Sunday, 25 March 2012

Musings on basing, troop scales, sabot bases and fog of war.

Unit OOBs, Formations and Basing at 1:120 scale

Experimenting with rules variations, and doing a lot of reading .. so I've decided to make a slight shift in scale, and model the battles at 1:120 figure scale for the next lot.

In the ramblings below, I will have a look at scaling and basing at 1:120 figure to troop ratio, some rules ideas for modelling brigade scale combat, a bit of fog of war, dealing with casualties, and having a look at some of the French for the Jena Auerstaedt campaign.

Scales and Basing :

I am currently basing at 1 base = approx 550 troops, 1" = 100m on the table. This works OK for brigade scale gaming, but '550' is a really weird number.

Problems that Im finding (with the standard Republique scaling of 1 base = 550 men) is that it is ever so slightly lacking in granularity. Shifting things up to a 1:120 brigade scale game gives :
  • Only a 1/3rd increase in infantry bases. However ... this now gives exactly 2 bases (of 3 figures) per battalion. This allows for an on-table representation of the battalion formation. I will explain that below with some diagrams.
  • Provides more skirmishers on the table. Whilst skirmishers are still pretty useless in combat at this scale, the extra skirmisher figures give a better way of providing screening formations at least.

  • Good skirmisher line units get 1 skirmisher per battalion,

    Poor skirmisher units get 1 skirmisher per regiment,

    Light units get up to 1 skirmisher per base (2 per battalion).
  • Doubles the number of cavalry bases. This should work much better, since my current setup leaves cavalry way too vulnerable to losses. Losing '1 base' wipes the whole regiment out in most cases !! Doubling the cavalry feels a lot more 'realistic'.
  • Doubles the number of artillery bases. Current setup defines an artillery base as '2 batteries', so you end up tracking the scale of losses on artillery bases. So 1 base of artillery now = 1 battery. Much easier, and again it looks heaps better than a single model on the table
  • 1 foot on the table now = 1 km, and 1" now = 100 military paces. Nice round numbers there !

Standardized Small Sabot Bases :

For Basing, I am more than happy with the current setup which dictates :
  • 30x20mm infantry bases with 3 figures.
  • 40x30mm cavalry bases with 2 figures
  • 30x40mm medium artillery, 40mm square heavy artillery.
But I am finding sabot bases invaluable as well. These make life simpler for moving troops around on the table (holding formation, keeping status markers attached to the unit,etc) as well as protecting the figures themselves from handling.

All Sabots are 60x40mm  .. well actually 70x50mm which allows a small border around the battalion area for handling. Add a little flock and shrubbery on this border for scenic effect.

This allows the following battalion level formations to be modelled very simply with 2 base battalions, giving accurate formation deployment areas  :

Infantry battalion formations on generic 60x40mm sabot bases to denote the general formation of the infantry battalion.

And for Cavalry :

Cavalry units at 1:120 ... or 1 figure = approx 1 squadron.  Placement of the cavalry base on the Sabot base denotes the formation of the squadrons. Single base cavalry can still be denoted as line or column by the orientation of the sabot if needed.

Sabot Bases as Zone of Control Markers :

Another strange thing I am using Sabots for is for keeping track of morale state and casualties.

In most of the above cases, there is a small area left over on the Sabot base after the figures are deployed in formation. This gives just enough room to store a number of small tokens with the unit to denote the current number of disruption / morale hits.  Morale goes up and down during the battle, reducing the effectiveness of each unit, but once you get past 3 morale hits, the unit is demoralised. Once demoralised, it is difficult to restore discipline in the unit ... and they may just melt away from desertion.

This area also provides a small landing zone for pulling back skirmisher bases to the parent unit.

The Sabot bases also allow for the simple working out of which bases are in support contact. Basically - any unit that is in base to base contact between Sabot bases is providing direct  support. (fire and melee).

A large number of Sabot bases in base to base contact can be considered a single manoevre element, able to perform large sweeping moves by regulating off one of the flank battalions. If Sabots are not touching, then they move as separate commands.

Handling Casualties in 'Brigade Scale' games :

For casualties, what I am doing in my brigade scale gaming is that I make the assumption that the player / Corps commander has no way of knowing how many casualties are being carried by each regiment or battalion at the time of battle.

So each Battalion (of 2 bases) is in 1 of several states as far as the Corps commander can ascertain :
  1. Battalion should be at full strength by all accounts.
  2. Battalion has suffered some losses, the extent of which is unknown.
  3. Battalion is a spent force for this battle.
If the Battalion is at full strength, then  2 bases in formation facing the enemy denotes that well.

If the Battalion is carrying some losses, (i.e. - combat results issue a KILL), then one of the bases is kept on the sabot, but faces to the rear.  The battalion can continue operating at half effective strength. (only 1 base of troops gets to fight). The remaining casualty base represents ineffectives ... not necessarily killed troops.

If a Battalion carrying losses makes a full move, such as a March order move, a full withdrawal, or a full advance towards the enemy .... then the unfortunate casualty base is left behind on the table as wounded, and the remains of the Battalion march off in good order, alone on the Sabot base.

If the Battalion is wiped out, then the Sabot base is removed altogether, 1 base is removed from play, and 1 base is left on the table as wounded.

For some other results, such as when a demoralised unit fails a rally check, it may lose some more troops as cowardly deserters. In this case, the 'lost' base is simply removed from the sabot, and placed on the table as wounded. (disheartened stragglers in this case ... same effect)

So the Sabot base infers an area on the table that is still under command of a reputable Officer. As the battle progresses, Sabot bases get reduced in number, and more and more individual bases of troops clutter up the table, representing the wounded, the stragglers, the mutineers ... troops who remain on the field, but are effectively out of command.

Such masses of the aimless and ineffective present not only a sorry spectacle on the gaming table, but also an obstacle to manoeuvre.   Morale / disorder penalties apply for interpenetrating such troops. If contacted by the enemy, the wounded and stragglers are rounded up as prisoners.

Last game I played, the Coalition made several attempts to break a French position. The view of the approach to the position really told the story - several columns of troops still intact in parts of the line, but with large swathes of area in front of the grand battery littered with out-of-formation pockets of Allied survivors, deserters and wounded.

Once the French position was broken in one area, the whole of the French rear fell into chaos as the defending regiments broke - clean line formations fell into utter disorder and clutter. The visual impact on the table was excellent.

Restoration of Losses :

Using the above assumptions allows one more little "fog of war" aspect to be easily modelled.

As I mentioned above, I am making the assumption that the Corps commander does not know the exact state of casualties whilst the battle is in progress.

So during the game,  I allow for a small chance for units to restore casualties each turn.

During the morale phase at the start of each turn, each Division commander gets to choose 1 of 2 options for all units in his command :
  1. Attempt to restore discipline. Go through each sub-unit, rolling to remove disruption hits and restore the unit to good order.
  2. Attempt to recover strength. Go through each sub-unit that has losses on the Sabot, rolling to recover ineffective troops to the line of battle. If the unit has no losses, it may instead grab ANY 1 friendly wounded base that is off-sabot but within a couple of hundred paces, and place this on it's own Sabot.  Next turn of course, the unit may then roll to restore the unfortunates to the line of battle.
All simple rules of thumb there with no dreaded table lookups.

Gaming wise, it does produce some excellent uncertainty and sense of disorder, a glimmer of hope and a call for desperate measures.

Force structure at 1:120 scale

Here is a proposed layout for Augereau's VII Corps for the 1806 Campaign, based on a 1:120 figure to troop scale :

I am basing the information on the WTJ lists published on their website for republique (, which should be nicely accurate.

Any comments on the OOB, or other sources - feel free to fire away. Always looking for more info.

Corps HQ - including Corps Commander, supply train, Corps artillery reserve, and a light cavalry Brigade.

The Corps HQ looks simple enough. Includes a small brigade of Cavalry, and a mounted officer giving some options to operate the cavalry brigade as an independent task force.

1st Division

The 1st Division.

Doubled up on the artillery. 2 artillery models looks a lot more potent.

The 16e Legere becomes a much more potent force as well going up to 1:120 scale .. as it can now throw up to 8 skirmish markers out as a screening force.

This would represent the whole 4 battalions worth or troops breaking into open order.

The 44e ligne, and 105e ligne are both now pretty substantial fighting units with good skirmisher capability, and a bit more resilience.

2nd Division

The 2nd Division

The Hesse Darmstadt line regiment is an interesting case - being from an old school linear tactics army, its doubtful that by 1806 they would have fully adopted the French system of drill.

3 bases is an odd number as well, as this wont fit in line on the 'generic sabot base' detailed above.

So they will get their own custom Sabot base, at 90x40mm .. complete with their own custom coat of arms painted on the Sabot.

Next week or so - I will re-examine the Saxon forces under Hohenlohe (at Jena) using the same 1:120 scaling.

The predominantly Saxon brigades actually do include some battalions of Prussian regiments in the mix. So I can easily achieve this by adding in some more Prussian AB figures, and generally padding out the Saxons that I have been building up.

Need to put some thought into these, as they are all linear armies, and they do include battalion guns as well ... so it should be fun lining all that up.

They also have plenty of cavalry, so I will be looking forward to getting a heap more AB / Eureka figures for that. They are excellent to paint up !


  1. Organizing your armies is one of the things about our hobby that is both fun and frustrating at times! I've gone back and forth a few times, and have settled on standard, generic organizations rather than trying to reproduce the minutiae of individual states/regiments/eras.

    I like the way your sabot bases work both the long and the short way - clever!

  2. Thanks Peter, I think the idea has some good possibilities.

    The sabots described above offer good flexibility, and work well with French system forces. I am thinking that other doctrines could be served well by having different shaped sabots ... ie 120mm x 40mm for 1806 Prussians, would limit their freedom of movement by quite a bit.

    You could then say - look at the cost of changing formation for a given force. If the change of formation requires no change to the orientation of the sabot base, they can change formation during the move. If the change of formation requires a change in orientation of the sabot base .. that costs half a move. If the change of formation requires a change to a different sabot base althogether - that costs a whole move.

    So a French regiment in column of battalions by division could then easily change to battalions in line for example, since it is only shuffling positions on existing sabots. An early Prussian force on the other hand would have great difficulty in adjusting great long lines into other formations.

    As an advantage for the Prussians - having a smaller number of long thin sabots would mean they are actually easier to maintain order compared to the French for operating in linear formations.

    Some accidental but useful side effects that are worth exploring in a game.