Thursday, 17 April 2014

Thoughts about artillery

Actually it has been quite busy this week but unfortunately there's nothing new to present by now. I cleaned some World War 1 figure by Great War Miniatures - excellent sculpts but a bit flashy and with very soft material - and I proceeded with Westfalia's rude highlanders which I'm currently painting for Fran as betting debt from the painting challenge.
But last friday when we met up at our club HQ we came into a discussion about the size and mobility of Napoleonic artillery batteries in our Black Powder games. Actually we agreed that a single gun without a base seems quite too narrow and too mobile, but which size is appropriate?
During the last days I picked up C. E. Franklin's "British Napoleonic Field Artillery" and Mark Adkins' "The Waterloo Companion", reflected about the frontage of several formations and did some simple calculations.

1.) Infatry in line formation:
Kind of basic formation during Black Powder time line is infanty in line formation. Although it's slightly different from nation to nation in Black Powder this formation is simplified to a certain number of minitures placed in two ranks behind each other. In our group we tend to use 24 miniatures for units of standard size which means an actual strength roughly between 450 and 700 men. That's a rather large span but for reasons of gaming simplicity we try to cover most units as standard size and hold large, small and tiny for very special units like detached companies, severely battered units or really large battle formations.

Anyway since the British are my pet issue I concentrated on them and pored over the Waterloo companion to get an idea of the frontage of a British infantry bataillon in line. Fortunately Mark Adkins explains this formation very graphically by taking the example of the 2 Btl / 30th (Cambridgeshire) Regiment of Foot. The regiment had a parade strength of 650 men before being battered at Quatre Bras. So it's perfect for our standard size Black Powder unit.

He calculates the frontage as follows:
- strength of slightly more than the average 630 of the British at Quatre Bras / Waterloo
- the usual two ranks formation with 300 men per rank
- each company has a frontage of about 20 metres, the HQ slighty less
- in total about 210 metres frontage (= 21.000cm)

Compared to this, the frontage of a standard Black Powder unit is:
- 24 figures in two ranks = 12 figures per rank
- each figure based with 20mm frontage
- in total it's 12 x 20mm = 240mm = 24cm

Therefore the ratio is:
21.000cm = 24cm
=> 875 : 1

2.) Deployed Artillery:
In 1812 a British battery of Royal Foot Artillery (actually called an artillery brigade) consisted of 6 guns. 5 of them were either 6pdr or 9pdr guns combined with a 5.5inch howitzer. Although these units could be split into troops, halftroops or sections, I'm only looking at a completely deployed battery with all guns besides each other. The limbers, ammunition cards and other baggade which doesn't influence the frontage will be left out for now.

Usually the guns were placed with 15 yards between each other. Althoug this depended on the actual terrain and in some battles they were placed closer to each other I'll use this regulation from the drill manual to calculate the frontage:
- 6 guns in the battery with a gun carriage of about 2m
- 15 yards (= 13,71m) between the guns
Overall that's:
6 x 2m + 5 x 13,71m = 81m
=> 8.100cm : 875 = 9,25cm

Well below the line a British artillery battery should occupy a frontage of slightly more than 9cm. To keep things easy I would estimate 8cm as working well with the usual 20mm / 40mm basing of infantry models. But unfortunately our artillery models have an uncomfortable size. Too large for two besides each other on a 8cm base but too small to place just one on such a large base without scenic stuff around it.

After all I'm not sure whether this calculation will or should affect our way of playing Black Powder. But at least it's interesting for me to know the kinks in the rulesets I'm playing. At the end of the day it's a just game so each group has to decide how accurate or playful they want to have the rules. Actually you could deepen such calculations for other values: Frontage of cavalry units, frontage of foreign formations with a different drill manual, movement distances, size of buildings etc. We'll see whether I'll tackle these arithmetic problems later...


  1. Thanks Monty, it's nice to see someone else's thoughts on this as battery size is something we haven't totally finalized in our Black Powder group either.

  2. We adopted a base that was half the width of a standard line for our black powder games it is a happy compromise but works for our 50% reduction version nicely