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"Keeping a sense of proportion " Topic

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Nine pound round01 Jan 2018 5:05 p.m. PST

In my favorite rules system, the recommended ground scale for 15mm play is 1" = 40 yards (about 40 meters or 120 feet). At eight tenths of an inch high, the 15mm Minifigs on my workbench scale out to 32 feet in height- a pretty solid statue, but disproportionately large for any kind of play.

I am interested to hear how different gamers merge terrain (particularly buildings) and models under circumstances like these. My personal inclination is to simply go down a scale or perhaps two to get close to right on the sizes and spacing, and accept the incongruity; what do you do?

Toaster01 Jan 2018 5:19 p.m. PST

Every game has a discrepancy between figure scale and ground scale. It's necessary to actually have a worthwhile sense of action instead of a huge model landscape with a few almost unseen figures struggling across it. And then you get games where a base of 10 figures represents an entire company and the problems get even bigger.

War gaming buildings tend to have smaller footprints than real world buildings but full (scale) size doors and windows giving them a vertically stretched look. With a good set of terrain the visual impact and cohesion tends to distract the eye from these oddities and you very quickly become used to it.


Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2018 5:43 p.m. PST

Every game has a discrepancy between figure scale and ground scale.

Actually every figure has a discrepancy between figure scale and ground scale. I can't speak for other scales but there is no 28mm figure I know of that occupies 22" of frontage in 1/56, 1/60 or whatever we take 28mm to mean.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP01 Jan 2018 6:09 p.m. PST

Wargaming scales always run in to problems. Movement rates are set to "game speed" rather than strict actual speeds. Vertical scale, horiontal scale and figure scale are usually very different. Our hills, for example, are usually stretched in the vertical. A 1" hill is, say, 40 yards in height, representing a more modest 20' height. Our trees are often stunted so as not to be in the way.

For me, I simply try to go for a "look" and let the scales sort themselves out. Some times it's realism, some times it's "cool ops center map" and other times it's "Aerial View painting" like in the old Heritage books on the Civil War.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2018 7:22 p.m. PST

While your rules may have a ground scale, they don't have a vertical scale for a reason. Do whatever looks right to you.

jwebster01 Jan 2018 8:44 p.m. PST

For buildings a single building or two can represent a whole village or town

USAFpilot01 Jan 2018 9:23 p.m. PST

The first thing you need to ask yourself is am I playing a war game or am I building a diorama. If a diorama than all terrain including buildings is scaled to the size of the figure, were one figure represents one man. You'll end up having a very nice looking model of a battlefield. In most war games however, a single figure represents a group of men. In war gaming I am of the school of thought that all terrain and buildings should be scaled to match whatever the games ground scale is. The result will make your figures look like giants, but in war gaming you are more concerned with the horizontal footprint of the unit, or base. This is more realistic to the game even though looking less realistic to the casual observer. Diorama or war game? That is the question you need to ask yourself.

AussieAndy Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2018 11:48 p.m. PST

In our games, one or more buildings and corresponding bases are used to represent a built up area. What matters for the purposes of the ground scale is the size of the base(s) under the building(s). The buildings are put to one side when troops are occupying the built up area. With that system, you can still use 6mm buildings with 6mm troops, 15mm buildings with 15mm troops, etc.

Artilleryman02 Jan 2018 2:26 a.m. PST

It is not a new idea and I take my inspiration from others (especially Bill Gaskin's magnificent table at Salute 2016) but wargaming with 28mm figures I use 20mm scale buildings (1/72 scale or HO/OO). This produces a realistic ground coverage without the elongated height that some speciality wargames buildings have. A Napoleonic enthusiast, I still have some of the excellent Grand Manner buildings for skirmish games as they are true to scale, but for 'mass' battles I plunder the excellent model ranges such as Faller and Auhagen originally produced for model railways. As long as you do not study the figures right up against the buildings this works fine and the details and almost 'delicacy' of the structures is inspiring. (You do not even have to paint them if you do not want to.) The only drawback is that though buildings for central Europe are easy to find, Russia and Spain can be more problematic though it is amazing how little work can change a Swiss refuge into a Spanish farm building.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2018 3:52 a.m. PST

Usually a combination. Buildings especially tend to be a bit underscale, and fewer of them so the footprint of the village is right. True for pretty much any wargame which isn't a 1:1 figure:man ratio.

davbenbak Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member02 Jan 2018 4:56 a.m. PST

I run into this issue a lot in ACW gaming where specific houses were used as landmarks. You want to represent these on your battlefield but they really serve more as eye candy than an actual terrain feature. I use a single 10mm building (1"x2") to represent the foot print of the house and surrounding buildings and improvements. They serve as more of an impediment to movement or block line of sight than a fortifiable position. Since the building is about the size of one infantry stand, which represents about 200 men, this seems about right.

Brownand02 Jan 2018 5:38 a.m. PST

We go for the look as there are discrepances always.
I find using buildings one scale smaller just silly but hey, that is just my opinion

Garde de Paris Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2018 6:44 a.m. PST

For many years in the last century, we used a map approach. Masking tape for roads; manila folders cut to shape of village sections; dark green felt patches, ovoids, to represent woods, 1/4 inch thick foam board layered to represent elevations of 20 feet. Nothing to take away from the 30mm figures!


GarryWills02 Jan 2018 7:10 a.m. PST

The way I deal with this is to always remember that for my 15mm games, given the ground & vertical scales I use, the true figure scale should be 2mm. So to remind me in play I simply place a base of 2mm figures on a corner of the table. I would use 2mm figures but prefer the better image of 15mm figures.

HappyHiker02 Jan 2018 9:38 a.m. PST

I had the same problem recently(but with 28mm) I bought a 28mm church which was massive and takes up most my table. Okay for skirmishing but useless for any battalion battles.

I asked on several forums and though 20mm was recommended, there are few decent 20mm Napoleonic buildings. In the end I went with 15mm buildings from total battle miniatures – I was worried they'd be too small but they look spot on to me. Door sizes are wrong but overall feel is right.

So for 15mm I'd say go for 10mm scale buildings or even 6mm ! The buildings get cheaper as you drop scale and a 6mm town would probably be perfect for a 15mm army. A town with many smaller scale buildings looks better than 1 larger building meant to represent a whole town.

If you want a la Haye saint or Hougumont or feature buiding, you many need to go a bit bigger(10mm?) but for a town I'd drop 2 scales.

matthewgreen Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member02 Jan 2018 11:32 a.m. PST

This more art than science. You need to focus on the look you want to achieve. I love looking at games in shows and pictures to get inspiration on this. On terrain I am definitely of the view that more is more. A larger number of smaller terrain items, such as buildings, trees, etc, looks much better that small numbers of even nicely detailed and painted terrain. I have also developed a preference for showing a bit of street structure in my villages. This means scaling down, as well as using models with smaller footprints than would be strictly correct.

I now use 6mm models with my 15mm figures. But I am trying to fight big battles, with an inch representing 100m or more – so the scaling issue is particularly acute . It would be much better if I used 6mm figures with 4mm models, but I do like to see the uniforms. You may be able to get away with 10mm models, N gauge railway models, or even purpose built 15mm terrain models, which are build to have smaller footprint. Actually I think my 6mm models look OK with my figures.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2018 12:01 p.m. PST

It all depends on what you want. Lots of options.

you can go with 2mm figures and make the scale equal to the figure height. [2mm = @6 feet]

Or increase the scale to equal larger figures. Chain of Command can do this with 15mm figures [40 yards =12 inches], though most folks go with 28mm figures.

As far as building with larger scale games, such as 1 inch equals 50-100 yards is to have a village footprint. The number of buildings are for looks, rather than the actual number of buildings. Even great tables like Bruce Wiegle's 19th century layouts in 5mm don't have actual numbers of buildings.

I have a village covering a 600 yard area [say a foot on a side for 50 yard to the inch] if that is the historical size, with building only representing the village. You can make neat little scenes with areas large enough to hold the troops occupying the village and larger villages can have multiple 'villages' to represent them.

We want to see the uniforms and flags, which requires larger figures… the larger the scale and larger the figures, the more 'representative' the terrain has to be rather than scaled to the figures. I play with 54mm figures also, and the buildings are all 28 mm scale.

Wargaming scales always run in to problems. Movement rates are set to "game speed" rather than strict actual speeds.

Not always. Wargaming scales run into 'problems' depending on what the game scale goals are rather than any inherent problems with scale, per se.

thistlebarrow202 Jan 2018 12:50 p.m. PST

We use 28mm figures and all built up areas are 6"x6" felt squares. One square is a village or farm. Two squares a town. Four squares a city. Suitable buildings are placed on the felt and can be removed for fighting within the built up area. Farms or village are one building with walls and outbuildings. A town has eight buildings and a city sixteen buildings. Towns always have a small church. Cities have a more impressive church.

You will find an example of a city and a couple of farms in our battle of Walbeck report on our 1813 campaign blog. Follow this link and select Label 14 North Germany Battle Reports.


Timmo uk02 Jan 2018 2:58 p.m. PST

I use 18mm figures (so about 1:90 or 1:100 scale) but have started to make my own buildings scaled at about 1:140. I'm making blocks of buildings and will use these to represent a built up area. I'm making two farms to represent villages so I can get a better arrangement of buildings and for the rules I use it makes no difference what models are used for the built up area.

For ECW in true old school size 25mm I use 20mm buildings they look perfect.

Mithmee Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2018 8:55 p.m. PST

At eight tenths of an inch high, the 15mm Minifigs on my workbench scale out to 32 feet in height- a pretty solid statue, but disproportionately large for any kind of play.

You are forgetting that one figure is really 30-50 guys depending on how many figures your battalion are.

I use 24 figure Battalions so one figure is around 22-30 guys. So Battalions of around 540 or 720 men.

But the ground scale would still be around 40-50 yards/meters.

Now I know that for many battles there were Battalions of only around 300-360 and could use just two to three stands but that does not as good on the table as units of four stands and having 9-10 Battalions per division.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2018 7:25 a.m. PST

@ matthewgreen

I am with you on this. It's all about the look.

Where it would get tricky is if you wanted to show historic buildings. La Haye Sainte is the obvious example. It's 50m by 60m in real life but if you were using 1mm = 1 metre, you could fit maybe four to five 28mm figures up against a "building" of that size. Alternatively you have an accurate oversize model but you agree that only one of them is actually there.

A single building on its own can look a bit odd, but nothing stops you putting on three or four and designating one as a BUA and the others as broken ground, or ploughed fields, or something. If the BUA in question is behind the lines and not going to be fought over, arguably it ceases to matter.

matthewgreen Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member04 Jan 2018 12:35 p.m. PST

The look of buildings is enhanced if you group them with a few trees. That can make an isolated building look a little less odd. Walls also. If you keep them movable they won't get in the way too much.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2018 3:51 p.m. PST

After making a lot and lot of 15mm scaled houses, I've decided that 10mm buildings go okay with 15mm.

Lieutenant Lockwood07 Jan 2018 7:44 a.m. PST

I agree, I've stumbled over that issue for years, as I strove to my games look, and act, less like a child's game (sorry, guys) and more like a model, a simulation, of the men, the terrain, and the tactical issues.
So, I went 2mm, at 1mm=1 yard, and I haven't looked back. The terrain and buildings are modeled at the scale as well. IT WORKS.
Really enjoying everyone's input on this…be well, all……..Mark

Glenn Pearce07 Jan 2018 9:27 a.m. PST

Hello Nine pound round!

Yes this is one of the many problems we have with scales.

If your only playing skirmish games then it's not such a big deal. It's when you try and play the big battles that the wheels fall off the cart. It's one of the many reasons why those who enjoy the big battles generally favour the smaller scales such as 6mm and 2mm.

Using a smaller scale building works for some, but looks odd to me when the figures are beside them and they can clearly see over the roof tops!

I use 6mm (figures and buildings) and for battles where a single building was a focal point I just use a single building and live with the scale problem. It's generally not very noticeable as a single building was often only fought over by one unit at a time and my buildings are on the same bases as the figures (60mm x 30mm).

For larger (but still small) complexes, villages, small towns, etc. I will often also only use a single building. However, whenever I only use one or two buildings I always try to make it look like a farm by adding some trees, fields, etc. The players know what it represents, but to anyone looking at the table it looks like a farm!

It's only when dealing with major centers that I add more buildings, but they of course look like a small village. So it's all about creating an illusion that works for the eye and the players. Pretty easy for the 6mm and 2mm players. Sadly not so easy for the big boys 40-15mm, as even a single building can be way too awkward and out of ground scale for trying to play a big battle.

Best regards,


Nine pound round07 Jan 2018 8:03 p.m. PST

Thanks to you all- I really appreciate your willingness to share your ideas.

I returned to Napoleonic miniatures after a long hiatus when two events occurred almost simultaneously: my ten year old son worked out a set of rough rules for his toy soldiers from first principles, and a lifelong friend found a box of old Minifigs at his parents' house. So it seemed like an opportune moment to revisit an old joy.

I spent some time doing M&S work and I studied ops research in college, so I want both to entertain my son and to give him some insight into modeling. I felt like painting the soldiers and making the terrain would develop his latent interest in craftsmanship. We have soldiers and rules, so terrain comes next!

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