Sabot basing – Black Powder Era – 1

Picking up from a couple of threads already running in my posts and as requested by Steve (Fenton) here is the first installment of the Sabot basing focussing on the black powder era. As mentioned in the ’45 AAR we use ‘double’ bases for our black powder gaming (taking the 60 x 30 base size as the standard). So our units in line have a foot print of 120mm x 30mm , in column of attack & battalion mass 60mm x 60mm,  in march column 30mm x 120mm, and in square 45mm x 45mm (all will be revealed later regarding square). We use steel bases provided by Precision Wargames Supplies ( and our basic sizes are 30mm x 15mm and 15mm x 15mm (there is some variation in our group when it comes to cavalry which I will touch on later and may be deserving of a future post). Our footprint bases are also steel from PWS covered in self adhesive magnetic sheet from Magnetic Displays Ltd (

So with our figures suitably painted and based we make our unit from four 30 x 15 troop element bases and one 30 x 15mm command base. In addition we do two 15mm x 15mm and two 30mm x 15mm blanks to act as fillers (these do not necessarily need to be blank and can be used to add skirmishers to our units especially when we get to the Napoleonic period). So we have our unit (nice SYW Austrian composite grenadier unit) and footprint bases below :-


The astute amongst you will note there is three 30 x 15 troop bases and two 15mm x 15mm troop bases. This is ultimate future proofing. Ian and myself drove ourselves barmy considering the many subtly different sabot basing systems to give maximum flexibility in our model collections. One of the systems we looked at was the ACW rule set of Regimental Fire and Fury where units are typically 6-8 elements large and base removal is part of the mechanics. Hence 15mm x 15mm becomes your element and 30 x 15’s are used as double elements. I think this is probably one step too far for myself and for my future black powder era units I will be using four 30 x 15 elements.

Anyway I digress. The first and probably most common formation you will be using in the black powder era is the battalion in line. Using the 120mm x 30mm footprint base place your troops in a line at the back, command central front, either side of this place one of each 15 x 15 and 30 x 15 blanks and ‘voila’ one battalion in line.


Of course, when it gets to Napoleonics you may well want to represent the skirmish strength of the unit as demonstrated by this ACW unit.


Other formations you may see on the black powder battlefield are ‘column of attack’ using the 60mm x 60mm footprint.


… and as these are Austrians we have ‘battalion mass’ again on the 60mm x 60mm footprint, and below showing two layouts representing this formation.



For manoeuver in the early stages of battle and for reserves there is the ‘march column’. Using the 120mm x 30mm footprint end on.


More prevalent in the Napoleonic era where cavalry was taught to charge home infantry increasingly used the ‘square’ as a defensive formation. SYW troops were trained to adopt this formation but the cavalry threat meant that there was rarely cause to use it. This is represented by a 45 x 45 footprint. This looks good on the gaming table as you get a real sense of troops bunching together with the smaller footprint area and it feels right that they become increasingly susceptible to artillery and musket fire.


So a quick run through how we use sabot bases for our black powder era games. This is by no means the only option as a lot can be done using 20 x 15’s and other base sizes. Some of this will be dependant on your playing area amongst other factors. I hope to look at the 20 x 15 sabots in more detail when I get around to painting up some ACW armies.

Things are slightly different in our group when it comes to cavalry. Some feel that the Baccus cavalry is a little on the small size and prefer the larger horses of Adler. Those that use Baccus base their cavalry in the same way as their infantry but with the command team integral to one of the ‘troop’ bases. Those that use Adler cavalry need a larger depth to the base and so use 30 x 20’s for the figures and 30 x 10’s for the blanks.

Hopefully this and my future musings on sabot basing will not muddy the water how to base your models. My hope is that these ramblings will provide an insight into some of the more common options and the pros and cons around them. If all else fails catch me at one of the SMS clinics at various shows where you will be able to see these in the flesh and see how they might work with your own gaming.


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