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"Pre-Dreadnought Gaming - Newbie Questions" Topic

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benglish Supporting Member of TMP19 Jan 2019 5:27 p.m. PST

Some newbie questions about pre-dreadnought gaming. Full disclosure: I have no experience with any naval gaming, so I realize these may be dumb questions. Apologies in advance.

I've read many of the threads about naval here on TMP, but none address this particular scale issue I'm wondering about:

Seems like even at a scale of 1/3000, on a standard 6x4 table, the opposing sides are already within range of one another at the outset of any game even if they're placed at the opposite ends of the table.

I would prefer to game at a larger scale so I can see some of the details on the models a minimum of 1/2400. But I feel like I'd need to be playing on a basketball court. From what I've read on TMP, 1/6000 is a better scale, but those seem so tiny that the classes of ship can't even be distinguished from each other.

So, for pre-dreadnoughts, is it worth even attempting a naval game on a not-so-epically huge table at a scale of 1/2400?

I'm also wondering if you can use a scale of 1/2400 or so, but use distances from a 1/3000 scale game?

Suggestions appreciated


Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP19 Jan 2019 5:52 p.m. PST

I've successfully used several different rule sets to replicate pre-dreadnought battles using 1:2400 scale ships. At 1:2400 scale, 3" table inches equals 200 yards; 30" = 2,000 yards; 36" = 2400 yards; and 48" = 3200 yards; and 72" = 4800 yards. So if you use exact scale for gunnery ranges then you're right that a 6' x 4' table isn't big enough.

But if can accept some "bath-tubbing" of the distances, then any of the rules I've used will give you a good battle. You just have to accept that your ship sizes will be "out of scale" with the distance they can shoot.

We do this all the time with our miniature soldiers and it seems to work out OK.

I'd recommend you look at David Manley's "White Bear, Red Sun" Russo-Japanese War rules published by Long Face Games and available as a PDF from War Game Vault: link

Feel free to PM me with any questions you might have.


hindsTMP Supporting Member of TMP19 Jan 2019 6:07 p.m. PST

In our hobby it is normal to use a smaller ocean surface scale than ship model scale. In my 50-plus years of naval gaming, I've never seen ground scale the same as model scale, even with Fletcher Pratt played in a gymnasium.

This seeming distortion can be compensated for up to a point by putting ships closer together than in reality (e.g. 200 yards between ships instead of 700 yards), and by measuring ranges from a standard point, such as the foremast. The only remaining issue then is that for very large fleets (e.g. Jutland), your battle line is longer than scale, giving less concentration of force than in reality. YMMV.


Yellow Admiral19 Jan 2019 6:07 p.m. PST

Few naval games set in the era of steam use the same ground scale and miniature scale. In the days of sail and oar power the vessels moved slowly enough that some types of actions can be fought at the same ground scale and miniature scale, but generally not after about 1870 when ranges and speeds increased.

I prefer 1/2400 miniatures for fleet actions from 1890ish onward, and I'm still toying with the "right" ground scale to use, but my current preference is the standard GQ3/FAI scale of 4"=1000yd. Though battleships are about 500 yd long and formations are visually compressed, I can play RJW-sized battles on 6' wide tables that are 8'-12' long.

- Ix

Yellow Admiral19 Jan 2019 6:08 p.m. PST

Heh. Simulpost.

Vidgrip19 Jan 2019 7:26 p.m. PST

If you enjoy the modeling aspect of the hobby and want to see detail then use large models regardless of the ground scale. Once you get used to the concept that the first funnel marks the location of the ship, model scale can be selected purely on your personal aesthetics. Yes, some folks think 1/6000 looks better. That's fine. You can't please everyone so you should please yourself. I prefer 1/2400, but that's just me. My next project will probably be 1/1800. Of course I am interested in DD and CA actions, not fleets of battleships. That matters too. How many pre-dread battleships do you want on your 4x6 table? Six, eight, or Tsushima?

BillyNM19 Jan 2019 10:44 p.m. PST

If bath tubbing is not your thing perhaps you have a local wargames club with access to a hall. I've used 1/1200 ships on the floor of a church hall for some fun games with ships opening fire at around 27 feet. That was using Fletcher Pratt but I never got to a 1/1200 ground scale – a 1/3600 (i.e. a one third ground scale) is the best I've managed. I think this is more than good enough for the aesthetics true ground scales should often leave you struggling to see the enemy's ships and that not very visually appealing.

Desert Fox19 Jan 2019 11:04 p.m. PST

I always considered the space the actual model occupied, including it's base, be it plane, tank or ship, to represent not only the actual item it represents, but also it's deployment distance from friendy's.

So going by GQIII/FAI where four inches equals 1000 yards, my ship on a four inch base represents 500 yards of open ocean fore and aft. Two ships in column with bases touching would represent ships with 1000 yard interval between them.

And to be honest that seems too close. I would think ships would want 2000 yards between them to allow for maneuvering and avoiding collisions.

Trierarch19 Jan 2019 11:06 p.m. PST

As mentioned above Model scale is rarely the same as the distance scale used.

On the other hand, in the earlier part of the Pre-Dreadnought period navies often practiced gunner at about 3000 yards so prior to the beginning of the 20th century you can use the same model and distance scales.


4DJones20 Jan 2019 1:04 a.m. PST

Paul Hague uses 1/1200 ship and surface scale in his Ironclad rules (found in his book 'Sea Battles in Miniature').

Dexter Ward20 Jan 2019 5:16 a.m. PST

Model scale need not be the same as tabletop scale. It almost never is in land wargames, either. The GQ3 scale of 1cm = 100 yds (a bit less than 1:10000) is a good one, as it makes it easy to measure in 'real' distances of yards, and a three minute turn means ship speed in knots is the move in cm.

Allen5720 Jan 2019 8:00 a.m. PST

I have always had concerns over ground scale in naval games. If you want to use bigger models do so as most of the posts above suggest. One consideration for 1/2400 or 1/1200 models however is their durability. I hate spending the time detailing and painting these and they are fragile and expensive. Don't count out 1/3000 or 1/6000 models. I game with these and collect 1/1200 models. The minds eye can furnish detail if you are familiar with the ships involved.

Chuckaroobob20 Jan 2019 8:07 a.m. PST

I use the old glory shipyard 1/600 models. No way to use same ground scale, but I love the models!

Personal logo Virtualscratchbuilder Supporting Member of TMP Fezian20 Jan 2019 8:46 a.m. PST

I use the old glory shipyard 1/600 models.

Nothing like the heft of a half-pound mini.

21eRegt20 Jan 2019 10:49 a.m. PST

We use "Rise of the Battleship" from the Naval Thunder family of games. With 1/2400 models you may have a much longer range, but o realistic chance of hitting anything beyond 20". When you look at the percentage of hits achieved in historic engagements it makes sense to limit time consuming long distance sniping that produced next to nothing.

Martin Rapier20 Jan 2019 11:01 p.m. PST

As noted above, ground scale and ship scale aren't necessarily the same thing.

My pre dreads are 1/3000, and even then, some of the smaller ships are pretty small. They happily blaze away at ranges of a couple of feet.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP24 Jan 2019 9:54 a.m. PST

I'd recommend you look at David Manley's "White Bear, Red Sun" Russo-Japanese War rules published by Long Face Games and available as a PDF from War Game Vault:

A good set of rules. I also like David Manley's "Fire When Ready"

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