Writing a Wargame – Base Sizes

Factors Decided

Scale1:5300Writing a Wargame – Part II
Base RepresentationBattalion/SquadronWriting a Wargame – Part I
Base Width40mmUnder Review
Single Turn Time Length10 MinutesWriting a Wargame – Part III
Actions Per Unit5Writing a Wargame – Part III
Troop Movement SpeedsSee BelowWriting a Wargame – Part IV
Factors Decided
Unit TypeTerrainMarchQuick StepCharge
FootOpen2 cm3 cm*
MountedOpen4 cm8 cm28 cm**
FootRough2 cm
MountedRough4 cm6 cm
FootDifficult1 cm
Troop Movement Card
*Cannot be used within 20 cm of enemy units **1 Action per turn

Comments from John on Part II have caused me to revisit the base sizes for our battalions, for those who haven’t read his comment John made a very good point:

I was thinking that a standard base size should imply a standard battalion size? Otherwise your large unit/small unit mechanics have to do quite difficult things to be fair to both Russian and Hungarian battalions.

So let’s look at how we reached the 40mm base width. We had the following table that was taken from Rod’s Wargaming website:

Typical infantry Battalion Strengths during the Napoleonic Wars

Looking at the table above if we take the largest unit (Hungarian Line) at 1,308 and the smallest unit (Russian Line) at 621 we have large differences between the battalion strengths and therefore also a large difference in their footprint on the ground.

So our original table showing what footprint each nation would take up width wise is as follows (bear in mind this is based on line formation of 3 ranks apart from the British which is in 2 ranks):

NationEstablished Soldier StrengthLine Formation WidthNo. of 6mm Miniatures Per Rank
British1,0765.67 cm11
French Old Guard (Pre 1809)9453.32 cm6
French Old Guard (Post 1809)8012.82 cm5
French Line (Pre 1809)1,0493.69 cm7
French Line (Post 1809)8252.90 cm5
Prussian Line6612.32 cm4
Russian Line6212.18 cm4
Austrian Grenadier9483.33 cm6
Austrian Line (German)1,1884.17 cm8
Austrian Line (Hungarian)1,3084.60 cm9
Unit Widths at 1:5300

We have a number of options that I can think of presently to get around this issue.


Our first and most fiddly for the actual gamer would be to have accurate base widths for each nations units:

(rounded to nearest 0.5mm)
British1,07655 mm
French Old Guard (Pre 1809)94535 mm
French Old Guard (Post 1809)80130 mm
French Line (Pre 1809)1,04935 mm
French Line (Post 1809)82530 mm
Prussian Line66125 mm
Russian Line62120 mm
Austrian Grenadier94835 mm
Austrian Line (German)1,18840 mm
Austrian Line (Hungarian)1,30845 mm
Prospective Base Widths

Some of these base sizes are pretty small, with the Russian units measuring only 20mm in width at 1:5300. This scale would mean only 4 6mm miniatures per rank.


The second option is along the same lines as option 1, but adjusting our scale so that an the smaller infantry units take up 40mm in width, this would mean adjusting our scale to something almost double, but would mean a 6 foot length which is our aim would represent 3 miles instead of 6. Which would not make large scale battles feasible.


Build in a mechanic to represent unit strengths on 40mm base. At the moment this is completely open, it could be anything from the number of men in a battalion divided by 100 to represent HP:

French Old Guard (Pre 1809)9459
French Old Guard (Post 1809)8018
French Line (Pre 1809)1,04910
French Line (Post 1809)8258
Prussian Line6617
Russian Line6216
Austrian Grenadier9489
Austrian Line (German)1,18812
Austrian Line (Hungarian)1,30813
Prospective HP of Units

If HP is used how would this be tracked for 100+ battalions per side? In all likelihood, HP would have to come into affect even if Battalion width was adjusted to suit their relative footprint as well.

Also does this need to be divided by 100, if tracked easily can it be divided by 10? Thus when a HP is lost, 10 men from the unit are presumed dead or wounded?


We use both realistic unit width and Health Points for each nation to more actually represent their strengths of the battalion:

NationEstablished Soldier StrengthBase WidthHealth
British1,07655 mm11 or 108
French Old Guard (Pre 1809)94535 mm9 or 95
French Old Guard (Post 1809)80130 mm8 or 80
French Line (Pre 1809)1,04935 mm11 or 105
French Line (Post 1809)82530 mm8 or 83
Prussian Line66125 mm7 or 66
Russian Line62120 mm6 or 62
Austrian Grenadier94835 mm9 or 95
Austrian Line (German)1,18840 mm12 or 119
Austrian Line (Hungarian)1,30845 mm13 or 131
Unit Strengths and Base Widths

The idea of being able to say for example “the British suffered 11,000 losses and the French 5,000” does appeal to me on a statistical level post game. If you were trying to recreate some of the engagements at the time and wanted to see how you stacked up against your real life counterpart this would be something to consider.

But this would require either two or three D10 markers per base, and if you multiply that by the number of battalions that will be in game this would result in 200-300 dice per side……


A number of counters on each unit to represent HP lost. Again, would result in a lot of counters….


We revert to a brigade system like many other game systems, but then that would mean going through what size base is best for a brigade.


Instead of Battalion HP, could we use Brigade HP which is marked with the commander of that Brigade. A brigade may be made up of 4 Prussian units each roughly 660 men in strength, meaning a total combat strength for that Brigade of 2,640. Could this then be divided by a factor of 10 and represented on three D10’s? With each hit on a unit in that brigade reducing the value by 1?

There’s a lot to think about here, and I really would like some further opinions from people on what of the above options they think may be best? Or even if there’s an option I haven’t considered. At present, I’m leaning towards having accurate base widths, but using the Command stands to represent Brigade strength as a whole on 3 D10’s.


The same as above but with all units base widths represented as 40mm.



Have battalions of all nations standardised at a certain strength according to the campaign they take part in and keep 40mm bases.


Have battalion strength incorporated into the combat ability of the unit and keep the units on 40mm bases.


6 thoughts on “Writing a Wargame – Base Sizes”

  1. I would be tempted to standardize the size of each battalion on an average campaign strength (probably closer). You could if you wanted incorporate strength at the level of combat ability rather than a hit point system (it would even out over the respective armies’ if scaled).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Are you suggesting for example that all units in a battle on both sides would be (for want of a better figure) 800 men in strength?

      EDIT: I’m currently working on the post in regards to musketry fire, and I have incorporated strength into the firing ability of the unit, so this is certainly viable. The post should be out later tonight.


      1. Yes; or at least, that solves some of your problems. There doesn’t always seem to have been a strong relationship between theoretical strength and actual strength, my favourite example being Salamanca, where the average Allied and French battalion strengths were pretty much exactly the same. Anyway, you are going to hit this snag regardless, since whichever battalion size you go for *won’t* be the one prevalent on the day.

        Liked by 1 person

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