January 11, 2010

No Army Lists? No Problem!

We made the decision early on to avoid trying to create points based lists for Republic to Empire. The period simply has too many armies and too many variations to do any kind of justice to such a project without devoting a whole book to it. Even then, I'm not confident that such lists would ensure fair and balanced games. I will agree that such lists are useful to the beginner, but I would argue it's just as easy to pick a real brigade to use as the focus for a collection. After all something brought all of us into the hobby, whether it was reading about a specific battle, a particular general or unit, or even a Sharpe novel! The Napoleonic period is well documented and there are detailed orders of battle for almost any battle you care to draw from.

Republic to Empire has a chapter devoted to the process of turning historical formations into tabletop armies, but let's look at one of my British Peninsular divisions for an example of how to do this.

The British Light Division is a wargamer's dream. Colorful personalities, elite troops, and a mix of coat colors (no having to paint six battalions with the same uniform). The composition of the Light Division changed nearly every battle (and indeed this is true with most formations in the period). For my collection, I chose the Combat on the Coa to serve as my model. Oman's History of the Peninsular War series is one of my favorite sources for detailed orders of battle for that theater. Although I couldn't find detailed unit strengths for the Coa, the third volume has Wellington's army listed at Bussaco which took place a couple of months later:

Light Division, Brigadier-General Craufurd

Beckwith's Brigade
      43rd Foot (804)
      95th Rifles (384, four companies)
      3rd Portuguese Cazadores (656)

Barclay's Brigade
      52nd Foot (946)
      95th Rifles (358, four companies)
      1st Portuguese Cazadores (546)

Republic to Empire is designed for a default 1:20 scale, but my collection was started years ago and is actually built on a 1:30 - no worries since you can field units of 18-48 infantry!

Beckwith's Brigade
      43rd Foot (27)
      95th Rifles (12)
      3rd Portuguese Cazadores (21)

Barclay's Brigade
      52nd Foot (31)
      95th Rifles (12)
      1st Portuguese Cazadores (18)

Finally, I base my units in stands of six models so I round my units to multiples of six:

Beckwith's Brigade
      43rd Foot (30)
      95th Rifles (12)
      3rd Portuguese Cazadores (24)

Barclay's Brigade
      52nd Foot (30)
      95th Rifles (12)
      1st Portuguese Cazadores (18)

That's it! This gives me a viable wargame force for small games that is colorful and historically accurate. At various times, the Light Division was detached on it's own and Craufurd was given a small cavalry element as well made up of the 1st KGL Hussars, 16th Light Dragoons, and a battery of RHA. Both cavalry regiments numbered around 450 in 1810 so I rounded down to two units of 12 models.

Veteran wargamers will not have learned much from this post, but it has been mainly aimed at the beginner who may be feeling lost without an army list. In a future post, I will talk about playing 'fair and balanced' games without using a point system.


  1. While I understand that many players these days like a point system for balancing games, I agree with you in that I always thought that the best way to select a force for a Napoleonic game was always to choose a brigade or division from some historical battle.

    I remember years ago our group had a rule of thumb; for every battalion/ squadron of guard or elite troops, the enemy received an additional battalion of line or two of militia.

    If there were not enough enemy battalions to balance the presence of the Quality, then the guard units could not take the field, or a battalion had to be taken off the roster due to being "detached for other duties".
    This was designed to get people working on common-and-garden line units for both sides, and it worked!

  2. Hi Clarence,

    You speak of points systems. That is the one thing about wargaming that brings out the beast in me. War was never fair. Monty or Rommel didn't hand about until one or the other could paint up a few more tanks. That is why I love rules systems like Beyond the Lily Banners and Republic to Empire.

    So, why bother with points systems? I'm a bit old fashioned in that I believe a wargame is to be enjoyed rather than won or lost but, each to his own.

    Am I the only one who thinks this way?


    Jim O'Neill