Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Let's Talk about Eylau. What Are Your Thoughts?


Chalk this up as record blogging for me, but I wanted to know your opinion(s), fellow gamer, on a question I've been pondering for a few days now.

If you used to follow SOUND OFFICERS CALL during the heady blogging days of yore, you might remember I embarked on an ambitious project to game the Battle of Eylau in 10mm scale, and you might further remember that this started out as a joint project but that it turned into a planned convention game for Cold Wars 2024.  

Well - since Cold Wars 2024 is no more, and I am sitting on a pile of lead some of which is painted, most not - about 30% of the Russian infantry forces at this point are painted (11 of 33 infantry brigades:  26 line + 7 grenadier-  much less of the Cavalry), I was wondering about the future direction of the project.  Let me explain.

Along with painting the minis, building the terrain, and throwing lots of my hard earned cash out the window, the search for rules has always been prevalent in my mind for fighting this gigantic winter clash.  You'll remember it was first Blucher (Which I developed sweet bases for and completed Davout's III Corps as a test) then Volley and Bayonet, then Snappy Nappy, then Neil Thomas, then our home brewed Eagles Cheaper than Brain Cells rules, then back to get the idea.  

The rules had to be the right fit, both for a convention and to get the feel right.  I'm happy to say I finally settled on the rules I want to use - and anyone who knows me knows that this should be no surprise - but I want to use Volley and Bayonet.  

While originally I wanted a more tactical set of rules to use, I decided against a bathtubbed tactical set of rules where I am pretending units are Brigades just so we can roll dice and shoot stuff and charge and form square and things like that.  I am instead selecting a set of rules that has its lineage in solid board game design made to fight battles, and pretty big battles at that.  Look here, here, and here for some examples of Volley and Bayonet's conceptual ancestry.  I will do a separate VB post at another time on why it was selected, but suffice to say I can teach it easily to people, and I mostly know how to play it already.

The kicker for all this is that I'm going to play it at 2/3 scale for a number of reasons, foremost among them is that I only have a 6 x 4 table, and V&B have big stands (3" x 3") and sweeping movements.  I cannot test-fight big battles at full scale on my humble table.  

So, played at 2/3 scale on 2" square bases is perfect for my needs - actually for all of my megalomaniac plans for Napoleonics.  The kicker here is that my Napoleonic figures, which look outstanding IMHO, are on 30mm squares in units of 41 x single 30mm base on a 2" sabot is just not completely convincing to me that it serves as a Napoleonic Brigade (you may feel differently, and hence this blog post)

An unflocked, 4 x base Russian infantry unit sits atop a strategic hill

So with this first-world dilemma before me, painting continues and I am toiling and slaving away dipping my brush into Vallejo Deep Green (970) for the hundred-thousandth time.  One way or the other, all of my Napoleonic Russians and French will be painted.  

That being said, I had an idea.  A number of years ago, I purchased a shed-load of RISK figures from the 1998 box and planned to use them on single bases for Commands and Colors Armies.  The plan was to paint them just like miniatures (faces, shakos, muskets, packs, etc).  I like them because they actually have nice raised detail (crossbelts, pom poms, individual swords, knapsacks with overcoats etc) but overall they do have a delightful "toy soldier" look to them.  

Why not paint them monochrome and mount them on 2" white-painted squares? (Eylau was fought in a blizzard).  

One stand from a 4 x stand unit on the right, one VB 2" stand with 20 x RISK figures on the left.  I could spray paint them all green with the base sprayed white.  What do you think?

I was thinking of purchasing a deep green spray paint for the Russians and a Royal Blue for the French, mount them with gorgeous color flags on textured 2" squares.  For skirmish and Jager detachments, I could use  the Risk figures who are firing (from subsequent boxes) for skirmish detachment and Jager stands?  I could literally finish the Armies in a weekend!  

A Russian Hussar "unit" behind left and a potential RISK figure Brigade in front of them in molded plastic blue.  A 4 x stand Russian "unit" upper right.

A fierce Russian Dragoon "brigade"???  You be the judge.  Stoic Russian line infantry look on behind them.

A Russian Napoleonic "Division" with 4 x Infantry Brigades, a Light Cavalry Brigade, Artillery Battery, and Commander, based at 2/3 scale (2" squares for the INF and CAV, 1" x 2" rectangle for the ARTY) - is this convincing?  I would put labels on the bases most likely and texture them with sand prior to spray painting.

A Brigade of RISK Cavalry (left) slams into a Brigade of 3D printed Russian Hussars (Right) from the "Europe Asunder" Turner Mini range.  You can see the drawbacks and benefits of both concepts here.  The French Horse on the left would be spray painted a Royal Blue.  The Russians would be RISK figures spray painted a Dragoon Green.

A Brigade of RISK figures contacts a 10mm Old Glory Russian Infantry "Brigade" - again you can see the advantages of a RISK force vrs a single stand on the right.  But the RISK figures would simply be spray painted green...

So with that in mind I, I ask your thoughts, gentle reader.  You are not "the hive mind" as I see so often on message boards and in chats.  You are most likely a grognard.  A hardened veteran of the Grande Armee marching across Europe under the Eagle!  Or you're a hard-bitten volunteer from Wellington's Army, shattering the French columns before you, or an Austrian Grenadier, storming the Granary at Essling.  Your experience in these matters is beyond question!  So when I ask your help, I'm asking YOU, the wargamer with years of experience under your belt, not a senseless, mad hive of bustling and mindless activity, but a thoughtful veteran who has been there.

Technically if I go with using my 10mm minis on 2" sabots, I already have enough painted for all of the infantry for both sides.  Since I've rebased all of these guys, I am in no mind to rebase any 10mm Napoleonics ever again, so this basing schema has to remain.

If you are hopelessly confused - here are the questions:

  • Do you think the single infantry / cavalry stand on a 2" sabot is good enough to represent a Brigade?  See pics above.
  • Do monochrome-painted RISK figures deliver a good sense of mass?  
  • Would a single-color painted mass of figures glued to a white base be a turn-off for you in a convention game?  Even if there were close to 100 units of them on the table?
  • What is your vote?  Plop my painted minis on the sabots as-is?  Use spray painted RISK figures?  Or something different?  (NOT rebasing anything!).  

If I'm honest, I'm leaning towards using the painted minis on the 2x2 sabots and just accepting the look as they are, but I personally think it would look cool to have a huge game with RISK pieces on the table, even if they were just spray painted.

What is the next move, General?


  1. First, before I answer the questions - congratulations on the choice of VnB!
    As a Frank Chadwick fanboy I have to say it's a wise choice.

    -Do you think the single infantry / cavalry stand on a 2" sabot is good enough to represent a Brigade? See pics above.

    It's a token; it could equally be a wood block, piece of cardboard or anything else.
    The important thing in VnB is the base, what you put on it is simply aesthetics. FC used 54mm toy soldiers for goodness sake!

    -Do monochrome-painted RISK figures deliver a good sense of mass?
    Probably; my experience is that once you are playing a game you suspend disbelief and a lot of what you think is important when staring at individual figures is not that important when playing a game.
    I remember playing a large 25-28mm SYW game with 1:50 units. I remember looking at my Austrian line. The first thing that stood out was my friend's white spray painted line; he may have added black, possibly flesh and brown and possibly a facing colour. Next I noticed my poorly block painted Spencer Smiths, no shading or lining. Then I had to look really hard to see my well painted, shaded line. The two-foot away rule is in play here.

    Would a single-color painted mass of figures glued to a white base be a turn-off for you in a convention game? Even if there were close to 100 units of them on the table?
    Probably; what people notice most are flags/ shields then bases and if larger scale faces.
    I'd suggest at least green bases otherwise they will draw attention to the poorest part.
    The block colour would be OK, but not on a white base....

    What is your vote? Plop my painted minis on the sabots as-is? Use spray painted RISK figures? Or something different? (NOT rebasing anything!).
    That's a question only you can answer.
    How far do you want to go aesthetically?
    If it's a high priority, painted figs on sabot; if less, at the other extreme is block painted on white bases but little touches can move you closer, just green bases and flags.

    1. Greetings, Neil! Thank you for your thoughtful and encouraging comment. I have long been a Volley and Bayonet fan, and in fact many of my favorite and best games have been VB and I should have simply gone with playing it years ago.

      That's a great point about the white bases. I wonder if I just have the bases as "dirt" or painted and dry brushed sand with no green flock. That way they can be re-used indefinitely (this is assuming I'm going with plopping and blue-tacking my painted stands down onto them for the battle). Simply dirt texture will not look too offensive against the snow ground cover for Eylau.

      Many thanks again, sir!

  2. Steve, in the end, you only need to convince yourself as to what works and looks good. For me, the single stand on a two-inch base looks too sparse. If this was my decision, I would discard the notion of using sabots entirely. Why not use a single base to represent a brigade or even better use two of your bases to form a brigade. That configuration would look much better with no rebasing, on sabot painting, no no

    1. Hi Jonathan - while we may disagree on some things, we certainly both agree what a Napoleonic Brigade should look like!

      I agree which was why I posed this question to the grognards out there like yourself. I had considered using 2 bases for a Brigade - the only problem is that in Volley and Bayonet, the depth of a stand matters and there is a differentiation in "massed brigades" vrs "linear regiments" or put more simply, units fighting with a mix of columnar and linear troops. I could just use 4 troops stands for a single brigade, but facing changes are somewhat fiddly in terms of turning. It might be painful to move all those bases around.

      I could use a single 30mm base to represent a brigade, however that would scale the game measurements down to 33% of the original. So a massed Brigade would only move 5" per turn. One benefit to this would be I could fit the entire battle of Wagram on a 6x4 table!

      So I'm left with the option of basically using the 3" brigade stands called for in the rules for the large convention game (and what a spectacle that will be) and just playing at home with 2" sabots and a single troop stand on them. I suppose I could also just pack a 2" square base with RISK figures and go from there.

      Lots to ponder! Just when I think I've found the answer, there are always more questions.

      Agree will not be painting the sabots white.

  3. Hi Steve, I love these quandaries, because I have the every day, so am the last person to give advice …. But here are some thrown down thoughts anyway:-)

    As you know, I game with raw Epic figures (while also painting them - slowly) and my experience is similar to Neil, once the game starts, I hardly notice, there are bigger things to occupy the few grey cells that I have, so I think the one colour plastic is okay.

    I would be tempted to see the plastic as a stop-gap, allowing you to get a full army in a weekend and then over time, replace the risk stands with 10mm painted (or go fully Risk!).

    I agree with Jonathan that the sabot looks too sparse, but that may be because the harsh white is, well, harsh and giving too much contrast in the base, making the figure look like a small clump. I would be more tempted to just use one of your standard 10mm as a base and scale V&B even further, or have two bases combine side by side as one unit with a 60mm frontage - a sort of compromise between V&B 75mm and your chosen 50mm. Warlord Epic uses 60mm bases, so you could test that out with your blanks in Epic Pike & Shotte and see what the relationship is on a 6x4.

    I really like the idea of V&B rules and can’t imagine anyone trying to dissuade you.

    I think a full risk based order of battle at a convention would gain much interest as many folk struggle for an easy way to get big armies together and most don’t have big tables, but I am not convinced that a 4x4 block on a 2” white base would tickle the aesthetic fancy of many.

    So in conclusion, My thoughts are, single 30 x 30 bases like you have already got, but preferring two of those bases side by side (60mm). That mass would look good.
    Mix Risk & 10mm just to get the big game on, with an aim to go all out risk or go all out 10mm Old Glory.

    It would of course be interesting to see a 2” base that is not bright white, but rather ‘muckied’ up, but even though I think that would improve the look, visual sparseness might still be an issue.

    Likely I have made things worse rather than clearer for you :-), but still a fascinating quandary and I know that I will enjoy your project path, whatever route you take.

    1. Hi Norm I am running out to a parent teacher night but will comment further on this later! Thank you for weighing in! I was hoping you'd lend your thoughts!

    2. Norm, the attractive thing about the risk figs is they offer an entire force, cavalry, infantry, and artillery in a single purchase off ebay. I already have many hundreds of them so it would be easy to just buy a few more replacement sets. I don't mind mixing the 2 at all, especially since the bases are the same size. I am a little concerned at the sparseness factor, and so will look into the 60 x 60 squares from litko that will readily accommodate my 30mm squares.

  4. Could two 30mm bases be put side by side on a 60 x 60 base? So you get a linear look, but a base that will function with the rules?

    1. Norm that is absolutely brilliant. A 60mm square would still fit into the roughly 2/3 adjustments I'm looking for, and linear armies can be depicted with 60×30mm bases. I'm ashamed i didn't think of it :)

  5. Steve -
    What most catches my eye and captures my imagination is the thought that goes into what is being presented. Does it LOOK interesting? I've seen brand new, just-off-the-sprues figures on bases so thin they might as well be paper (probably were, they curled so much), and the battlefield to match, that I watched from almost beginning to end, so engaging it was. Napoleonic as I recall...

    I'll tell you straight, I'm a V&B un-fan to play, but I've seen some brilliant armies prepared for that game system. Some fine battlefields, too. The large stands look good in themselves, but I've never really got my head around the game mechanics. But that's just me.

    A few years ago a blogger was running a campaign game involving armies painted monochrome red and a monochrome lightish blue. That was it. You knew who was who! I think the battles were from Neil Thomas's 'One Hour' book. It was no chore at all to follow that campaign from 'Go' to "Whoa'.

    I'd probably ask myself two questions:
    - What do I want from this project? (You could ask this of yourself, or what you want for the participants and viewers)
    - What seems to be a reasonable input for the likely return?
    It looks as though you have already invested a great deal. Clearly you have been looking beyond the immediate objectives of the project.

  6. Thanks for commenting, Ion, always good to hear from you. Yes, much thought has gone into this project I have to say. Having the rules nailed down is a gratifying step but as always more questions remain.

    I think I remember the red and blue spray painted Neil Thomas armies and was quite taken by the battles! My plan for this was to make a gorgeous winter battlefield, worthy of a convention, that would make the players feel cold just from looking at it :)

  7. Personally I'd go with two bases side by side as Norm suggests. One slight note of caution wrt sabots though, I have generally found you need to leave a bit of an overlap as bases sizes are never perfect. If you put four 30x30 bases on a 60x60 sabot, you will very rapidly find that fat fingered wargamers pick them up by the bases edge and not the sabot. At which point several divisions worth of figures spring into the air and scatter across the table, which happened when I ran Shiloh using sabots a couple years ago. For some reason this never happens when I use sabots myself. I usually aim to leave a minimum of 5mm spare around the edge now.

    White sabot bases are fine for a snow board, but they look better with splodges of 'mud', just a couple of squirts of brown spray paint, or flock or whatever.

    One of my pals has spray painted armies, which we used for Waterloo. They actually looked quite good, but the game worked as both the figures and terrain were quite stylised. I'm not sure how well it would work on heavily textured and realistic terrain.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Martin. Yes there is nothing worse than a handling disaster of the figures during the heat of battle! I would use blue tack to try and alleviate some of this fumbling but it might be inevitable.

      I am probably going to go with 60mm squares and use 2 x bases of painted troops, or just suffer through a single base on a 50mm square. That would leave room In front of and behind the figures. Stay tuned!

  8. Steve - Just knocking stuff off the blog and saw your post. I also keep trying to delete this wiki but it won’t die, so while it’s still around this basing system may give you some ideas: I originally devised it for 10mm Napoleonics (Old Glory at that).

    1. Jeffers it's great to hear from you. I will go take a look at the basing system. Thank you for commenting!

  9. I'm quite taken with the unpainted figures (or sprayed red and blue) on simple green bases to give that Kreigspiel aesthetic, but then I am a tad biased in that I happily play with red and blue wooden blocks to test out rules etc. I must admit that it makes playing the game a lot easier as everything is clearly seen when on the table, as they stand out so much. Once the actions tarts I don't really notice that they are not figures, as I'm concentrating on the game. So maybe this would help in a convention setting?

    1. Thanks for commenting, Steve! I have seen a few posts out there where people have successfully used monochrome painted figures on bases to wargame. I was thinking it would be a really cool project have 2 x massive Napoleonic armies spray painted in their nation's "color" with flags on the unit stands. I'm going to press on with this project - I'm making a ton of 60mm squares from balsa wood, and am going to use the 50mm squares for the RISK figures project!

  10. Steve! Great post sir!
    a 2" x 2" stand is perfect for V&B in my opinion. The rules still work, and an epic battle with brigade stands, no matter the size, will look and function well.
    Noooo to the monochrome RISK figures in my view .
    Single colour is a way to go - and is VERY Kriegspiel - buuuut - will it annoy you in a convention setting?
    I vote for the single bases as they are. V&B is perfect enough not to be broken by it, and still look epic.

    1. CHeers Darren I knew it was only a matter of time until I heard from you on this post :) Quite right and I'm prepping bases now as we speak for some "Scaled Down" Volley and Bayonet action. Im even of the mind to finish the 15mm WSS project I started working on with Ken. I plan on posting a project update on this in a few days.