The Napoleonic Era is often seen as a grandfather of all wargaming domains. So here I come! After a bit of thought, I settled on 28mm scale as the visual appeal of complex uniforms really gets lost at smaller scales in my opinion. That means more painting, but so be it.
Napoleonic armies are a confusing scramble of units with much evolution of uniforms even in the span of a few years. To anchor the collection, I therefore picked the battle of Waterloo as the target for my collection. The battle features a good variety of nations and units. Not as flexible in terms of gameplay potential as the central European campaigns of the mid-decade, but I gain the benefit of a firm order of battle to build my collection around. My eventual goal will be to recreate the entire “active” order of battle for Waterloo, meaning formations that actually fought in the main engagements rather than guarded the flanks or rear for the entire battle.
The figures are a mix of all three major plastic manufacturers – Perry, Warlord and Victrix – as well as metal models from Front Rank, Foundry, Eagle, Rapier, Calpe, Steve Barber, Brigade Games and anything else I could find. Everything is painted primarily with Games Workshop Contrast Paint over Wraithbone primer. All flags are from GMB Flags or Flags of War, and used liberally even where the actual units might have left them in depot storage during the campaign. Napoleonics is all about visual spectacle after all! Speaking of visuals, wonderful documentation of uniforms at Waterloo can be found on this website. With a few exceptions, I have used this reference as the gospel for uniforms.
Scanning through the internet, there appear to be a wide range of rule systems and basing conventions but I mostly build armies for collection rather than gaming purposes. With that in mind, I followed a similar approach to my Hail Caesar Imperial Romans and use a single consistent base size for all units. In this case that’s 50x50mm to make everything a bit more packed than the 60x60mm based used for the Romans.
With that single-base approach in mind, I did a bit of research on typical unit frontages in both historical and gaming context. After some browsing and questions on forums, the consensus seems to be that regular line, cavalry and artillery formations all had roughly the same frontage. I therefore settled on the following unit structures for this and all the other Napoleonic armies:
Infantry: Standard battalions have four bases with 6 models each in two ranks. That’s 24 models for the battalion with a frontage of 20cm in line formation. Small battalions have two bases (12 models, 10cm frontage) and large battalions have six bases (36 models, 30cm frontage in line). Four bases for a standard battalion allows for line, column, attack column and square formation. I use this format for all nations, ignoring the fact that French and Prussian infantry had tighter spacing and three ranks compared to the wider spaced two-ranked British infantry. This inaccuracy is offset by the fact that French and Prussian battalions were typically larger in headcount than British Battalions at Waterloo. For the Allied army, 400-800 men correspond to a standard battalion which implies a 25:1 unit scale in the middle of the range.
Light & Skirmishers: Skirmishers are based on 50mm round bases with two models per base. I painted up a single such base for each conventional line battalion to represent its skirmishing light company. For battalion-level skirmishers such as the 95th Rifles, I used four skirmish bases plus a square based unit as a “backbone” behind the skirmish screen which was their typical fighting formation. Such backbone formations have only four models per base to suggest a less dense line (and to accommodate skirmish models that typically don’t rank up as nicely as line models).
Cavalry: Cavalry are two models per 50x50mm base. Each squadron has two bases. A small formation with just two squadrons forms a single line with 20cm width to match the standard infantry battalion width. A standard formation with three squadrons has the same frontage with the third 2-base squadron forming a second line. A large formation with four squadrons has two lines with two 2-base squadrons each (a fancy way of saying a 4×2 base block with 16 models). The majority of the cavalry regiments have flags or fanions per squadron. This may not be historically correct, but it adds to the visual spectacle.
Artillery: Most sources describe a regular 6 gun battery having a similar frontage as an infantry battalion in line so I settled on 20cm frontage for a standard 6 gun battery. These are on a single 20x10cm base with three gun figures (usually 2 cannons and 1 howitzer). A large 8 gun formation has 4 gun figures on a 30x10cm base. For the odd 2 gun or 4 gun batteries I am using 10x10cm and 15x10cm bases.
Command: Brigade commanders are single mounted models on 50mm round bases. Divisional commanders are on 75mm round bases with two models. Finally, Corps commanders are on 100mm round bases with three models or small dioramas. This allows for easy visual recognition of different levels of command in the field. A few specialized command models are sprinkled in for variety, including senior Royal Artillery officers, Engineering officers, and ADC models for each Division/Corps commander. The last are based on 12-point dial bases to allow for “ADC Points” or special orders to be visually represented for games systems that use them. Finding hundreds of unique command models took some effort!
Casualty Markers: Each battalion has a dedicated casualty marker with a dial counting to 12. It took a bit of searching to find wounded models with the right uniforms and headgear for their “parent” battalion so there are a few conversions here as well.