With the current discussions regarding figure scales, and the row in some quarters about the rechristening of 25mm as 28mm, I was interested to come across the following on the Bacchus 6mm website. My personal view on scales is fairly well known, I feel that the larger the strategic gaming the smaller scale should be used. So as I fight divisional size Peninsular War games I am happy to use 15mm. For company size French Indian Wars I use 28mm. I recently sold my 15mm ACW, and have decided that I will slowly build up two armies in 6mm, as I remember years and years ago refighting Ist Bull Run using Minifigs 5mm blocks, and it was superb!
Peter Berry, the proprietor of Bacchus and the author of the following article has some thought provoking things to say regarding scales, and I hope you enjoy reading them. And I look forward to reading your views on the issue.
Size does Matter!
Why YOU should use 6mm figures.
Right, now I've got you captive on my web page I can attempt to bombard you with lots of propaganda about using little soldiers. Why do I have to do this? Well, consider it as my small way of fighting back against all those articles in wargaming magazines that tell you how to start wargaming and how to choose scales and that contain comments like:
"6mm scale is very good for microarmour games but for real wargaming you must use 15mm or 25mm figures."
"6mm offers a cheap alternative, but the figures cannot have the design quality of properly sized miniatures."
"6mm figures lack the visual appeal of 15mm figures."
"The advantage of 6mm figures is that they are so small that they can be used for anything across different wargames periods."
(Bitter? Not I!)
In other words, most wargames articles are written by people who use larger scale armies habitually and have no idea of the quality of design, range availability and ease of use of small scale figures.
(Time to redress the balance, Methinks.)
If you have stumbled across this polemic you are:
Reading this because you like 6mm as a scale and agree with every word I say,
You have found the mention of wargames on a browser, and have no idea of what I am talking about, and would as much consider using a 6mm wargames army as sticking your head into a kitchen blender.
To the latter reader, may I say, 'read on!'. What I write may offend, upset or plain turn you off, but you might just find something of interest, and it should at least be entertaining. If you agree with just three of the points I make in the piece I challenge you to dip your toes into smaller scale wargaming, and try for yourself.
A Question and a History lesson
'Why are modern wargames dominated by 25mm and 15mm scales? '
Is it because these are the natural sizes for toy soldiers?
Is it because no other size has the unique advantages offered by these scales?
Is it because they are convenient and easy to use?
The answer lies in model railways.
Wargaming is a relative newcomer as a mass hobby, H G Wells and the Prussian general staff excepted, because warfare has not been seen as a viable leisure interest. On the other hand, celebrating the triumphs of civil engineering and a fascination with smelly, dirty, noisy and apparently romantic steam trains has been, and is still, the basis of a hugely popular modelling industry. When Airfix began to release its seminal ranges of military subjects in the 1960's, it did so in the scale that it was most familiar with - the infamous HO/OO scale, acceptable to railway modellers. These figures were anywhere between 20mm-25mm in size and became the backbone of the armies of that stalwart band of pioneer wargamers in the 1960's. Naturally when a nascent metal soldier manufacturing industry began, it followed precedent and we saw companies such as Garrison, Jacklex, Minfigs and Hinchliffe all producing 20mm to 25mm figures so as to complement the existing market. The tyranny had begun....
As wargaming expanded in the 1970's 15mm began to appear as an alternative to the increasingly expensive 25mm scale. Wargamers saw them a means of getting cheaper figures that were easier to paint and offered the opportunity to buy mass armies. Unfortunately for them it hasn't quite worked out that way.
While all this was happening, the first evidence of a smaller, more flexible, more dynamic form of life made its appearance, with the advent of micro wargaming using tanks. Now, I had always considered tankies and armour fetishists to be a bit weird, but if you think about it they were the first ones to latch on to 1/300th wargaming realising that it offered the chance to fight big battles at realistic scale ranges with lots of models that were not too expensive to buy in quantity and were quick and easy to paint. Perhaps tankies should be conceded as having more up in their cupolas than I had previously thought. However, despite the best effort of Heroics and Ros, the scale was slow to catch on, and 25mm and 15mm figure manufactures grew in numbers and popularity.
To bring us up to date.
As the years have progressed there have been two main developments with larger scale figures:
The quality of design and detail in both scales has increased beyond all recognition. The detail and animation on Foundry figures and on products from new companies like those from Gripping Beast are incredible.
In order to accommodate the extra detail, figures have grown bigger in size and bulk. 25mm really means a minimum of 30mm, while 15mm figures are topping out around 20mm.
A fascinating symptom of all this is the adoption of the '28mm' figure. In the good old days, the 25mm standard was used by most. As the heavy and thickset style of figures produced by Games Workshop and followed by Wargames Foundry came in vogue, it became a little ludicrous to call a casting standing 32mm tall a '25mm' figure. So, instead of coming clean and admitting that 30mm scale was the new standard, it was decided to call these giants '28mm' scale. Now its no more accurate to call them 28mm as 25mm, but I suppose it dupes the buyer into thinking that they are not really that far oversized.
(Back in the 1980's the British government renamed the rather leaky nuclear facility at Windscale. It became transformed into Sellafield and we were all supposed to believe that changing its name made it more acceptable and less leaky. Now the general UK populace wasn't really fooled by this name change, but wargamers seem to have accepted 28mm as an accepted fact. When one person on a Newsgroup tried to to describe them more accurately as 30mm figures he was called a pedant and laughed out of court.
I'm afraid changing a name still doesn't change a nature, and I'm obviously in a minority in the wargames population, as evidenced by my crazed interest in very small soldiers. But I digress.)
There are no real problems with increasing the size so long as everyone is doing it. But, remember that increased bulk means increased mass, means increased weight and increased cost. It is a very fortunate person who can go and buy an entire army at one go. We are sold the increased cost on the grounds of the increased quality. Unfortunately very few of us can really do the superb sculpting the justice it deserves when it comes to wielding our paint brushes.
The increased cost also manifests itself in how we wargame. One of the main selling points of DBA was that you didn't need to use a lot of figures to make an army. Fine, but the sight of a DBA game played with 25mm figures is ludicrous. Similarly Fire and Fury have swept all before them, but once again you can reach the ridiculous heights of having a dozen figures represent a whole Brigade!
Another manifestation of this is in rule sets like the Warhammer series in which increased emphasis is placed on individual figures as they are given special characteristics, rendering the game more like a big skirmish than a battle.
The result of this reduction in numbers of figures is to make us put more effort into what we have got. Hence we go to ridiculous lengths to emulate the beautifully painted figures in the glossy wargames magazines and lavish care and attention on painting and detailing and basing. There has emerged a new culture, whereby wargamers no longer produce colourful and interesting counters for wargames, but miniature dioramas for photo opportunities. We are becoming Military Modellers, not Wargamers.
Does it matter, and why does the use of small scale figures make a difference?
I admit it...no amount of words from me will change the opinion of the affluent wargamer with a long established collection of thousands of 25mm figures who has a permanent wargames room in which to store them, or has a extensive club premises. In the real world, most of us have to find storage space competing with the kid's toys, have three hours to play a game one evening a week, and have to transport our little warriors around. To the second group may I address the following:
Small scale figures are a lot cheaper than bigger ones. I could increase my prices by 50% and you would still find them cheaper weight for weight than the most 25mm products.
6mm figures offer acceptable entry costs for the newcomer to the hobby or new period.
6mm figures are much, much easier to paint in large quantities than either 15mm or 25mm equivalents. See my painting guide to find out how, but trust me on this one.
Even lots and lots of 6mm figures weigh much less than big toy soldiers. They are therefore much easier to lug around and suffer less damage when dropped or when your carrying case gets stood on its end by your partner.
6mm figures take up far less room and are easier to store.
Using 6mm figures properly gives you far better battlefield presentation than larger scale figures.
To elaborate on that final point.
I have already touched upon the fact that most people cannot afford large numbers of 25mm figures, so armies become smaller representing larger numbers of actual men. If a wargamer chooses to use 15mm figures the tendency is to use 25mm thinking and just use a similar number of 15mm figures, but on smaller bases and with reduced move distance and ranges. The problem comes when that logic is applied, as it all too often is, to the use of 6mm figures. Of course small scales cannot compete on these terms. The answer is to use some lateral thinking.
There are lots of good rules out there for use with 25mm figures using solid mechanisms and units of measurement that do not rely upon a micrometer to establish. The answer is to use their base sizes and ground scales, but with 6mm figures.
Let me show you how. I will use the example of quite simply the best ECW wargames rules available on the market - Forlorn Hope published by Partizan Press. (Yes, I am biased, I wrote them, but this is my soapbox remember!). I wrote these some years ago for use with 25mm figures and it shows.
This is what I do now.
Each infantryman is supposed to be mounted on a 20mm square base and represents approximately 33 men. A large regiment of one thousand men is therefore represented by thirty figures. Casualty removal is by whole figures - two Hits = two figures removed.
Using 6mm figures we retain the 20mm square base. We replace the lone 25mm figure, (cost £0.70) with three Baccus 6mm figure strips totalling twelve miniatures in three ranks, (cost £0.42). The regiment of one thousand men is now represented by three hundred and sixty figures and really does look the business. Figure removal is done by taking off one base of figures. Movement and measurement is done in inches.
Horse similarly sees one mounted figure, (cost £1.50) replaced by three strips of Baccus figures (cost £0.78).
You get battles which look like battles as opposed to skirmishes, you get the advantage of easy to use, tried and tested rules and at a third saving of the cost of equivalent big figures.
Similarly I play Fire and Fury games with eight 6mm figures replacing one 25mm figure. The result is long lines of infantry and massed attacks that look like massed attacks, and in this case at half the cost of using big'uns.
The reduction in the relationship between figure size to ground scale also enables us to make more informed judgements as to realistic table top ranges.
If you have a unit of 25mm javelinmen each representing say 50 men, you may think that a reasonable weapon range is 100mm - four inches.
Now, replace those 25mm figures but occupy the same the area with 6mm figures and you quickly realise that 100mm would see them all throwing their javelins further than Olympic athletes!
Lots of rule writers (myself included) have been suckered into allowing their judgement to be affected by the size of their toys, not what they those toys are actually supposed to represent.
A pleasant side effect of all of you appreciating the quality and truth of my arguments is of course that I move more metal to customers. However, I do believe that you, as a gamer get cheaper armies, a much more spectacular gaming experience, more realistic looking battles, armies which are quick to paint and use, a release from the tyranny of painting eyelashes and dental fillings on figures and an opportunity to have more fun in your hobby. Fair exchange to my way of thinking!
Comments, abuse, enquiries, reasoned arguments as to how wrong I can possibly be and any other verbiage can be addressed to me through e-mail, email@example.com, fax, or letter.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Think Big and buy small!
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