Friday, June 28, 2013

Basing Artillery

I have had several discussions with friends on how to better visually represent a battery in our games of Black Powder.

Each artillery base is made up of one gun model with four artillerists on a 60mm wide by 80mm deep base. Below is how Black Powder suggests players should base up artillery batteries.

My main issue with that system of basing is that an eight gun battery would have had approximately the same frontage (about 120 to 140 paces) as an infantry battalion, which is around 160 paces. And as per the BP rules, a standard infantry battalion is made up of six bases of four figures on a 40mm by 40mm base (240mm in line). Which compared to an artillery battery is about four times as great.

The small size of batteries has an adverse game effect as well. In that it is very easy to position it around the battlefield, especially in between units. With their super human ability to limber/unlimber, horse batteries essentially become unarmored tanks!

Our first attempt to “fix” this problem was to use two bases of guns. This brought the batteries to half the width of a battalion. Along with a few house rules on horse batteries, artillery batteries in our games began to look and feel more like Napoleonic artillery. Of course in my never ending quest for the “perfect” game, I felt that half the width of a battalion wasn’t as good as it could be.

So the next proposal was to use one artillery base per two actual guns, generally three to four bases (below). This is very old school and appeals to many in our group, but not me. In my opinion the cost is too high for what amounts to visual effect on the game. Artillery would have gone from two bases to four bases, effectively doubling the cost.

But more importantly I don’t think it gives the right visual look in the first place. The reason why a battery was near the width of an infantry battalion was that there was room in between the guns, around 20 paces or so. But using four bases with guns gives the impression that the guns were placed hub to hub, which was not the case.

So to increase the size of the battery and get a “better” visual of the spacing of guns, I have been testing out adding in spacer bases between the two gun bases.

The spacer base is a normal artillery base, 60mm x 80mm, with just a couple of artillerists on it. There is plenty of space to add in extra bits as well. By only using a couple of extra figures, the cost remains low and the battery increases its width to 180mm which is about right for a six gun battery and a little shy for an eight gun battery.

For the large Russian batteries I’ll use three gun bases with two spacer bases. You also have the added benefit of the unit being much longer when limbered (240mm). All which means it is more difficult for artillery batteries to zip around the battlefield like a WW2 tank. So not only is this a cheaper solution, but IMO a more visually appealing look for a Napoleonic battery in Black Powder.


  1. Hello - This is a very nice post addressing an important point of contention in the Black Powder rules. I wargame the early period when there were lots of battalion guns around and therefore use a single model for them and two models for a 6 or 8 gun battery. I believe your 20 paces separation is at the top end of the scale but the 6 to 8 gun unit should certainly be more than half the frontage of the average battalion. I base mine on the old Bruce Quarrie style "triangular bases" at approx. 18 paces per gun. My photos can be seen on my blog;



  2. My Batteries are based the same :)

  3. You can also tackle the problem from the other end, and make the standard infantry battalion smaller, such as four bases rather than six. By doing so, you make the infantry battalions less expensive to build, and with the smaller battalion, you can still make every formation needed in the game, and you have effectively increased the size of the battery's frontage without changing the artillery a whit.

    1. It was a battle to get the group to go from 36 figure units to 24 figures ... almost sure I'd have a revolt if I suggested going to four bases :)