Saturday, 15 April 2017

Napoleonic Skirmish - NO longer a Skirmish project - part 3

Oh dear what have I done now?

A few weeks ago I announced on this blog that I was embarking on a 28mm Napoleonic skirmish project well the scope of this project has changed.

It’s no longer a skirmish based project but a bloody great big battle project. I just couldn’t help myself.

Previous part here

The British Forces 12 Battalions of Infantry (each 24 men) line up for inspection in various states of painting ......and some cavalry

I think it is fair to say that the sight of hordes of 28mm figures on the table has hooked me line and sinker. Last year I completed my ECW and Zulu projects almost and these have been some of the best wargames I have ever played. So why not go for the granddaddy of all 28mm visuals – the Napoleonic period.

In the last couple of weeks I have been hunting down deals on the internet, asking for unwanted boxes on the Lead Adventure Forum and slowly steadily building a rather large plastic and metal mountain. The learning curves from my previous grand scale projects have been taken on board which chiefly fall into three categories.

  1. Determine the size of units in advance and before you buy.

For the Napoleonic period this has been quite simple – infantry battalions will be a standard size – 24 figures strong and cavalry units will be 12 figures strong. Each of these figures will be based singly but in movement trays of four. This allows for a rapid change between large blockbuster games such as Black Powder and individual based games (eg Chosen Men). Furthermore most rulesets that come out tend to group figures in units that are divisible by four (think Saga, Lion Rampant) and hopefully by doing this I’ll future proof the armies.

In the case of Line Battalions of the Napoleonic period two of four slot bases will be reserved for the Flank companies, one for the command base and the remainder standard infantry units. The flexibility of basing also allows for units to be shrunk or added to. Finally the four man bases can be positioned in line, marching column, attack column or square with little difficulty (march harder if the were based on 8x2 trays)

  1. Determine what size of game you want to play and buy the figures before you start painting

Believe me when I say there is a rather perverse logic in amassing the forces before you start painting and yes this could mean a significant financial outlay at the beginning. Firstly bulk buying offers greater opportunities to save on postage and multi deals, secondly it forces you to accept that this is the next big project and deserves your attention rather than meander from one genre to another (that’s what I tell myself but NOT Mrs Shed).

Based on my crude calculations to have a meaningful game each player needs to command a minimum of 8-12 units (estimates based on our Pike & Shotte, Warmaster and Zulu Games. This means to support a 4 player (2 vs 2) games in the Shed I need a minimum of 16-24 units per side. So at the very least I need 16 British and 16 French units. On the basis that at least half need to be infantry I need 8 battalions per side (that’s 184 figures each) – a third will be cavalry (5 cavalry regiments per side) and three gun batteries per side. I decided on 12 Battalions for the British (this includes Rifles & Highlanders)

When you start looking at the numbers this way you can make an estimate of cost and total volumes. This is all based on plastic ranges at the moment – Warlord, Perry & Victrix

Infantry – 360 figures at c50p per figure = £180
Cavalry – 120 figures at c£1.50 - £180
Artillery – 6 Batteries at £8 each - £48

A total of £408 note this excludes command etc

With the judicious use of ebay etc I reckon this overall cost can be reduced by at least a third.  

Painting the Figures

There is no easy way to say this but when you embark on such a project you cannot expect to be playing in a matter of weeks. It will take months but dealing in volumes has its advantages.

For starters I’d recommend painting one complete battalion from start to finish – learn the figures, their shapes and nuances. This will provide an estimate of the total time it takes to complete a unit. The first British Line Battalion (actually 40 figures) took me around a week to complete in five sessions each lasting about an hour and a half. That’s 9 hours for 40 figures – works out around 10 minutes per figure.

Painting production can be sped up considerably by painting en masse…

For example last night I painted the boots and trousers of over 100 British Line infantry in one sitting. By the end of the week I’ll have painted the rest of the base colours – jacket , shakoes and flesh. Only then will I start finishing off each battalion in turn. 

I should add that I don’t do shading or highlights – just a block paint approach and the army painters dip and then varnish. These are for the tabletop and not display.

Oh yes whilst collecting the British Infantry I also started on the French...

11 Battalions assembled and a couple still to go

I am not going to work out the man hours required to complete this project (it’s too scary but as it progresses the momentum will drive me forward).

So with Salute just round the corner I think my focus will be on Artillery and Cavalry at the Show.

Until next time

Part 4 can be found here


  1. This is going to look wonderful. I was interested to read your observations and experiences with production line block painting and dip, This is interesting me as the way to go for the wargame table.

  2. Jumping in straight at that scale with napoleonics is taking on an impressive challenge. There are few out there with the commitment to tackle this, but we know you can so will watch with interest.😀

  3. Lol ... whoops! Funny how skirmish turns into mass battle. That being said ... not a bad long term strategy to get to a mass battle level of troops. Start with skirmish, get playing, build up the collection. Great job Mr. Shed!

  4. Somehow this does not come as a surprise...
    Happy painting!

  5. Hmmm...why am I not surprised by this....

  6. I admire your tenacity and enthusiasm.

  7. Well I wasn't expecting that! Nothing succeeds like excess! I painted a unit of Dutch Jaegers and it took me seven years!

  8. Not really that big a surprise! I'm also going for a napoleonic skirmish /big battle force and I've broadly come to the same view, I won't singly base all of them but I'm going 45mm x45mm which is the same as 4x1p sabot bases, I will watch with interest.
    Best Iain