Troop Organisation

February 13th, 2009

Troops are organised according to era. The basic unit for organised warfare is a formation of closed grouped troops standing shoulder to shoulder. In early Greek warfare the basic formation was the phalanx formation, in modern militaries it is the squad which uses a dispersed formation. In the core rules we shall concentrate of solid block formations

Units (troop organisation)

Troops are organised into units arranged in a ‘formation’. The size of the unit varies depending on the army and era. For the British army the smallest of units are known as a ‘fire-team’ (4 Troops) up to companies (3 platoons). You can use larger units such as a Battalion (2-6 Companies and around 500-1500 Troops) but these massive units are better dealt with using the Strategy tier and zooming in when needed, especially with later, modern, armies (armed with automatic weapon they cover a lot of ground!).


The old fashioned massed combat can be handled purely in tactical. For example a Roman legion can fit onto a (big) table top. The Roman Legion was the first army to have very strict organisational depl0yment, and later western armies owe much of their ideology and concepts of organising for war to the Romans.

The Roman legion’s smallest unit was an 8 man Contubernium (also known as an Octet) similar to a squad in a modern army. 10 contubernia were grouped into an 80 man Centuria (they used to be 100, but 80 turned out best for the Romans once they refined their war machine. Though technically the ‘100’ were made up of logistics and admin staff) lead by a Centurion. These centuriae where paired up to form maniples (for marching about and organisation), which we then grouped into cohorts consisting of 3 of these maniples (6 centuriae). That’s 480 men. Quite a large unit to have on the table top, but it doesn’t stop there. The Roman legion has around 10 of these cohorts, plus cavalry, some light troops, and reserves. Along with a baggage train of 640 odd mules, and support staff. Quite a large army.

Unit leader

A military unit is lead by a leader (Champion, Sergeant etc.). It is the unit leader’s job to control the unit, interpret the orders from higher up the chain of command, and give orders to their Troops to achieve the objectives in the field. Leaders also have a sergeant who maintains the formation of the unit, and shouts out the Leader’s commands. The Sergeant is a ‘buffer’ between the Officers and the Troops and all units in recent armies have them (if this is not the case the Augment for the era will state it as such).

It is the leader’s initiative and leadership that the unit will defer to. This means the unit acts and reacts as the leader does (in effect, and in the ethos of the system, the rest of the unit ‘reactor’ to their leaders actions, example: so when a unit charges, the leader decides to charge and their unit follows him (or her) into combat).


In a modern British army the main unit ‘champion’ is the Corporal who leads a section (squad of around 8 men), there is also a second in command called a Lance Corporal who takes charge of one of the fire-team (4 men) when a section is split into fire-teams (Corporal+3 men/ Lance-Corporal+3 men). Three sections are combined into a platoon lead by a Lieutenant, and assisted by a Sergeant (basically the voice of the Lieutenant who deals with the ‘orrible men directly and barks  orders, and does all the threatening and cajoling of the men to keep them in line, so the Lieutenant doesn’t have too. It’s where the working class meet the gentlemen.).


In a similar light, the hero of the Roman unit of similar size is the Decanus who lead an Octet (eight men in total including the Decanus), very similar to a modern day section (or squad). Roman command structure is a bit more flexible in the middle when compared to out modern armies, so I’ll start from the top of the Centuria and work down (and it gets a bit loose with the seconds in command).

The champion at the top of the Centuria is the Centurion. He’s kinda similar to a Capitan in the British army except he leads 80 men instead of the Captain’s 72 (company of 3 platoons = 72) and leads from the front. All centurions were assisted by an Optio, a second in command appointed by the Centurion from the ranks. The Optio is a bit like a Lieutenant except they have jurisdiction over the whole Centuria and go where needed where as the Lieutenant is specificity tied to a platoon (made up of 3 sections – 24 men). He hangs about at the back kicking everyone up the arse. He also jumps in if the Centurion is killed in action (and appoint his second, Optio, who goes to the back). This is a simple method to ensure there is a commander! Unless the Centuria is totally whiped out. It deal witht he problem of having the commander (Centurion) lead form the front.

There are other assistants to the Centurion which are not really seen in modern armies, such as the Signifer (rallying standard bearer and the men’s bank) and the Imaginifer (another standard bearer this time with the Emperor’s image) and but others have similarities such as the Cornicen (horn blower) to issue the audible commands (a bit like a sergeant in this respect). There were also a few others such as the Tesserarius (guard commander) similar to an Optio. It not hard to see how we end up with 2nd Lieutenants (and even 3rd Lieutenants) in our modern armies. After all theses second in commands we are back to the Decanus.


Miniatures (toy soldiers) are mounted on bases to allow then to stand up, though some miniatures have small bases and are not great for gaming at they are not stable. Fortunately modern gaming miniatures often have square plastic bases. This makes it easy to organise them into Roman style units but placing them in base to base contact in a formation (such as block of 80 men, 10 wide and 8 deep (10 files of 8 men, or 8 ranks of 10 men))


‘Block’ is a game term to describe when a Player temporarily groups several units together in order to move them as one. When this is done the units taken as being individual units, but the whole Block is treated as one.

This group to move is an important part of how the WarSpike’s turns are managed and organised.

In the above example of Roman organisation, moving a collection of cohorts together ‘as one’ is considered a block move. It’s treating the combined units as one unit for the purposes of moving and resolving actions.

Tactical Formations

Wedge, column etc. related to ‘step’ and speed. These formations give a unit an advantage in certain situations and will affect how the enemy counters.

Formations can be unit based (where the men take up positions in a formation), or they can be ‘block’ based (where the units take up positions in a formation).

Category: Prototype Rules Page

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