Commanders, a wargame digest



The variable of basing!

I wonder how many of us are ever fully satisfied with the basing system that we have chosen and however onerous the task of re-basing is, it is an often trod path, as we change systems or are captivated by whatever is trending. With that in mind, I should warn that anything described on this page is subject to change :-)

12mm ACW - These figures are by Kallistra and they just so happen to supply plastic bases in their blister packs. These are 40mm x 20mm and hold 8 infantry in two ranks or 4 cavalry in one rank. The artillery is supplied on a 30mm frontage.

With my interest in Kallistra’s Hexon terrain, which has cells at 100mm across, this system typically sees a unit being formed by two bases side by side to give a frontage of 80mm.

To get this overall frontage, with ACW troops, I have used the Kallistra standard 2 x 40mm bases for both armies and then had a dabble at converting a few bases to a single large 80mm base and 3 x 30mm bases, each with two ranks of infantry on them. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the base sizes. 

The 3 x 30mm bases look good in march column, but in attack column (for napoleonics), they need a 4th base adding to look right (to give a 4 x 4 configuration). It also increases the amount of base handling by at least 50% over the course of a game, due to the increased number of bases, time wise and for anyone with a bad back, than can become significant.

The 80mm large base is very easy to handle, looks nice and can have some diorama bits added and substantially reduces the amount of base handling during play. It looks the nicest when representing line, but is limited in representing other formations for he gunpowder period, so relies on markers to show everything from disorder to being in march column. They do not always integrate well with hex terrain due to their fixed bulk, being harder to fit in the hex with say a building or woods and can look like they are teetering on one end, as though partly floating on air on some terrain such as hills or hedge lined features.

I actually like the 80mm solution, but while I think about it some more for the musket period, I have returned all bases to their 40mm standard (However, see my Dark Age comments below).

The 40mm base while not a perfect solution, is a good compromise as a practical choice. The unit can be set as a line or attack column, or placed back to back for a square. For march column, I find placing one behind the other and then having a mounted figure in front is sufficient to differentiate the formation from an attack column ( which looks the same, but does not have a single mounted figure in front).

For mechanised forces, I use single 40mm x 20mm bases to represent a rifle section. The linear dispersal of the section strikes me as looking a bit more realistic than a square base and the 40mm base can be loaded with figures and still look right.

Weapon teams such as HMG and mortars seem better mounted individually on half sized bases (20mm x 20mm), if only to make them stand out. My artillery observers are on a small triangular base, just so that they are most easily distinguished.

Anti-tank guns are based as though shooting from cover, but this is just to get the gun barrel leaning on something to give it some support and prevent bending from handling (or dropping!). The bases are cut just large enough to take the weapon and associated scenery.

My 10mm vehicles are based and opinion from gamers in general seems split as to whether to base or not. My own experience is that on the table it keeps the vehicles at the correct height in relation to the based infantry and in storage, the bases stop the vehicles from moving and colliding into each other. 

Vehicle bases are cut to roughly 10mm wider than the actual vehicle (giving 5mm excess each side) and length wise, cut to just a tad longer than the vehicle. Turrets are not glued down, so if the vehicle is dropped, the turret has a chance to fall away unharmed instead of getting mangled.

I have just started building up the forces for Hastings 1066 with Kallistra 12mm figures. I did start the basing system using the supplied Kallistra 40mm x 20mm plastic bases, but I felt that these armies didn’t need to show different formation styles and generally joined battle in line, so a single 80mm base might work best and also, unlike horse and musket armies with their fairly standardised weaponry, it becomes important with earlier armies to know what individual units are and what they are armed with and going to a single 80mm base helps with that.

I am using 80mm x 40mm deep bases to show heavy units, with infantry in three ranks and medium types are on a 30mm depth in two ranks. Also, because of the way that the Kallistra general Fyrd (Coerls) are produced in pairs, one closely behind the other, they look too spread out on a frontage of 8 figures, so I have been able to shrink their frontage, so that they are still 8 figures wide, but brought tighter together, which gives a shieldwall look and leaves around 8mm of space on the ends ofthe unit, further making them immediately distinctive to the eye. 

A huge advantage of the single 80mm frontage in a hex system is that it looks better and orientation withint he hex looks cleaner, plus it is only half the amount of moving of bases. The downside is that on the pre-moulded plastic hills, the longer bases on some slope hexes can tend to have their ends ‘hanging’ in the air. Overall, I think the advantages outweigh this issue.

For archer units, I have kept with the Kallistra 40mm bases and just use one base per unit to represent the unit. This ‘clump’ look does look very different from the rest of the army, but this is fine as I am very keen that missile troops do not get used (abused!) as being melee capable. In the rules that I am writing, when archers shoot, they are removed on a score of ‘1’ or ‘2’ to reflect going out of arrows and to represent that these sort of troops were really part of the initial phase of battle, before giving way to the melee types. 

Having small single bases is also handy for the Anglo-Saxon army as they can be used rather like a marker to show that the unit has some minor missile capacity.