Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Space: The Bane of Every 28mm Miniature Gamer

This weekend, during a phone chat with a League member (aka my best buddy), he dropped a bomb on me. He had suddenly abandoned his years of 18mm Napoleonics in favor of 28mm, buying several boxes of Perry plastic French and Russian figures for new armies using the Black Powder rules and maybe a bit of skirmishing. IIRC the reasoning was that these 28mm plastics were cheaper than buying the 18mm AB figures he needed to complete his armies, plus he was tired of 18mm in general (long story there, I guess).

Ok, I can dig that. Money is always an issue with army gaming. But all we have are two folding tables for 5'x6' of space, the same tables on which we played our game of The Sword & The Flame last year. I really had my doubts about what type of game we would have, other than line up and move forward into the parking lot in the middle. This had been my only 28mm Napoleonic experience many years ago, and those guys used 15'x6' worth of tables and the CLS rules. Those are not pleasant memories.

Back to the present, he thought we could use 24-man battalions. Each brigade would have two battalions, with maybe two brigades, an artillery battery, and a cavalry battalion per side. Well, in Black Powder that probably would be a short and not very fun game. From what I know, we would really need at least three battalions of infantry per brigade. Two brigades might work ok, though there could be pitfalls. I'd prefer three. No way would we use brigade morale rules--that could be a very short game with small armies!

Still, we only have a 5'x6' table. I kept seeing a game looking like I4 during rush hour.

We also discussed basing sizes for 28mm, along with how to handle BP's various column formations. We seemed to settle into either 40mmX40mm or 60mmX40mm bases for the 24-man infantry battalions. I have come to really dislike moving lots of fiddly bases and having bits of figures sticking out beyond their bases, only to have those bits bend or break while poking my fingers.

In the end, I decided to make some paper counters that we could toss onto the table and play some test games with. We could then experiment with various base sizes without affecting the real miniatures. After all, many years ago I used to be the king of Warmaster Fantasy counters; Rick Preistly even thanked me for making them back in the day.

The photos below are the fruits of my efforts. Not being an artist, I took the line drawings from another game's counters and resized them for 28mm gaming. On Monday, I printed only the 60mmX40mm infantry counters, not the smaller 40mmX40mm counters. Cavalry is based for 75mmX50mm. Artillery is 60mmX60mm. Command uses 60mmX40mm and 60mmX60mm for the general. Not having any 28mm artillery, I kind of guessed and went by what I read in the book. I only now realized that I could have used my 28mm Western horses to see how the cavalry bases worked out (smacks head!) instead of guessing. Ah well.

On Monday, I set up the tables and tossed down the counters just to see how much space units take up in various formations. I also placed my 15mm Napoleon's Battles counters along side the 28mm just for my own comparison, especially since I'm very poor at visually measuring distance and figuring out spacial relationships. (Never ask me if the contents of Bowl A will fit in Bowl B unless it's totally obvious! Plus, I refuse to play any game where I cannot pre-measure distances! But I digress...)

The photos tell the story. Obviously, a 15mm brigade always takes half the space of a 28mm brigade. So playing a 28mm game on a 5'x6' table would be like playing a 15mm game on a 2.5'x3' table. There won't be much room for maneuvering. I'm sure we could be a bit more creative in deploying brigades and creating scenarios, but still I think more space is needed to avoid simply marching forward. But maybe this is what many 28mm Napoleonic gamers are used to doing? I don't know. Still, I doubt I'll be running out any time soon to start a 28mm Prussian army.

Now 5'x6' would work with 28mm Sharp Practice, which I bought during the last TLF sale. I wouldn't mind painting up some 28mm small units for that game, which being skirmish is more my speed anyway. But that is another topic for another day.


  1. Interesting quandry alright. I wonder if discussing your findings might convince your friend that the 18mm stuff would have suited that games your envisaging quite well.

    I must admit I was thinking Sharp Practice by the 3rd paragraph! I'd reserve 28mm for skirmish and use a smaller scale for the larger battles (I'd say 6mm, but let's not open that can of worms!)

  2. Wow - those paper counters looked really detailed. I've played Black Powder on a 12 X 5' table space with three brigades per side. The brigades were non-historically composed; most of them had two infantry battalions, a cav squadron and an artillery battery. Just to give the players some options. It seemed to work well. Also, I base my line infantry four figs per 40mm squares - and most battalions are 24 figs. Seems to work well. Here is a link to a game I think you can get by with an 8 X 5' table for two brigades per side. Best, Dean

  3. Brilliant idea to lay it all out in paper. And good luck, where-ever you and your friend end up on this.

  4. Ahhh....6mmm. Oh I've been toying with that idea for a long time using Adler figures. Not sure I need to open that can of worms right now! ;-)

    Thanks for that link to the game, Dean!


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