I’m not a fan of the Bathtub approach in wargaming. Bathtubbing is a mechanism to use smaller scale rules to fight larger scale battles or operations.
The original Bathtub Campaign: Barbarossa 25
The term was originated by Frank Chadwick, the author of Command Decisions (and other rules). Apparently:
The first game where the reduction in scale took place was Frank Chadwick’s reduced-scale Barbarossa campaign. Frank boiled the Soviet navy down to a handful of vessels, and created models of them which were . . . shall we say . . . lacking in certain details.
John Harshman saw the models, and remarked that they looked like something suitable for sailing in a bathtub. Frank loved the notion, and the campaign was henceforth called “Bathtub Barbarossa”.
Source: What is bathtubbing?
So that is how it started. Now I’ll look at a better definition of Bathtub Campaigns and how the concept is applied to Campaigns, Scenarios and Rules.
Definition of Bathtub Campaign
A Bathtub campaign is when the forces, areas, distances etc, for the historical campaign are scaled down to match those of the wargaming rules used. A Bathtub campaign is a way to give historical flavour to your wargaming campaigns, whilst still using your existing forces that you recruited based on rules that simulate a much smaller scale of conflict.
For example, your preferred rules might have squads organised into companies, however, you might find an account of a interesting battle involving a brigade a side. To bathtub this incident you would represent the original brigade with a company, battalions would become platoons, and companies become squads. Then you’d fight out the incident using squads, platoons and companies.
Bathtubbing is different to the figure-to-men scale. Three figures on a Crossfire stand represents a squad. In the rules this stand represents a squad and acts like a squad. In a bathtub, the squad acts like a squad but represents a larger formation, perhaps, for example, a company, battalion or regiment.
Example of Bathtub Campaign: Barbarossa 25
The first campaign labeled a Bathtub Campaign was the Command Decision module for 1941 Eastern Front.
Chadwick, F. (1988 or 1999). Barbarossa 25: Command Decision Campaign Module. GDW.
I don’t have the Barbarossa 25 module but I understand it ‘bathtubs’ by 25, hence the name. Every aspect of the campaign is reduced by a factor of 25 in order to bring the vast scale of the campaign in the Soviet Union down to manageable proportions.
|Element||Command Decision||Barbarossa 251|
|Ground scale||1:1,800 (1 inch = 50 yards)||1:45,000 (1 inch = 1,250 yards)|
|1 Turn||15 minutes2||~6 hours|
|1 Infantry stand||1 platoon||1 Regiment3|
|1 model vehicle or towed weapon||4-6 real vehicles or towed weapons||100-150 real vehicles or towed weapons|
(1) I’ve taken the “x25” Buthtub factor literally. I believe this is correct, but don’t have to module to check.
(2) I understand that in later versions of Command Decision the turn duration changed to 30 minutes. Which would make a Barbarossa 25 turn about 12 hours.
(3) With a “x25” factor I assume the order of battle goes up three levels of military hierarchy; assuming triangular formations this is 3 x 3 x 3 = 27, which is close enough to x25 target. What that means is a stand starts by representing a Platoon, which becomes a Company, then a Battalion, then a Regiment. The player’s forces start at (approximately) a Battalion then a Regiment, Division, and finally a Corps. This might not be correct. Kelly Armstrong, in a comment in Why are they called ‘Bathtub’ campaigns?, mentions that that Barbarossa 25 “turning an Army into a division, for example, 1st Panzer Army becomes a panzer division.” So it is possible the orbat might only move two levels of hierarchy.
Example of Bathtub Scenario: Eye of the Tiger
My own Eye of the Tiger Crossfire Scenario is heavily Bathtubbed. As I say in the notes:
The forces are representational and so are scaled down enormously. For example, the Soviets lost 48 tanks on the day but only get four in this scenario. Historically SS Panzer Brigade Gross consisted of two weak tank companies made up of old PzIII and IV tanks, the 103rd Heavy Tank Battalion (Tiger tanks) with Panzergrenadier support plus the ad hoc 1 SS Armoured Recon battalion. As was common practice in the Waffen-SS, this emergency unit was named after its commander, SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Martin Gross. The 103rd Heavy Tank Battalion only gets one Tiger on table.
The reason for this bathtubbing is that I borrowed the scenario from ASL – see Eye of the Tiger – How I Converted an ASL scenario to Crossfire. I didn’t try to change the scenario. I just tried to recreate it in Crossfire.
Barrie Lovell went for a more historical version of the scenario without Bathtubbing – see Big Eye of the Tiger – A Crossfire Scenario with Barrie Lovell.
Example of BathTub Rules: Flames of War
I my opinion Flames of War are Bathtub rules. Of course, the figure-to-men scale is 1:1, so nothing Bathtubby there. However, these rules play loosely with the distance scale to get artillery on the table with infantry.
Steven’s view on Bathtub Campaigns etc
I don’t like Bathtub campaigns, scenarios, or rules. They break my simulation goals. It is easiest to explain using an example. If I use Crossfire as the tactical rules in a the Barbarossa 25 Campaign, then a stand represents a regiment but still behaves like a squad. In real warfare a regiment behaves nothing like a squad. Wargaming with stands as regiments requires an Operational Level Wargames Rules. Much as I love them, Crossfire are not operational. The same problem applies to Command Decision and Barbarossa 25. In Barbarossa 25 using CD a stand behaves like a platoon but represents a regiment. I don’t know CD but I understand it is very tactical in nature.
The other problem, for me, is that distance and area cannot be scaled at the same proportion. If you scale forces by 1/25th (ie 1 tank model representing of 25 real ones) then you have to choose whether to scale down distance or area and both options create a troop density problem:
- Distance: If you scale down the distances on the map by the same amount (1/25th), the area becomes tiny being 1/25th * 1/25th = 1/625th. The troop density for linear frontage is correct, but the troop density for area is too cramped. Much too cramped.
- Area: If you scale down the area of the map by the same amount (1/25th) the distances are only reduced by the square root, in this case i.e. 1/5th, i.e. square root of 1/25th. The troop density for area is correct, but the frontage of the unit is now much wider. The unit has to cover a frontage 5 times wider than it did before.