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"Bathtubs and beauty" Topic

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Bozkashi Jones04 Sep 2019 6:11 a.m. PST

A philosophical point I just wondered about, looking at trends in naval wargaming – are we becoming more tolerant of 'bath-tubbing'? And I also wondered if we're beginning to demand more visual appeal from our games?

By bath-tubbing, I mean the contraction of ground scale beyond what is visually 'usual' for the scale of the models.

The normal naval scales for 20th century wargaming have for years been 1/3000 or 1/2400 with a ground scale of 1"=500 yards or even 250 yards (in GQ). I know the early hobbyists used 1/1200, but they played on ballroom floors!

I played a WW2 naval game recently with a friend with an extensive collection of beautiful 28mm miniatures, when he saw the size of a 1/3000 destroyer he said, "bloody hell, those are small!"

So I'm wondering if naval gamers are being drawn more towards the aesthetic of larger, more detailed models because they look nice and make for a visually more attractive game? Naturally I'm thinking of Cruel Seas – coastal action was traditionally in 1/600, but now 1/300 is far more common and the games do look splendid. Similarly, Victory at Sea not only introduced 1/1800 as a model scale but also halved the 'usual' ground scale to 1"=1000 yards – too extreme for me to accept, but the models did look fantastic. Now I notice Fireforge are bringing out a line of 1/1800 WW2 ships and Warlord are introducing 1/700 for Age of Sail.

But I see these games and they look lovely and I am so tempted to change up to 1/1800 for 20th century just so my games are more visually appealing.

So, just as 20 years ago land wargammers were happy with a unpainted Airfix 20mm figures and painted green sponge on cocktail sticks for trees (whoever thought of 28mm as a modern wargaming scale?!), are we, as naval wargamers, starting to want more from our side of the hobby?

Personally, as my main interest is in destroyer actions, I would love to have bigger, more detailed and visually appealing models with beautifully modelled coastlines and I'm really looking forward to Warlord's sailing ships, though I doubt I'll ever use their rules.

And there have been many on these forums who have been showing more and more inspirational modelling, from Jocknroll's Medway project TMP link to Boggler's lovely splash markers TMP link (both 1/2400 so not entirely relevant, but I'm sure you'll take my point about the hobby becoming more 'aesthetic'). I won't even mention ModelJShip and Whitejamest!

Anyway, just wondered if anyone else out there felt, as I do, that a 1/3000 model with a simple wash and drybrush no longer fully satisfies and that I'm prepared to accept larger models, even if they make the distances appear less.


Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Sep 2019 6:42 a.m. PST

For me the hobby is *entirely* about spectacle, whether on land, sea or in the air. If offered a game of unpainted plastic and sponge trees I would find another hobby. In that case board game do the job better, IMO.

THIS is what I game for (current SYW game down the club):


Fitzovich04 Sep 2019 7:09 a.m. PST

I went with Cruel Seas for the scale which matched my 6mm collection, not for the rules. Which are okay after an extensive re-write and lots of input from players.

I have a 1/1200 scale WWII collection for Seapower when I want to game with the larger classes of ships, but 1/300 scale works for me in that it again matches up with what I was already doing hoping to (and being somewhat unsuccessful) in keeping all my periods of interest in 6mm.

Not sure if that answers the question or it's just another splash in the bathtub!

Joe Legan04 Sep 2019 8:40 a.m. PST

I think you are right. As an American I cut my teeth on board games. Miniatures for me is about the visual. If it is just about the rules I can do better with cardboard. Now your ground scale can be so far off it ruins the visual!

Rev Zoom04 Sep 2019 9:26 a.m. PST

"Now your ground scale can be so far off it ruins the visual!"

Which is why I won't play Flames of War, Cruel Seas, or any of that genre in the scale called for.

As far as small scale and painting and such, just take a look at some of the micro armor ships and tanks on the GHQ forum and you see that small doesn't mean just a simple wash and dry brush.

BuckeyeBob04 Sep 2019 10:32 a.m. PST

I think it's a trade-off between what looks good and the ground scale being used as to what the gamer is comfortable with. I have both 1/2400 and 1/6000 scale ships and 6mm, 15mm and 20mm ground forces. My 68 year old eyes find using the 6mm and 1/6000 very difficult to play with anymore. Not being able to crawl around the floor like a kid, I have to use the 1/2400 on my 7x5 ft game table and tho DD daylight battles look reasonable "bath-tubbed" for range, other ship classes are used in night actions at close range. Otherwise it doesn't look right to me. I agree that the big draw for miniatures is the look of the game with all the terrain and models laid out. Though I like the look of 1/1800 models, I don't think I'd enjoy playing with them much where the movement is in very small fractions of an inch in order to keep them at a reasonable distance from each other for any length of time. I have too much invested in 15mm and 20mm ground forces to change completely to 28mm, tho I have been kicking around getting a couple squads worth for small skirmish actions using NUTS, but that also means getting or making terrain for it too which is holding me back.
Bottom line--like RevZoom said…what balance between visual and scale do YOU feel comfortable playing?

hindsTMP Supporting Member of TMP04 Sep 2019 10:34 a.m. PST

FWIW, the typical Flames of War and Cruel Seas game tables, with their very compressed ground scales, are for me a retrograde step, aesthetically. I prefer my 6mm land and 1/6000 naval game systems with their more realistic ground scales.

Yet I like the original DBA ancients game system (12 elements per side), which is very compressed.

So I think it's just a question of what we are used to. The brain takes what's on the table, and using our imaginations, translates it into something attractive, based on what we are used to.

BrianW04 Sep 2019 11:58 a.m. PST

This is one of the reasons I've always preferred 1/1200 scale of Age of Sail games. It's much easier for figure scale and ground scale to match each other. Yes, a nautical mile is 5 feet, but when your effective engagement range is 400 yards (1 foot) or less, then you still have plenty of room to maneuver. Bathtubbing does start bothering me from about WWI up, or maybe a little earlier.


Lion in the Stars04 Sep 2019 12:45 p.m. PST

Similarly, Victory at Sea not only introduced 1/1800 as a model scale but also halved the 'usual' ground scale to 1"=1000 yards

Funny, when the group in Bremerton was playing Seapower, we used 1"=1000 yards because that is standard USN plotting table scale! And we were using GHQ 1/2400 because that is what was readily available.

Yes, the ships are grossly out of scale compared to the groundscale. But it did give a decent spectacle, especially as we added golf-tee shell splashes and pipe-cleaner torpedo volleys. People learned to hate my Kitakami-class CLs!

1"=1000yards also makes it so that battleship max gun range is maybe 52", so you can have some maneuvering on approach before shots are fired.

Now, for my Normandy invasion games, I need to buy a 1/1200 scale DD to put at the seaside table edge. A 1/1200 scale ship 3 feet away is the same visual size as the real thing about 900 yards out. So the DD would be perfectly sized for the ships that got danger-close to the shore and ordered the guns to fire where the infantry and tanks were firing.

BillyNM04 Sep 2019 12:47 p.m. PST

I went with 1/1200 and Fletcher Pratt with battleships typically opening fire at about 20 feet. Obviously this was on the floor of a church hall. I can't get excited about 1/3000 ships.

Kevin in Albuquerque Supporting Member of TMP04 Sep 2019 6:44 p.m. PST

I'm agreeing with BrianW.

TGerritsen Supporting Member of TMP04 Sep 2019 6:57 p.m. PST

Victory didn't introduce 1/1800 to my knowledge, Axis and Allies War at Sea did. I game that scale for WWII, but game WWI at 1/6000. Go figure.

I game what I game for the fun I see, not for other people's desires.

Personal logo Battle Cry Bill Supporting Member of TMP05 Sep 2019 9:16 a.m. PST

As someone who put on 54mm games to ecourage Parents and Kids to get into the hobby, people are attacted to the larger scales. They cannot help themselves. It is also a very interesting challenge to bathtub historical battles in ways that satisfy me as a historical gamer and as someone who enjoys the visual aspect of the hobby.

Also to be considered is the inreasing visual beauty of board games.


SgtPrylo05 Sep 2019 9:58 a.m. PST

It's all about the visual appeal. I've put out some damn fine games in my time, and I've never had anyone come and say: 'I'd like to play this game, but your ranges are not realistic.' Even if they did, I'd probably send them off with: 'no one's forcing you to play this, mate.'

Naval games are no different.

Yellow Admiral05 Sep 2019 1:18 p.m. PST

I don't think smaller scales are necessarily less aesthetically appealing. A lot of people love GHQ 1/2400 models as much as I do (particularly the big iron battleships, cruisers and carriers), but even the 1/2400 ships by other manufacturers can look just as good when finished nicely. There were a LOT of very positive comments about KniazSuvorov's 1/4800 WWII fleets, and those are tiny. Larger isn't necessarily better.

I personally consider each scale to be best for a particular type of gaming, and quite inappropriate for others. I would never play ramming and boarding actions in 1/6000 scale; I would never try to play Jutland or Leyte Gulf in 1/300 scale. My personal preference is that the miniatures fit the genre without too much ground scale distortion, but "too much" is subjective, and some people just don't care much about scale distortion at all.

I've observed before that there is a kind of "right size" for maximum appeal of naval miniatures, and it seems to be approximately 3"-5" long. This changes the ideal nominal scale for the ships used for any period, since ships have grown with time: 20th C. battleships are about "right" in 1/2400 scale; MTBs in 1/300 scale; MTBs attacking large fleets of transports and some large (for the genre) blue-water escorts in about 1/600-1/700 scale; mid-19th C. (ACW et al) is best in 1/600, but later 19th C. are larger and plenty appealing in 1/1200 or 1/1000; etc.

That said, even the "too small" ships have their place. 1/6000 ships may be too small for most of us to see, and 1/2400 or 1/3000 AoS men-o-war may be too small to count the gunports, but if you're trying to fit dozens on the table and fight a sweeping battle of maneuver by divisions, suddenly the tiny vessels start to have a lot more appeal.


There is plenty you can do to make any scale more appealing. Nice paint jobs on the ships are a good start, and even a critical base-line requirement on the larger models, but with really small models, nice bases are a great enhancement. Added flourishes like masts, boats, davits, cranes, rigging, flags, etc. can really make a model pop.

Miniatures gamers love toys, so nice markers and props to support the game system can greatly increase the appeal of the game shell splashes, gunsmoke, fires, oil slicks, torpedo markers, flotsam and jetsam, wakes, swarms of airplanes or boats, etc. Even measuring sticks, turn templates and angle templates help increase appeal if they're nicely made.

Tiny scales with a big ground scale (e.g. 250-500 yd/inch) allow things that won't work in larger scales, like rain squalls. A table with migrating herds of squalls made from batting and/or clear acrylic has a powerful attraction.

I've also noted for years that an attractive shoreline drastically increases the appeal of a naval game. A vast expanse of uninterrupted blue can seem a bit plain to casual observers (even if it's accurate), but trees and buildings and variations in foliage and alternating sand and rocks and cliffs all go a long way to increasing the draw of the game.


Strictly speaking, the answer the OP question is "yes", there does seem to be a trend toward greater tolerance of scale distortion. However, I'd observe that there is also a growing proportion of less-hardcore non-naval gamers playing these games. Games like Victory At Sea and Cruel Seas and even Axis & Allies recruit a lot of new players, but these lighter games tend to be unsatisfactory to veteran naval gamers and naval history aficionados looking to refight actual historical battles or plausible "what if" encounters, and that's why less-bathtubbed rules continue in use.

- Ix

Murvihill05 Sep 2019 4:29 p.m. PST

I want to refight entire battles. Imagine being able to play all of Leyte or recreate the Pearl Harbor attack. You simply can't do that unless you accept that the ships will be larger and closer together than would be visible at sea. My scale is 1"=1000 yards and we use 2400 ships. so the point of measure is the forward mast (the actual location of the ship) and the model represents the safety zone around the ship.

Bozkashi Jones06 Sep 2019 4:19 a.m. PST

Some really interesting points, and as I do have Hipper's and Beatty's battle cruiser forces in 1/6k I can certainly attest to the beautiful detail and how good they look 'en masse'; for WW2 carrier battles or fleet actions in the Med' they are perfect, and KniazSuvorov's fleets do look gorgeous.

lx – the point made about "right size" for naval miniatures seems spot on – the preferred scale of miniature does depend on the size of the actual vessel. In 1/3k a destroyer (and I do like destroyer fights) is only 1.5" long and, if there are only four or five of them on the table (as with most of the RN/KM actions) they do tend to get a bit lost, so for these I am considering changing up the scales.


Dolphinless06 Sep 2019 4:47 a.m. PST

Years ago, I used to play 6mm WW2 armour games @ 1mm=1m, modern armour @ 1mm=2m. I see 'Team Yankee' games with 1/72 models….it looks like a child's game with a bunch of T72s bumper to bumper.
I now play 1/6000 WW1…. usually played at 1 cm=200 yards- it looks OK. However, a couple of days ago, I played a small game & 'bad visibility' allowed me for the first time to have 1 cm=100 yards… a ground scale of 1/9144….which is about as close a game will take you to the model scale of 1/6000.
It was a bit tricky to reach models on the 8'x6' table, I even had trouble identifying divisions.
But it looked wonderful….everything just seemed right….especially DDs nipping about at >30kts.

SgtPrylo06 Sep 2019 5:30 a.m. PST

Ix hit it square on the head with his final paragraph – and I would expand his comment beyond the naval sphere. I have watched several game clubs and their attendant conventions struggle and die because of their refusal to allow anything except 'serious' historical games at their tables. This mentality is simply not sustainable as we get older (and crankier). Even the 'sacred' Historicon has a sizable percentage of non-historical games.

Case in point: several years ago at Historicon (Fredericksburg venue) I saw a massive game along the lines of War of the Worlds. The game's name escapes me, but it was an incredible spectacle. There were 20 gamers a side in this fight of Martians vs pseudo-WWI technology. There were two gentlemen standing next to me, also observing, who were harrumphing about this 'not being very historical'. Yet of those 40 players, at least a third were young people (teens and younger) playing with their fathers, and having a great time. Future gamer grognards all.

There's a place at the table for 1cm=100 yards and such, but there's also a place for Cruel Seas, X-Wing, SW Legion, etc. etc.

Yellow Admiral06 Sep 2019 10:32 a.m. PST

In 1/3k a destroyer (and I do like destroyer fights) is only 1.5" long and, if there are only four or five of them on the table (as with most of the RN/KM actions) they do tend to get a bit lost, so for these I am considering changing up the scales.
Realistically, multiple scales means multiple collections for the same period, for most of us. If you can afford that luxury, there is a valid argument that the "main" vessel type should be in a scale that makes them the "right size", and the auxiliaries and targets can be larger or smaller as needed.

Along these lines, early this year I was actually window shopping for 1/1200 (and 1/1250) WWI TBDs on eBay. A lot of WWI DD scrums were fought as a part of a larger action full of cruisers or BCs & BBs, but the experience of the DD captains was significantly different from that of cruiser and capital ship captains, so I thought it might be fun to make them the main focus, and simulate the combat experience of the little guys. Most naval games (mine included) treat the DDs as expendable auxiliaries; I thought I'd try leaving the capitals ships and cruisers as non-player entities to be targeted or protected. (I decided I already have too many irons in the fire and haven't pulled the trigger yet, but the concept remains alive in the back of my head. grin)

- Ix

Yellow Admiral06 Sep 2019 11:10 a.m. PST

Case in point: several years ago at Historicon (Fredericksburg venue) I saw a massive game along the lines of War of the Worlds. The game's name escapes me, but it was an incredible spectacle. There were 20 gamers a side in this fight of Martians vs pseudo-WWI technology. There were two gentlemen standing next to me, also observing, who were harrumphing about this 'not being very historical'. Yet of those 40 players, at least a third were young people (teens and younger) playing with their fathers, and having a great time. Future gamer grognards all.
How many historical gamers do you know who wax nostalgic about their old Warhammer armies, battles, and tournaments (both fantasy and 40K)? I was never a fantasy or sci fi miniatures gamer, so I just don't "get it", but I keep bumping into the phenomenon.

I try to engage socially with the 40k players who show up at our FLGS. They're all younger guys (20- to 30-somethings) and none seem very interested in historical games, but some of them are fantastic artists and crafters and they clearly love the miniatures, so there is a lot of overlap. If I can just get them to look at the neato planes and ships and stuff we play with, maybe I can get them going on historically plausible conflicts…

- Ix

Rev Zoom06 Sep 2019 1:07 p.m. PST

It never bothered me ifg a game is historical or not – I was one of those in that Martian game and I think GASLIGHT is great. What I have a problem with is when the models are grossly out of scale. I won't play FOW WWII or Modern with the miniatures Flames of War dictates but I do play it with microarmor and for me – FOR ME – that is a good gaming experience. But I rebel at firing an Abrams tank at a Russian T-80 with 15mm tanks ten inches apart. YMMV

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP07 Sep 2019 8:22 a.m. PST

"But I rebel at firing an Abrams tank at a Russian T-80 with 15mm tanks ten inches apart".

Yea, needs to be at least 20", if not 40" per 1,000m.

I prefer the latter, if possible, but you need a big table when using 1mm = 1 meter of distance. That can be used with 1/100th – 1/300th scale minis.

Lion in the Stars07 Sep 2019 12:42 p.m. PST

But I rebel at firing an Abrams tank at a Russian T-80 with 15mm tanks ten inches apart.

Parts of the Battle of 73 Easting were at those kinds of obscenely short ranges, though.

And even FOW has 8" as roughly 200m (assault rifle range), guys.
16" is battle rifle range, roughly 500-800m.
24" is tripod MG range, so ~1200m.

Pyrate Captain10 Sep 2019 5:19 a.m. PST

Scale is proportional to technology if realism is to be simulated. I personally like anything between 1/1200 to 1/56 for age of sail games depending on the rules and objective of the game. I have mixed scales for amphibious operations with larger scales on shore and smaller scales offshore.

For late 19th century to modern I prefer 1/2400 scale. I draw the line at larger scales like 1/600 for ACW, etc., largely because of expense, playing area required and storage logistics.

I enjoy a detailed model as well as the next gamer, but for me, if the pageantry of the game overshadows play-ability, I'd rather used unpainted plastic.

I also despise any rules that draw their lineage back to Warhammer, but I digress.

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