Thursday, January 7, 2010

1:60 or 1:15 Ratio? The Debate Continues

One the things I mentioned in my Annual Update post earlier this week was the debate I have going on within myself for MASSED WARGAMING.

I always have been keen on 6mm gaming for being able to wargame MASSED BATTLE, being battles that involved MASSES of units and figures. No problem there as 6mm are so affordable and quick and easy to paint up.

Over the years I have collected MASSES of figures for my MASSES of units including corps of French, British and Prussians for 1815 and corps of Russians for 1812. I have always felt I was lacking somewhere along the line and have regularly been looking at reducing the figure ratios in the games I play solo. Such as reducing the normal Empire V rules recommendation for 1:60 ratios to maybe 1:30 or even 1:15.

1:60 Ratio?
Empire suggests that a French battalion in line of 720 men is represented my 12 figures in 1 line side by side. Usually we use 2 x 20mm stands of 4 figures and 2 x 10mm stands of 2 figures thereby resulting in this battalion being 60mm long and 5mm deep. My research into actual frontages tells me this is very accurate when scaled down to 1/300 gaming scale. Good stuff!

1 Battalion of French Line Infantry in Column of Attack and another in Line. This is 1:60 ratio which means 2 figures make up 1 company with a French Infantry Battalion being 4 companies of line infantry, 1 company of Voltigeurs or light infantry and 1 company of Grenadiers or heavy infantry.
But does it look like MASSED WARGAMING?

1:30 Ratio?

What about doubling that out to 1:30 ratio and having 2 figures for every figure Empire says to use. Now all 6 companies have 4 figures each instead of 2. The battalion now has 24 figures in 1 line when in Line formation.

This battalion also is now 120mm wide and 5mm deep. This blows the historic basing out of alignment, width ways! Not too much of a problem as most of the action in battle is with units facing forward and if all units are double their normal frontage then it should be okay. This does mean double the painting and all my figures I have collected are now in only 1/2 as many units.

1:30 ratio with 24 figure battalions in Column of Attack and Line formations

But does it look like MASSED WARGAMING?

What about if I stick with the 1:30 ratio and double the depth instead, thereby having 2 ranks of figures instead of 1. That way the widths are good and the depths are double, which is not so bad is it?

1:30 ratio with battalions having 2 ranks of 4 figures for each company

Now does that look like MASSED WARGAMING?

1:15 Ratio?

Let's go further.

What about if we double both. Double the width and double the depth. Now our 720 man French Line battalion is made up of 48 figures with each company being a stand of 8 figures in 2 ranks. This looks awesome but now we have the frontage AND the depth problem mentioned above at the same time. Would we need to double the distances in the rules maybe? Or at least expand them by something?

At this stage we could turn to the rules and use base sizing for another scale, say 15mm or 25mm and add 6mm figures on in 2 ranks. We could get anywhere from 6 in 2 ranks to 10 in 2 ranks for each company. This would not be a good idea for me as I intend to join normal Empire games (that is games at 1:60 ratio) with my figures from time to time. This now means I have 4 times the painting time to deal with and all my collections to date are only based on 1/4 of the units to field.

So does 48 figures in 2 ranks look like MASSED WARGAMING?

1:15 ratio with 48 figures in 2 ranks

1:30 ratio with 2 ranks of figures with battalion in square
This looks great! This is more like MASSED WARGAMING to me.

But now I have a new problem.

If I am going to have ranks of minis, I really should take the opportunity to have ranks in my gaming. Empire represents the rank differences between some nations by adusting the base size. So if a French battalion of 720 in 3 ranks is represented by 12 figures in 1 rank with a base of 60mm x 5mm, then a British battalion of 720 men in 2 RANKS is represented by 12 figures in 1 rank on a base of 75mm x 5mm. This is good as in reality a 2 rank battalion should be wider than a 3 rank battalion.

The funny thing now is that both the French and the British battalions have 2 ranks of figures when the French battalion REPRESENTS 3 ranks and the British REPRESENT 2 ranks. This can be a little annoying to look at.

I have seen a lot of players and rules use this 2 rank basing and while it does look a little more MASSED, I have also heard players become confused over why 2 ranks are used if not only for the MASSED feel. Can this be overcome?

What about Ranks of Figures?

At 1:10 ratio we will have a French battalion being 72 fgures which can be on the table in 3 ranks resulting in a line formation of 120mm wide. The British battalion of 72 figures in 2 ranks, results in a line formation being 225mm wide. This is nearly double the width.

Is this acceptable?

1:10 ratio with 72 figures in 3 ranks with each company being a stand of 3 ranks of 4 figures.

Does this now look like MASSED WARGAMING?

Is There A Balance To Be Found?
I love playing large Napoleonic games. I love fielding multiple corps with lots and lots of battalions, regiments and batteries. But I also love the look of a battalion being A BATTALION. A force in itself to be reckonned with. Not to be taken lightly.

Does 12 figures in 1 rank look like a FORCE TO BE RECKONNED WITH?
Maybe not.
... But with all units being the same scale, a collector with limited time and resources but a desire to collect large numbers or units and armies and historically accurate basing.

Does 24 figures in 2 ranks look more intimidating?
Getting better.
... But with the need for double the painting and double the collecting and storage, and the issue of both groups of nations being in 2 rank of figures.

Does 48 figures in 2 ranks look like it can force you to reconsider your strategy?
Yes it does.
... But then there is now 4 times the painting time and 4 times the number of figures and storage required and both groups of nations still have 2 ranks of figures on the table.

Does 72 figures in 3 ranks look like MASSED WARGAMING?
Bloody oath it does.
... But now I need 6 times the painting time and 6 times the figures and the British battalions now are way too wide in relation to other nations.

There must be a balance somewhere.

I think it will come down to the individual player.

I have limited painting time and limited resources to try to cover my passion for Napoleonic wargaming at anywhere near the scale I want to in my lifetime.

I love the look of the 1:10 ratio battalion. But the painting and figure numbers would be astronomical for me to address. And the 2 rank battalion width on the table is just too unacceptable to me.

I do like the 1:15 ratios. But again there is a large increase in painting and figure numbers and the issue of both French and British battalions being in 2 ranks of figures on the table. I think I could deal with the 2 rank for both nations to a degree. Afterall most of this scale gaming I would do would be solo anyway. The issue would be more along the line of whether I would feel comfortable when I document my games and post here online for you to see.

I think the 1:30 ratio is okay and it certainly is a good medium that both looks okay without increasing my painting and collection by more than double. Again I can deal with the 2 rank for all battalions issue.

The 1:60 ratio still needs to be possible for when I game with others.

Going forward I am going to work on building my armies at 1:30 ratio with figures in 2 ranks. This should give me more of a MASSED WARGAMING feel to my projects. Once I get into my along the tracks of my solo wargaming experience more and my collections grow, I can then take a more serious look at 1:15 ratios with 48 figures in a battalion.


It just occured to me that if I use 24 figures in 2 ranks, ie 1:30 ratios, each company will effectively look like a square. 2 figures in the front and 2 figures in the back. This will look silly and even sillier when trying to conduct a Column of Attack 2 companies wide. The Column of Attack should look wider than it does deep. Back to the drawing board I guess. Maybe stick to 1:60 and then go 1:15 later.

* Let me know what you think. Have you had to make a similar decision in your gaming? What were your arguments? What conclusions did you make? I would love to hear from you.

Click here for the next part in this discussion.


Al Amos said...


Good topic. Here's another way to approach the situation.

Start with the depth of the unit. Make that right, and the frontage will take care of itself. Play will be more natural as well.

One rank of troops is usually one pace for infantry. The pace for the various armies is about 30". Infantry, whether in two or three ranks, had a supernumerary rank of one or two pace depth. So a three rank file with a single pace 4th rank space would have a depth of 120", approximately in theory. So place three of your infantrymen in three ranks to where they look appropriately close, and measure from front to back. Add 1/3 of that distance to the measurement, and make that your ground scale X mm to 120". Then rework your frontages, ranges and movement rates to the new scale.

You can then set your movement rates to equal X number of paces per minute, and even model the different pace rates.

You can model infantry squares, lines, and columns of 1/2 interval (closed) and normal interval (open). An interval being equal to the frontage of the sub-element (coy, peleton, etc).

A nice side effect of this is rules don't have to have odd modifiers such as arty x2 for closed column. You can set up the range to be 'natural' with 'beaten zones' etc so troops more compact will naturally suffer more casualties.

The smaller scale offers the opportunity to model the tactics and formations much more simply. Which imo makes it more enjoyable.

Tulsa, OK

David said...

Great info there Al. I had thought similar at one point. And if I was starting again and didn't need to use the same figures for gaming with others, then not a problem. In wanting to keep my stands for Empire games with others, I am looking for a way of using them to reach the MASSED look I have been seeking.

Al Amos said...


Understand that. Flexibility is paramount. Since most of us can't afford to have eight different armies of the same period just to play eight different set of rules.

I used to play Empire all the time then switched to From Valmy to Waterloo rules. (I think thats the correct title.)

One thing I noticed with both is if you use the basing for 25mm figures then you can get quite a few 6mm figs on the company sized base. Maybe that would work?

Tulsa, OK

David said...

Thanks Al. I did think about the 25mm bases with 6mm figs. I have seen that done with Ancients. It looks good and would work for me.

BUT. I need to keep my men based for normal Empire so I can use my figures in group games.

SteelonSand said...

Nicely reasoned and well illustrated article there David, on the perennial wargamer's dilemma - maybe I'm biased, but for Mass on the tabletop - isn't that where those teeny tiny men of 2mm come in? :-)

I think you are right about having to form some sort of compromise given the boundaries set by your preferred rules, and in the end you have to go with what works for you - then again, with the 2mm minis, hundreds of men look like hundreds of men, even if from a higher perspective/viewpoint!

SteelonSand said...

Nicely reasoned and well illustrated article there David, on the perennial wargamer's dilemma - maybe I'm biased, but for Mass on the tabletop - isn't that where those teeny tiny men of 2mm come in? :-)

I think you are right about having to form some sort of compromise given the boundaries set by your preferred rules, and in the end you have to go with what works for you - then again, with the 2mm minis, hundreds of men look like hundreds of men, even if from a higher perspective/viewpoint!

David said...

Yes Steel this is definitely where 2mm excels. Once I complete my current painting commission for a client I am set to get going on my 2mm projects. Expect to see posts on here detailing those soon.

I am hoping my 6mm can deliver some sort of balance. We'll see.

Anonymous said...


I came up with some home-brewed WSS rules at 1:50. Nations with four or more ranks are on a less wide base, but I "checker-board" the figures on the base, two forward, two rearward. Only two figures can shoot. The Dutch and English are three ranks and the figures are on a straight line and can all shoot. This looks OK on the board as the four-rankers look deeper.

Dave Gamer said...

True, the 12 figure units don't look "massed" when standing there alone. BUT, when you have a game going with 30-40 units per side, the whole battle does look pretty massive.

Bagration said...

I use 1:60 ratio right now, I have so far Davouts 1 Corps for Borodino, alone with the reserve cavalry corp going up against Tuckhov's III corp, Borozdin 8th and Raevskis 7th corp with 2 cav corps... layed out on a table that alot of figures, I realy like it I dont have a problem with the massed feel at all.

David said...

Thanks for the comments. I am focusing on 1:60 for now. I have my 2mm project that will satisfy my MASSED requirements. Later I can always go to 1:15 for small contacts.

Jc said...

For most real battles, unless you do have a huge table (or 2-3 rows of tables each 6m x1.8m)the real problem is frontage as it gives you the scale and size of your battle.
To be real AND massive it needs 15km x10km or so then...
Yes battalions look better when 24-+ figs and 2 ranks makes it look better and has figures stand well even on hills.
the other thing is have your basic units be 2+ bns or even a rgt or brigade then you save a lot of space and can make it massive.
I did that with most units brigades on two separate supporting ranks or columns and it looks somehow what it should be (15mm). I do have the idea of going 8mm Adler BECAUSE OF This damn site and after watching flat dioramas with 100+ fig a unit etc....

David said...

Thanks for the comments JC.

I would never move to brigade gaming for napoleonics because for me the period was all about corps engagements with the smallest tactical element being the battalion.

The advantage of 6mm is that it can be quick and cheap to put large armies together and I wanted to exploit these advantages to get more mass.

For the moment, I am settled upon the 1:60 ratios as I am building 2mm massed armies. Stay tuned.

Grognard1789 said...


Good stuff! I'm sort of in the same quandry myself. I recently purchased a fully complete French, Prussian and Austrian Amies in 6mm so I can do some SOLO playing of rules. I LIKE THE MASSED LOOK ALSO and figured it'd be easier to achieve in this scale. The issue is however that I'm not sure exactly how these units were originally based. After looking at your photo's it seems similarly based to yours? How are you basing your artillery and Cavalry units? I.E. I could use some help possibly ID'ing these. I put some photo's in my yahoo group photo album under 6mm. Thanks,

Chris Maine

David said...

Hi Chris

I normally debase any 2nd hand purchases and rebase according the rules in my rules of choice which is Empire V. I tend to base them with 1:60 man ratio but also in order to use a company per base or normal column width.