Wednesday 22 March 2023

2mm Napoleonic: Some Ruminations and Resources


I thought I’d put down some of the impressions and conclusions I’ve come to in the course of working on the 2mm test bases, and also take a look at some of the inspirational and interesting approaches to the same subject provided by others.

I’d always shied away from plunging into Napoleonics due to what I perceived as the sheer scale required to do the period justice, and was hoping that the more simplified methods of painting and basing that worked well with the recent Ancients project would make things more accessible. I think that to some extent that has worked out to be true, in as much as realistic-looking units come and go under the brush quickly enough, but there are compromises to be made in the level of detailing that perhaps take away from the martial splendour that is so attractive about the era.

Take for example, the humble Irregular Miniatures 2mm BG2 block - 24 ‘figures’ in three ranks on an 11mm frontage posing as French infantry- rudely eschew an undercoat, slap on a base coat of Prussian blue, almost dry-brush on white to pick out the legs, a blob of the same at chest level, and then at rear a drab brown spot for each backpack  - top it off with individual touches of black to each bobbled head for the shako and done…..

Given that the same block, diminutive though it is, has enough sculpted detail for you to pick out individual faces, some hands, muskets at port to their front, a flagpole for the ensign, a small flag, bed rolls on top of the rear backpack, it seems rather churlish to ignore them in the name of mass production…. 

That said, of course, none of those details would ever be visible on the tabletop, let alone to my ageing eyes unmagnified even in front of my nose - I suppose in the same way that a general has to rationalise casualties in the service of strategy, I have to admit defeat in reaching too far to accomplish the impossible.


This might lead to rude suggestions about moving into larger scales and enacting the heresy of abandoning smaller minis for the giant-sized 25/28/32mm soldiers out there….. but I can’t really countenance that if I wanted to achieve the broad sweep of battles fought by Napoleonic Brigades and Corps, without breaking the bank (ever the Hobby skinflint, me !) or becoming all consuming of both time and effort (roll on retirement !).

So I think overall, I’m satisfied with the progress so far, but I think that there are definitely some lessons to take into future production, so I thought I’d break the methods down as I see them….

First off, bases: - I’ve been using 2mm depth 90x60mm from Warbases for the majority of them, with of course the loss of 10mm strips at the rear to enable my idea of spaces for labelling - these are then textured with fine basing sand and some colour dry-brushed on in layers to resemble vegetation.

I think this has worked out fairly well - the large ‘ground’ covered by what is supposed to be an area covered by hundreds of men means the abstracted look mitigates against adding further detailing - I had initially hoped to have trees and other scenic elements, but realistically this just takes away available space from the blocks/formations themselves. The edges of the bases are completed by using a paint pen to cover the raw MDF - quick, easy and neat - but I have to say that I am finding the labelling as envisaged coming across a bit cumbersome and fiddly to do - one of the reasons that not too much of it is yet visible in the photos on here !

I am also finding the loss of space more restrictive than I imagined the strips at the rear would be - making some of the more populous Brigades look a bit crowded - one of the main reasons for going with 2mm was to enable the more accurate depiction of formations, movement, etc - I suppose I could have gone with larger bases, but getting the balance right for a smaller unit would then be problematic - they’d look a bit adrift in acres of space…..

Perhaps I might look more seriously at the method of incorporating a rare earth magnet into the basing texture to enable labels to sit on top of corner to corner detail, but then again it will only end up sitting on top of whatever units populate the space, given the size needed to show the information I decide to add, whether designation or strength points, capabilities etc…. So probably a dead end…..


Referring back to my simplified painting method, this has proved to be effective, if, as suggested above, somewhat unfulfilling….. the actual act of painting is a bit mechanical, and for individual blocks a bit underwhelming, but I think when posed en masse on the base, gives the look I was going for without the time consumption required to make a better effort - up close, slapdash, at arms length, enough colour to evoke the units, whilst representing those big battalions.

In terms of simplicity, I did have the option of doing more with the flags - perhaps even replacing them with larger, printed ones, but again this would be a drag on the production rate of the project, so a simplistic caricature of colours was used - this is one of the reasons that all of the Austrian flags are the more visible yellow OrdinarFahne, rather than having the white LeibFahne for 1st Battalions - and why I have not attempted the distinctive multi-coloured borders of the same - just too much for such a small effect !

Placing of the blocks themselves has been relatively straightforward, although some fiddly use of tweezers and superglue has been required, and I haven’t alway succeeded in keeping things straight on the ground… my approach of course, means that the minis ‘float’ somewhat above the terrain, with the small integral bases being a bit of a contrast with the basing material and colouring - I prefer the visual ‘pop’ this adds to the figures, but might it not be to everyone’s taste…. I have considered the method of sticking the unpainted blocks down prior to painting, and then doing the base as a whole, but I have found that I am too cack-handed to get any detail on intervening ranks and rear facings, although of course, the utility of this might be debatable when placing blocks close together.

Certainly one of the inspirations I took for this project made superlative use of just such a method:

I wish I had the confidence to try something similar, as it would help further in simplifying the production line method whilst maintaining pleasing visual results, but I am not that sure of getting a similarly effective results !

Talking of results, another inspiration for this project was the superlative output of Jon Bleasdale, who has really caught the look I wanted to achieve - his Blog is a great resource of of stimulating projects, and his use of colours and basing materials make for some excellent visuals effect in 2mm:

Going deeper into my list of online resources, one of the original primers for tackling the period in a effective way was the work of Thaddeus Blanchette here:

Going through various iterations over time, his methods and results show what can be achieved with a keen eye for the period, even on smaller bases and fewer blocks of minis.

Another blast from the past, worthy of consideration as another classic exponent of small scale minis, namely Nik Harwood - his clean looking and smart Austrian and French Blucher bases gave similar grist to my mill:

And bang up to date with a thread on 3D printed miniatures from 6mm Wargaming:

And also on the YouknowhatTube from Project Wargaming:

I found in all these pages, lots to inspire, and of course put my own efforts to shame !

Going forward, I think I will make an effort to tie back into my initial ambition to work on Davout’s versus Rosenberg’s Corps battle at Wagram and buckle down and get their OOBs onto the painting table and then be better able to have an overview of what might be achieved - I guess it might be easy to feel that small scale miniatures, painted simply would be a shoe-in for depicting a battle like Wagram in its entirety, but I think that has to be tempered by what I will realistically be able to achieve given the demands of ‘Real Life’ versus our hallowed Hobby !


  1. I think they look pretty good, I particularly like the texture on the bases as it really sets the figures off. When I did my 2mm WSS stuff I stuck them to the bases before painting, which is OK but does get a bit fiddly sometimes.

  2. Hi Martin, thanks for the comment - I think I lucked out in discovering the fine basing sand from Warbases, as it has a slight texture without being too grainy - although it does need a bit of flattening down whilst drying to allow a stable platform for mounting the blocks - I usually use an old toothbrush to do this.
    BTW, always enjoy your stuff over at The Games We Play - many and varied offerings also on my inspirational list !