Some Quick Math Regarding 28mm Napoleonic Games

I was stuck in a meeting at work this morning that was ‘mandatory’ yet had little that required either my input or my attention.   I started daydreaming a bit about 28mm Napoleonic again.   I’ve made the decision that this is something I really want to do… now the question is exactly what I want to do.   One thing I want for sure is larger battalions.  I’d rather have fewer large units rather than lots of smaller ones.  Right now I’m aiming at 1:20, though I’ve also been looking at even larger units just for fun for some really tactical stuff.   When all is said & done I will probably look a fairly generic basing scheme so the figures can be used for multiple ratios and rules sets without too much trouble.

Having decided on that, I took some time in this morning’s meeting to do some quick math about how much space units will take up on the table.  I’m interested in having more manuevering room on the table for most games, so trying to figure out how many units is enough was a mathematical exercise I decided to waste some brain cycles on while the presenter droned on in the background.   To get inspired for 28mm Napoleonics I’ve been digging through my archives of old wargaming magazines for articles by Peter Gilder and others from that generation.  I found the first half of Mr. Gilder’s series on setting up a refight of Leipzig from Miniature Wargames #4  (I’m missing #5… if anyone has a copy they’re willing to sell or will make a copy of the second half of Gilder’s article, please contact me).  One of the nuggets Gilder wrote about was the optimal number of troops per foot on the table.  In his mind, somewhere between 50 and 100 troops per linear foot of table width was a good number, with 50 being on the very low side and 100 being the maximum.  Keeping in mind that he wrote this with 25mm figures and with his rules (“In the Grand Manner”) and their particular idiosyncracies, I did some quick math.

Right now I have an eight foot table at home.  This will grow eventually, for I’m finding that eight feet of width isn’t enough for the games I want to run in 15mm scale let alone 28’s.  For now though, I have 96 inches of table width.  Using Mr. Gilder’s calculations, here’s what I came up with.  For these calculations I was using a standard 1:20 French infantry battalion of 36 figures. 

  • Using 50 troops per linear foot, each side can place about 10-11 battalions on the table.  
  • Using 75 troops per linear foot, the number goes up to 16.
  • Using 100 troops per linear foot we hit 22 battalions.

These are obvously rough numbers and don’t account for cavalry or artillery, but it’s interesting to see what the general guidelines are, especially considering that for the larger scenarios Mr. Gilder ran, each ‘corps’ of infantry would be somewhere in the 12-14 battalion range.  

I like the tightly-packed look for Napoleonic line infantry, so using the traditional 15mm frontage per infantry figure, I did some quick math on various unit sizings as well.   

  • At 1:20, a standard French battalion will be 36 figures in two ranks.  At 15mm frontage, a battalion will take up around 10.5-11 inches in line and 3.5 inches frontage in attack column.
  • Jumping up to a 1:15 ratio, the battalion increases to 48 figures.  Now a battalion takes up around 15 inches in line and around 5 inches in attack column.
  • Finally, hitting the 1:10 ratio that Jim Purky is looking at for his Napoleonic variant of BAR, if you stay in two ranks you’re looking at around 22 inches for a unit in line and 7.5 inches in attack column.  I’m assuming DAF will stick with three ranks for his units, so the frontages will be closer to the 1:15 ratio numbers above.

This was nothing more than a simple math exercise to try and get a handle around unit sizes and how many will comfortably fit on a table.   If nothing else, it will give me some things to think about as I plan for the project ahead.


5 Responses to “Some Quick Math Regarding 28mm Napoleonic Games”

  1. 1 Joe Knight May 14, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Here’s some math for you:

    “Using 75 troops per linear foot, the number goes up to 16[battalions].”


    “At 1:20, a standard French battalion will be 36 figures in two ranks.”


    576 figures.


  2. 2 Bart May 14, 2009 at 3:15 pm


    Compared to some games out there, 600 or so figures is chicken feed. Check out one of the ITGM blogs listed on my blogroll… they hit 2,000+ figures per game on a regular basis.

  3. 3 Joe Knight May 14, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Oh I don’t doubt that 576 figures is small potatoes to many a gamer out there. I, on the other hand, own a grand total of 42 unpainted French Line. 🙂

    I will be starting small. I guess the good news is that if I’m able to fully partake in this adventure, I should have a pretty impressive force in 28mm by the end.

    Was there ever any new news on an ETA for Perry French cavalry? TBH I have little interest in buying a bunch of metal 28s. Some to fill in the rare stuff sure, but the more of my force that is plastic, the better.

  4. 4 Bart May 14, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    I currently own only slightly more than you do, Joe. That will change over time. This is a long-term project in my mind… start small and grow from there.

    The French cav will be out later this year I think… beyond that I can’t tell you… none of the companies doing plastics release them at a fast clip.

    Another thing to consider… the Perry plastic figures are 42 infantry for around $25 a box, which works out to around $.60 a figure. Depending on where you choose to buy, you can get Old Glory metal figures for between $.60 and $.90 per figure, and a few other lines like Sash & Saber can be had for similar amounts.

    Assuming plastic figures are a lot cheaper just because they’re plastic isn’t always the case…

  5. 5 Joe Knight May 15, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    My affinity for plastic has nothing to do with price my friend. Plastic is mercifully lighter, cleaner in detail (as a general rule) and far more customizable than metal.

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