Wednesday, February 13, 2019

In wargaming and terrain its all a question of scale

I’ve always had a thing about the size of buildings on my battlefields. About 20 years ago I built a scale model of the battlefield at Waterloo at a scale of 1”:100 yards. I was using 6mm Adler figures, with 12 of them representing an infantry battalion and 6 for a cavalry regiment. I’d used balsa wood strips to make the buildings, which were placed on the board at ground scale. It’s fair to say both La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont were small. 

One of the players had 1/300 scale models he’d built and painted of both buildings. He suggested we use those instead. But they were huge, compared to the battlefield. You could have fit a division inside Hougoumont and I vetoed the idea immediately. I’d built the board - my rules! I used a similar process building a board for Aspern-Essling - at least there the buildings and villages were significantly less important. 

But when you look at the tabletop there are so many different scales and compromises. 
The first is figure scale, 20mm, 15mm, 6mm, 28mm or 3mm and more besides. I generally go for 6mm as it balances detail with size and cost and allows my to field loads of them on a table top. 
But does that figure represent 1, 5, 10, 50 soldiers or tanks? 

Ground scale comes next, I’m helping with a WW2 game that has a flexible ground scale but is essentially designed around 1”:50 yards/ metres or 1”:100 yards/ metres. We’re using 1/300 or 6mm figures. That makes the infantry at least 36 feet high (11m) and some tanks more than 50 feet high (16m) according to the ground scale. Infantry on a stand represent a platoon, tanks between 3 and 5 vehicles.

The trees I have are about 4cm high but I use Hexon boards on my tabletop and the slopes and hills are between 1cm and 2cm high. Using ground scale the hill tiers are fine at between 60 and 120 feet (18 - 36m). But that makes my trees 240 to 480 feet tall (70 -140m)! Alternatively taking a tree height as 60 feet a tier would be 15 feet or 5 yards/ metres high - a change that wouldn’t really be noticeable on the average battlefield. 
Figures 6mm, ground 1":50 yards, trees 4cm high, hill tiers 1cm, buildings 1:1000
I’m considering moving from individuals trees to a woodland canopy approach. That way I can represent woods that are about 2cm high and in scale with my ground scale and hill tiers. If it works out I’ll put up a post on it. 

I prefer aircraft at a different scale. I prefer 1/600 rather than 1/300. It means I can raise then on a reasonably high stand and they blend in with the troops on the ground. Aircraft are huge compared with tanks and infantry.
1/600 planes from Heriocs & Ros bring much needed reinforcements at Arnhem for 1/300 Paras
Then there’s the building scale - which is where I’ve been heading all along - the 1/300 buildings just don’t work for me. They are just too big and I can’t really get onboard 1 large building represents a village. Sorry to all my friends who do.
A German infantry battalion defends two barns, ermm I mean a village.
Equally representing buildings at ground scale loses a lot of aesthetics. If I’m building a scale model (I am working on Arnhem around the bridge at the moment but more on that in another post) I’ll pay more attention to that, but for my large scale 6mm games I’ve gone with 1:1000 buildings. 
Russian village from Brigade models based and painted by CtM
They are small enough that I can represent a village, but large enough that I can get some detail and features. There are a number of manufacturers producing models at this scale although I tend to use Brigade models. I’m basing them on modular bases which allows me the flexibility to vary the size shape and look of each village or town in each game. I certainly find that using the terrain from a scale or two below my figure scale works very well for the kind of large scale games I tend to play. 
Russian and German forces battle for control of the city and its two (different scale) bridges
So in my scales I'm all over the place! At the end of the day though it’s a question of personal taste, and scale. 

Enjoy your games

Charles the Modeller


  1. After 20 odd years going through a few permutations of depickting forrests my current version uses Coir doormats with woodlands scenics foam glued on top.

  2. Hi RAB thanks for the comment and link. That's exactly the kind of thing I'm considering doing. Watch this space, although I need to work on some pine trees for the Bulge first.


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