Stop rebasing or bigbasing! Simple sabot basing for 6mm Napoleons and Wellingtons

A common question in internet fora and Facebook groups is: how should I base my units so flexible that I can use them for tactical gaming, with line and column, and grand tactical gaming, big brigade bases that move and fight? 40mm wide? 30mm wide? 25mm deep? Internet debates can be endless and even toxic. I lost my hair finding an answer, but here it is. Three steps to heaven and hair regrowth.

FYI: when I started with 6mm Napoleonics in 2014, Black Powder was the dominant 28mm game and Polemos the ruleset promoted by Baccus. As a beginner I was not aware of other systems, like Volley & Bayonet. Since 2016 I have been playing 1vs1 Blücher, mainly, and Lasalle and Black Powder occasionally.

When I experimented with generic basing in 2014 I discovered that standard Polemos basing was not my cup of tea.

See above. Two Polemos big bases. My problem with big basing is that when you play a smaller, tactical game like Black Powder/Lasalle, such bases don’t look like dense columns, more like two lines. I wanted smaller bases that could be combined to make big bases. Besides, I wanted easy identification. Late Napoleonic 6mm Prussian cavalry in blue litewka look very similar, for instance. So what to do?

1) Copy the DBx method

So I copied DBx. The classic De Bellis system from Phil Barker set the standard in historical wargaming in the nineties and the 40mm (for 15mm and smaller) or 60mm (for 20mm and bigger) is still a popular base size. Barker introduced a system with different depths and placement of figures for easier identification. His system for 15mm

  • 40x15mm bases for regular close-order troops, (4 per base).
  • 40x20mm is used for more open order troops, skirmishers (2 per base).
  • 40x30mm are cavalry, light cavalry 2 per base, heavy cavalry 3 per base.
  • 40x40mm bases are for heavies like artillery.

Translated to 6mm Napoleonics this means 40x15mm for standard infantry, placed in close order; 40x20mm for skirmishers; 40x30mm for cavalry (in theory, well, see below); and 40mm depth for commanders and artillery. Light cavalry should be placed in a more open order than heavy cavalry

2) Find the common denominator in Napoleonic basing size

While losing my hair, I researched Napoleonic basing. Nathan Woolford blogged in 2013 about rule systems and preferred basing. Compleat Napoleonics also did some basic research on scaling for some popular rules below, more recently. Summary below, for multi-stand (a number of bases in line/column/square formation) and big bases (units represent brigades/divisions)

a) Base sizes for multi-stand tactical systems

  • Over the Hills is flexible, 4-6 stands per regiment
  • Lasalle is flexible, 30-50mm, perfect compatible with a 40mm basing system (link). LaSalle recommends 40mm x 25mm bases with 8 infantry figures on that size as standard
  • Black Powder has no basing size but the book recommends four 28mm miniatures on a 40×40 base, two horses on a 50×50 cavalry website. BP is unit based, the 4-8 individual bases are placed in different tactical formations, though
  • Napoleon at War (still people playing?) has a odd basing system, with 4 line infantry miniatures in a square on 26×32 bases, 3 cavalry on rectangular bases and 2 skirmishers on smaller rectangular bases.
  • Field of Glory Napoleonics has the DBA-system, above
  • General de Brigade (for 15mm) has 10-12 mm per miniature, double rank, that’s 36x25mm roughly.

b) Bigbase-sizes for grand tactical systems

  • Polemos is unit based and promotes 60x30mm bases, 2 ranks with 4 skirmishers. Grand scale Polemos is 60x60mm
  • Volley & Bayonet is 3x3inch = 76x76mm for infantry. Smallscalers often halve the basewidth to 1,5inch=38mm
  • Blücher & Grande Armee use 3inch bases, the cards are 80x60mm.
  • Snappy Nappy is flexible and recommends 40mm bases, two 40mm bases per brigade
Storm of Steel wargame blog: Blücher base

So if you want to play Lasalle and Blücher, Field of Glory Napoleonics and Volley & Bayonet, Black Powder and Polemos you can choose either 30mm or 40mm. Depth is variable.

My choice? Baccus sells 20mm infantry strips. 40mm or 20mm is a logical alternative to 60mm then. My choice was 40mn, 4 strips/16 miniatures in 2 rows on a 40x15mm base. Thus I can represent dense infantry if I play a tactical game. Below a column of Russian infantry, arriving on a hilltop near Waterlovsk.

3) Don’t bigbase, sabot base!

I like the look of bigbases, however. So like DBx I glue a couple of skirmishers (4) on a flocked 40x20mm base. And if I put two skirmish stands together with four or six magnetized stands on a very cheap steel 80x60mm sabot base, I have a Blücher/V&B big base.

See? And transporting is simple.

My cavalry is also sabot-based. Basing depends on troop type.

  • I experimented with cavalry om 40x30mm bases, but 9 horses on a 4×30 rectangular base looks cramped. Baccus sells 9-horse-units
  • I considered 4/5 horses in a line on a rectangular 40×20 or 15mm base, but that looked ‘empty’ and harder to identify.
  • 40×40 gave me the option to place the cavalry in open or close order on a base, depending on cavalry type. See below.

I place cuirassiers and lancers in a V-formation, medium cavalry/dragoons in two rows with the officers in front and light cavalry scattered all over the base. For a big base I use 2 stands per steel sabot.

I glue artillery (1 cannon and crew) and commanders on 40x40mm square bases.

Comparison with other basing

I don’t want to lecture others about the ‘perfect base size’. 40mm might be a perfect solution for 20mm strips and a perfect solution for me. My 5 cents about the pro’s and cons of other basewidths:

Geen fotobeschrijving beschikbaar.
  • 20x20mm: Mark ‘Deep Fried Happy Mice’ Severin is using that system. “That way I can use sheet magnet movement trays for whatever rule set grabs my fancy this week…ooohh shiny!” Severins system is more generic than my 40mm, but appears too tiny to my taste. Somebody wrote on Facebook that small square bases “proved to be a pain when fighting Leipzig”.
  • 30mmx15mm: Leon Locke from Adler commented on TMP ” My French are on 30×15 bases for two companies ( 12 figs, 3 ranks)and two 15×15 for the elites.
    These bases can then be popped on movement trays/sabots that can be sized to a particular set of rules if needed. ” So 30mm is a good size for Adler, not necessarily for Baccus. Tiny H&R is single miniatures, should fit either 20/30 or 40, Irregular 6mm is 20mm if you cut 1mm from the basing block.
  • 60x15mm (half Polemos) might be too wide (imagine 6 Black Powder bases in line on a 6×4 table). Quoting Glenn Pearce on TMP: ” The other danger with company basing is just how big will your battalion be in line. The bigger that is the smaller your table will be”
  • 60×30 standard Polemos but with markers. “They are now in line”. My 40mm will fit on a 60mm sabot and I can change facing/formation to show the unit is squared, or in column. Besides I have 72 figures per regiment, denser than Polemos 24 per base. 6mm is about mass, IMHO.

So I claim perfection 🙂 However, as my last note, it’s all a matter of personal taste and choice. Whatever you like, use – I hate silly debates about toy soldiers. I just want my hair back.


The one-minute-speedpainter: 912 toy soldiers in 7 days

A couple of years ago a Dutch wargamer I know, mr Gladmountain, sold me his surplus Leipzig 6mm project: a late Prussian Napoleonic army with extra line infantry, that I added to my lead pile. You can never have enough Prussians, as Wellington said – in June 1815, I believe.

Last week I finally opened the box and counted hundred and thirty two strips Prussian line infantry. 4×132=528 miniatures. I fainted.

Here’s a guide how to speedpaint them, max one quick minute per layer. Nothing new for the veteran 6mm-painter, useful for the occasional painter. My full Prussian uniform guide can be found here.

Step 1: undercoat line infantry in grey

Adler writes about primer:

Its not really necessary. In the old days, when any old metal was used to manufacture figures a coat of primer was necessary (…) With the up to date metals now in use this is no longer a problem. If the figures your painting are maily one colour or have a lot of white a coat of primer is probably a good idea.

The Baccus tutorial on the other hand advises black primer! I tried both but prefer grey or for other armies brown nowadays.

  • I can’t recommend white primer, because you always forget spots when painting a large batch of figures, so I was endlessly doing fine retouches.
  • Black can dim the colours, 6mm colours need to be bright.
  • Blue is not advisable either, except for maybe blue coated Landwehr.
  • Grey on the other hand blends in. Besides, if you prime Prussian line grey you can skip the shako, bandolier and trousers later.

Step 2: Black Wash

Wash deepens the shadows. Baccus and Adler don’t recommend wash. Others apply a wash after block painting the base colours, but these painters have to repaint their dulled first layer. I too tried that technique. and felt like I was painting the same figure twice. So I switched to shading the basecoated figure before adding the block colours, not after.

The wash above was darker than I planned, I should have thinned it more. I still see more contours than with a black primer, though.

Step 3-9: block colours.

I work inside out, the deepest features first, layer over layer. So I started with the brown rifles and highlighted the bandolier (diagonal grey blanket or greatcoat) last (3. brown rifle 4 blue jacket 5. flesh 6. white belt 7. red cuff, facings, collars 8. silver bayonet 9. light grey bandolier highlight.

Cuffs and collars are red, belts white, bandolier grey. If lazy you can skip the collar, belt and bandolier; but the striking red-blue-white-grey contrast defines the Prussian infantry from a distance.

And that’s it!

I clocked my painting. One strip – 4 soldiers – can be painted in one color in 30-60 seconds. But let’s round it up to 1 minute per layer. That’s max seven minutes per strip, 70 minutes for 10, 700 minutes for 100, 910 minutes for 130. That’s max 15 hours, in other words, a couple of empty evenings otherwise badly spent on television. I think I spent 10-12 hrs on this particular project.

Sometimes it was boring and then I hated mr Gladmountain. I hated the 80 strips that he – innocently – had primed in blue. I also hated RED DOTS. 1 collar, 2 cuffs and 2 red lines on a blue jacket = 5 red dots per miniature x 528 = 2640 red dots. A chore. But well.

“before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water”, master Buddha said.

I felt enlightened when painting, but I must say I felt more enlightened when finished.

The zen buddhist in me painted another 33 strips of Russians with the same red dots, btw. that was 384 Russians, about 10 hrs.

But in the end, after 7 evenings painting, I have 66 stands Russian & Prussian infantry painted.

With the 42 Prussian infantry stands that I painted 2 years ago I have suddenly A LOT of Prussians and Russians. Leipzig, the 1814 campaign in France and Waterloo seem feasible after just a week painting! 912 (P)Russians down, only some Landwehr, cavalry and artillery to go.

Gladmountain, what did you do?