Sunday, 17 July 2011

Thoughts on 2mm Napoleonics


A while ago Nick started thinking about us doing 2mm Napoleonics, so we bought a couple of test packs to get a feel for what 2mm wargaming might be like. Nick's idea was to use our standard 1mm:1m ground ratio (i.e. 1:1000) with 2mm figures (c. 1:900) so that we had near unity on ground to figure scales, and even 1 figure = 1 man. This was to get away from the 1:1000 vs 1:72 of typical 20mm gaming (giving an "error" factor of around 11). The idea then went on the back burner but as part of my "summer of no 20mm Napoleonics" I decided to have a look at it again.

To me any set of figures and scale decisions is a compromise between five main factors: the level of game you want (eg Army level vs fireteam skirmish), cost and time of buying and painting an army, the convenience of playing (eg how long to set up/tear down), the "accuracy" of the rules and experience, and just whether things feel right.

With 2mm it strikes me that there are three main ways of playing a game:

- The Battalion Base

This appears to be what most 2mm gamers do (or some even do brigade bases). Each 24-30 figure block (about 13mm by 3mm) represents a battalion. Now we know that battalion frontages in line are about 240m, say 260m for easy maths), so this means 13mm = 260m which gives a ground scale of about 1:20,000. This is almost at 1:25000 map scale, and indeed I found if I put 2mm blocks on some battle maps then they were almost the right size. The error factors is hug though - 20+ (i.e. 1:900 vs 1:20,000). Most battalion base rules also don't bother to show line or column, and certainly at Waterloo with understrength units most battalions would be mere fragments of bases, and with 200+ crowded onto a space smaller than an A3 sheet of paper a real nightmare to move or measure.

- The Platoon Base

This was Nick's original idea, a base = a platoon, so the 24 or 30 figures on the base are 1:1 with the men in the platoon. And with 1mm=1m and 2mm figures we have almost no scale error). If we take a French Company with c.120 soldiers then in 3 ranks we'd need 40 in the front line with a frontage of 40m, or 4cm in scale - just about do'able with a 2mm base (10 figure frontage = 13mm). The downside of the platoon approach though are:
- You need a lot of bases, 4 per company, 24 per battalion, at 10p each give £2.40 a battalion - about the same as 20mm, so its going to cost a lot of cash and time to build a big army
- You need a lot or area and set-up time - the same area as 20mm
- Whilst the scaling IS right, it just doesn't look right, very small figures with a huge amount of space around them

- The Company Base

This strikes me now as the best compromise. If each base = 1 company, then a 40m frontage for a company = 13mm for a base (using 10 file bases), giving a ground scale of about 1mm=3m, i.e. 1:3000, and so an error factor of only 3. (rises to 4 if we use 10mm, 8 file bases). Six bases for a French battalion means you can show line and column easily, and the figure to man scale is about 1:4 (30 figures vs 120 men). So a battalion is line will cover 8cm, and musket range is about 5cm - which looks right on the table.

In terms of battlefield size, at 1:3 the greater Waterloo battlefield becomes about 1.6m x 1.3m (about 6 of my 600x600 terrain bases), and the main part of the battlefield only 1.2m x 0.6m (just 2 bases), and so easily fitable on most tables.

Unit wise, the French had 100 battalions at Waterloo - just 600 bases, at 10p each = £60. For cavalry its 6 bases per Regiment (1.5 per Sqn), times 34 regiments and @ 15p each gives about £30. So you could have the whole British and French armies for a shade under £200.

(and actually with Battalion basing you only need about 150 bases a side so about £40 gets you both armies so you might just as well have that as well - assuming you don't double role).

So yes, I think 2mm Napoleonic might be worth a go, particularly at Company basing. Now I just need to find some decent rules!

***Imported from old blog***