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"Napoleonic scale and frontage" Topic

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Tony L09 Aug 2019 1:34 p.m. PST

Really new at this and really enjoying the build and paint, but!

My first introduction, long before I started collecting was with Black Powder rule.

One of the first things that had me confused, (besides the rules) was scale.

Seems no alignment between figure ratio to frontage.

Am I Stupid, Crazy, or right.

Thanks for any reply's


MajorB09 Aug 2019 1:53 p.m. PST

There is no defined scale in BP.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP09 Aug 2019 2:13 p.m. PST

Rules which say they have no ground scale are lying: pay no attention to any such statement. It usually means they don't have a consistent ground scale, or one they'd admit to in public. But they need not have a figure ratio, though they usually do.

Quick guide for beginners. Here's how it goes: if you want to know ground scale, measure the frontage of your wargame unit and work out the historical frontage of that unit. One equals the other. So if your French infantry battalion takes up 6" on the table and the historical unit took up 120 yards deployed, your ground scale is 1"=20 yards. (You can also do this with weapons ranges--and if you don't get the same result you have trouble. But weapons ranges are a bit more debatable than unit frontages in horse & musket warfare.)

Your figure ratio is done the same way. If your unit is 24 castings for a 600 man original, you're around 25:1. Those two are actually compatible if you put 4 18mm infantry on a 1" square stand. But if you put those infantry in a single rank, either you double the unit frontage, and your ground scale is 1"=10 yards, or you double your figure ratio to 50:1. (I leave proper 15mm infantry on 3/8" frontage as an exercise for the alert reader.)

Thing is, since some rules use single rank infantry and some double-rank infantry, it's entirely possible to have rules with the same ground scale and different figure ratios, or the other way around. They're both honest if you pay attention to the basing.

BUT if the rules don't specify a number of ranks or a unit frontage, so that a "large" unit might be 36 castings in two ranks for one 15mm player and 16 in a single rank for another, they've got the same ground scale--especially since you can work it backward from weapons ranges--but they have very different figure ratios. Welcome to Black Powder. Regular rules don't work that way. You can build to a figure ratio, but it's not baked into the rules.

And welcome to Napoleonics! It doesn't really drive you crazy. I've been doing it 50 years and still have the occasional lucid moment.

Hope this helps.

Teppsta09 Aug 2019 3:48 p.m. PST

Join a club.
Base your figures so you can play against the other club members.
Try a few different rule sets to see which you enjoy
Have fun 😉

evilgong09 Aug 2019 4:42 p.m. PST

Robert P is on the right track, you can derive scales within most rules sets by his method.

Even for ancients, bow shooting range is pretty well known which gives you a ground scale.

Surviving ancient manuals give guidance on how much frontage a soldier was expected to take up and possibly unit depths in ranks – so you can derive a figure scale too.


David F Brown

Personal logo Saber6 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian09 Aug 2019 5:33 p.m. PST

know that Figure scale to ground scale won't even be close (less than a factor of 10) unless playing skirmish (one man one figure) games.

Most games work out to be a ground scale of 25, 50 or 100m per inch. At these scales a figure is about 20,60,100 men.

Once you get this, everything else flows

forwardmarchstudios09 Aug 2019 8:11 p.m. PST

Figuring out the groundscale is the first step in determining just how fanciful a ruleset is.

SHaT198409 Aug 2019 8:33 p.m. PST

As Saber6 implies, ground and time/ space scales are less important than getting the model look right. All you need is compatible troops and basing.
Nothing is impossible- bases wider, then measure from the front/ edge centre; number of figures different, just play as if they are the same.
Rules are someones interpretation, there is no need for anxiety over minor points, provided players agree to reach concensus on issue (unlikely with a barrack room lawyer however ;-0 ),
regards davew

Timmo uk10 Aug 2019 2:08 a.m. PST

I agree with forwardmarchstudios

Once you've worked out the ground scale you can then work out the weapon ranges. Typically Napoleonic musket armed infantry would fire at what today can really be considered very close to extreme close range – sometimes even as little as 10 yards, (less at Buçaco according to some reports).

Cerdic10 Aug 2019 6:50 a.m. PST

A handy ratio to use as a rough estimate is: the effective range of a musket is about the same distance as the frontage occupied by the average infantry battalion.

forwardmarchstudios10 Aug 2019 8:31 a.m. PST

I've messed around with the math on this issue a lot over the last few years while developing my 2mm miniature range. And before that I explored it while working on a 3mm Oddzial Osmy project. My old blog contains a lot of information on the topic, but you have to read down through the posts to see it all.

Basically, canister range is 3-4 times the width of a battalion. Round shot range is going to be about 8 times the width of a battalion. Within this engagement range tactical decisions/options are going to be highly limited. If you have typical 24 figure battalions in two ranks, that means that canister range will be about 4' or so. This means that when you deploy for a game your artillery will probably be set up within canister range of enemy artillery, which is already quite unusual (I asked on here once and no one could think of a situation in the Napoleonic era when artillery engaged in mutual counter-battery fire with canister, which would require one battery to deploy in canister range).

Interestingly, a 2mm battalion at 1:1 troop-to-figure ratio has a larger frontage than a 28mm battalion with 24 figures (20:1 troop-to-figure ratio).

As a rule, when you reduce frontage you increase depth of the model battlefield, which gives you more and more tactical decisions to make and more freedom for scenario design.

About the smallest you can go while showing battalion formations is 100m = 60mm. This scale lets you use 3 x 20mm bases to represent a battalion, with squares represented by adding a fourth piece when needed. This means that 1' will equal 500m, and 2' 1000m. With a 4' wide table you'll have 2000m of depth, which allows you to deploy artillery at long range, while also giving each player about 1'/500' of deployment area. On a 6' wide table you would have even more depth.

I hope that helps!

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Aug 2019 2:38 p.m. PST

What's the ground scale in a stratego game ?

4th Cuirassier10 Aug 2019 4:57 p.m. PST

Saber6 wrote:
Figure scale to ground scale won't even be close (less than a factor of 10) unless playing skirmish (one man one figure) games.

And only just, even then, in many cases.

An Elite Miniatures 28mm casting is about 30mm tall to the top of his head and he's just over 13mm wide (I know this because you can usually squeeze three onto a 40mm-wide base).

If his 30mm height is 5'5" of real height, a reasonable stature for a man of this era, then his 13mm width makes him 2'4" wide. Actual close order frontage was 1'10", however. This would be 10mm if in consistent proportion with his height. Into 10mm width no 28mm scale figure will fit, however. So the figure is overscale even considered as a model.

Deployed individually as skirmishers on these troops' usual 1-yard frontage, they should be 17mm apart using the figure's height as a guide. Spaced thus most 28mm tall minis will be in elbow to elbow contact and will actually look close-order.

Robert's right, all you can really do is take the base width and work backwards to arrive at figure scale. The figures are so oversized widthwise that you can't really work forwards from their size or number.

From what I've seen, the problem gets worse as the figures shrink. 54mm are usually correctly anatomically proportioned but they bring other challenges…!

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2019 2:23 a.m. PST

We were discussing historical miniature gaming OG. But to meet you half-way, what unit in what period does a Stratego piece represent?

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2019 8:10 a.m. PST

What's the ground scale in a stratego game ?

Well, only one person's rank is named per playing piece and I seriously doubt that Majors and Spies fought in packs. So, say with 1 yard per side one individual per playing piece. Each square is 9 feet square. Simple.

Silly question, but hey, the approach still works…

Bohdan Khmelnytskij12 Aug 2019 7:27 a.m. PST

I can see why a unit frontage may be of interest but what does it matter for each casting? Its the bases which are important. Unless its a skirmish game, in large brigade games the role of one rank and file man is irrelevant.

Personal logo COL Scott ret Supporting Member of TMP13 Aug 2019 10:07 p.m. PST

In Stratego I always thought that the ranks meant the expected size of the unit in the square. Although that breaks down rapidly with the Marshall and Generals probably ok for Captains and below.

Glenn Pearce14 Aug 2019 9:36 a.m. PST

Hello Tony L

You are right, not stupid or crazy. Feel better?

As you see most games/rules have figure, ground and time scales. While some do not. Most "old school games" feel that these scales are not only important, but are the cornerstone of a good rule set. Regardless there is generally no requirement for any of these scales to match. It's simply a matter of what importance the rule designer feels scales are to his design.

Around the turn of the century a number of new rule designs started to appear that pay little or no attention to some of these scales. The main focus of their design is the "game" in wargame. So it's not unusual today to find rules that clearly state they have no figure, ground or even time scale.

Hope this helps confirm your sanity.

Best regards,


138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2019 9:49 a.m. PST

Some rules, do link unit frontage to ground scale.

Classic example would be "Napoleonic Command II" by War Artisan. Here the frontage of an infantry battalion is about 100 yards. This effects the movement distance of the troops and the ranges at which fire is effective. As a word of warning NCII is the antithesis of BP

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