Organizing a Beginning War Game Army

So, you want to get started with some Old School War Gaming, but are not sure just what you need in the way of figures…

Well here is the advise you would have received from Scruby Miniatures.

The Beginners Notebook


The proper organization of your war game armies is one of the most important steps for the beginner. You will be smart to lay out your plans for the kind, number and type of soldiers you want before ordering them.

The most important thing in organizing your war game armies is to remember that you do not want to overcrowd your battle field area with model soldiers. You won’t enjoy fighting when there is no maneuver room on the table top and where only frontal attacks can take place. So let’s get right down to it and outline a good setup for one of the armies.

We will go on the assumption that you have a table top 8ft long by 6ft wide, which is a nice standard size battleground. If you set 5 30mm infantry models on a “shoulder to shoulder” basis they will occupy 4 inches of space. Thus, to cover the entire 8 feet with a single volley line, you would need 120 infantry models. This would form one thin line, which if broken through by enemy assault, would be the end of your force!

With 20mm models (should you prefer them) a single line on a shoulder to shoulder basis would take 192 figures. From 8 to 10 20mm figures can be placed on a four inch space. By comparing this, those that want 20mm figures can follow our instructions and arrive at a model army of the right proportions.

Taking the 30mm scale then, you can plan on having 120 line (regular or standard fighters) infantry. By forming these into two ranks, you can cover half your table top, which will leave gaps in your single line, which not only makes the game better, but allows you a reserve to fall back on.

In Modern War games the 120 30mm infantry could be all the same casting since there is little uniform distinction between units. However, in a Musket Period war game the table top general usually wants distinctive units for his battalions or regiments, with historically correct uniforms and regimental facings.

Using the 120 30mm infantry as a beginning then, and assuming that you are going into the Musket Period game, you must decide whether to make your basic units of men into company, battalion or regimental units.

My suggestion is that you go into a battalion-level organization using 10 model soldiers to represent one battalion, and if you decide to use the Unit System of wargaming, you would mount these ten men on one moving stand (The Unit system may be described as handling model soldiers as a “unit”, all mounted on a single moving tray – or the Individual System, where you do not mount the men on trays, but move them individually).

Most Musket Period armies had 2 battalions to a Regiment. If you decide then that 10 men will represent one battalion, then 20 men (2 battalions) will make a Regiment. Thus, your 120 infantry figures will make you 6 Regiments (12 battalions).

To take this a little further, you can organize 2 Regiments into one Brigade; ending up with a 3 Brigade Division which makes for good Divisional size war games. By splitting your infantry Into 6 Regiments, you will get more pleasure from painting the army, for each Regiment will have different colored facings and will be easily recognized on the battleground. At the same time each Regiment can be different in position (such as on guard, firing, charging and the like) which also makes for easy distinction during the heat and excitement of a war game.

Next, for this army, we are going to need some “elite” troops. In Modern War games these elite units would be Rangers, Commandos and the like. In the Musket Period you will need Light Infantry and Grenadiers, but in all cases, one must not overdo the elite situation, or the game will get out of hand.

We suggest these troops be limited to one Regiment of each. Thus, you need to order 20 Light Infantrymen and 20 Grenadiers. This will round out your infantry arm at 160 models giving you a total of 6 line Regiments, 1 Light Regiment and 1 Grenadier Regiment – a well balanced infantry force indeed and one that will not over-load the war game table with troops.

The Artillery is our next important consideration. Here again one should not get greedy for guns, for a counter-battery war game is not much fun. We suggest a maximum of three guns for an army. With three guns one can concentrate two in a battery or split them one per flank and center, or mass them in one large battery in one spot. With each gun you will need a crew of from four to six models. Thus, add another 12 men to your organization.

The Cavalry comes next. Generally we use 5 cavalrymen to represent a Squadron, and two Squadrons make a Regiment. You will want as a starter one Regiment of heavy cavalry such as Cuirassiers or Dragoons, and one Regiment of Light Cavalry composed of Lancers or Hussars. Or for additional color, you might wish one squadron of each type. Just so the total does not come above 2 complete Regiments (20 cavalrymen), which gives a good proportion to the army we are discussing.

In summary then, a good, well balanced beginning war game army in 30mm scale would consist of 120 Line Infantry, 40 Elite Infantry, 3 guns and 12 crewmen and 20 cavalry. This force leaves plenty of room on an 8ft by 6ft war game table for interesting actions without cluttering up the battlefield.

Now, all you need is two armies such as this and you are in business!

Should you have an interest in building up a basic Musket Period army, drop us a line and we can help pick out the figures and we can even offer you special pricing on one of these “basic” armies in 30mm