Front Scale Orbat (FSO)

NQM German infantry battalion from the author’s collection (RSO) circa 2000

One of the subtleties of NQM is that it is scaleable to play at regimental/brigade level through to Army/front level, a point that is not always picked up by a cursory review. The guidelines, as written in 1985 or thereabouts took a three strength point (SP) stand as a company, scaling up one level of command from Frank Chadwick’s platoon-as-a-basic-combat-unit Command Decision, and using his Europa map. This can be considered to be a Regimental Scale Orbat (RSO) with a battalion being about 12 SPs. Chadwick achieved his three army groups by downscaling (bathtubbing) them to the size of three corps. I liked this approach, but it had problems as originally written with artillery ranges being too long, and the weight of artillery being too light at army group aka corps level. I changed my approach for the first time in game March 1942. Frank describes Command Decision as a tactical game but by bathtubbing, he handles an operational game well.

Soviet Tank Corps Forming up for an attack in Regimental Scale Orbat (RSO) circa 1995

Notwithstanding, the idea was a marked shift away from the idea that the Eastern Front could only be played with towers of cardboard counters on a map, and it still works well.

By upscaling, and halving the strength of a battalion to 6 SPs an NQM player could easily handle a couple of battalions in contact at the same time, i.e. a brigade of 18 or so SPs not counting supporting arms from division, which would bring it to around 24 SPs. At this scale it was still important to distinguish between fighting and support stands to give tactical flavour, so the  Divisional Scale Orbat (DSO) was a bridge between tactical and operational level games.

7 Armd Div Corps Scale Orbat

7 Armoured Division. Corps-Scale Orbat  (CSO) March 2018

The next shift really came with Tim Gow and Bob Cordery developing Megablitz, which took a single unit of variable strength to be a battalion. This is broadly equivalent to the NQM Corps Scale Orbat (CSO), and a single player can comfortably handle a couple of divisions in combat simultaneously i.e. a corps. At this scale, it was no longer important to differentiate the fighting and support elements of a a 3 SP battalion.

The Dancing Cake Tin's DLM based for Megablitz

The Dancing Cake Tin’s DLM based for Megablitz

The Front Scale Orbat (FSO) has been around for some time – ever since the Battle for GIROVKA Bend was played in 2012, although it was not stated as such. It was achieved by bathtubbing a 6SP battalion and calling it a division, ignoring the havoc that this creates with the divisional supporting arms and simply showing them at corps/army level. Formalising the system makes a 12 SP regiment/brigade into a division, so a 3 SP battalion is acting as a regiment/brigade, making a battalion effectively 1 SP.

STALINO on Day 4 of the Battle

STALINO on Day 4 of the Battle for the GIROVKO Bend (FSO)

Ground scale has not been mentioned so far, it being an elastic concept. In setting up the game, I have always looked at the area of operation to be played, scaled it to the available space on the table, then worked backwards to the forces filling the board.

Likewise, time can be elastic. Sometimes an operation of 6-18 moves will cover 1-3 days, weeks or even months. It works for me, and confuses players if I haven’t taken enough time to explain it properly to them. Alamein was played at CSO over a few game days, with two day and one night move per game day.

So the current iteration of a bare bones Front Scale Orbat would look something like this:

NQM FSO Soviet Front with supporting Air Army

NQM FSO Soviet Front with supporting Air Army March 2019

Front HQ with Armour, Logistics, Artillery, Engineers:

HQ SP3, under command Tank Corps¹, 1 or more Super heavy to heavy Artillery SP3², anti-tank heavy or med SP3, Pioneers, Logistic (may be devolved to Armies). Air Army approx 9 A/c (7 to 17 with GKO reserves³


  1. Tank Corps: HQ (C3), 2-3 Tk Bdes (F3), Mot Rifle Bde (F3)
NQM FSO Soviet Tank Corps under Front Command

NQM FSO Soviet Tank Corps under Front Command March 2019

  1. Breakthrough Artillery Division (Apr ’43): 122mm/152mm howitzer + tractor (S3), 120mm mortar + tractor (S3), 203mm howitzer + tractor (S3)
  2. Air Army: HQ, 1-5 Po-2, 3 Fighters, 3 IL-2 Stormoviks, up to 5 Reserve fighters, Li-2 Tpt.

Two or more Army HQs with Logistics, Artillery, Engineers:

HQ (C3), under command Divisions/Brigades, 1 or more very heavy to heavy Artillery, anti-tank heavy or medium, Pioneers, Logistic (may be devolved to Corps)

NQM FSO Soviet Army HQ with Artillery AA and Armour under Command

NQM FSO Soviet Army HQ with Artillery AA and Armour under Command March 2019

Each two or more Corps with Logistics, Artillery, Engineers:

HQ (C3), under command Brigades, 1 or more medium to heavy Artillery (S3), anti-tank heavy or med (S3), Pioneers (E3), Logistic (L3)

NQM FSO Soviet Rifle Corps HQ

NQM FSO Soviet Rifle Corps HQ March 2019

Each two or more Divisions:

Div HQ (C3), 2-3Bdes/Regts (F3), 1-2 light or medium Artillery (S3), anti-tank light or med (S3), Pioneer (E1) Logistic (L3) (may be concentrated at Corps)

NQM FSO Soviet Rifle Division

NQM FSO Soviet Rifle Division March 2019

It should be noted that this is schematic – I can fit a front of 12 divisions comfortably onto a 12 x4 square area of the board. The whole setup with squares looks very Napoleonic to my eyes. Fronts typically might cover 240km, which would make a square between 15km -20km, and means that at this scale all ranges are contact with the adjacent square only, or at best, corps, army and front artillery one square behind the lead division.

Nierhorster gives snapshot orbats for certain stages of the war. YesthatPhil has already given thought to this sort of thing with Megablitz squared, and Bob Cordery has a published solo set of Hexblitz (2018).

The reason for pushing the scale upward, is that 1943 saw some very large-scale operations take place. The last time that I fought KURSK in 20mm, it took a whole day. STALINGRAD was soloed over three weeks in bathtubbed DSO – alas before I owned a digital camera. Something more manageable is needed for a weekday evening if I am to finish the Eastern Front in my own lifetime 🙂 .



Filed under "Rules" Explanations, 15mm Miniatures Wargames

3 responses to “Front Scale Orbat (FSO)

  1. Interesting post- shows the flexibity of the system well.



    Liked by 1 person

  2. yesthatphil

    An interesting summary of the evolution of the Operational Game and the developing concepts of scale.

    I play these sorts of games fairly frequently – participating, of course, in many of the NQM battles you report, Chris – and I would certainly say, across the various variants, they remain ‘figure games’ with all the excitement and charm of moving around and resolving combats with little figures and model tanks. Some people who have not played in large Operational games periodically question this. In this respect, my first game of NQM in the Knox Road basement was a revelation.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the perspective, Phil.

    Following our last discussion on the Front Scale Orbat (FSO), I think that the “sweet spot” may be FSO on the Eastern Front and CSO for other theatres, such as the Med and Burma, which is how the Troops are mustering at the moment. I’m not sure about the Italian Front, as I think that is shares more in common with WWI than WWII, but I would be happy to be proved wrong. I know that von Richthofen AKA (NotQuiteTimoshenko) is keen to pursue Sicily/the Italian front after Crete.

    Regards, Chris


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