Battalion & Brigade Formations

I ironically started writing my own set of rules because I couldn’t find a ruleset that would suit what I wanted to do. Namely representing battalions on a relatively realistic scale on the tabletop with movement and effects realistically modelled but in a quicker format than other such rules were doing them previously. I also wanted a set of rules where I could either play a matched game against my opponent or re-enact a historical battle.

Part of this will be to ensure that Brigade and Battalion formations are easily represented on the tabletop without too much trouble.

There were three main battalion formations.

The Line

Taken from

Above is a typical line formation for infantry at the time. 3 Ranks of men spread out over a considerable distance. Line formation of three ranks was used by most of the main factions apart from Britain whose battalions often fought in two ranks.

The obvious benefit of fighting in line formation was the battalion had the most amount of muskets available to fire on the enemy. In three rank formations the first two ranks would fire while the third would pass their loaded muskets to the second rank to fire.

The weaknesses of the line formation were that it was vulnerable to flank attacks from cavalry, and column attacks could smash through the thin line of men if they made it through the fire.

To represent this in gaming terms I’m currently using the following rules:

  • Battalions in line can use the maximum amount of firing dice allocated to them. (I.e. a brigade is 80 strength made up of 4 battalions, the battalion would fire 10 firing dice – one quarter of 80)
  • Battalions in line are vulnerable on their flanks in close combat. Therefore when attacked in the flank they roll half their allocated combat dice (Combat will be covered on a later post).
  • Battalions in line cannot use the ‘Quick Step’ pace (and by result this means the Brigade cannot also use ‘Quick Step’ pace. This is due to the time taken to redress ranks after passing obstacles.

Column Formation

Taken from

There were different forms of column, such as the column shown above which was ideal for marching long distances across the battlefield at a faster pace than when in line. There were also attack columns, which in some cases had files of 50 men and 16+ ranks. These columns were designed to move quickly through enemy fire and smash through opposing infantry lines. Columns were not the useless plodding advance you see so popularly depicted on TV series and films (Looking at you Mr. Sharpe).

They were also a small deterrent to cavalry due to the men being packed tightly together and cavalry horses often refusing to charge at densely packed men.

However as you are no doubt aware, they were vulnerable to artillery fire and enfilading fire through their many ranks.

Despite this, men in column felt more secure than when in line formation due to having so many comrades in close proximity.

We can represent all these factors on the table:

  • Brigades can add +1 morale for each battalion in column formation within their unit.
  • Column formation allows the unit to use ‘Quick Step’, all units must be in column for the unit to take advantage of this.
  • Artillery and small arms fire on columns deal double double damage.
  • Very little firing was made from battalions in column formation, therefore when battalions are in column they are not able to fire.

Square Formation

Square formation

The square formation was ideally suited to repelling cavalry attacks. It was however, very vulnerable to small arms fire and artillery fire.

Square formations also reduced a units firing in any one direction so that a unit may only have one quarter of its muskets available to fire.

As you may also appreciate after looking at the picture above, moving in square and retaining its shape to deter the cavalry was almost impossible.

Table representation:

  • Units in square cannot move.
  • The number of fire dice they can use is reduced to 2.
  • Artillery and small arms fire on square cause double damage.
  • Cavalry cannot attack a unit in square.

So that’s the main battalion formations covered, but what about Brigade formations?

There were many brigade formations, some used only once some used many time. Let’s look at an example or two.

Taken from

This shows a brigade where the front units are in line formation and the rear supporting units are in column. This could be used on defence, allowing the front units maximum firepower against approaching enemy and the rear units in column to allow them to move forward in support of needed.

This would easily be represented on the table top by having the units in the same formation.

What we could also do is for every “rank” of battalion behind the first +1 morale would be added to the brigade. For example, if we use the example above where there are six battalions of 1,000 men and have three units side by side in line with three units behind in column. The front units would be using 20 firing dice for firing their weapons while also having +1 morale for the brigade having two ranks and +3 morale for having three brigades in column.

Taken from

Multi Brigade formations may also be possible. In the picture above you can see MacDonald’s Column at the Battle of Wagram. This was suited to advance towards the enemy with four battalions able to use their full firepower, while having their flanks protected from cavalry by Brigades in column formation.

The above could be represented by:

With this, our rules would currently suggest, that 1st Brigade has 5 units in column therefore will have +5 to its Brigade morale, 3rd Brigade would have +3, while 2nd Brigade can use its full firepower to the front, safe in the knowledge that cavalry cannot attack its flanks.

In our game we could potentially have options to; A) join brigades together to create divisional formations like above, this would cost maybe 2-3 actions for each brigade that wishes to do do. B) be able to detach units from Brigades for certain tasks. (i.e. detaching a unit of skirmishers to hold a village while the remaining Brigade advances on an enemy position).


Formation Summary:

  • Line Formation – Gives full allocated firing dice to its unit, Battalions in line roll half of their combat dice when fighting in melee. Battalions in line cannot use ‘Quick Step’ and any Brigade the Battalion is inside also cannot use ‘Quick Step’.
  • Column Formation – Allows the use of ‘Quick Step’ Pace, all units inside this Brigade must be in column formation to do so. Brigades will be granted +1 morale for each Battalion within its formation that assumes column formation. Units in column formation cannot fire. Small arms and artillery fire, cause double damage to units in column formation.
  • Square Formation – Cannot move. Its number of firing dice is reduced to 2. Small arms and artillery attacks on this unit cause double damage. Cavalry cannot attack units in square formation.

Following on from this I will include the following options for actions:

  • Join Brigade, for each Brigade that wants to attach to another, they must spend a full 5 action points to do so. This would represent the period of time it take to get organised. There will be an upper limit currently that no more than 3 Brigades can attach to each other in this fashion. Likewise Brigades can detach from each other for a cost of 5 action points. Once Brigades are joined together, they act as one unit using their actions together. This could be represented by a General of Division stand of some such. Alternatively, Brigades being joined together may cost Coup d’Oeil points.
  • Battalion detachment/Skirmisher Detachment. Units may be detached from their parent Brigade for the sole purpose of holding an objective. This would cost 1 Action point. From that moment onward the detached Battalion will have a morale of 8 (a base morale of 7, +1 for the single battalion). If the Brigade a Battalion detaches from has a lower morale than 8, then it assumes its parents morale upon detachment. Battalions can then rejoin their Brigade at a cost of 1 action.


I realise that at this stage I have a fair number of morale modifiers and that these may well not be balanced as yet. But my intention is to have a foundation with which to build upon in the future.



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