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"Infantry Squares in the SYW" Topic

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codiver24 Feb 2020 9:43 a.m. PST

The set of rules I use for the SYW (modified Rank & File) includes the infantry square formation. It has to be formed as an action by the owning player, there is no "emergency square" like one might expect to find in Napoleonics. I have looked around the web, and have satisfied myself that square was a formation in the SYW-timeframe drill (e.g. on kronoskaf), but any Google-fu results in virtually all Napoleonic references.

I have become concerned that square is being formed too often in my SYW games. Now, one obvious solution would just be to remove it as a valid formation, but I am looking for a less draconian alternative.

I seem to remember reading somewhere that before it became commonplace to form square vs. cavalry, one of the detriments to forming square was the infantry unit took it as a sign they were in a bad situation (e.g. surrounded, or at least out flanked), and that simply forming square often made them jittery (my word). I am interested in comments from knowledgeable parties, particularly with references.

Thanks in advance!

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP24 Feb 2020 10:24 a.m. PST

If units are forming square to often. Then your infantry units are to spaced out.

The infantry mostly formed a continuous line so cavalry can't flank. And you have cavalry on the flanks of your infantry. So really unless your marching your infantry ahead of the rest of the army or your entire cavalry force on one flank is wiped out. There shouldn't really be situations were you need squares

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP24 Feb 2020 10:35 a.m. PST

I'll second Gunfreak's observation that your units are too far apart. When an army formed for battle, the battalions were in line with minimum gaps between them. There was very little individual unit movements – no "swanninng" around, just keep the line dressed.

And at the end of each line, especially in the Prussian Army, was a battalion or two of grenadiers in a column formation. Also the two battle lines were just over a musket's shot range apart so the rear line could fire at any cavalry wandering around around between the two lines without overly endangering the front line.


Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP24 Feb 2020 1:01 p.m. PST

Isolated infantry could form sqaure. Chevert 's retreating in somewhere during the war of Austrian sucession, did male squares.
Otherwise the command, combar
T etc. Systems should push you to fight the way it was with long lines, closed by columns on the side in a box, with a controlling unit.

Stoppage24 Feb 2020 4:18 p.m. PST
Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Feb 2020 9:56 p.m. PST

The Prussian drill manual details how a battalion would form square, but this was rarely used in battle

crogge175725 Feb 2020 6:30 a.m. PST

As it has been said already, the square formation was not unknown during the SYW. In nearly all cases, it was used in rear guard actions where infantry trying to make good its escape was harrased by enemy horse. In most cases light troops bent on making prisoners and loot. During the Prussian retreat from Prague to Dresden in 1757, several grenadier battalions even formed square against annoying Austrian Grenz infantry closing in from all directions.
I think the point here with your rules should be that infantry in square receiving cavalry should have no better combat or morale modifiers then infantry in line with secured flanks receiving cavalry. Both formations should be regared as equally steady. The square need not be a battalion square, but can also be formed by several battalions. The Prussian peace time drill formed regimental squares with 1 battalion forming the front and back face, while each one grenadier company forming the flank faces. The formation was really a recktangle square. Interestingly, the drill manuals of the period most often form the square formation from column of march, rather then with the napoleonic „alarm" square fromed from the battalion deployed in line.

von Schwartz25 Feb 2020 6:48 p.m. PST

What about the "masse" formation, or was that strictly Napoleonic?

Glenn Pearce29 Feb 2020 7:52 a.m. PST

Hello codiver!

Since your using a modified set of rules you might want to consider updating them to disregard formation changes. Rules that put the onus on players to change formations always create false dynamics such as the one your presently looking at. One common rule in some modern rule sets is that you simply assume the unit is always in the correct formation for the situation at hand. This also allows you to drop formation modifiers that are often also out of whack with historical situations as well.

Best regards,


42flanker01 Mar 2020 8:10 a.m. PST

It is worth remembering that at Minden in 1759 the infantry of Waldegrave's and and Kingsley's brigades (6 British bns with support from 2 more Hanoverian bns) advanced in line to attack, unsupported, a strong body of French cavalry, and not only withstood their attacks on front, flank and rear but effectively broke the cavalry force as it returned repeatedly to the attack, suffering mounting losses to the British musketry.

Of course, the infantry attack was a huge mistake so may not be a suitable example of SOP in the 7YW

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