Monday, July 9, 2012

On G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T.: Figure Counts

One of the first things I look at when considering a rule set is the intended scale of the armies and more importantly, how many figures am I going to need.

Figures in G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. are organized into 10-figure units. Usually this consists of 8 extras and 2 main characters, but you can mix it up as you wish. Heroes, a special archetype of main character, are typically not in a unit and instead are independent figures.

Main characters, heroes and otherwise, are just that - the important personalities your game is going to revolve around. Think of them as the stars of your narrative. It is these main characters that drive some of the more amusing G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. AARs around the Internet. They are an obvious hook for a campaign diary as well.

As for the extras, well, "extras" is a euphemism for "cannon fodder."

While the heroes and other main characters are clearly 1:1, it's not so cut and dried for the extras.

Read ten G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T.battle reports and you'll probably find ten different treatments of the same 10-figure units. When I first began using the rules, I called them squads or sometimes platoons, but treated them as 1:1 regardless.

The benefit of 1:1 is that all the figures can become characters in the narrative. Albeit, characters that die quickly.

Most recently, I've been treating 10 figures = 1 company, or around 1:20-1:30. At this scale, the extras function as the nameless, hapless, rabble they were meant to be.

Indeed, there is nothing in the rules that gives any hint as to what the intended scale is, if anything. So, feel free to call them whatever you prefer: squad, battalion, brigade, etc You could even mount extras with multi-figs per base to get the right look at the larger game scales (but just treat each base as a figure for combat and morale).

The often recommended starting force in one 10-figure unit, one hero (a unit of one special figure) and one vehicle per side. Anyone can paint 11 figures and build a vehicle (or just use another 10-figure unit or single hero or a cavalry unit if you’re not into the vehicles). If you're a solo gamer, that's just 24 figures and two vehicles.

Heck, the vehicles are optional. As are the heroes. Until my Helvetica campaign this year, I never fielded vehicles, artillery or heroes.

For the longest time I had only 23 Foreign Legion and 30 lizard men and some toy plastic dinosaurs and this was sufficient for me to fight many enjoyable encounters in the Venusian rain forests and lost world islands. I now have another 20 lizard men painted up and 24 Prussians in the mix, plus some sad, but functional vehicles, but they were all added over 4 or so years. Their absence never hindered my fun.

As someone who didn’t enjoy painting much until recently, the modest figure requirement for good fun was a huge plus.

Some of my favorite outings involved only one T. Rex vs. one unit of French Foreign Legion. 

Doesn't sound like fun? 

Then you've never seen a single extra charging a T. Rex to engage it in hand-to-hand combat. Vive La Legion!

next up: The Heart of G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. : Vehicles, Contraptions and Crazy Science Oh my!


  1. One advantage of GASLIGHT over TSATF in regards to figures is GASLIGHT shooting is per figure, while TSATF is per so many figures (the standard rules are for something like a 20 figure infantry unit, although there is a small unit variant for 10 figure units. THW's Colonial Adventures is similar in that regard).
    I recently played a game of GASLIGHT with only 4-6 extras per unit and it worked out fine.

  2. Hi Fitz-Badger,

    I love the idea of using less extras - both for gaming on a smaller surface and perhaps a faster game when time is limited. I'll have to give that try!