Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Alte Fritz's SYW Prussian Army

RSM95 Minatures (Austrians - Left and Prussians - right)

Figures painted by Patrick Lewis - Advance the Colours Painting Service

Since 2005, I have been painting and building my Prussian army at a man to figure ratio of 1 to 10 using 30mm figures. This means that an infantry battalion of 600 men would field a wargaming equivalent of 60 figures. The figures are organized according to a set of rules called "Batailles de l'Ancien Regime", or "BAR" for short. In BAR, we deploy our battalions in three ranks, just as their historical counterparts did, and organize the figures onto stands that represent "grand divisions". A grand division consists of two platoons of men, or roughly 150 men, or 75 men per platoon (zug).

The Basics: each Prussian infantry regiment consisted of two battalions (with a couple of exceptions, notably IR3 and IR15, each with 3 battalions) of equal strength. There were roughly 1,700 officers and men in a regiment. The battalion was broken down into an administrative unit called a company, of which there were five of musketeers and one of grenadiers. The individual company was commanded by a captain, a first lieutenant, one or two second lieutenants, an ensign and up to sixteen NCOs and junker. The company establishment in the Seven Years War ("SYW") was 114 (3 files of 38 men) plus seven or eight supernumeraries.

The tactical formation was different from the company organization. In battle, the battalion was divided into four grand divisions, as noted above, with each grand division broken down into 2 zug or platoons of 75 men each.

The Figures: the SYW is all about "grandeur" and appearance, and nothing is more suited for this than the stately 30mm miniature, as designed by Charles Stadden, Edward Suren and Steve Hezzlewood. Their figure ranges are called (not surprisingly) Stadden, Suren (or Willie Figures) and RSM95 (nee Pax Britannica). Aside from their height, these figures have something in common, and that is the fact that they all have realistic anatomical proportions and the miniatures look like real people. If you look at the pictures of the RSM95 figures shown above, you can see what I mean about realistic figure proportions. These are not cartoonish caricatures with oversized heads and baseball mitt hands or stubby legs. No, by cracky, they look like real people, bless 'em!
My first wargame armies consisted entirely of RSM figures painted as Austrians and Prussians. Back then, I used a 1 to 30 ratio of figures to men, and this resulted in units sized at 20 figures, mounted 4 figures per base on 5 stands. I gamed with this system for nearly 20 years and still have battles with the smaller units when I want to fight a larger battle. With a 3/4" frontage per figure, the 20 figure battalion only takes up a frontage of 7.5". This is significantly smaller than the 1" frontage per figure that we use for our 30mm figures, which yields a battalion frontage of 20". As you can see, the Big Battalions require more space and larger game tables.
At the 2005 Seven Years War Association wargame convention in South Bend, Indiana, I was running one of my games (Kolin, I believe) and I kept looking at the game that was going on at the adjacent table, hosted by Bill Protz. Bill was hosting a French & Indian War game using his 30mm figures and 1:10 ratio Drums of War Along The Mohawk rules. I couldn't keep my eyes off of Bill's game, which rightly won the "best of show" award for the best game. I kept imagining large battalions of Austrians and Prussians at the 1:10 ratio and couldn't get that thought out of my mind.
Afterwards, I approached Bill about developing a Drums of War variant for European-based battles, and out of this inquiry rose the development of Bill's BAR rules. We began to build up our armies, my Prussians and Bill's French, until we had approximately 12 battalions per side. We tinkered with the rules, adding improvements here and there, cutting out ideas that didn't work. We also added rules for cavalry and cavalry melees. After 2 years of extensive play testing, I encouraged Bill to publish his rules. The end result was a very fine set of rules, BAR, which were published in March 2007.

I digressed from my tale of the Alte Fritz army though. Let's get back to that. I like the large 30mm figures and the core of my Prussian army consists of the afore-mentioned Staddens (4 btns), Surens (2 btns), RSM (2 btns), Elite Miniatures (2 btns) and my own Potsdam Miniatures (2 btns). Oh, and I painted some Perry American Revolution Hessian jagers as Prussian jagers. So that currently gives me 13 battalions of infantry. Hmm, I'd better paint that fourteenth battalion pronto to fend off my triscadecaphobia.
The cavalry contingent includes one regiment of Suren cuirassiers (36 figures), one regiment of Elite Miniatures cuirassiers (60 figures), on Suren dragoon regiment (36 figures) and one Stadden Hussar (36 figures) regiment. I'll cover the cavalry organization at another time, but suffice it to say, the average cavalry unit is 3 squadrons of 12 figures, or 36 figures. This is a compromise against the established strenght of 5 squadrons (600 to 720 men or 60 to 72 figures at 1:10 ratio). Try lugging a box full of cavalry around and you will begin to appreciate why we are trying to hold our regiments to 3 squadrons.
The artillery arm of Frederick's army consisted largely of 12 pound field guns, 3 pound battalion guns, some 7 pound howitzers and a smattering of 6 pound horse artillery. For the gun castings, I use the Elite Miniatures SYW French gun models. French? Mais oui et certainment! Let me put it this way, there is simply nothing on the market today that matches the quality of the Elite gun models. Each barrel has detailed engraving of Louis XV's royal cypher and other fine details that make these works of art. I can not find anything comparable for the Prussian guns, so I use the French models, paint the woodwork Prussian blue, and tell people that Frederick captured these guns from the French at Rossbach. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.
My Prussian army is nearly finished now. I have found that 12 to 14 battalions is close to the maximum number that I can put on the 6ft by 20ft wargame table at Bill Protz's house, and still have room for cavalry and flank maneuvering. As I develop more of my own castings, I may weed out a few units here and there and replace them with my own figures. But for anything larger than 12 battalions, a larger table is required. Bill and I typically run a couple of convention games each year on larger tables that allow us to use more figures. Last year I hosted by own Big Battalion Game at the Marriott Lincolnshire Resort, in Lincolnshire, IL (site of the Little Wars convention) and I plan to do this again on October 13, 2007. More about that within the next few days.


  1. Fritz, Old Boy!

    You've got a nice start on your blog, but, I say, isn't the picture at the top of the post a picture of some of my RSM figures I painted and photographed a few years ago? While it's pleasing to see one's work displayed, it's even nicer when one receives credit for it. Any chance of a caption to that effect, old bean? Nothing fancy, just "RSM figures painted and photgraphed by Patrick Lewis of "Advance the Colours!" Painting Service" should do it. There's a good fellow. ;-)

  2. It has been done. My apologies for omitting the attribution. I'm still trying to learn how to do this blogging thing. :^)

  3. Potsdam Miniatures? You're in the game too?



  4. Couldn't agree more with your assesment of RSM95's proportions, good to see it getting treatment.

  5. I'll echo Greg's comment about your "Potsdam Miniatures" . . . and request that you write up something about this in a future post.

    -- Jeff of Saxe-Bearstein