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"Explaining WW2 Rules by Scale and Basing" Topic

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Mick in Switzerland13 Nov 2017 12:51 p.m. PST

As many of you know, I am writing a book about painting WW2 figures.

One aspect that I am struggling with is to explain why choosing a game is important, when deciding the scale of figures and the basing.
I started by describing a few popular games and found that it was very repetitive and confusing.

Please can you help me to give some general advice and highlight popular games?

I want to group games by type and typical figure scale.

Squad Level Skirmish
Usually infantry only combat involving less than 20 figures per side and no vehicles. These are typically played with 28mm figures on a table 120cm x 120cm. Figures are usually based individually on 25mm circles.
•   Nuts

Platoon Level Skirmish
Usually infantry combat involving less than 40 figures per side and one or two vehicles. These are typically played with 28mm figures on a table 120cm x 120cm. Figures are usually based individually on 25mm circles. Heavy weapons and artillery are often based as a weapon with crew.
•   Bolt Action
•   Chain of Command
•   Crossfire

Regimental and Battalion Level Battles
Combat with more than 100 figures per side and several vehicles. These are typically played with 20mm figures on a table 120cm x 120cm. Figures are often grouped two or three to a base but individual basing on 20mm circles also works.  Each figure represents 20 men.
•   Rapid Fire
•   Battlegroup   

Battalion Level Battles
Combat with more than 100 figures per side and several groups vehicles. These are typically played with 15mm figures on a table 120cm x 120cm. Figures are often grouped four or five to a base.  Each figure represents 20 men.
•   Flames of War

I want to include other popular games like – I ain't been shot mum, Troops Weapons & Tactics etc


Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP13 Nov 2017 1:05 p.m. PST

I think WWII rules don't usually state what one man equals except 1=1 skirmish. Rather, they describe stands equally certain formations.
So, 1 stand = fire team or squad or platoon or company.

FOW is 1 stand = squad, as do Battlefront WWII (from F&F) and IABSM .
BKC and Spearhead are 1 stand = platoon.

biturian varosh13 Nov 2017 1:10 p.m. PST

Battlegroup is 1 figure = 1 man.

Thomas Thomas13 Nov 2017 2:01 p.m. PST

FOW, Battlegroup – 1 Tank = 1 tank; 1 man = 1 man (in the case of FOW – theoritcally).

Command Decision, Combat Command, Rapid Fire – 1 tank = a platoon (5 or so), 1 Stand of INF = a platoon (30-40) [in the case of Rapid Fire a think 1 figure = 15 guys.]

Thomas J. Thomas
Fame and Glory Games

Lion in the Stars13 Nov 2017 2:02 p.m. PST

Flames of War is 1 figure = 1 man, two or three stands per squad. You push groups of stands around in platoons.

I usually describe Flames of War as a reinforced company to battalion per side.

MajorB13 Nov 2017 2:35 p.m. PST

Operational Level Battles
where 1 base is a battalion
e.g. Megablitz

Pizzagrenadier13 Nov 2017 3:06 p.m. PST

Disposable Heroes II is platoon level, but with a different approach than others of the same level. It is based on the table being a platoon attack frontage, so a platoon and support in attack faces a squad and support in defense. Few other sets define this as a major part of the design of the rules system, most being content in being platoon on platoon slug fests. Everything is built around that core idea and it ends up producing a game that plays much differently than most of the others on that list.

SBminisguy13 Nov 2017 4:15 p.m. PST

Or divisional level, like Panzer Corps, each stand is a company and the base maneuver unit is a battalion.

deephorse13 Nov 2017 4:23 p.m. PST

For me you've failed to explain why writing a book about painting WWII figures would involve wargaming. Wargaming WWII would certainly involve painting figures, but the reverse is far from the case. And I think that the few replies so far have readily indicated that this could be quite complicated to explain to a novice. So I wish you the best of luck in your endeavour!

gamershs Supporting Member of TMP13 Nov 2017 5:01 p.m. PST

You seem to have missed 6mm (1/285 1/300 scale). This scale allows for Bn/Regiment level battles with each vehicle represented and each infantry stand representing section/squad with heavy weapons on separate stands. More importantly the terrain can actually give maneuver room so you can have farms, towns, villages and cities that look more realistic.

Now there is 2mm scale which I will not comment on since I can barely see it.

Griefbringer14 Nov 2017 3:06 a.m. PST

You might also want to be careful with the term "level", since it tends to be used in a variety of ways by different authors, such as:

- Command level: the overall size of a force that player is expected to command in a typical game (of course in practice some players will try to forces much larger than this)
- Maneuver level: the size of a smallest force that is able to maneuver independently on the tabletop
- Basing level: the size of a force represented by an individual base

Thus for example Spearhead could be variously described as divisional level (command level), battalion level (maneuver level) or platoon level (basing level) game.

Mick in Switzerland14 Nov 2017 3:16 a.m. PST

Thank-you for the contributions so far. Here is a bit more to describe the context to help describe the problem.

The book is about painting WW2 German figures. It is mostly intended for painters and provides advice on building figures and painting them. It covers 10mm to 54mm figures with the main emphasis on painting 28mm and 20mm figures for wargames.

The games section is in the planning chapter. The purpose is to help people decide what size of figures to buy and how to base them. Some of the readers will be new to the hobby so I want to lead them along the decision path. The aim is to help them avoid the wasted efffort of buying & painting something that will be irrelevant to the games that they later start to play.

I want to avoid saying that every ruleset can be played with 28mm or 20mm or 15mm figures on any size of table. Although it may be true, it does not add any value to the process and only increases confusion. I am not trying to sell one set of rules over another one, but I do want to mention a few popular sets. I saw a list of about 100 different WW2 rulesets so I am definitely not going to attempt to describe everything. On the other hand, I don't want to only describe Bolt Action and Flames of War.

I am having difficulty with this section of the book. The problem is that if you start by describing the rules, then you get into "but it can also be played with any size of figures on any size of table". Then you describe the next set of rules and repeat the same description. By the third set of rules, the text is the same and the advice is worthless.

With 28mm, I think most people base individually on 25mm circles so that is easy. Similarly, 20mm is usually 20mm circles. 15mm is also quite easy (I think) as most people follow FOW basing. After that it gets very complicated.

I am very happy to adjust the categories if you have a better idea.



GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Nov 2017 3:24 a.m. PST

Personally I'd forget doing it that way, concentrate on painting and leave the rest. By the time you get the book on the shelves it is quite feasible that those 'popular' rules have been replaced by other sets.

I have never quite understood why some players want highly detailed and accurate paint jobs but then play with unrealistic rules.

Fred Cartwright14 Nov 2017 4:23 a.m. PST

As far as basing is concerned there are a number of levels.
Individual figures, although some people base heavy weapon teams on the same base and use markers to keep track of casualties. Used by rules like CoC or Bolt Action.
Fire team basing with 2 or 3 bases to a squad. Used by FOW and PBI.
Squad basing where 1 base is a squad. Used by Crossfire.
Platoon basing with 1 base to a platoon. Used by Command Desicion and Spearhead.
Company level basing with 1 base to a company. Used by grand tactical rules like Great Battles of WW2 and Panzer Korps.
Battalion basing with 1 base to a battalion. Used by operational level rules like Megablitz or Rommel.
Then there is the overall command level. That is the total level of force the player has under his command.
For CoC and Bolt Action it is a platoon.
FOW, PBI and Crossfire it is Company although some people run Crossfire up to a battalion a side.
Command Desicion is a battalion a side, although many players go higher to regiment/Brigade.
Spearhead is a division a side, again some players go higher.
Great Battles of WW2 and Panzer Korps go up to corps level.
Megablitz and Rommel will take you up to army level.

4th Cuirassier14 Nov 2017 4:31 a.m. PST

I would echo what Gildas just said – this bit of your book will date very quickly and rapidly cease to be of great value, apart from what you suggest about basing techniques.

The main question for most people is "who might I be playing against?" and that tells you what figure scale and rules you'll be using. You can insist on something else but the chances are it'll be just you who's playing. So the simplest thing is to find that out first and then start painting.

I "do" WW2 in 54mm but "do" in a very narrow sense; my late father found my old Airfix 1/32 in the loft a few years ago and I have been acquiring stuff to go with them, but I don't really have an opponent since my brother died. So I buy and paint with no real expectation of a game with anyone any time soon. I just really, really like vintage Airfix 1/32 sculpting, and in fact I think they are the best-animated and best-designed wargame miniatures ever produced, full stop. I also love vintage Monogram tank kits for their working parts and simplicity. There are I suspect others who simply buy figures that they like and rationalise them for wargames ex post without much prospect of a game with them.

Incidentally, for Crossfire, figures are based on square bases that contain a section, or on rectangles half of that size that contain a command element. Base size is important chiefly inasmuch as the rules express distances in terms of base-widths. So you don't need a ruler, or more precisely you don't need one on the table. You do need bases to be the same size (even though it doesn't matter what exactly that is) so you need your ruler when making the bases to begin with.

The only bit of base-related advice that I'm really evangelical about is that over-based figures look stupid. The base is mostly just a thing for moving troops around and should be as unobtrusive as possible consistent with that game function. Ideally it would all but disappear visually. Otherwise, it detracts from the figures, and wastes the effort you put in there. By analogy, if you go to an art gallery and all you notice is the frames the pictures are in, would you consider the curator had done the painters a service or would you think there is a problem?

Andy ONeill14 Nov 2017 7:34 a.m. PST

I think the choice of rules is almost irrelevant.
Scale choice factors are:
Opponents preferences.
Available space
Personal view on aeathetics

You need to pick a rule set somewhere along the line but the majority should just go with whoever they will play. Find opponents and venue first.

williamb14 Nov 2017 9:09 a.m. PST

2mm, 3mm, 6mm(1/285 or 1/300) and 10mm scales seem to have been left out. Fred Cartwright's post is a good summary of bases.

28mm Fanatik14 Nov 2017 9:16 a.m. PST

People either a) pick a ruleset they like (or think they will like after doing their research) and go with the popular scale for the ruleset so that they can maximize the number of opponents they play against or b) pick a figure scale they prefer and find a popular ruleset for that scale. Some gamers play multiple scales with multiple rulesets. Some people only like 1:1 games where one figure is one man while others prefer higher level games in which a stand of figures represent a squad, platoon, company, battalion or even larger formations.

When someone picks a popular ruleset the scale and basing method are pretty much decided for them. Only the more obscure rules are open-ended when it comes to scale.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP14 Nov 2017 9:41 a.m. PST

I've always preferred the 1 Stand = 1 Platoon games, organised by Combat Commands/Battlegroups.

Counting heads and doing figure ratios doesn't work out particularly well above the skirmish level for this period.

UshCha14 Nov 2017 11:24 a.m. PST

I think you premise is not useful. Wargames base size is set by either the figure size or the game size. It is not unknown for folk to play a game with an alternate figure size. It's probably more important to define apparent view wing size. What range do you want your figure to look at its best. A 15 figure at its best at 4 ft will need exaggerated contrast compared to say a 54 mm figure. A 15mm figure painted for view at 6" will look poor at 4 ft as the fine detail will blur and just show as a blob.

deephorse14 Nov 2017 11:41 a.m. PST

In my experience the rules will suggest what size of figures will suit them, and they will suggest base sizes accordingly. As for table size that is usually determined by any scenario that is being played. Again, my experience is that people will pick a set of rules thst they like the feel of, and then pick the figures etc. to suit.

I'd stick to producing a work that helps people to paint better figures and ditch the wargaming aspect because that's a whole book in itself. In fact I already own a few books like that and I wonder what the market is like for one that is neither fish nor fowl?

Mick in Switzerland14 Nov 2017 11:54 a.m. PST

Thank-you everybody.

@ Fred – your post is very helpful. I had not thought of it in that way.

It looks like my idea does not work. So far, I have gone back to the following general advice…

"It is important to select a base that will work with your chosen wargames rules.

Individual 28mm figures on round 25mm bases are used in many skirmish games. Also for 28mm figures, 20mm and 25mm square bases are used in mass battle games where troops are in large close order units. 28mm cavalry are often mounted on 25mm x 50mm rectangles or sometimes on 40mm round bases.

Individual 20mm figures are often mounted on 20mm diameter circles. Sometimes figures are mounted in groups of two to four on rectangular bases to represent a squad or even a platoon.

15mm, 10mm and 6mm figures are usually mounted in groups of three or four figures on rectangular or square bases. These can represent a squad, a platoon, a company or even a regiment according to the definition of the game."

I would like to explain popular rules but need to think about how to do it.

Mark 114 Nov 2017 4:13 p.m. PST


I understand the thinking of several of the posters who have questioned your approach. But I do think there is room for what you are writing. In my consideration I try to transport myself back to my early days in the hobby, when I could have derived great benefit from reading a book (or pamphlet or magazine or website or whatever) that could bring me up to speed on how it all worked.

I find less value now, with (mumble-mumble) years of experience in the hobby. Trying to bend your topic to what I think NOW doesn't help you much, as I am less likely to be a buyer anyways (unless you prove to write a very useful reference for painting very small scales).

As a survey of games and game scales, I find some of the comments to be very important. Perhaps in Napoleonics we could look and say "1 figure = 20 men". I think that's meaningless in WW2 gaming. It needs to be translated into unit organizations.

Neophyte readers won't understand squad- or platoon-level skirmish vs. battalion- or division-level maneuver gaming, if they don't understand squads, platoons, companies (which you left out), battalions, regiments, brigades, and divisions. The basing makes more sense when you first set the structures, then apply the figure-scaling to that structure.

As others have mentioned, most WW2 games do not set a standard of how many men are represented by what figure, but rather what level of the structure is represented by a stand. Individual figures vs. fire-team stands vs. squad-stands vs. platoon-stands are what you will usually find in the rules. The rules often suggest some number of figures per stand, but usually just as a range (ie: "The platoon is represented by a stand, generally with 5 to 8 figures." Depending on how many figures you choose, and what nation's platoon you are building, that might mean 1 figure represents 4 men or 9 men.

Just my thoughts.

(aka: Mk 1)

uglyfatbloke14 Nov 2017 4:32 p.m. PST

4th Cuirassier….I do hope you find an opponent; e play with 54/1:32 based for Crossfire and it's a lot of fun.

Mick in Switzerland15 Nov 2017 2:37 a.m. PST


I will still try to write something to explain types of games because I do think it is relevant. I just have not found a simple and clear explanation method yet.

I will probably base it on the table here which explains fireteam, squad, platoon, company, batallion etc

Best Regards


Mick in Switzerland15 Nov 2017 8:58 a.m. PST

Does this make sense?

"Many games are described using military organisational terms such as squad, platoon, company, battalion et. Here is a very rough guide to the terms and their implications in terms of size of the force.

Fire team – This is a modern term for 3-4 soldiers working together. The US Army introduced the concept late in WW2. At the start of WW2, armies had a squad as the lowest building block.
Squad – A German army squad was 13 men in 1939 but this reduced to 10 in 1940.
Platoon – A platoon or "Zug" was three squads plus machine gun support, so a platoon was 43 men in 1939 reducing to 34 later.
Company – An infantry company was three platoons plus mortar and machine gun support, logistics and command groups. A company was 154 to 181 men.
Battalion – Three companies plus Support and command is an battalion. An infantry battalion was 660 to 741 men
Regiment – Three battalions plus support and command. A regiment was circa 2,000 to 2,500 men
Brigade – Two or more regiments can join to form a brigade.
Division – Several infantry regiments plus tanks and artillery joined together form a division. A division in WW2 was circa 20,000 – 25,000 men.
Corps – Two or more Divisions could be combined to form a Corps of 50,000 men or more.
Army- A field army is a combination of two or more corps. Therefore, an army implies 100,000 to 125,000 men.
Army Group- Two or more Armies form an Army Group. This was at least 250,000 men. At any one time during WW2, the Germans were organised into at least 10 Army Groups."



williamb15 Nov 2017 10:37 a.m. PST

Some additional notes on terms for units.

Companies were sometimes called troops (US cavalry formations) or squadrons (British armor formed from cavalry regiments). An artillery company was often called a battery.

In the US army a cavalry (recon) battalion was referred to as a Squadron.

The British usually had their divisions organized with brigades composed of individual battalions, which in the case of units formed from the cavalry were called regiments. A regiment in the British army could have one or more battalions, not all of which would be in the same brigade or division.

The Germans and the Russians used both brigades and regiments to refer to similar sized formations of several battalions. During the early war German Panzer divisions did organize their panzer battalions in brigades of two regiments. This ended when the panzer divisions had the number of battalions reduced to, usually, two per division. Towards the end of WW2 they created several independent panzer brigades, but these were not organized in the same manner as the early war panzer brigades.

The later war Russian mechanized and tank corps were actually division sized units. The Russians also used "Front" in place of an army group.


Mick in Switzerland15 Nov 2017 12:39 p.m. PST

@William – Thank-you

Here is the next bit. This is a rewrite of my first post.

"Types of Wargames

Tabletop wargames are often played on a table that is about 120cm x 180cm. It can be much larger for club games or smaller for games at home. Here are some types of wargames with examples.

Squad to Platoon Skirmish
Usually infantry combat involving less than 40 figures per side and a few vehicles. These are typically played with 28mm figures based individually on 25mm circles. Heavy weapons and artillery are often based as a weapon with crew. Occasionally squads are represented by a group of figures on a base.
• Bolt Action
• Chain of Command
• Crossfire
• I Ain't Been Shot Mum
• Iron Cross
• Nuts

Company to Battalion Level Battles
Combat with more than 100 figures per side and several vehicles. These are typically played with 15mm or 20mm figures. Figures are often grouped two or three to a base.
• Rapid Fire
• Battlegroup
• Flames of War

Brigade and Division Level Battles
These are typically played with 6mm or 10mm figures. Formations of either platoons or companies are represented by small groups of figures on a base.
• Command Decision
• Spearhead

Corps to Army Level Battles
These are typically played with 6mm figures. Formations of battalions or companies are represented by small groups of figures on a base.
• Great Battles of WW2
• Panzer Korps
• Megablitz
• Rommel"

williamb15 Nov 2017 3:05 p.m. PST

Well done Mick. There are a couple of other rule sets that are popular for the Brigade and Division level. They are Blitzkrieg Commander from Pendraken miniatures and Fistful of Tows. Although the name fits better with modern day warfare Fistful of Tows also includes WW2

Mick in Switzerland15 Nov 2017 3:15 p.m. PST

Thank you I will add them to the lists

laretenue15 Nov 2017 3:17 p.m. PST

plus Battlegroup PanzerGrenadier and Battlefront:WWII in Coy to Bn level

laretenue15 Nov 2017 3:23 p.m. PST

Actually, I think this is where Crossfire sits as well.

Not, to my thinking, a Skirmish set of rules. To my mind, the determinant is that you manoeuvre by Sections (Squads) rather than individual figures, and that the individual weapon carried by your miniature warrior is irrelevant to the combat narrative.

Mick in Switzerland15 Nov 2017 3:31 p.m. PST

I will adjust the list as you suggest.

Lion in the Stars15 Nov 2017 4:01 p.m. PST

I think your most important question with WW2 minis is whether you are basing singly or multiples (regardless of what the multiples represent).

Keep in mind that I mostly play at the low end, 1 mini = 1 trooper.

If you are basing singly, that implies a larger scale mini (15mm or bigger), though I have seen some folks individually-basing 6mm.

I often use basing techniques to remind me of rules effects. One of my opponents has his troops with the Camouflage game rule based in very deep grass that hides the mini to some extent. We both use mini-less bases with some stuff on them to represent the camouflaged troop marker (some rules call those 'blinds').

I also mark the front 180 field of vision on the bases of my individually-based minis (both 28mm and 15mm).

Now, for multiple-based troops, I like to make dioramas out of it, so that each base tells a bit of a story.
* Artillery and antitank guns are in action, with troops lined up to pass ammo from crates or a limber to the breech.
* Machine guns and mortars are also in action.
* Command teams usually have some guy waving troops forward or pointing, sometimes with a flag (depends on nationality). * I usually put kneeling and prone models together on a base, and standing/advancing models together.

At the operational or entire-battle games, you can use basing to show other game rules or effects. For example, in Sam Mustafa's Blucher rules, you can show the 'extra skirmishers' status by physically putting more skirmishers on the base in front of the brigade's line troops. The easiest way to do this is to have clumps of skirmishers, so a unit's skirmisher strength is shown by how many clumps of skirmishers you have.

Some games require some markers to show various things. IMO, the most aesthetically pleasing way to use markers is to make small dioramas out of them. I should note that humans are very attentive to new things next to their unit, so it's mentally faster to recognize multiple effects markers than a single marker that can show multiple levels of effects depending on which side is facing the unit.

In the Ambush Alley/Force on Force rules that I play, you need to show how many 'rounds of fire' a unit has been in. I like to take small straight bases, ~10mmx40mm, add grit so they look like the ground on my infantry bases, and then add dirt puffs like a strafing run from a machine gun. I need lots of those, since each base of dirt puffs shows one round of fire and a unit can be in a number of rounds of fire equal to the number of models in the unit. If a unit has been "pinned" or "suppressed" by fire, I like to use a single large puff of dirt (picture a grenade explosion). Multiple "pinned" results get multiple explosion markers. This makes a unit that has been in a lot of combat look like it, with lots of dirt puffs and even some explosions if that unit is having a really bad day.

Another thing that may help with making diorama markers is to use a shape other than your standard base for markers. In Ambush Alley, my minis are all based on 3/4" or 1" diameter washers, but my pinned/suppressed markers are on 1/2" circles. The commercial Flames of War status tokens take this to an additional step, where each status effect has a different shape: "Dug In" are 5x15mm rectangles, "Gone to Ground" are 7x10mm rectangles, "pinned down" is a hexagon, "(vehicle) bogged down" is a triangle, and "(vehicle) bailed out" is a circle.

Mick in Switzerland15 Nov 2017 11:48 p.m. PST

Dear Lion in the stars,

Thank-you for your comments.

I do cover single and multiple basing in the book. I also show diorama bases for machine guns and artillery. This includes Options for casualty removal or markers.

I have not covered status markers in this book but I am familiar with the FOW markers. I have played Force on Force which is very similar to Ambush Alley – I like your ideas for markers.



GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Nov 2017 4:14 a.m. PST

Not sure that your descriptions of organisational levels are quite accurate across the board for WW2.

British platoons (or even companies in early war) don't have MG support within their structure and most Commonwealth nations followed that to start with. In British parlance a squad is a section.

Regiments were not a feature of operational structure in all armies. May be better to describe, with examples, that Regt & Bde were similar in role.

Note showing where Kampfgruppen fit into the structure ? Or US combat commands (I think that is the name) ?

Not as simple as it first looks, is it.

Mick in Switzerland16 Nov 2017 5:06 a.m. PST


Thank-you for your comments.

This book is specifically about the WW2 German Army. There may be another at some point in the future if it sells.

I will note your comments about British formations.

My understanding is that Kampfgruppe has no specific meaning in size or structure. It was used variously for army, navy and air force formations. It literally means Battle Group or could be described as a Task Force (as British Falklands War).



thomalley16 Nov 2017 7:51 a.m. PST

Common table size here is 150-180 cm deep and 300 to 360 long.
Mine is 8' x 5'. Normally play on a 10', which can be extended to 12. We play stand/tank = platoon. Used to play on a 6' deep table, but can't seem to reach the middle anymore.

Lee49416 Nov 2017 2:43 p.m. PST

I come from a totally different direction. If I wanted to get into gaming i wouldn't buy a book to tell me what to do. I'd find the local gamers and do what they were doing. Can't play without opponents. I've lived in various places and always ended up playing what local gamers played. Cheers!

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