Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Great Basing Debate

What to do...? What to do…?

Single or Multi-figure?

Round or Square?

How many figures to a base? How big should the base be (Cram ‘em on or spread ‘em out)?

Is anybody else out there so tormented as I? The debate forever rages on in my head. Part of me really likes individually based figures as I can use them for 1:1 skirmish battles and, up to a certain level of action, I can visualize them representing many men. For very large-scale actions however I have an easier time visualizing the figures as large numbers of men if they are on multi figure bases – also with bigger bases there’s the opportunity to do some modeling of extra stuff on the bases potentially making each one a mini diorama of sorts.

Currently I am thinking (rethinking) about how to base figures for the Great War.

I think for the most part I am settled on singly based figures for theatres of operations like “The Back of Beyond” and East/Central Africa. Here the conflict, in my mind’s eye at least, battles were mostly large-scale, chaotic skirmishes (or at least the battles I’m interested in gaming…). The maneuver elements would be companies (or smaller) and I have little trouble visualizing a unit of a dozen or so figures as a company (…or a platoon or a section…).

In the European theatres, or even in Palestine or Mesopotamia, I’m more interested a larger, operational scale of action involving Divisions and Corps. So I started thinking about what rules I’d use, and thought I’d need to try out Over the Top (Command Decision) or Great War Spearhead. Both of these use bases with multiple figures on to represent the units.

So I dug out a pack of Minifigs 15mm Highlanders, stuck ‘em on bases and painted them up.

(Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version)

Pretty aren’t they…?

I have no trouble seeing this as a company (stands being approximately platoon sized; 30-50 men) or even as a battalion (stands being approximately company sized; 100-200 men).

Then I got to thinking why couldn’t I still use Contemptible Little Armies? If units were still 8-18 stands instead of figures what size of units would I be fielding? Well if these stands were companies, four companies are a battalion, and four battalions are a brigade (in the British/Canadian system of organization) a unit of 16 stands would be a Brigade! Two or three such units would be a division…

So there, whatever system I use, I’ve just about convinced myself that I should use multi-figure bases for European theatres… but then, what figures to use…? 15mm? 20mm? 20mm are cheap as anything… but the 15mm line from Minifigs is pretty extensive and the figures are very nice…. And what about the Vimy Project
…? Rebase them? Start anew with a different scale?

So I tried painting up a couple stands worth of 28/30mm figures to see what they’d look like…


Canucks (didn’t quite have enough cast on hand to do four stands…)

Going this route wouldn’t actually require any more or less figures. The battalions I’ve been using for CLA Western front battles have 12-13 figures each. A four-stand battalion with three figures per stand such as these would require 12 figures… It would probably be the cheaper route as I can cast them myself.

The more I think about it the more I am realizing a number of the issues I’ve had with CLA would be worked out by using multi-figure bases… It'd be a faster game too, easier to mave the toys around...

I don’t know…

What do you all think? Which looks more like a “battalion” to you? The pics above or this:

Anyone out there have any experience with multi-figure bases in CLA?


  1. The top picture is a better representation of a battalion (at least in my mind). The lower picture looks more like a squad of individuals - even if it is more figures.

  2. For me, Over The Top offers a good compromise, with two figures per base. Several bases together do look like a battalion, but 2-fig stands still look good when playing more skirmish-type encounters.

  3. I agree. The top guys look like they are more organized.

  4. The Tao of Chris Peers as I grasp it is very accepting of just about any configuration.

    Go with what gives you joy and the hell with the rest.

  5. Hi Tim,

    I use WHFB basing conventions for 28mm fantasy: 20mm squares, 40mm squares, 20mmx40mm rectangles, 25mm squares, 25mmx50mm cavalry rectanglew, etc.

    I use 1" or larger fender washers for 28mm sci-fi, moderns, zombies, skirmish, etc.

    I use 3/8" washers for 10mm infantry... individually. Fireteams get larger bases.

    And my 6mm is mostly based on 20mmx40mm and 3/4" washers.

    I like Litko bases, very clean and sharp looking.

    Shabbat Shalom,

  6. Individually mounted 10mm?!! You're a madman!

  7. You can also keep them mounted individually and use movement "trays" - put all the figures on a tray and slide the tray around the table top

  8. Wow... I had almost forgotten about this post...

    Yeah I know I could but I'm just not so keen on the movement trays myself - at least not for the games that I'm playing. I'd totally use them if I was playing Warhammer with individually mounted figures... of course most of my Warhammer (Ancinets) figures are on 60x40 multi-figure bases now...

    As it is the debate is over for me, really. I've torn all my 28mm figures off of their original individual bases and put them on multi-figure bases.

    Thank-you everybody for your input!


  9. Hi Tim, great blog. I'm amazed that you sculpt and cast your own figures!

    I do have a question. Could you say a few words about how you go about terraining your bases? I notice that you have a consistent technique. I'd like to know the particulars - what brand and color paint and flock, and what your process is. I've painted a lot of figures, but have never been happy with my bases, and could sure use a hand!


  10. Thanks Harry!

    The key to my basing techniques is what I call "Basing Goop".

    After the figures are painted and attached to the base (if they weren't already) I mix up a batch of "Base Goop". This is a mix of railroad ballast, artists acrylic gel (for mixing with paints to make them more translucent - amone other things), and dark brown paint (Burnt Umber). I have sometimes tried carpenters glue instead of the gel - but it doesn't turn out quite as nice. If it turns out a little thick I add a touch of water.

    Once mixed the goop is slopped on to the bases - rather thickly - I don't bury the feet or anything but I do try to amek sure any trace of the figures base is hidden. Then I have to wait a day for this to dry.

    Once the Base Goop is thoroughly dried I dry brush on a lighter brown (I think It's called "Country Maple"), and then paint the base edge this same colour. Now if it's for a force that fights in the desert - like my 8th army and DAK forces - I'll do an even lighter dry brush over top of this ("Tan").

    For individual bases I then put a douple small dabs of white carpenters glue on and dip it in teh static grass - I have been using Gale Force Nine's but GW has this nice "scorched grass" that I really like and have been using a lot lately.

    On bigger bases - in addition to the static grass I'll put on a couple pebbles and some bushy foliage (Woodland Scenics Clup Foliage)

    Most of the paints I use are "Crafters Acrylic" - available at my local Dollar Store.

    Hope that helps!

  11. Thanks! Basing Goop it is.

    Harry - off to find Country Maple

  12. Hi Tim,

    Great website! Very inspiring! I browse your website everyday to see what's new. I follow all your ww2 and modern stuff.

    One request if I may... How do you do your bases, do you buy them pre-cut or you cut them? What material are you using?

    Thanks again and continue your great work.


  13. Thanks Carl,

    I cut them myself from 1/8" MDF