I have a quick question about basing and, by extension, the Larger Units:
So the Recommended Basing section in the Introduction shows different basing sizes under each scale depending on the type of commander and the size of units (battalions, squadron groups, and batteries). This is all good and clear, which I assume is also where the combat phase modifier for Larger Units comes into effect. HOWEVER, the 150 yard scale (which I understand is the default scale for 10mm figures) only shows one consistent 30x30mm basing size for all unit sizes. THEREFORE, my question is how do you distinguish different unit sizes under 150 yard scale and how do you then define the Larger Unit modifier if/when all base sizes are the same?
Support for multiple base sizes to represent different sizes of Units was introduced in ESR Original Edition based on play tester feedback, and it was maintained in ESR Second Edition. The basis of the mechanic is actually two Combat Resolution modifiers: vs Larger Unit -1 and vs Multiple Units -1. The practical result is that if you have a Unit on a larger base in contact with a Unit on a smaller base, then the smaller Unit suffers a -1 penalty, making it effectively one lower in its CR in this circumstance. If, however, there are two smaller Units in contact with the larger Unit, then the larger Unit suffers a -1 penalty for vs Multiple Units – the net result being the first combat between the two sides is equal. If the larger Unit prevails, then the smaller Unit which resolves second will suffer a -1 for being vs Larger Unit, but in the first contest, size does not matter, the two smaller Units become equivalent to the larger Unit.
With that said, representing smaller and larger Units isn't very practical. Unit sizes vary throughout campaigns from battle/scenario to battle/scenario. In far more cases than not, we also don't have accurate returns for historical Unit sizes in most engagements, thus, when looking at historical events, we know campaign averages but we only know uncommon snapshots of Unit strengths. Even if we had this data in a comprehensive form, it doesn't make practical sense for a wargamer to produce multiple Armies so that they have Units of the "correct" size for each battle – especially since the advantage of a larger Unit becomes nullified when the larger Unit contacts two or more enemy – which it is often required to do since on the attack it must close directly with the enemy.
The net result of all this background is that while some players really like the added color of representing multiple Unit sizes, it actually adds only a small bit to game play – a trade some will feel is worth it and others not. Meanwhile, when we launched our ESR Box Sets in 1:160 scale (aka 10mm) we had to do two things: Pick a default ground scale (1"=150 yards) and decide on a base size(s) to provide. We determined that we would simply be opening a can of worms in terms of number of miniatures needed (varying with stand size) and correct makeup of bases provided (which would never actually be correct). And therefore decided to standardize. The impact on game play is… well tiny. And as leading up to this decision we had a broad spectrum of players contacting us and either telling us they were basing their Units uniformly or asking if there was any downside to doing so, it has been predictably well received.
Considering that Units re-allocated their men to maintain frontage (many French battalions in 1814 fought in two rank lines instead of three rank to cover the needed frontage), and that Army Commanders of the period judged the strength of Armies by number of battalions, any given battalion can be safely presumed to be of "effectively strength" – not correct paper strength, but rather enough that it remains effective and functional in the field. Therefore, the net benefit of having more men in a given Unit is not a simple a question as X is bigger than Y, because Units almost never fight in a vacuum.
Sorry that is more internal background than you were asking for, but I wanted to make sure we offered you context rather than just some summary statement of "Eh, variably base size really doesn't matter but you can do it if you like it."
Many thanks for this comprehensive reply David. I always appreciate this!
Makes very good sense and I certainly agree that constantly re-basing stands and figures for each battle would be extremely tedious in practice and so I wanted to clarify as to why that rule was there in the first place and the reason it was not applied to 150 yard scale. But it is all very clear now, thanks again!