Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Wondering about scales

I am trying to find a Napoleonic rule-set to play minor, i.e divisional, engagements occuring at the Campaign of Leipzig or in any other Napoleonic Campaign. I could use a commercial tactical rule-set (Shako, General de Brigade...) or a free downloable set such as Eagles and Glory or Serrez les Rangs or one of the myriad of free sets available at the Freewargamesrules site. However, I don't want to waste my quickly diminishing neurons so I pretend to use Napoleon's Battles (NB) at divisional scale (NBd).
Yes, NB is a grand tactical rule set so (1) all the scales (men, terrain and time) must be changed, (2) some things abstracted in the original NB (skirmishers, artillery fire...) and (3) other new arising problems (brigade/battalion/regiment commanders and their command radii...) must be resolved.
A query to Napoleon's Battles community in the Yahoo
napbattles group was quick and kindly answered by Paul McAndrew and Luke Willen. From their suggestions I have decided to use initially the following scales
Green numbers imply a non definitive decision

- Men
- Terrain
1/900 (1 in. to 25 yds.)
- Time
10 min per turn (or 7.5 min)
- Artillery
1 model/4 guns

The general picture of a NB battle is almost maintained in NBd although the combat units are now infantry battalions, cavalry regiments and batteries. The global effect is a MAGNIFICATION of both battlefield (4:1) and time (3:1 or 4:1? ) resulting in

1) A NB infantry 4-figures stand becomes a NBd company (120 men) so a typical infantry battalion will have 4-7 stands
2) A NB cavalry 4-figures stand becomes a NBd squadron
3) A NBd artillery battery is composed from 2 or 3 gun models (according to the strenght of the original)
4) All fire distances and command radii must be multiplied by 4

5) The movement distances remain un-changed since the modifications in terrain (space) and time scales approximately (or exactly) cancel one to another.
For example: a movement of 10 in. in NB implies a speed of 1000yds/30min. In NBd an unit at that speed will march in a turn of 10 (7.5) min. a distance of 1000*10/30=333.3 yds (1000*7.5/30=250 yds) or a tabletop distance of 333.3/25=13.3 (250/25=10) in.

In that way the general vision of a NB battle will be loosely maintained and the next question to resolve will be the assignment of casualties.


  1. And don't forget the scale of your figures!
    This is an old problem. Its a compromise accepted at the dawn of wargaming because of the figures available and lack of available table space

    The other problem is the level of command assumed by the player. While the player wants to command 'an army' , the armies in the Napoleonic period functioned on battalions and squadrons.
    Thus to portray the combat accurately, compromises must be made. The first compromise is the ground scale, the second echelon of command, the third figure to actual ratio.
    All this causes complete breakdown in relationships between all these concepts, eventually serving a mechanic the objective of which may be to "produce a game that plays fast".
    You can also contact me on

    PS. I brought this up recently in the 'scales' threat of the TMP forum, and received many response, some quite insulting.

  2. Greg
    Thanks for your comment. The problem of the real size of the figures is, as you rightly said, very old and continues present from the beginning of the wargaming. I think that the only solution is to use only the 'front' of the figures forgeting their depth..
    With respect to command problems, NB makesa good compromise abstracting the lower command level (junior officers) and emphatizing the higher levels, division, corps or army. My use of NB as divisional ruleset is also a compromise to avoid the learning of new rulesets (I am growing old!) and to maintain the feel and visual appeal of a tabletop full of figures.
    I'll enter the TMP forum to see the thread yo said. I don't understand because you should receive insultant responses to open such a debate