Thursday 27 March 2014

Some more thinking about my collection of Napoleonic wargames figures

The recent arrival of the parcel of Del Prado 25/28mm-scale Napoleonic wargames figures has given me the opportunity to reorganise some of the 'units' in my collection so that the figures that make up each one are in the same pose.

This may sound a little odd, but I have always had a preference for single-pose wargame units whenever it has been possible. I like the uniform look that results from this approach ... and I find that it helps me to identify individual units on the tabletop.

I also like the figures I use to have an 'active' pose. For example I prefer to use figures that are advancing or firing, and to avoid ones that are marching or reloading. I tend to use these latter poses for units that are assigned less active roles such as garrison or reserve troops.


  1. For certain types of figure I am of the same mind, although I don't mind marching figures. I have decided all my WSS figures will be marching, as it was clear most of them would be.

    But by far the majority of my (mostly) 25mmm lead Napoleonics are 'advancing'. I think I have one Austrian unit marching, and some jagers and chasseurs-a-pied shooting.

    Plastics are a whole different ball game. I quite having 2 poses to a unit, a 'front rank' and a 'rear rank' pose. But much depends upon the figures. Airfix and Revell lent themselves very well to the 2-rank system, but Italeri and ESCI can equally well be 'randomly' mixed.

    NOw, I place 'randomly' within quotation marks because there are some poses that are clearly 'front rank' poses (all kneeling ones, for example), some that are clearly 'rear rank' poses (loading muskets, standing at attention) and a few that may be placed in either, depending on the other figure in his 'file'. Standing firing and 'advancing' are 'in between poses, though the latter is more front-rankish.

    So I don't completely randomise such units, but I am careful to make it look random. The effect is to transform the rather characterless figures that ESCI used to produce into highly animated and characterful units - especially infantry. For mine, this treatment just doesn't work with Airfix figures. They are much better using the 2-rank method for standing and kneeling shooting figures, and all other units pretty much the same pose.

  2. Archduke Piccolo,

    It seems as if we have a very similar way of looking at this. When fighting a wargame set during the era when armies fought in serried ranks, it always looks better to me if the figures in each unit are in the same pose ... or at least in compatible poses (i.e. kneeling firing and standing firing together).

    I seem to remember reading the Donald Featherstone liked his figures to be 'advancing' in the 'high port' pose as it was the most suitable for the mid-nineteenth century, and I can see why he thought that.

    Your system sounds eminently sensible, and I cannot fault the logic, especially if it works to the strengths of the figure designs that you are using.

    All the best,


  3. Bob,
    I, too, prefer all troops in the units of a Horse & Musket, close order, army to be in the same position, except for skirmishers and officers who can be in more active/dramatic poses. My preference is for infantry marching or 'march attack' with muskets held vertically, as it is easier to fit the figures close together on bases, and the pose doesn't look odd if the unit is in reserve, executing a formation change or moving along a road. Personally, I don't like firing - especially kneeling - poses (except for skirmishers) as such units look rather 'silly' when not engaged with the enemy.
    Similarly, for cavalry I prefer the horse to be standing, walking or trotting and for the riders - with the exception of officers - to have their sabres on their shoulders.
    Generals can be in either relaxed poses as if observing the battlefield, or gesturing with telescope, baton or sword. I'm toying with the idea of having duplicate Commanding Officers for units, and using different poses to indicate the unit's current tactical posture, so troops in reserve would have a relaxed, standing CO; those advancing to the attack, one waving his sword.
    Good luck with your Napoleonic armies. I look forward to seeing pictures of them here in due course.

  4. Arthur1815,

    It seems as we have very similar ideas about how we want our units to 'look'.

    The problem that I have with the collection of Del Prado pre-painted figures that I have built up rather haphazardly is that it does contain quite a large number of standing and kneeling infantry figures that are firing, and I am going to have to use them to form some of my units. Not a perfect answer I know, but it is the best that I can do with what I have available.

    I also agree about cavalry. Whenever possible it should be shown either standing or moving forward slowly.

    Officers should appear somewhat more animated than the troops they command, but not excessively so ... but I like your idea that different poses for a unit's officer could represent the unit's different tactical 'states'.

    I have been considering using officer and/or drummer/musician figures to indicate elite units. These supernumerary figures would be removed first when casualties are inflicted on the unit, thus giving the elite units more 'lives' to lose before they are destroyed. Just a thought at present, but as I have the figures I might as well find some use for them.

    All the best,


  5. Bob,
    I think your idea of using officers, musicians &c. as extra 'lives' or 'hits' that elite/high morale/fanatical units could lose before suffering significant damage is an excellent one - simple, and quite 'old school' in using the figures, rather than rosters, to record a unit's state.
    Coincidentally, I'm finishing off an article suggesting how the positions of such command figures relative to each other/the unit could be used to record morale, strength, &c.
    Best wishes,

  6. Arthur1815,

    I would like to say that it was an inspired idea ... but the reality is that I had the figures and wanted to find a use for them!

    I look forward to reading your article in MINIATURE WARGAMES WTH BATTLEGAMES in due course.

    All the best,


  7. That 'extra lives' idea was one used by the group I was in when I first started wargaming. It was really one guy, already experienced in wargaming, who led us into they way we organised and fought our units. The 14-figure infantry regiments comprised 12 riflemen and 2 'officer' figures (originally officer and bugler - these being Airfix - but I quickly decided I wanted battle flags). The rifleman figures were the only ones that could shoot (2 volley groups of 6). The 'HQ' figures were the first to go, which meant a unit's firepower would begin to reduce only at the 3rd casualty - something over 20% losses.

    The system was certainly simple!

  8. Archduke Piccolo,

    Your comment supports the contention that the 'extra lives' idea has been around for quite some time ... and I wonder why it is not used more nowadays. It is an easy way to record casualties and means that the 'extra' figures one sometimes acquires in command packs acquire a function other than to sit in the unpainted lead pile!

    Thinking about it, POLEMOS (the 1880s version) had something similar except that the extra figures for each unit were kept in a box (there was a compartment in the box for each unit) and placed in the location where the unit suffered a casualty. When the compartment was empty, the unit was destroyed.


    All the best,



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