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"Scale height" Topic

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Personal logo Milhouse Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2019 9:25 a.m. PST

So all rules have scale distance ( ie 1 inch = 25 yards etc). But the scale distances applied to elevation would make for a very flat terrain board. Conversely, using figure scale (in 25mm, 1 in = 6ft), Cemetery Hill will look like Mt Washington.

What rule(s) of thumb do folks use for elevation especially when trying to accurately depict a historic battlefield?

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2019 9:39 a.m. PST

I do not play historical games, any more, but I do try to represent elevation changes using 1" = 10-foot elevation changes in my fantasy games. While is it not realistic, it is practical on the tabletop. This is what I use for my 25mm = 5 feet figure scale, horizontally, with 25-28mm figures for Humans.

I also game with 54mm Army Men figures. I use the same 1' elevation hills, ignoring the vertical scale, calling them one level of elevation (we do not worry about hills being short, we just trace LOS using the hills, as they are). We don't worry about really tall hills, very often. If we need a "mountain," we have used vertical walls made of cardboard boxes, and sheets of cardboard, which were mostly vertical, around 6-inches of height, or more. There may, or may not be, flat levels above, where troops can deploy, to defend the mountain, depending upon the scenario. These are non-historical battles, as well.

We do, however, try to use accurate elevation scales, for buildings with two, or more, floors within. Again, we trace LOS, as it is, on the tabletop. No fudge-factor introduced, just trace it, as is, and run with it. Cheers!

USAFpilot Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2019 11:32 a.m. PST

Apples and oranges. To say a 25mm or 1 inch figure equals 6 feet ignores the fact that the one figure may represent 20, 30, or XX amount of men. Now if your one figure represents just one man, say a skirmish type game or an rpg, then yes 1 inch would equal 6 feet and both horizontal and vertical scale should be the same. However, most war games are not skirmish level so there exists an incongruity between horizontal and vertical scale. Another example would be representing a road with three figures abreast. The road width is matching the figure scale, but only if 1 figure represents 1 man. Otherwise your 1 inch wide road is an unrealistic 75 feet wide.

The question is, should all terrain and scenery conform to the size of the figures or to the ground scale. Or do you want your column of three soldiers abreast marching down a road that looks right but is 75 feet wide, or looks wrong with the width of shoe string but is scaled right.

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2019 11:59 a.m. PST

I've never encountered rules where actual elevation measurements mattered. Every game I've ever played in, hill elevation is totally abstract, and the physical height is whatever looks good. I mostly game with medium-sized units of 12-36 15mm miniatures, so 1/2" tall hill levels are usually good enough.

I actually prefer naturally rounded or peaked hills like one sees in real world terrain, so I try to use those whenever possible. However, these are only good for games where relative elevation matters only in hand-to-hand combat (e.g. to determine who is "uphill"), or when all hills on the table are considered the same effective elevation above surrounding terrain (and height is a binary "on hill" or "off hill" determination).

I use the more traditional multi-level hills in games where the relative amount of elevation matters, e.g. artillery on level one can fire over things at level zero, artillery at level two can fire over things at level zero or one, etc.

- Ix

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2019 12:02 p.m. PST

Some games, like Chain of Command can be 1:1 with 15mm figures [ground is 1 inch = 12 feet], but the real question is what impact if any does height have on your chosen game? The height of the figures don't necessarily have to apply at all, let alone all the terrain heights.

It all depends on the scope of what you want to accurately depict…

Personal logo Milhouse Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2019 3:16 p.m. PST

You're all hitting the exact problem. The figures are scaled to represent 20 men and distances are usually scaled on frontage. So it's a compromise between what looks visually "right" and can also be practical.

UshCha03 Aug 2019 12:58 p.m. PST

Maneuver Group uses ground scales of 1"=10m AT 1/72 scale and 1mm represents 1m at 1/144 scale. For elevation we use the figure scale heights. So our hills work out at 16mm so we count that as 1 conture. A three story house is 3 contours high to the top ceiling, more if its an apex roof.

Roads are also treated as being at figure scale. Most maps have roads wider than there real counterpart, so some precedence.

However it does lead to issues. For weapons with effective ranges of 100m or less we add around 50 to 75m to the ground scale range so you do not have a daft situation where a weapon cannot shoot across a road when in reality it could.

Our own preference, but we play 1 man equals 1 man,is to have the figures not much more than 5 time the ground scale real height. The fields are too small but look reasonable with that distortion. Buildings are at figure scale and we muddle ground and figure scale a bit as there are typically 25 times too few houses in a built up area (area scale effects) but you can typically get the road pattern about there.

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP04 Aug 2019 11:07 a.m. PST

Elevation effects is something I apply by scenario, so no rule of thumb, other than it generally serves to block LOS, or enables viewing over other intervening terrain when on.

Most of the above can change from one setup to another, and these effects are briefed (or discussed) before each game begins.

UshCha05 Aug 2019 1:39 a.m. PST

FlyXWire, that seems strange to me. If I had to redefine hills and countoures every week, often twice a week it would lead to utter confusion. Presuably you only play occationally.

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP05 Aug 2019 5:47 a.m. PST

Presenting quite often, and importantly in many historical periods and scales, so flexibility instead has become an asset.

Defining elevation effects based off of exact measurements from ones available scale terrain pieces, really!?

For example, I can use my nice resin-cast outcrops for North Africa WW2 scenarios, for the ACW, 19th cen. Zululand, WWI East Afrika, WW2 Bruma, and beyond and for different figure scale games, and the terrain pieces can be defined for different elevation effects, and even overlaid onto elevated areas under my fabric/fur mats to express differences in rough going, or impassable terrain that the heights might indicate from one geographic theater to another theater, and from different time periods to another.

This understanding of how high-fidelity terrain collecting can be enabled, and envisioned as affordable, by usefulness in as many historical periods as possible, actually allows for more variety in ones desired gaming experiences.

Our local gamers do fine playing in different scales, different periods, and understanding different terrain effects. Doing terrain briefing is part of any of our pre-game routines, and it actually helps get players into the scenery, and recognizing salient game features before the action begins. I'd never pull out a ruler and specify to participants they need to know that 1mm of the game's model terrain elevation equals some exact scale measurement pretty sure that would be an invitation for chaos as they wide-eyed stared back, wondering if they now needed to start measuring up every hillock they might be playing on.

When we host games, we expect our presenting GM to be available to do much of this briefing pre-game, and also during the game (it's their 'job').

Maybe if one plays solo, or in small games without a moderator where on-the-spot rulings can cause conflict?

Personal logo Milhouse Supporting Member of TMP05 Aug 2019 4:57 p.m. PST

I think the idea is if you're refighting a specific battle and want to get it right. Especially the hills and ridges in relation to each other.

Personal logo Milhouse Supporting Member of TMP05 Aug 2019 5:05 p.m. PST

Running some quick numbers, and back to Gettysburg, Cemetery Hill peaked at 80 feet. Culps Hill at 180 (double humped, highest point) above rock creek. So 1 in = 25 feet (vs yards) would give a 3 in tall Cemetery Hill and 8 inch Culps Hill. Not horrible, I think would look right

UshCha05 Aug 2019 9:01 p.m. PST

On of the reasons we "stylise" and use a fixed system is that the players have a very high work load controlling sometimes aa much as a couple of companies of tanks/ APC's so the ability to determine dead ground quickly and in an uncontentious manner is vital to keep the game moving and maintain the "stress" of battle. We neither have nor would want the option of an umpire, nor would it be an interesting job for the umpire, continiously calculation dead ground.

Obviously the daft but all to often "GAMEY" approach of roling die is both slow and more often than not results in implausible situations, so is not acceptable in a serious game.

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP06 Aug 2019 5:23 a.m. PST

Milhouse, doing a specific battle terrain to scale sounds like a great project, however you may find that the scale footprint occupied by an historic elevation tied to it's scale height, can often create a scale slope that you'll have difficulty populating with wargaming figures or trees, often because their flat stand bottoms aren't capable for such slope angles. Perhaps you'll be able to massage these slope angles with stepped-style hill layering, but then this can become a distortion of the original goal of scale contouring and the accurate replication of the actual elevation.

I've used Paddy Griffith's words of wisdom a few times on the boards here before, but he once intimated that at some point in this wargaming hobby, gamers will come to realize that the miniatures themselves have become an impediment to their efforts for exactitude. There are ways to try and compensate for these modeling and scale issues, which don't involve hours of discovery, frustration, or realization.

Hopefully you'll find these comments as encouragement too, for taking your plans and your project forward.

von Schwartz06 Aug 2019 6:39 p.m. PST

Most rules that I've ever seen don't refer to height in feet, inches, or meters. They will refer to it simply as levels, 1 level, 2 levels, etc. Don't nit pik, its not really that important…is it?

UshCha07 Aug 2019 1:36 a.m. PST

von Scwarts its fine to use a handle to make it simple we do. However we do define what a level is ( we approximate and say 8 to 10 ft, effectively a "story" of a house). This makes the analysis simple and effcetive without too much efforts, players should be under sufficent "stress" without long pauses to understand overly complex geometry.

Personal logo Milhouse Supporting Member of TMP07 Aug 2019 3:02 p.m. PST

I think the idea is that it looks and feels right but also has some semblance of consistency

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