Build your own Anvil Battalion - TO&E generator

The recent discussion of how you’d organize a company of Iron happened to coincide with me finishing up an obsessive little side project I’ve been working on with extensive input from Chris Moeller, now available on the downloads page of the wiki. It’s an Excel worksheet that includes

(1) fixed company-level tables of organization & equipment (TO&E) for nine different types of units (Light Infantry, Armored Infantry, Scout, Cavalry, Tank, Iron, Artillery, Sapper, and Security)

(2) a calculator worksheet that automatically tells you the number of support troops (mechanics, medevac, staff officers, clerks, etc.) and vehicles required for any given number of companies of any given mix of types.

I urge everyone who’s been pondering what the heck your Circles and Affilitations buy you in Anvil terms, or who’s simply geeking out (like me) on Chris Moeller’s lavishly detailed military science fiction, to download this and play around with it.

And I welcome comments on both technical presentation (e.g. places where the Excel worksheets break) and, especially, the substance. Do you have questions about why I came up with the organizations I did? Do you think an Iron company should have tanks? Do you think a military police company needs two platoons of grav bikes instead of one? Do you think my head is so far up my *** that I can kiss my own pancreas? I’ll take everyone’s suggestions and comments, run them by Chris Moeller, and come out with a revised version at some point in the future.

Jesus man, this is some high-order geekery here. Its breaking my mind. Then again, Excel on its own is like the scary deep end for me.

Without looking at it too in-depth, I guess I’ve got a few questions…

How are you trying to deal with regional differences? The IE used to be a more monolithic culture, now divergent elements have vast structural differences. Are you working on a “minimum requirements” type basis? Or looking for the numbers that generate the best effectiveness? Or are you trying to capture Chris’ generic or baseline IE force?

(Actually, if they have Psychohistory down, and have discovered all Science, the science of military logistics is probably pretty highly developed, it’s just a matter of implementation by humans…)

Can you guys maybe talk about your sources for developing this? I’d be curious to hear what parallels with real history are happening here.

All artillery vehicles list fusors as their main weapons, rather than missile launchers for the SPAG-M. (It does have a missile launcher, right? Or am I misremembering?)

The Excel looks great, formatting works just fine in OpenOffice Calc.

If I were including light infantry in my low-index anvil battalion, I’d be using them to consolidate and hold ground (I’m assuming that as a Forged Lord with a low-index world at my command, I am also fielding Iron, armored infantry, and/or tank companies to serve as my vanguard). In that role, a mortar platoon would be enormously useful. If you’re broken out by squad or platoon to hold, say, strongpoints scattered around a city, or to dig in across a rugged landscape, or something of that nature, your heavy lasers are useful only to the extent that you have armored targets and you are able to place your weapons section to cover their approaches. Likewise, if my light infantry company were facing attack by superior forces (as it’s often likely to be), indirect fire would allow me to give them a bit of trouble without totally exposing my guys (yeah, counterbattery radar’s probably child’s play to an Iron avatar, but a mortar behind the next ridge is still a lot more survivable than a heavy laser behind a felled tree at the military crest of the ridge…) Obviously mortars are sub-index tech and a low-index force might well have something a little sexier.

I don’t know if you really want to crunch up your nice spreadsheet with optional platoons and so on, though, so just something to think about.

How are you trying to deal with regional differences? …Or are you trying to capture Chris’ generic or baseline IE force?

Hey Johnstone,

I’ll let Syd jump in on these, but this battalion cookbook is definitely the latter. There are uncountable variations from battalion to battalion, across the Iron Empires and even across one world, as different Anvil Lords put their personal stamp on their private armies.

The usefulness of this builder, for me, is that it can provide a man-by-man breakdown for a range of typical IE battalions. The billion variations are up to you to invent.


Cool beans, man. That’s what I figured.

Oh, I forgot about Tech Index differences. I guess that could be included in regional differences, though…

Johnstone, to expand on what Chris Moeller said, I’d think of this document in-game as a Hanrilke-era revision of classic Federated Era TO&Es: simplified, and accounting for a cruder technology (and culture – look at those Comfort Sections) but still idealized and relatively uniform compared to the reality of most feudal forces. This is what your typical Anvil Lord is trying to replicate.

Devin (Zabieru), excellent comment. Thank you. That’s exactly what I’m looking for both in technical fixes and in substance. I really overlooked indirect fire weapons in most of this, I realize. Now, the GIFVs – both as portrayed in Faith Conquers and as statted up in the Burning Empires brick (as “Anvil Assault Sleds”) – have both turreted fusors for line-of-sight fire and missiles for non-line-of-sight, so I’m saved from my own mistake there. Presumably the Grav Tanks have the same weapons mix. But the lighter units that don’t have such tanks or IFVs need some kind of organic indirect-fire capability to fill the gap between tossing a hand grenade and calling in frickin’ cruise missiles from a SPAG-M.

As for the actual organization of the units, I’m very much guided by Inside the Soviet Army, by “Victor Suvorov” (a pseudonym for a defector from GRU, Soviet military intelligence), Breaking the Phalanx, by Col. Douglas MacGregor (US Army, since retired), and the actual structure of the Army’s “Stryker” (wheeled armored vehicle) brigades and proposed “Future Combat System” brigade. Basically the combined-arms companies you see look very much like an old Soviet motor-rifle regiment or a new US Army brigade – the logic being that the level of organization expected to operate independently over long distances, and thus to be self-contained and self-supporting, has come down dramatically in modern history from corps to divisions to brigades already, and it’s likely to come down to individual companies in the future.

Thus most of the companies are built on a 3-1-1 scheme: three subunits (platoons) of whatever the company is mostly made of, one lighter and faster unit to scout ahead, and one heavier and slower unit – or at least a unit with a lot more infantry – to provide staying power. That’s very much what a Soviet motor-rifle regiment looked like (3 infantry battalions, 1 tank, 1 artillery) or an Army modular brigade (3 combined-arms companies, 1 recon, 1 indirect fires), just on a smaller scale.

Should be pretty easy to modernize the howitzer in the book to accept SCAre munitions or something similar.

I’m thinking of something more like the Army’s “rockets in a box” program, also called “NLOS-M” - non-line-of-sight missile – that basically is a bunch of smart missiles in a container you dump off the back of your humvee: someone inputs the target coordinates and, BOOMF, off they go.

[EDIT: In game terms, that’s probably a form of the SCreM].

Okay, wow, I downloaded and looked it over. There’s nothing “borderline” about this level of psychosis! Syd, you need help.

In all seriousness, I’m not sure what to do with it. I put numbers in one end and other numbers come out of the other end. Does this give us some sense of how many of a given troop or vehicle needs to be Circled/Resourced-up when you head off to wage war? Is it to provide some consistency in color when we start rattling off stats in the game?

I have to admit, when we had a big Firefight throwdown, it usually came down to “there’s more of them than you” and “oop, it looks like they have Anvil sleds.” All kind of fiat-y and off-the cuff.

So, in the immortal words of knik, “I don’t get it.” Help me get it!


It’s not “useful” in game terms, Paul. Unless you want to see what the tank driver you circled up is carrying. Or what kind of vehicles your Battalion is fielding (assuming you don’t want to just make it up on the spur of the moment). It’s background. It helps create immersion for a certain anal-retentive type of player (yours truly for example).

It’s like having a really beautiful map, complete with “the oak tree behind the miller’s pond”. Or a complete family tree of the royal family. It lends a little bit of background consistency to the free-wheeling rpg experience. A feeling that there’s some there there. That you’re not just making up Null-zero-blaster-beams and pretending they make sense.


Right on, that’s the best way to put it.

@Paul: Heheh, if you never have problems with troop numbers or compositions in your game, then this is unnecessary. It serves the same purpose as the real thing would for a historical game.

“Let’s play Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan!”

“Rock! Are we tank guys?”

“Yeah! Umm… I have no idea what a Soviet tank platoon looks like…”

And then you look it up, so you can start telling the story with some semblance of “realism.”

So its just like any other reference material for your game. If you can just make it up and everybody at the table buys into it, go with that. But if you have somebody looking at his character sheet, wondering exactly what is “a well-trained or elite force comprised of anvil trained, anvil elite and iron trained forces,” you can pull this file out for them.

Plus, y’know, Sydney wants to share his geek stuff with more geeks than just Chris, right?

EDIT: Also, what Chris said.

Heh. I gladly confess that I got my geek on first and came up with justifications later. Chris has generously let me play around fleshing out some of the military stuff in his universe, starting with the Hussars, and we’re enjoying ourselves. We hope our military SF geeks will enjoy it too.

Plus there are some “Easter Eggs” hidden in those org charts – things that, like the color traits in the Character Burner lifepaths, give you hints as to what the Iron Empires universe is like, beyond the purely military details: “Chaplain-Commissar” – “Comfort Assets” – a “Civil Affairs Specialist” equipped with an “Interrogation Kit.”

The more good commentary I get from y’all, the better I can make this thing, albeit only better at being the kind of geeky thing it inherently is. I’m also very open to suggestions as to the next area I should start geeking up something on for Chris Moeller approval.

So are you going to do one for Hammer assets?


I know Chris Moeller played around with a Hammer starship-building spreadsheet at one point. In the modern day, a given class of ship is a very standardized thing, but there are relatively few ships of many classes, and they aren’t grouped into highly standardized organizations – whereas armies have fewer different kinds of vehicles but many more of them, organized into large, fixed units. Since the Iron Empires are basically modern-meets-medieval, in space, I’d expect a Hammer generator to be similarly different from this Anvil generator. It’s a fascinating geekery to contemplate.

Hammer designs… good god, that’s got to represent maybe one third of the last sixteen years of my life. And it all sucks with holes you can drive a truck through. I realize I’m not an engineer, with an engineer’s patience for… engineering. That said, some of it’s A++ Geekery. I actually have a folder called “Jane’s Starships”. Gawd.


::nods sympathetically::
::taps foot impatiently::

And? You two geniuses came up with this madness, you can’t stop now!

Holy cow! Don’t you people sleep?! Go for one mountain bike ride to beat the snowstorm coming in this afternoon and I come back to this! Awesome!

I’ve got to get through Sydney’s spreadsheet, so I’ll save comment on it, but wanted to get some thoughts out on what I’m thinking/envisioning.

Since Chris Moeller makes it quite clear the Iron Empires are a universe at war, military organization is going to have effects far beyond just the units into society via the Lords Hammer and Anvil. So, for internal consistency and some cool color, knowing what a unit has is important. It is also important in the canon. (I’m a historian, so I stick with the sources!) Trevor Faith is continually considering military units, what their organizations are, and so forth. Knowing CHOT’s line companies were “dirt” and only one was at the Temple with just two platoons of iron was crucial to his battle plan in Faith Conquers.

I envision in the Iron Empires that there is a Federation version of Vegetius’ De Re Militari (online here), which was read by almost every medieval warlord (although rarely followed). This manual, let’s call it Federal Field Manual 1 (FFM 1), has everything; how to organize an army, what you need to dig in a company, how to embark a force, etc. (Hammer would have an equivalent, say, Federation Space Doctrine 1 (FSD 1).) Due to the innate conservatism of the Iron Empires, FFM 1 is followed closely, whenever possible. Also, standardization is crucial for interstellar empires; if you need to move an anvil battalion off-planet, you need a top-end number for planning the number of berths and the cube necessary for vehicles and equipment, else you will have a disaster. (As my company’s embark officer during the Gulf War I helped embark not only my battalion, but the entire 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade–no sleep for three days!)

Two final thoughts on staffs and basic organization:

Staying with the idea of IE as A Distant Mirror (the book that made me decide to become a historian) in space, I don’t see Hammer or Anvil units (ie battalions and wings) as having an extensive staff or support organization since they are able to tap into civil society via their Lord to an extent much greater than today. Need more maintenance, use the lords’ mechanics; need intelligence, go to the lord’s psychologist; need money, see his financier. An Anvil Lord would only heed a few staffers to fill critical functions; with several close Lord Pilot companions, the Lord Anvil would assume direct command of his battalion only when necessary.

This means ranks would top out at “Captain,” meaning as it did in medieval times, any commander of an organized body of troops, with Lieutenants as assistants. Any rank above this (major, lt col, col) would be a Lord Pilot or Lord, who would rely on his (or her in the case of Lady Sheva) noble rank for command authority. Generals, Marshalls, Admirals, do exist, but are only awarded by the emperor.

Lastly, I think any organization in IE has to work bottom-up. I see the squad as the basic organization, with the ability to organize into teams for specific missions (with the necessary specialists) and having an “arms room” with the necessary weapons for a variety of tasks. The current-world’s TO&Es are based on draftees, so have many specialized platoons and even companies. With the long-serving Anvil soldiers, this would not be as necessary.

Okay, rambling, spandex is starting to cloy, need to eat, but this is fun!


Thanks, Lance. (Also, folks: Lance came up with a really interesting mini-mechanic for fleshing out what, say “2D Affiliation - Anvil” actually means in terms of troops, complete with the capacity to trade off higher skill exponents for better equipment and so on. I’d love to try to blend my TO&Es with his rules at some point).

To take exception to a substantive comment, though:

I don’t see Hammer or Anvil units (ie battalions and wings) as having an extensive staff or support organization since they are able to tap into civil society via their Lord to an extent much greater than today. Need more maintenance, use the lords’ mechanics; need intelligence, go to the lord’s psychologist; need money, see his financier. An Anvil Lord would only heed a few staffers to fill critical functions; with several close Lord Pilot companions, the Lord Anvil would assume direct command of his battalion only when necessary.

Remember, though, Lance, that an Anvil lord needs to be able to send forces off-world, and entirely out of the system for that matter, in response to a liege lord’s muster – in other words, Anvil units need to come deployable packages. And since nobody trusts anybody in the Iron Empires, for very good reason, each lord is likely to insist on his own self-sufficient logistics – inefficient, of course, but resistant to the inevitable treachery and incompetence.

So I put together my TO&E to assume a fairly high degree of organic maintenance/repair, transport, administrative support (pay and shares of plunder), and even morale services (“Comfort Section”) capable of deploying via starship.

Now, that said, all the functions that a modern, Western country are taken care of by non-deployable units, fixed bases, and Ministry / Department of Defense organizations would indeed be simply part of the Lord’s court, blended indistinguishably with civil governance. The same treasurer (and subordinate clerks) would handle buying new armored grav sleds for the battalion and buying luxurious finishings for the lord’s palace; the same taskmasters who drum up serf labor to work on expanding the palace would drum up conscripts for the infantry and draft guildsmen for the technical branches; and so on. At that significantly higher level, your point holds true.

Okay, had a chance to digest and I think I’m ready.

I love the idea of a TO&E generator to provide lots of detail for those that want it and lots of color for everyone else. I think the company as a primary unit also makes sense. I’m afraid there is just too much here!

I’d focus down to three types of Anvil companies: Infantry (Iron and Armored Infantry), Cavalry, and Armored. (I see light infantry, artillery, security and artillery as planetary force units, not anvil.)

Some standard battalion organizations would also help, say Class C Battalion: 1 Iron Infantry Company, 2 Armored Infantry Companies, Class B: 1 Iron Infantry Company, 2 Armored Infantry Companies, and 1 Cavalry Company; and Class A: 2 Iron Infantry Companies, 4 Armored Infantry Companies, 1 Cavalry Company, and 1 Armored Company.

Inside each company I’d emphasize those elements player characters are most likely to interface with: Company Headquarters and Squads, say 1 HQ and 9 squads per company. (From my reading of Faith Conquers and Sheva’s War it appears the platoon is not a standard organization in IE units, task-organized for missions, but not standing.] This also fits with the Late Medieval in Space feel I love about BE.

Company Headquarters should focus on the X-O with one Lieutenant, both long-serving, non-noble Anvil officers, crusty, promoted from the ranks who run the company when its Lord-Pilot captain isn’t present, which may be most of the time as social and feudal obligations will keep him away.

The Squad would be based off the standard small unit mentioned in BE with a squad leader and an assistant, a squad support weapon specialist, medic, signals tech, and soldiers, for 10 total.

I also like the BASE idea, but, again, with a more stripped down, more medieval feel, say an X-O (a non-noble Anvil Captain who has been a company commander) to run the battalion in the Lord Anvil’s many absences, an Adjutant to handle the personnel resources of the battalion, a Quartermaster for the material resources, and a Propagandist for signals and information operations. The battalion staff would interface with the Lord Anvil’s household for much of its needs.

I’m getting some notes together, would be happy to share.

Oops, my forum-fu is not that good, missed this before I finished my post above. Sydney makes a good point:

Agreed, and trust me I learned about having your own organic support unit the hard way, sending my company gunny off to, um, ‘borrow’ parts in a place that will remain nameless, but I, and I emphasize me, want to strip it down more to prevent non-to&e geeks’ eyes glazing over and give it want a more ‘medievally’ feel!