Skirmishers & Skirmish Formation

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    Mike B

    The rules surrounding skirmishers and skirmish order/formation always seemed to confuse our group of players in the first edition and unfortunately the second edition has done little to clarify.

    First, I’ll start with a real question. Can skirmishers form into a line? And if so do they still get the -1 to hit penalty for being skirmishers? We understand troops in skirmish order to be harder to hit. But troops in line?

    Then what follows is can skirmishers form march column? Attack column? And what modifiers do they or don’t they get in those circumstances?

    We understand skirmishers and skirmish formation to be two different things. All troops must adopt skirmish order to enter woods. Regular troops must reform as their first order once they exit woods, skirmishers do not.

    The only change in the second edition rules concerning skirmishers that we have found is that they no longer get the +1 to hit modifier if shooters are in close range or skirmishers (see the QRS). So, in the first edition, they got +1 to shoot and -1 to be shot at. I didn’t really understand why skirmishers would be better shots anyway so this is good.


    General Greybeard

    “Can skirmishers form into a line?” referring to BP2 pg20. Under Formations: Skirmish Order is a loose formation…or…sometimes referred to as open order. If skirmishers form a “line”, they are no longer skirmishers. I think the same logic would apply to March or Attack column. My focus is the War of 1812. Most of the battles involved skirmishers. I have individually based them for skirmisher order, however when I have in March column I put them on base for 6 figures, 2 rows deep. Enjoy the day.

    Big Al

    First answer is no they can’t. A Skirmisher unit is a small unit that only operates in open order (no such thing as “skirmisher order”). So, they don’t form line and they can’t form Attack Column (read the description of how an attack Column is formed) because the unit is too small to make a column that is at least as wide as it is deep – a single line is a line not a Column. They can form March Column. It is just one line from front to back.
    They get no extra modifiers for this formation. Indeed, they suffer the same modifiers as any other unit in March Column.

    It isn’t the only change. Skirmishers can no longer stop artillery firing at a line unit standing behind them. In version 1 artillery could only target the Skirmish unit and not the unit behind them.
    Not all skirmishers are sharpshooters or marksmen. So, if you want them to have the +1 to hit, you give the unit the sharpshooter special rule.

    Mike B

    This is why we’ve been confused on skirmishers and skirmish order since the first edition. On BP2 p.22 there is a main heading called Skirmish Order. No where on p. 22 or p.20 where skirmish order is defined do they mention it being a tiny unit. They describe it as a “loose formation.” Under tiny units on p.24 it is very clear that tiny units cannot make other formations except march column.

    On p. 41 under woods it uses the term “infantry in skirmish order”. So I think we are right to make a distinction between skirmish order (required of regular troops to move thru woods) and skirmishers which are a particular kind of foot soldier that are always in skirmish order (i.e loosely spaced) except for the allowance to form a single file column. That a skirmisher cannot form any other order than a march column does clarify everything.


    Big Al

    Hmm, yes, I see what you mean. I didn’t see that.
    Well, you can have full battalions of light infantry, which could be classed as skirmishers, but normally and within the units listed in the scenarios in the book and the supplements, you’ll find that Skirmish units are usually small or tiny.

    Further, some players feel thatskirmishers should not be able to form square. Ihave some sympathy with this I f the unit is tiny or small.

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 1 month ago by Big Al.
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