hsa painted based and sold 3000 28mm Napoleonics and who now has the same number if not more 18mm AB Napoleonics.

It does give a too deep a footprint but you can always ameloriate this by expanding how many bases are in your standard unit and yes go with what is the local convention.

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