I’m here to tell you that I think unit fillers are a fantastic addition to your regiments in rank-and-flank wargames for a number of reasons and that you should consider making some for yourself. So, I suppose the first question should be…
What are unit fillers?
I’m glad you asked.
In 25-28mm wargames where units move around in regiments made up of ranks and files, you typically find that each individual model contributes to the overall “health” of the regiment. For example, a unit representing 20 swordsmen will be made up of 20 individual models, each armed with a sword. As/when these models are killed, they’re removed from the regiment until none are left and the unit is wiped out.
So, in normal circumstances, in order to put your unit of 20 swordsmen on the battlefield, you’d need to buy the 20 models, put them each on a base and rank them up together. If for one particular game you wanted to increase that unit to, say, 30 swordsmen; you’d buy, build and paint another 10 models and add them to the unit. If you wanted to go back to 20 models in your next game, you’d either need to find an excuse to use the extra 10 somewhere else, or they’d be sitting on the sidelines! And we don’t want that.
So – you use a unit filler. A unit filler is a single base, usually equal to 4 infantry bases (although some choose to make them larger). If, for example, your infantry model is on a 20mm square base, your unit filler might be a 40mm square.
Onto this base, you can put some thematic scenery items, maybe even a wounded/fallen soldier, or other items that match your chosen army. The purpose of this is that when placed amongst the models in your regiment, this takes up the space of at least four soldiers. That’s four soldiers that didn’t need buying, building and painting! For much larger units such as big mobs of Night Goblins, you might add two or more unit fillers, or larger single ones in order to take up more space, or “fill” the “unit” (get it?).
Not only does this allow you to increase the number of troops in a regiment on an as-needed basis without having to put together more models, it can also be a great way to break up the overall uniformity of a unit and add more character. If your unit comes from a particular place known for a certain style, you can convey this with a couple of scenic items scattered among the ranks.
In practical game terms, you might want to place your unit fillers in the second or third ranks. This is because (unless you’re very unlucky) your units are more likely to die in ones and twos at the beginning of a game (at which point you can just remove a couple of models from the back ranks), but start to die in much greater numbers as the battle goes on (where you may be removing more than four at a time). You can always “make change” by removing a 4-man unit filler and replacing a single model to reflect that three have died.
Shameless Self Promotion
Here’s a couple of examples of my own, including some of the finest shaky-cam photography you could ever hope to find.
My Dwarf army for Warhammer hails from Karak Hirn, known for its rangers who go wandering about overground.
What I’ve done here is taken some resin scenery pieces (these are the Blacksmith’s Forge set from Bad Squiddo Scenics), and placed them on 40mm square bases. For each one I’ve done a bit of stonework on the ground and then matched my army’s basing scheme to give the impression of a smithy in a dwarf camp.
Here’s a unit of 20 dwarf rangers arranged in two ranks of 10. Just like in the swordsmen example above, this means they’re Unit Strength 20, 20 wounds, etc. Next, we’ve got the same regiment but with the inclusion of two unit fillers. The regiment is arranged as though it had 4 ranks of 7 (Unit Strength 28) despite only having 20 dwarfs.
Here’s a unit of militia from my Empire army called the Blind Pig Irregulars, named for the seedy tavern in the city of Nuln from which they were dragged. My objective for this unit is a) to show that they come from a pub, and b) to make the unit look as rag-tag and varied as possible. As an example I’ve included an ogre in the unit, who stands on a 40mm square base. He’s acting as a unit filler, taking up the same space as 4 soldiers. I’m planning on adding some tavern-themed scenic items from the Medieval Brewery Kit by Bad Squiddo Scenics as unit fillers.
And speaking of Nuln…
Another way to not only pad out the volume of a regiment, but to make it look spectacular at the same time, is to turn the whole regiment into a piece of segmented scenery which can be dismantled as troops die.
This regiment of spearmen, “Grundel’s Defenders”, was made by the mighty Dave Taylor for his Nuln Artillery Train Project, and he’s kindly allowed me to share them with you. (To drool over more of Dave’s miniatures, please head over to his blog, you won’t regret it!)
Dave’s unit of spearmen is arranged as though there were 4 ranks of 11 (Unit Strength 44) but he’s only used 36 soldiers. To fill space, he’s really cleverly used scenery pieces and extra bits that come on Empire sprues (such as the legendary Powder Monkey!), placing them in such a way that they take up the space of a model.
For some of the groups of models, Dave has elevated the terrain to add a sense of motion and depth to the unit, and also helps to make it appear larger. The section pictured here, “Grundel’s Defenders”, won Silver Demon in Baltimore 2010.
When individual casualties need to be taken, single-base troops such as the brave but highly expendable Power Monkey can be removed, and when multiple troops are killed, just a single group base can be taken. If an odd number of casualties occurs, you can “make change” by replacing the Powder Monkey (yay!) or place dice on a section to denote the number of remaining soldiers on the group base.
So, hopefully I’ve made at least a passable case for the inclusion of unit fillers in your armies! If I’ve won you around to my way of thinking, or if you’re already a filler of units yourself, I’d love to see your own!
- Freeguild Greatswords – Credit GW
- Dwarfy stuff and Empire stuff – Credit me (https://twitter.com/mrllamatastic)
Images of Grundel’s Defenders – Credit The Nuln Artillery Train Project by Dave Taylor (http://davetaylorminiatures.blogspot.com/)