Tuesday, 17 January 2023

2mm Napoleonic: Test Bases


So, a return to a subject that has been tugging at the edges of my Wargaming consciousness for a number of years; namely depicting Napoleonic tabletop forces using 2mm miniatures….. so much so that I last blogged about it 12 years ago (!) without any satisfactory resolution !


For a number of reasons, I just couldn’t get comfortable about plunging into what is arguably the ‘core’ era/subject matter in wargaming, and had tried, or rather prevaricated about taking the plunge time and again - now I own Napoleonic troops in a number of scales from 6mm via 10mm all the way up to classic 25mm Minifigs, but most languish in a shamefully bare metal state, shunted to the side until I could resolve my conundrum in how to make effective use of 2mm minis, as not only my main scale of choice, but surely the best one to truly show the epic sweep and size of that era’s battles ?

Having recently taken a minimalist and pragmatic approach to painting 2mm for Strength and Honour Ancients, I think what was holding me back was sticking to the idea of being forced to scribe out every practical detail from the small scale blocks to truly do the periods’ panoply of uniforms justice; whilst also finding the time to do so with the hundreds of strips that would be required to match the scale of the battles…… I realise now that this is not a circle that really needs squaring….. or at least my current intent is to not get too hung up at what might be missing from the visual aspect, but rather embrace the simpler approach in order to produce armies that are ‘large’ enough to look more like the real thing on the tabletop.

With that in mind, I’ve taken the plunge and started work on some test bases to see how I might take on this bugbear of mine, and finally clear this case of Wargamers’ Block……

I’ve settled on a base size and unit depiction that has taken it’s starting point from systems such as the Blucher rule set, and so each will be roughly a Brigade group, hopefully depicting a historical unit, with enough of the differing troop types to show the makeup of each, if not covering every part….

A recent reading of the various books in John H. Gill’s excellent series on the Austrian 1809 campaigns has given me inspiration with a starting point of Aspern-Essling /Wagram, and I will probably look to eventually field the Corps of Davout versus Rosenburg as a jumping off point.

So, based on 2mm thick MDF bases of 90mm by 60mm, representative Brigade sized units, with a good mix of blocks to give some Mass, as well as visual appeal:

In the same vein as the recent Strength and Honour bases, a strip at the rear to contain a unit label, and as flat a terrain to the front as possible, made up of fine basing sand with painted-on detailing - in the photos in this post, we have perhaps Raynaud’s French Heavy Cavalry Brigade of the 4th and 6th Cuirassiers, supported by a 6lb Horse Artillery Battery, and Weisz’s Austrian Brigade with the regiments of Stein and Erzerhog Karl’s Infantry, alongside the 4th Vienna Landwehr.

Rather than looking to pick out faces, weapons or other such details, I’ve gone from an undercoat in the national colour to adding dots of either black or yellow and black for the headgear, white or grey for the trousers - a brown square at the rear for a backpack, and an expressionistic stab at the requisite national flag….. cavalry get a bit extra in that after a grey undercoat, individual horses get a variety of browns or black, and the riders have an overall uniform colour with only the barest of details - for the Cuirassiers here I restrained myself to blue, followed by a gold helmet dot, more dots of silver for the cuirass, and dot of red at each shoulder. 

Artillery is also kept simple with the base colours of horses, equipment and men, and a splash of bronze to the gun barrels, and here a red dot at the headgear for the French….. the whole idea to keep it straightforward and simple, whilst allowing the time to work on a lot of blocks at once, without getting too overwhelmed by the numbers required…… Napoleonic skirmishes - Pshaw ! - these will be for battles !

I’ve made up a dozen bases to test out various troop/unit types and hopefully, if I don’t falter, and fall back into old habits of overthinking and overcomplicating things, be able to actually make some progress….

Anyway, watch this space for hopefully more to come….


  1. I really like the idea of 2mm wargaming but like you previously I overthought the painting process, really good post and a lot to take from it for me, looking forward to more 2mm as you progress your project.

  2. Thanks Donnie - as you say, it was the overthinking that was tying me up in knots - a lot of critics dismiss the smaller scales as bland grains of rice or formless blobs, but on close inspection, the blocks from Irregular actually have an amazing amount of detail for their size - the compromise in taking the approach here was to accept that I couldn’t hit all those points in this project. Years ago I worked on the Alamo in 2mm and put in all the details like hands, faces, cross belts, weapons etc, but this was just going to beyond me this time: mind you, my eyes aren’t as young as they were then !