Friday, August 19, 2011

Scaling Down

When I used the Granicus as the basis for a generic scenario, since I wasn't doing a recreation, I  only  looked at the rough ratio of troop types, (cav, lt infanty, infantry) not the actual numbers.  When laying it out my first thought was, that's not very many troops, I should double that. It would have meant dipping deep into the not-yet-refurbished pile and anyway wouldn't have fit into the 5 foot frontage that I had allocated so I let it be. (There is a roach in the middle of the battlefield that prevents the hardboard river from lying flat if laid the other way. Persian engineers have been tasked with leveling the playing field this fall)

After the game though, I did look though and figured out that the ratio was about 1:200. Doubling would have brought this to 1:100, double the units and probably close to double the playing time. . But would it have doubled my fun? Somehow I doubt it though for a 4 or 6 player game on an 8 foot table if would have been necessary.

But these calculations were swiftly followed by more. At around 1:200, a 1,000 man Persian unit would only be 5 figures, lets say 4 for sake of tidiness. 10 such units would make a standard "division" of 10,000 men. If I were to take battles like Platea as a standard, there is something to be said for that. But assuming somewhere around 1 pace per file, 100 men deployed 10 deep would occupy about 100 paces, or if I squeeze them in, 30 mm. Depending on how generous yoiu are, that gives a reasonable bow range of 60 -75 mm. Let's be generous and say 3". Not really what I had in mind starting out.

Turning back to what I had had in mind, I set out a version of Charles Grant's Apocryphal Well scenario and played out a quick test. (I'll be redoing this as a proper battle report later, I want to work on a few things first.) As I was setting out the troops in their customary 4 ranks, I was startled to be reminded that in the book they were deployed 2 deep like all infantry apart from pikemen were in the "good old days". When did I start assuming that all infantry deployed 4 deep? I must have played too much WHAB over the last decade!  This started  me thinking again about historical formations, depths and frontages, things I had worked hard to put from my mind!  

We don't exactly have a plethora of Persian drill manuals to refer to but if memory serves, the last time I checked, the thought was that each 100 man "company" formed 10 wide and 10 deep with the 1,000 man "regiment" forming 100 wide and 10 deep. Their Greek opponents seem to have usually formed 6 or 8 deep but occasionally 12 until the Thebans got crazy, and of course the Macedonians went with 16 as standard.
The later Hellenistic armies had drills for doubling ranks and so forth but I suspect that the Persians and early Greeks formed they way they were and that was it for the day. All I need to worry about for the moment then are march columns for some scenarios and "formed for battle".  (hmmm I seem to have accidentally deleted  all reference to changing formation, I'd better add something back in).  All of my basing investigation so far, has focused on  a 4 deep infantry formation. I don't really want to go much deeper so this looks like the traditional 3-4 ranks per figure giving a 4 figure deep pike phalanx and 2 figure deep Greek phalanx, possibly with a basing option for 3 deep and either 2 or 3 ranks for the Persians. OK but all else being equal, including table width, 2 ranks instead of 4  means 1/2 as many figures on the table!

1/2 as many figures also means either smaller units or fewer of them. Smaller units is taking me where I was headed in June, a direction I have already rejected but since the plan is to fight a number of CS Grant teasers, I don't want to change the number of units. I don't really want to reduce the number of figures drastically either, so I need to make them fit. I did notice that my 24 man units deployed 2 deep occupied 4/5 of the frontage of one of Grant's 40 man units on the old WRG frontages. That's a good argument for tightening up the files. If I deploy  my 24 strong units 8 wide and 3 deep with a 15mm  frontage per figure, then this nicely stands in for a 1,000 strong "regiment" deployed 10 deep and 100 wide.  The 120mm (~ 5") frontage then represents possibly 100 paces which makes a 12" bow range look reasonable.


Now, the next question is, should I really have separate skirmisher and light infantry categories? or should I base peltasts and psiloi alike, give them the same movement etc capabilities and just give the peltasts better melee capability? It would make both life and  scenarios easier. Hard to separate years of wargame rules from actual evidence and speculation. I'm trying to think, for example, of an occasion in Xenephon, Herodotus, Thucydides, Livy or Caesar where that approach would be wrong.

Possibly I could allow some peltasts to go 2 stands deep to represent them forming in close order, or maybe leave the unit as single figures and choose an appropriate movement tray to allow them to be fielded as either medium or light infantry on any given day.  Needs some thought.



  1. Ross,

    As for the peltast/psiloi question . . . what difference, if any, would it make to the C-in-C who is giving orders?

    Does answering that question help?

    -- Jeff

  2. Thanks Jeff, but no, its basically do I believe that the rules are allowing and encouraging the appropriate use of various historical troops or do they encourage misuse or prevent historical usage.