Scales, Assumptions, and a Bit of  Juggling

Next: a bit of – convenient – mathematics. Inclining unashamedly towards French infantry organisation and taking 600 men as a battalion average gives 300 men per base for a two-base unit. Scanning the historical record, 300 seems a reasonable basic infantry unit detachment size to aim for. These 300 Frenchmen in three ranks would form up with a 100 man frontage. Assuming a Napoleonic infantryman in close order requires a frontage of 2’ (or 600mm), 100 men would equal a frontage of 60m. Dividing this by 24 would conveniently mean 1mm equals 2.5m. However, I decided to keep 25mm as my standard unit of measurement. Adding 2.5m to a unit’s frontage is neither here nor there but it can be filled in our military musings with a few more men, space to manoeuvre, or officers and musicians on the flanks of a unit. Nevertheless, it gives a three-deep 600-man infantry line a frontage of 125m.            I mulled over other ground scales from 1mm equals 1m to 1mm equals 5m but         returned to 1mm equals 2.5m. It appeared to work well with my tabletop, too. For the miniature battlefield 1km would be 400mm, giving me 3km x 6km on my 1200mm x 2400mm (4’ x 8’) tabletop. Not spectacularly huge in terms of Napoleonic battlefields but a fair size for what I had in mind. Although 4km by 6 or 5km would be even better for Aspern-Essling, extending the battlefield in the future would still be possible and manageable – even if it meant a change of venue! At 200mm square, a good thing about my terrain tiles is their ability to adjust to the size of the tabletop!

Basic Units

When mixing the wargames ingredients of tabletop terrain, bases and rules with the historical record an obvious Napoleonic place not to stray too far from is infantry tactics and organisation. I was aiming at big battles but I still wanted to be able to represent battalions, if at all possible – detachments of 300 men fought alone and effectively both on the field and in the village of Essling. High up on my list was that I wanted my figures and figure bases to be able to visibly represent as much as possible during game-play. At the very least, they should be able to show whether a unit was in line, march column, attack column, or square – even in battalion masse. The higher the figure scale the less likely this could be achieved. Single-base basic units wouldn’t be able to represent much at all, but even units of two bases could show if a unit was in line, column or square. So whatever my basic military unit would end up being, wargames units would have to be made up of two bases at the very least.