Being something of a novice when it comes to Napoleonics I found the whole process of deciding what to buy quite arduous. In the end, I decided to start the collection by doing some units for a couple of divisions at Salamanca. I'm sure the units will get used to represent others, in other divisions, as needs must, but you have to start somewhere.
I have organised my divisions using the army builder method in Lasalle rules by Sam Mustapha. He uses four stand battalions each representing 500 - 700 infantry, or 300 - 500 cavalry. Where brigades have much weaker battalions they are amalgamated (representing two units with one) to bring them up to this strength. I liked this idea; I probably liked it because it keeps things very simple. Exceptionally strong battalions (like British Guards) have six stands. All of my infantry will be based with six figures per stand / in units of 24 (or 36 if large). All of my cavalry will have three figures per stand / in units of 12. Each infantry battalion will have an additional skirmish element (Light Companies / Voltigeurs) represented by two stands each of two figures, plus additional stands of skirmishers held at brigade level (rifle companies). I will be basing and collecting these armies as a 'stand alone collection' so I'll decide on stand dimensions later and not worry too much about basing for any particular rule set - in short, I'll base to please myself.
Now, even though this order was going to be quite a big one (it actually crashed Front Ranks system and had to be part submitted over the phone) I did have a strict budget (which I overspent by £1.88). Consequently the sides are not quite as balanced as I would like. Balancing it would have cost a good few hundred pounds more and I couldn't afford it. So what did I buy? Well, this is what the initial forces should look like.
First Division (H. Campbell)
Fermors Brigade: Coldstream Guards (large unit); 3rd Guards (large unit); a rifle skirmish stand.
Wheatley's Brigade: 2/24th; 1/42nd (large unit); 1/79th; 2/58th (not represented, mixed with 2/24th); a rifle skirmish stand.
Lowe's Brigade: 1st KGL; 2nd KGL; 5th KGL.
3rd Division (Packenham)
Wallace's Brigade: 1/45th; 74th; 88th; three rifle skirmish stands.
Campbell's Brigade: 1/5th; 2/5th; 2/83rd; 94th (not represented, mixed with 2/83rd).
Independant Portugese Brigade (identity not decided)
I have given this brigade a strength of three battalions of line and a battalion of cacadores representing about 2,500 men.
I have purchased three two gun batteries at present. These will be upgraded to three gun batteries later. There is one British foot battery, one Portugese foot battery, and a British horse battery. There are also limbers, of course, which will have to do to make up third guns initially.
Van Alten's Brigade: 14th Light Dragoons; 1st Hussars KGL.
Bock's Brigade: 1st Dragoons KGL; 2nd Dragoons KGL.
I know there are too many cavalry, but I'll usually only field a single brigade and it's nice to have a mix of types to play with.
1st Division (Foy)
Brigade Chemineau: 6th Leger (2 battalions); 69th Ligne (2 battalions)
Brigade Desgraviers-Berthelot: 39th Ligne (2 Battalions); 76th Ligne (2 battalions)
2nd Division (Clausel)
Brigade Berlier: 25th Leger (3 battalions); 27th Ligne (2 battalions).
Brigade Barbot: 50th Ligne (2 battalions); 59th Ligne (2 battalions).
Two foot batteries and one horse battery. (see notes on British guns)
Brigade ?: 3rd Hussars; 26th Chasseurs; 22nd and 28th Chasseurs not represented, they are mixed with the other cavalry.
Brigade Carrie: 13th Dragoons; 14th Dragoons.
See note on British cavalry.
So what else did I buy. Well of course you can't start one project without finishing the last, so I decided to purchase the last of my Seven years War stuff, bringing the whole collection (Prussian, Russian and Austrian) up to 163 units (or just shy of 2,500 figures).
3 Regiments of Austrian Hussars; 2 Regiments of Austrian Cuirassier; 1 Regiment of Austrian Dragoons; 1 Regiment of Austrian Horse Grenadiers (elite coys); 1 Regiment of Austrian Grenadiers (combined grenadiers); 2 Regiments of Austrian infantry; 2 units of Austrian Grenzers; 2 batteries of Austrian guns; 2 Regiments of Prussian Cuirassier.
I'd like to say job done, but apart from having to paint them all, starting the Peninsular War Project is still some way off. I'm also dead broke again.