Sunday, October 9, 2011

Organizing an Army

Like many another Autocrat who has come to power with absolute right over the life and death of his subjects and control of the army, I find my power over my armies of Toy Soldiers less absolute than one would expect. Once the bands have played, the soldiers have paraded by and cheered and the senior officers have pledged their allegiance, I find myself not starting from scratch to build an ideal army according to my reveries but dealing with an existing infrastructure, a limited treasury, shortages of barracks and men and the enemy pressing at the gates.

Yesterday Mr. Kinch  kindly (is that the right word?)   enquired when I was going to get off my bloody ass (or words to that affect)  and do some of those Indian armies and games that I have been teasing about for at least a year if not 3 or 10. My thoughtless reply of "as soon as I tidy up  this mob" (or words to that effect) were thoughtless optimism engendered by years of dreaming and several running feet of books but in the cold light of day as I marshalled brigades on the table to try out translations of TT Teasers into 40mm HofT games, it became obvious that little has changed since July and my response began to seem almost disingenuous.

Its been interesting contrasting Brigade organization for various historical actions, primarily  from India or North America, versus what might work for various Table Top Teasers. The most common Brigade sizes for the early 19thC campaigns that I have looked at are 2 to 4 battalions per brigade with 3 being common. In India, this is often 1 European and 2 Sepoy battalions. I had been working most of my calculations around fitting the largest TT Teaser type scenarios onto my table. These rarely go higher than 8 line infantry "units" plus light troops, cavalry and artillery but as I went through today, I was rudely reminded that 3 to 5 units are more common. At one 16 man battalion per scenario unit, that's a small army and a quick game.

If I went with a brigade per unit using 3 battalions as a brigade, it would all fit on my old table. Oh....Brigades of 3x12 man battalions might actually fit but I found myself at the brink of a steep and slippery slope as I started re-contemplating scales, battalion sizes and weapon ranges and the possibilities of harmonizing units and ranges to a 4" grid. Been there, don't want to go back with this lot.

The old Grant standard of 2 regiments per brigade, might would work, unless I was fielding  an early/mid 19thC British Indian army with its 2:1 ratio.  Of course, there is no reason why units have to map to either Battalions or Brigades and what I have often done in past, especially when using MacDuff or Charge! is do double the number of scenario units to determine how many companies to field and then group the companies as seems best. But somehow a 1:1 mapping of units to units seems satisfying for reasons that elude me.

Of course, if I am basing all this on fictional lands then one odd historical precedent is less relevant and convenient 2 battalion brigades become more attractive again. Building Sikh, Gwalior or 1st Afghan War forces seem less attractive and a not really Mexico version grows more attractive, offering similar gaming opportunities. Of course, originally, my interest was the Indian Mutiny and it has just occurred to me that the balance of 1 European to 2 Sepoy units doesn't apply  there, but, Highlanders do. Hmm.
My first stab at turning Scruby 40mm ACW into British Infantry. So easy. Then I decided to go back to the pre-tunic era and had to file down the tunics on both US and British forces. So hard! Until the 1812 figures were released.  Sadly, as hard as it was to muster the moral fiber,  the above figures were modified to 1840's uniforms.



  1. Ross Mac,

    A two-battalion brigade makes sense to me, especially as your setting is going to be more fictional than absolutely historical. Whatever you choose, it will be the choice that you are happiest with.

    All the best,


  2. Ross,
    Since your current rules work equally well for 12-man and 16-man units, for TTT situations, could you not base unit size on the number of units called for?
    So for three infantry units, field 3 brigades of 3x12-man battalions (108); for five foot units, field 5 regiments of 2x12-man battalions (120); and for eight units of grunts, you could field 8 battalions of 16 (96). It could be easily adjusted if you feel the need to field more troops in a wide-open situation or less in a more congested environment.
    I realize that would require quite a bit of flexibility in painting/organizing troops, but flexibility usually pays off down the road.

    Whatever you decide, it always makes fascinating reading.

  3. Thanks Bob, I think I need to discover more about my fictional lands before I go much farther.

  4. John, the short answer is that I could, especially with those "one uniform fits all" American types :) but I'm stubborn. One of my thoughts is that when all is done, I will be able to run a series of campaigns for which I want units to develop a history, actually, some have started to do so without waiting for any proper campaigns. More over, I think I want the small scenarios to feel small and the big ones to feel big. I' pondering 2 options now, either arrange things so the big scenarios are as big as I can squeeze, the average scenarios are just right for a 2-3 hour game and the small ones are mere appetizers. Or I could switch rules for the really small scenarios and play them as semi-skirmish games.

  5. If it's any consolation my own Indian project hasn't exactly taken off at a roaring start either.