For a while now I have been approaching a miniature wargames unit as a whole model - a collection of figures be they a squadron or a battalion as a single representation. For me, each unit might convey an action, demonstrate a particular tactical doctrine or represent their historical counter-part at a particular moment in battle.
Such considerations help me determine which figures to purchase, how I might convert some and how to pose them. By way of example, my Odessa Regiment of Russian Infantry will have four battalions on the field or tabletop but I don't want them looking like orderly ranks of chocolate soldiers on parade. The terrain their real life counter-parts fought over will affect my choices in basing materials. If I were modelling a battalion of Coldstream Guards at Waterloo for instance, I might have their bases covered in tall grass or wheat or whatever it was that they were shooting out of at the end of the day. This is particularly the case when I know I will have them moving across especially designed wargames table-tops - modelling my terrain as I would the miniatures who manoeuvre across it.
This definitely requires a degree of forethought and imagination on my part for how I envisage a unit even before the first figures are purchased. As the Odessa Regiment's battalions advanced on the redoubts at Balaclava, I want them either engaging the enemy with small arms fire or thrusting up the slope. As I have four battalions of 36 figures to model, variety for me is also an issue as I'll be painting quite a few uniformed infantrymen.
I have opted for two battalions advancing and two battalions engaged in a fire-fight. Even within this simple determination I have plenty of other decisions to make. For example, how will I base them? As it happens, the Russian Infantry at the time deployed in line formation three (3) deep. This will afford me a simple solution of four (4) bases of nine (9) figures at three (3) deep by three (3) figures wide.
Each battalion was divided into four (4) companies, including a grenadier company which was itself divided into two (2) platoons. Of these grenadier platoons the right were grenadiers armed with muskets but the platoon on the left were rifle armed and were in effect the light platoon of the battalion.
According to Vostochnaya Voina 1853-1856 godov, by Lieutenant General M. I. Bogdanovich (1877) Russian doctrine and practice was to screen infantry advances with dedicated rifle companies and not from a skirmish screen drawn from the battalion's riflemen. Even then, due to experiences against Turkish cavalry, rifle companies would remain in close order formations (two lines deep) except when in denser woodland.
Lieutenant General Pavel Petrovich Liprandi’s Report of the Battle of Balaklava; however, mentiones a 'chain of riflemen' or skirmishing screen being provided for Semiakine's column advance including the Azoff Regiment carabineers (grenadier rifles). It would seem, therefore, that in the field my Russian grenadier rifles do in fact need to be based as skirmishers or at least be based in such a way to allow for them to fan out before the rest of the battalion model in some fashion. In any event, my general basing convention for the Russian infantry will be as follows:
Fire methodology is also important to me for how to model my firing battalions. For example, for earlier period armies I model platoon firing armies completely differently to one which fire in ranks - it being a matter of the sequence for my reloading, ready and firing poses. Then again, I may want to represent an entire battalion first volley with all muskets brought up at once. I know that I want one of my Odessa battalions to be in a 'fire-at-will' stage with staggered or random firing and reloading poses as far as the figure range makes possible.
I very much prefer as realistic a look to my units as I can make. To this end, I will have a proportion of field caps within the units (about 30%) whilst most will be in helmets. Again, it's all about breaking up the uniformity of the model to better convey that the battalion is made up of people rather than robots. By slight variation in positioning of the same sculpt on a base, I can break up otherwise unrealistic rigidity and hope to convey an organic feel to a formation and breath a little life into it.
Again, what I can do and what I intend needs to be thought through even before I think of making that first left mouse click on the 'Buy Now' button. Once more, for me there is little choice but to proceed with Great War Miniatures through Nick Eyre's Northstar Military Figures supply. Lucky for me, as a recently developed modern range of sculpts, there is a significant variety of poses and options for the Russians within the Great War Miniatures range. So, all have to do is wait for them to arrive.