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"Ship Scale vs Ground Scale and problems that arise" Topic

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Blutarski01 Oct 2020 8:32 p.m. PST

Just something I thought I would toss out for comment/discussion/debate …..

A 1:2400 scale model of a 600ft long BB is three inches in length. Add a base and length might reach four inches.

Consider a column of six such 1:2400 scale ships (akin to the BCF at Jutland for example). If on bases with all ships in base-to-base contact, the length of the column on the game table is 24-inches.

If playing with a ground scale of two inches = 1,000 yards and a time scale of three minutes of historical time per turn, such a column moving at 25 knots will advance 5 inches on the table-top, which means that the column will require just a bit shy of five games turns (15 minutes historical time) to move past a given reference point.

In the real world, with ships at the standard 500 yard formation intervals, the column is 3,700 yards in length. Moving at 25 knots, it requires only about 4.5 minutes to move past said reference point.

For me, this creates huge and unacceptable time-distance anomalies in game play, yet I have seen over the years many games played with this sort of scale combination … simply because it "fits" on the table.

Does anyone else find this problematic? Or am I alone in my misgivings?


dragon6 Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2020 9:54 p.m. PST

What about aircraft?

All three of these are working in different scales.

In reality the ships are not close to the shore, you won't see them but you will feel their effects. The aircraft are twinkles above and scream over you very fast.

If you want consistency go to 1/3000 scale. Infantry are 0.6mm high but that is just silly, IMO.

So the shoreline out to 4 inches is ground unit scale, beyond that it is naval scale, and aircraft are just dots.

Trierarch01 Oct 2020 10:33 p.m. PST

You are quite right about the unacceptable distortions…

What are your options (other than just putting up with the unreality):

Adjust the ground (sea) scale so the ships fit, but you will need a bigger table.

Adjust the model scale, there is a reason many of us use 1/4800 or 1/6000 toys, though you lose a bit of the visual impact of the big toys.

Change the ship scale, so that a model represents more than one actual ship. This works better in WW1 when many ship classes operated together and a lot of classes were in multiples of two. Paul Hague did this in his "Sea Battle in Miniature".


Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2020 11:28 p.m. PST

Does anyone else find this problematic?
Of course. I believe I've mentioned this problem a few times… grin

Ground scale distortion is one of the reasons I was originally so enamored of 1/6000 scale miniatures. I think 1/4800 would probably work just about as well – the practical differences in scale distortion between the two scales are not that bad. However, like most people, I just find the the 1/2400 miniatures to be much more charming and attractive, so over time I've switched to collecting/painting/playing with those.

I've found that scale distortion isn't much of a practical problem with smaller numbers of ships on the table. WWII gunnery duels usually only involve a few ships of any class, so most WWII historical battles and even many hypotheticals are generally okay to play straight up.

WWI naval games, OTOH, often feature large numbers of capital ships steaming in long lines, and the scale distortion problems start to distort the tactics. My solution has been to play only smaller WWI actions in 1/2400 (the Jutland BC action is the biggest I've tried), and reserve Jutland or Jutland-scale "what ifs" for the 1/6000 ships.

- Ix

Personal logo Narratio Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2020 11:34 p.m. PST

No Blutarski, you're not alone, but unless you have a suitably colored empty car park to play naval games in, you can only do as Triearch notes. Accept multiple scales in play, change model scale or accept some sort of group of ships per model.

One thing you could do, which was done in a game called "Seastrike", is place a small dot in the middle of the ship. THAT is where the ship actually is, that one millimeter wide dot. The model itself is just an enlarged view, as if under a magnifying glass

We've been dealing with it since war gaming was invented. It's not going away, we just have to work around it.

Personal logo David Manley Supporting Member of TMP02 Oct 2020 3:11 a.m. PST

Thats why I tend to use smaller models (1/3000 or 1/6000) and longer turns (5-6 minutes) for tabletop fleet actions.or set up large games on the floor or on very large assemblages of tables.

NCC171702 Oct 2020 4:02 a.m. PST

From here:

"Ground scale is adjustable, but in order to play on the available table space, 500 yards per inch is currently used (1:18000 scale). WWI capital ship spacing in column was about 500 yards stem to stem, so the ship miniatures should be less than an inch long, including bases. 1/6000 scale models are used with bases about 4 mm longer than the ships, so there is some distortion for the longer ships. The code keeps accurate positions, so the distortion is mainly an aesthetic issue."

Wolfhag02 Oct 2020 6:55 a.m. PST

I've seen naval games with ship models 6+ inches long next to each other on a 10 foot table. I was invited to play but declined. The models were excellent but it looked like a six ship collision at sea.

I play on my dining room floor with a 12 foot playing surface = 12,000 yards (1 foot = 1000 yards) and 1-6000 scale ships but I'm not a model maker so visual appearance is low on my list and recreating the action is most important.

Personally, I see 1:1 ship-ship combat somewhat like 1:1 tank combat. A time scale of over 1 minute per turn is too much of an abstraction for me. I like to see a game where you can see the opposing sides trading salvos with a minimum of abstraction.

I don't use game turns with a set amount of time and then try to parse the action within the turn with abstracted rules. I use a timing system that gives a more historic recreation of movement, fire control, salvo firing and rates of fire.

Blutarski, one solution could be to use true scale models on the floor and put your pretty 1:2400 ship models on a table in the formation they are in and put the splash and damage markers on them. You get the best of both worlds and don't have to worry about stepping on them.

I like NCC1717 solution too.


Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP02 Oct 2020 8:00 a.m. PST

I got around this issue once by playing outdoors on a concrete (gray) parking area, in 1:2400 ground scale, with 1:2400 miniatures. The players used 50' tape measures for ranging and opera glasses for ship recognition.

Most of the time I just grit my teeth and put up with the unavoidable anomalies.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP02 Oct 2020 8:33 a.m. PST

While I don't do much naval gaming I do have some 1:6000 ships that are great for fleet actions I have gamed with some buddies with 1:2400 ships but they were three or four ship actions; good fun but I can see how anything with more ships would seem a bit – crowded – on the table sizes we usually use

This is one of the reasons I like 1:300 for my WWII panzerfests

Decebalus02 Oct 2020 9:38 a.m. PST

In principle i agree with your problem.

But isnt that here the WW2 naval board. Where in WW2 could you see 6 battleships in a column?

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP02 Oct 2020 10:21 a.m. PST

Way back in the midst of time (the 1970s), our group played a WW2 naval game using 1:1200/1250 scale ships on a vacant store parking lot at 1" = 1200" scale. We also used 50 to 100 foot tape measures. But before firing we had to estimate range and "range in" on our target ship. Several of us starting using our SLR camera range finders to do that. Soon just about everyone was doing it, just like "real-world" ship range finders. It was fun but blisteringly hot during a Mississippi summer.


Personal logo McKinstry Supporting Member of TMP Fezian02 Oct 2020 10:59 a.m. PST

It is fundamentally the reason I use 1/4800 and 1/6000 for my 20th Century stuff and 1/2400 or 1/3000 for earlier.

Blutarski02 Oct 2020 11:11 a.m. PST

Decebalus wrote –
"In principle i agree with your problem.
But isnt that here the WW2 naval board. Where in WW2 could you see 6 battleships in a column?"

- – -

I absolutely agree. TTBOMK, no tactical column of six capital ships was ever seen in WW2 (although the four old US BBs did operate in column at Surigao Strait). However, the problem remains the same with other classes of ships:

Scott fought with nine ships (2xCAs; 2xCLs; 5xDDs) in column at Cape Esperance.

Callahan had thirteen ships operating in column (2xCAs; 3xCLs; 8xDDa) at 1st Guadalcanal … at least in the opening stages of the battle.

Wright had eleven ships operating in column (4xCAs; 1xCL; 6xDDs) at Tassafaronga.



Blutarski02 Oct 2020 11:19 a.m. PST

McKinstry wrote -
"It is fundamentally the reason I use 1/4800 and 1/6000 for my 20th Century stuff and 1/2400 or 1/3000 for earlier"

I have the Jutland era BCF and 1/2AG in 1:6000 scale.

I have played with 1:4800 scale ships owned by another gamer and liked them very much. I really think they will fill the bill wonderfully well for the Guadalcanal night battles I love so well.

Anyone interested in a pile of 1:2400 ships (WW1 Bt & Ge)(WW2 Guadalcanl 1942/43)?


Blutarski02 Oct 2020 11:44 a.m. PST

Hi Wolfhag,
In my younger and more limber days, a couple of friends and I used to play 1:2400 games on the floor at a ground scale at 10 inches = 1,000 yards and it was great fun. But we still needed a small dance hall to accommodate a game of any size (we played 4 or 5 capital ships per side, but with DD flotillas and CLs present on both sides.


Blutarski02 Oct 2020 11:50 a.m. PST

David Manley wrote -
"Thats why I tend to use smaller models (1/3000 or 1/6000) and longer turns (5-6 minutes) for tabletop fleet actions, or set up large games on the floor or on very large assemblages of tables."

Exactly how did you organize use of the tables??? Being ever mindful of the aged knees of myself and my fellow gamers, the concept has enticed me. But I have never been able to work out a means of dealing with table misalignments when/if the opposing forces should get to close quarters.


Blutarski02 Oct 2020 1:09 p.m. PST

NCC1717 wrote -
From here: link
"Ground scale is adjustable, but in order to play on the available table space, 500 yards per inch is currently used (1:18000 scale). WWI capital ship spacing in column was about 500 yards stem to stem, so the ship miniatures should be less than an inch long, including bases. 1/6000 scale models are used with bases about 4 mm longer than the ships, so there is some distortion for the longer ships. The code keeps accurate positions, so the distortion is mainly an aesthetic issue."

- – -

Hi NCC1717,
Thanks for the link. I'm a high-level WW1 naval wargaming snob of the worst sort and I very much like what have so far seen there. Kudos to you.

I would be honored to be invited the next time you stage a WW1 naval game in the holo-suite ….. ;-)

1:6000 is the direction I too have taken. Admiral Hipper's five little 1:6000 scale Figurehead brand model ships representing 1st Scouting Group at Jutland in column formation (i.e., all ships touching their next ahead bow to stern), the length is 8.5 inches (22 cm). At 1,000 yards = two inches, this represents +/- 4,000 yards versus an historical column length of somewhere between approximately 2500 yards (at prescribed "fleet review" stipulated masthead-to-masthead intervals) to about 3,000 yards (IMO, a more realistic formation interval when in combat). Using a distance scale of 1,000 yards = three inches, 1st SG's column length works out to approximately 2,800 yards … the best pure "solution", but coming at the expense of reduced tabletop area.

All things considered, I think my vote goes to use of 1:6000 scale models at the 1,000 yards = two inches ground scale.


NCC171702 Oct 2020 1:54 p.m. PST

I have found this information on line ahead spacing (for 1904-1918):

Russo-Japanese War, action of August 10, 1904: "The distance apart of the ships in line in both fleets appeared to be 400 meters." (Reference 57, p149)

Grand Fleet at Jutland, ‘close order' 2.5 cables stem to stem (Reference 36, p145)

5th BS at Jutland, complaint about over-extended line at time 2.35, 3.5 cables ordered at time 3.05, 3 cables ordered at time 4.18. (Reference 36, p170, p179, p221)

British battlecruisers 500 yards astern of each other. (Reference 19, Chapter II, p28, p37)

I.A.G. at Jutland, 500 meters ordered at time 3.42 (Reference 36, p183)

High Seas Fleet at Jutland, 700 meters ordered at time 3.25, 500 meters ordered at time 4.11 (Reference 36, p217)

57 "The Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905 British Naval Attache Reports," 2003.
36 Brooks, John, "The Battle of Jutland," 2016.
19 Fawcett and Hooper, editors, "The Fighting at Jutland," USNI edition 1921, 2001.

colkitto02 Oct 2020 2:09 p.m. PST

I'm a big fan of the Paul Hague solution – one model = two capital ships, so gunnery range is something like 40 inches from memory. Although I think he gives ships 750 yards in line – 3 inches for one model being 1500 yards whereas 3 inches to 1000 yards would be more like it (20,000 yards then being 60 inches rather than 40).

NCC171702 Oct 2020 3:12 p.m. PST


If you would like to discuss the WW1 naval game holo-suite idea, please leave an email address in a comment on my blog. I will not 'approve' the comment, so your email will remain private.


AdmiralHawke03 Oct 2020 1:29 a.m. PST

I share your misgivings. But our options are limited:
- Find a vastly larger space than a typical table.
- Use very small scale ships (even 1/6000 is not really small enough for capital ships after 1905 or so).
- Play nothing later than the Russo-Japanese war.
- Play night actions.
- Stick to actions involving destroyers and smaller vessels.
- Use single ships to represent squadrons.
- Break the spatial relationship between the fleets (as Wolfhag suggests).
- Accept whatever level of spatial compromise we can handle without it spoiling our game.
- Look for computer games that offer the level of sophistication that we are looking for (and take care of movement, ballistics and damage computation and notation).
- Only play naval board games.
Each of us has to choose a compromise or set of compromises that we're happy enough with that it doesn't spoil our enjoyment. Jutland or even Tsushima or Matapan won't work in 1/2400 without multiple compromises.

At some point you cross the line from a naval wargame, intended to simulate the tactical problems faced by historical commanders, into a game with a naval theme. I see pictures of games with enemy ships closer together than they would be in a peacetime harbour, a bit like the famous Flames of War tank park. Is that a wargame? Not really. Is it a fun game? Quite probably.

Blutarski05 Oct 2020 7:44 p.m. PST

Hi NCC1717.
"Blutarski" here. Went to your NCC1717 blog site to leave a message as you proposed above. REgrat to advise that I do not do Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook (DARPA Lifelog) as a matter of principle.

My email address is – byronangel [at] verizon [dot] net

Email me directly at your convenience. Look forward to hearing from you.


Nine pound round11 Oct 2020 4:31 p.m. PST


Have you considered substituting relative movement for absolute movement under certain conditions as a mitigating approach? A good example might be the "Run to the South" at Jutland. Think of it like this- two nearly parallel squadrons, moving at slightly different speeds, you could keep the slower squadron stationary, and move the faster squadron only by an amount equal to the difference between the two. Some computation involved, and usable only under certain conditions, but the conditions under which it would be most usable would be those under which it is most needed, e.g., a stern chase.

I don't know if any rules system takes this into account. We have done it a few times, and it helps keep the action confined to the available space.

Blutarski12 Oct 2020 9:38 a.m. PST

Hi Nine pound round,
I have pondered the idea, but never attempted to put it into tabletop practice. While I agree that it would be perfectly feasible under certain conditions, like a straightforward stern chase, I fear coordination complications arising with multiple formations maneuvering and/or turning simultaneously.

This steps a bit beyond the bounds of model scale versus ground scale distortion, but let me explain my thought process:
I had to concede early on that no one my age is any longer willing or able to play on the floor. That forced me to accept tabletop play. Simulating a WW1 era naval engagement, including the involvement of DDs, CLs, etc (my goal as a certified naval "rivet counter") on a play area of maximum 6x10 or 6x12ft led to two conclusions:
1 – 1:6000 scale models to maximize play area and minimize model versus ground scale distortion.
2 – a ground scale of 2 inches (50mm) = 1,000 yards, which allows 24,000 yard gun ranges (48in) with plenty of room to spare across even a short 6ft table width, and plenty of steaming room down the l0 or 12ft length of the table (A ship at 30kts would require an hour (20 x 3min turns) to steam the length of a 10ft table).
3 – use of movable sea tiles covering the table to easily re-position forces in the event they reached "the edge of the world" (I use 1.5 x 2 ft transparent Lucite rectangles with a greenish-blue felt beneath.

My rules (as they presently stand in development) feature basic movement by formation (BC by squadron, BB by division, CL by squadron, DD by division). Formation status is defined by all ships in bow to stern contact with the next ahead when in column or at no more than one ship base length separation if in line abreast or line of bearing. Movement is conducted by measuring the movement distance the lead ship (guide or flag) then placing the remaining ships of the formation by hand in accordance with the a/m "rules of formation thumb". Being in a valid formation, of course, confers certain "privileges" in terms of command and control: maneuver orders are written for the formation as a whole rather than each individual ship; signals reach all ships within the formation in the same turn as made; ships in formation may conduct concentration fire.

OK. I am starting to ramble off-topic here. I trust you get the idea of where I am trying to go to simplify order writing and movement.


NCC171712 Oct 2020 2:02 p.m. PST

Blutarski and Nine Pound Round,

The system I use has elements of both of these.

The ground scale is 1 inch = 500 yards (1:18000), although in the code any scale could be chosen. The table is only 56 inches wide, and my gridded mat is only 54 inches wide. Even at that size I have back problems after a game from reaching across.

If the forces move off the map I enter offsets and the code recalculates the positions relative to the grid. If forces move apart more than 54 inches some ships will not be on the table, but the code still reports their positions. Those ships probably would not be in sight from the flagships anyway.

The code can also center the map on any ship, thus implementing Nine Pound Round's relative movement system. I have never used that in a game, but it is helpful for code testing.


Blutarski12 Oct 2020 5:19 p.m. PST



Nine pound round12 Oct 2020 6:59 p.m. PST

The thing about relative movement is that it is easiest to implement it in the situation where you need it most- a stern chase. The "Run to the South" at Jutland lasted an hour and ten minutes at 25 knots, give or take. Using my beloved "Seekrieg V" tables for 1/2400, that ultimately works out to a distance of 73 feet- 5 feet short of a tennis court. Even in 1/6000, that's unplayable on a table. I think the only way you don't steam off the table after three turns is to adopt some kind of relative system.

Murvihill13 Oct 2020 8:44 a.m. PST

When we were in danger of running off the table we'd just move all the ships a couple feet in the clear direction. If you use felt you could slide the felt instead I guess.

Blutarski13 Oct 2020 10:57 a.m. PST

I use my a/m Lucite rectangles to re-position the action on the table-top. Works well, but I will concede that it is more expensive than extra felt.


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