Sunday, 1 December 2019

The Peninsular Project - A new plan for OOB, and why.

This is a shot of a recent game in progress.
Progress with my Peninsular War project is painfully slow and I haven't managed to add a new unit for a couple of months now. When I get the time they do come in spurts of half a dozen or so units in quick succession, so the quest goes on. However, I've reassessed where I'm going with it and I've downsized the overall numbers to get it finished. A few months ago I began looking again at my overall aims. 

When this project first started my aim was to build the armies based on actual brigade structures, with brigades that contained the right historical units: For example, I planned on building British First Division with all of its component brigades and battalions, with large units where appropriate. This plan soon hit the buffers - it was a train wreck with few survivors. 


Another shot of the game from further back. The game is using all of the figures I currently have painted - 32 units plus artillery and command: The battlefield isn't crowded.
For those who follow this blog, the windmill and pigsty are also both present in this battle - note I've darkened the roof of the windmill with a 'wash' and it looks much better.

Looking at the size of my table, it soon became blindingly obvious that with divisions averaging ten to twelve battalions, I would be limiting myself to fighting battles with two divisions a side at most. I was also looking at a collection of around forty battalions, per side, simply to get the right overall mix of troops: This was especially true for the Anglo-Portuguese.

Then, quite by accident, I found my road to Damascus. I was reading the OOBs for Fuentes De Onoro, in the Osprey book of that name, and I was mentally noting the manpower in each division: They had roughly 4,000 to 7,000 men each. Now, the numbers four to seven are something akin to Goldilocks numbers when building armies for Piquet games because, in my opinion, four to seven units per command group is about as perfect as it gets - not too big, not too small, just right. Blinding flash of light! 


2nd Legere (left) and Municipal Guard in white coats (right). Typical 24 man units based on 45 x 45. The beads negate the use of roster sheets. The beads on the left are a bead for Defence Die modifier and the number bead indicates the units 'division' command group; the bead on the right is the Combat Die modifier: Red = Down 1, Green = No Change, Blue = Up 1.
If I built divisions containing one 'battalion sized' unit for each 1000 men not only would I be getting my comparative man-power ratios correct, I'd also be getting divisions of four to seven units each, and I could be fielding four or five divisions a side - and that's almost proper army strength. 

This was looking good, and it suddenly got a lot better when I realised, because the number of units in a division sank to just over half what they should be, the number of unit types to make up the divisions also fell dramatically - I could do the British Light Division with just four specialist units, rather than the eight specialist units I'd previously been looking at.

When it came to the French, for me, they were never as problematic as the Anglo-Portuguese to begin with. By and large, most French infantry look pretty much the same (including most of their flags). In my opinion, to field French armies for the Peninsular, you just need the right ratio of Line to Legere, enough foreign units to give them the multi-national 'Empire' feel, and a couple of units of converged grenadiers for 'special occasions'. This means, with a dollop of fudge, if you get the ratios right, you can serve up just about anything fairly easily. 


French 1st Hussars and Polish Vistula Lancers facing British 14th Light Dragoons advancing through an orchard.

Cavalry, on the other hand, were always going to be a problem for me. You need quite a few units for both sides because of the variation of obvious types: French dragoons don't pass for Polish Lancers, and British cavalry can't pass for Portuguese, etc. However, looking at a unit of cavalry, representing 500 troopers, it soon became obvious that, although I'd still need to purchase the same number of units, I could do more with them. Still a plus for the divide by a thousand method.

There was one other bonus to using the 'thousand man divisor', though this only became evident quite recently: It's to do with artillery units. Looking at the unit frontages for men in line (in my Waterloo Companion) compared to that for a battery of guns, my planned two gun batteries were going to be far too wide. A battery of guns would have a frontage of roughly one third that of a thousand men in line. My infantry units have a frontage of 180 mm, my guns have a frontage of 60 mm: Now is that job done or, is that job done? One gun batteries - I already have too many!


A one gun battery with limber - in this shot the battery has been silenced as is being withdrawn before it gets overrun.

So, my plan is formalised. After my next order arrives (for Christmas), I'll have just eight more units to buy: Four more infantry units and four more cavalry units. I'll have just over half left to paint.

Then I can start thinking about the Spanish and the hidden extras such a baggage trains, etc. Maybe, this project doesn't have an end.

My OOBs, for the Anglo-Portuguese and the French, will be as follows:

British


Highland Light Infantry (71st Foot) with a heavy four stand skirmish line deployed.
Working on a basic 5000 strong division of five units (three British and two Portuguese) and enough extra units to do the First and Light Divisions, plus artillery and cavalry support, my Anglo-Portuguese army will be as follows:

Infantry: 27 'battalions': Line units are 24 figures strong plus 4 extra figures to put out as skirmishers; light units are 24 figures plus 8 - 10 figures to put out as skirmishers. 

1st Division: Guards x 2; Highlanders x 2; Highland Light Infantry x 1; KGL x2; British Foot x1.
Light Division: Light Infantry x 2; Rifle Battalion x 1; Cacadores Battalion x1.
Three basic infantry divisions each comprising: British Foot x3; Portuguese Line x2.

The glaring omission in the above list is the lack of specialist troops for 7th Division (The Mongrels). This is for two reasons. Firstly, I would need an additional five or six units to make this division possible as a stand alone entity and, frankly, time and cash are in short supply at present. Before making the British army any bigger, I'd like some Spanish, at least enough for an allied contingent, and the £200 I'll save not getting troops for the 7th Division will go some way to helping in that regard. Secondly, Front Rank don't make Brunswickers yet but, I know these are planned - when they come out I'll think again.

Because of the way I'm using the '1000 man divisor', Cacadores battalions attached to the Portuguse 'Brigades' will not be fielded as separate units. They will be fielded as extra stands in the division's general 'skirmish line'. All told, there will be an additional 30+ figures in a 'general pool' of extra skirmishers representing these types, though not all will ever be needed (for aesthetic reasons I'll have a mix of 95th, 60th, KGL lights, Oels jagers and Cacadores stands).


British 1st Dragoons.


Cavalry: 8 'regiments' of 12 figures each. 

Dragoons x4; Light Dragoons x2; Hussars x1; Portuguese x1.

At a pinch, the Portuguese could be used as an extra unit of British light cavalry but, looking at the numbers in historical OOB, this mix seems to cover most eventualities. Although the light cavalry might have been more active on campaign, in most field battles there seem to be just as many heavy dragoons present. As I said earlier, cavalry are a problem because of the different mixes required. In numbers terms there were never that many of them in Spain, so I'm loathe to purchase more, just for variation, than this.


British and Portuguese infantry, with artillery support, coming into action.

Artillery: 8 guns in total, each with 4 crew. 

British Foot x 4; British Horse x 2; Portuguese x 2; Limbers x 4 (including 1 horse artillery).

Not every gun will have its own limber (they take up too much table room and are generally removed when not in use) and these will be 'general pool' additions. As noted, this is too many guns but, I've bought them, I'll paint them, and in some scenarios (where I will use a different troop scaling method) two gun batteries will not go amiss. 

Officers: There will be eleven command stands in total.

There will a 'Commander in chief' stand of four figures, six divisional command stands of two figures each, and four one figure command stands (cavalry brigades and an engineer).

Grand Total Anglo-Portuguse:

Totting that up, that comes to 971 men, 8 guns, 4 limbers and 131 horses. I've painted just under half.

French


French infantry in line.

Working on a basic 5000 - 7000 strong division of five to seven units, plus artillery and cavalry support, my French army will be as follows:

Infantry: 28 'battalions': Line and converged grenadier units are 24 figures strong plus 4 extra figures to put out as skirmishers; Legere units are 24 figures plus 6 figures to put out as skirmishers. 

Legere x 8 (5 French, 3 Foreign); Line x 18 (12 French, 6 Foreign); Converged Grenadiers x 2 (French).

My French infantry, if anything, are too colourful. The army can field French, Italians, Irish, German, Nassau, Poles and Swiss - in blue, white, brown, green and red coats; but mainly blue. The French infantry will be a pretty thing to behold but, though all served in theatre, it's not historically accurate as a combined force - it really has become a painting pretty things, thing. 


Very pretty!

Cavalry: 8 'regiments' of 12 figures each. 

Dragoons x4; Chasseurs a Cheval x2; Hussars x1; Polish lancers x1.

The notes for the British cavalry apply just as easily to the French. If anything more so because, the French fielded more of it and with greater variation. I might add one or two more unit to this list, including a unit of Imperial Guard cavalry for re-fights of Fuentes De Onoro, but maybe I won't. As per British 7th Division, in any event, extra units can wait until after I have some Spanish.

Artillery: 8 guns in total, each with 4 crew. 

 Foot x 6; Horse x 2; Limbers x 4 (including 1 horse artillery).

Notes as per British. 

Officers: There will be eleven command stands in total.

There will a 'Commander in chief' stand of four figures, six divisional command stands of two figures each, and four one figure command stands (cavalry brigades and an engineer).

Grand Total French:

Totting that up, that comes to 975 men, 8 guns, 4 limbers and 131 horses. I've painted just over half.


Combined infantry, cavalry and artillery working together under one commander. In this game they are all part of  'French 3rd Division' (note division number beads). Note: In this game the Chasseurs have been attached to 3rd division from Corps.
So, there they are, my OOB and my reasons for them. You can see that I'm not exactly a purist when it comes to Napoleonic gaming. However, I believe my proportions and ratios are just about right, and all encompassing, in a pretty general kind of way. 

Using my chosen representative scaling, I should be able to come up with lots of balanced scenarios and, being able to field four or five infantry divisions, even play quite sizeable chunks of some of the big historical battles; though I realise that I'm a fair way off being able to do the whole of most of them. 

If memory serves, at 1:40-ish (1 infantry unit to 1000 men), I would need 34 infantry units and 10 cavalry to do the French force at Fuentes De Onoro, and somewhat more than that to do Salamanca. That presupposes I have a table big enough to do battles this big in the first place - and I don't.

More than anything, I suppose, it was my table that decided the maximum size of this collection. My table, at most, is 15' x 6' and more usually 12' x 6'. We are playing battles with thirty-two units (plus artillery) at the moment and there is plenty of room. I think somewhere between forty and fifty-ish units will probably be more typical in the longer term. This means, after setting up a typical game there will be up to thirty units that could vary the compositions of the forces still in the cupboard. In campaigns, having lots of units never goes amiss, so I can see a time when the whole of at least one side will appear on the same table at the same time.

3 comments:

pancerni said...

It is wonderful when a plan comes together. Long ago I decided something similar in that my Napoleonics needed a better plan than just 'paint them all.'

Great photos in the article.

warpaintjj said...

Great step forward.
I didn't like to say anything for fear of seeming critical but your initial plan bothered me too... not that I have any right to be bothered. My own Napoleonic project is going through a slight alteration too, we use Brigades as the basic command formation but miss out the Divisional level in what are Corps sized games, we were missing something, hopefully now rectified. Your 28mm collection is a work of art and your output is prodigious - keep it up Sir!
Best wishes,
Jeremy

Vive l'Empereur said...

A beautiful collection you've got going on there. The problems you have are similar to what I had. In the end, if you're wanting to only do historical OOB's then you're going to constrain yourself and lose a lot of the color of the multi-national units. A table can only hold so many figures at a time. I can only field a fraction of what I own at any given time, but when I do, I make it count. Quantity has it's place, but the individual quality of specific units trumps it all. Players remember the units you've built with special flags or unique uniforms more than they recall anything about an OOB in a game.

Nicely done. Remember, you can always do portions of a battle. Most of the battles have sections where little goes on and all the major activity is on some wing. Painting up figures that will just stand around most of a battle isn't all that special. My Salamanca game experienced that and it wasn't as rewarding as I had hoped it would be.