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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Question of Scale - Read at your own Risk!

I have been having a little discussion on the Reaper forum kind of running counter to the actual thread (surprise, surprise, we are on page 15 after all). I thought I would kind of throw it out there for folks to comment on.

This is in reaction to a series of post regarding Tre Manor's sculpting style. Tre owns Red Box Games and does freelance sculpting for Reaper and a couple of other companies (I think he may have done some work for Hasslefree, either that or he is just a huge drooling Kev White fanboy, I forget which). 

When all is said and done at the end of the day our terms of 15mm, 18mm, 25mm etc are meaningless when someone introduces the term scale. 28mm, as an example, is not a scale its a measurement. When someone says that a miniature is a 28mm Heroic mini it tells us nothing, it could be 5' tall, it could be 6' tall. There is nothing about 28mm that gives us that information. Now if I said a miniature was sculpted in 1/48 scale then I know exactly what that means. In this case it means that there are 48 scale inches in one real inch or 1 inch equals 4 feet. So if my mini is suppose to be 6' tall then he should stand 1 1/2 inches from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.

Military scale modelers and model railroaders have no problem working in specific scales, in fact scale is everything to them. It tells them how big everything should be, it allows them to relate reality to miniature form and everyone will know exactly what it should look like, what the proportions should be. Ultimately I think that moving our miniature hobby to a specific scale would makes the sculptors life much easier. If he needs to sculpt a halfling to be 3' tall and he is working in 1/48th scale then that halfling will be 3/4" tall. He knows what the proportions should be and how it will compare to the 6' human fighter. Now this is not to say the characters can't be of heroic proportions but now you know exactly how those proportions will look like in direct comparison to your standard 6' tall human. There are plenty of pictures out there of bodybuilders to give a sculptor the proportions for that heroic character.

Our 28mm miniatures are approximately 1/56th scale. At least that's what the WWII folks have, more or less, decided. Some of the companies that are producing resin WWII vehicles have decided that 1/56th is pretty close and that's the scale they are using to produce their vehicles. Others have decided 1/48th scale plastic kits are the way to go. I totally disagree with this scale its much to big for the size of our 28mm miniatures. The argument is that the height of the bases on our miniatures makes up for the deficiencies in actual miniature size. Okay, I can agree with this as far as the look on the table top, but even mounted on bases they are a bit on the small side. 1/48th scale vehicles are readily available at this point and I would never tell someone that they can't use something because the scale is different, if it gets the job done it gets the job done and if you made it look good in the process then I can appreciate that.

Now as a way of comparison let's take a look at a picture.
From left to right: Reaper (28mm), Wargames Foundry (25mm), Black Scorpion (32mm), Dixon (25mm) and Brigade Games (25mm). 
Reaper Miniatures introduced the concept of 25mm Heroic Miniatures when game stores balked at carrying their 28mm miniatures. Wargames Foundry is pretty close to what we would refer to as "True" 25mm this miniature measures about 25mm to the eyes (some might argue that true 25mm is measured to the top of the head). Black Scorpion is pretty much as advertised 29mm to the eyes. Dixon calls their miniatures Large and they are certainly larger than Wargames Foundry but they are only the second largest in the photo. Brigade Games comes out slightly taller than Dixon so I guess they are also Large. However, when you look at this photo for proportions, the Reaper figure appears to be the largest miniature in the line up, but he is several MMs shorter than the Black Scorpion mini.


In a perfect world I would like to see the miniature companies get together and decided on an actual scale for miniatures rather than our current helter skelter proliferation of mm sizes. I'm also convinced that this would be akin to herding cats and is not likely to happen, there are just to many logistical things to deal with.

And if you want to re-read my post on proportions you can find it here: S Scale vs On30 for Calamity

16 comments:

  1. It can be especially problematic when ordering minis online. What you see and think will be a certain size often ends up very different once you get it in your hands.

    I love Red Box sculpts, but in general they're often too small to go with the rest of my miniatures.

    I'd ordered a box of Dystopian Legions light tanks when first released, thinking they'd make nice VSF tankettes, but they're so small it doesn't look like anyone could get inside it andhave room for an engine.. maybe it uses a Flintstone's feet drive. So I decided I'd keep them for use as 15mm tanks.

    yeah, a perfect world of uniform scale would be nice.

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  2. It does get on my nerves but It'll never ever change!

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    1. I know, most of the time I don't have a problem with it. It really comes into play when vehicles are involved. I was comparing my Dixon wagons to the 4Ground wagons and there is a lot of difference. Oh well, the players are unlikely to notice.

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    2. I believe the problem is wargamers really dont care about scale and go with what looks right more often.

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    3. I don't think that there is anything wrong with going with what looks right. My issue is when someone starts talking about things not being in 28mm or 15mm scale, that's when my hackles rise. Calamity is certainly not going to be one "scale" as long as it looks good I'll be happy.

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  3. It is jarring. I like the diversity in fantasy RPGs and scifi skirmish as we humans are not cookie cutter size and shape. I can't mix manufacturers in historical regiments though. The OCD makes me confine my armies to single manufacturers. I like my troops to look like they belong and often the equipment and sculpt style doesn't blend well either.
    It would be grand to have more interchangability, but then I'd never stop building my armies! ;)

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    1. I think that would be a good problem to have! I try to confine my 28mm armies to one manufacturer or at least one sculptor (ECW/TYW there seems to be one guy that has worked for just about everyone!) for the same reason. I want that uniformity.

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  4. I think Andrew's right and I think the reason is basically a cultural one. For generations model railway fans have had a dedicated set of scales to work to and this has developed from the origins of the hobby hardware. Working models have to be built 'in scale' or they simply won't work and won't look right. A train with over size wheels or linkages isn't going to go anywhere. Same culture for non wargaming models, hence the term 'scale model'. The consequence is an obsession with scale until you move into the 'toy' market with Thomas the Tank Engine and such.

    Wargaming on the other hand has an entirely different pedigree and has virtually no agreed formula for figure heft and height, let alone scale. This led directly to Frank Hammond insisting on all the Minden range being 1/56th. It's nobody's fault, it's just grown up that way, but it does leave us with a pretty silly state of affairs where gamers buy blind, rely on others with the resources to do figure comparison shots before we buy or wait for shows if we're lucky.

    There isn't even a 'golden thread' in all this. I've just gone back to my perennial ECW project and the only figures I can get a near match with are Perry and TAG. Ironically the Foundry figures sculpted by the Perry twins are smaller than the current Perry range; Renegade, Bicorne and Tag, all sculpted by Nick Collier are actually different sizes. O.K. for separate units, but difficult to mix.

    Yes please, let's go for a standard scale: probably scales as nobody will agree anyway. The fantasy gang will probably want a larger scale than wargamers who normally couldn't agree on the day of the week. Oh yeah and then what will we do with the then 'redundant' figures already in existence?

    Then again, nature hates uniformity anyway, so what do we do about natural variations in human height and build?

    ;O)

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    1. I think your right, we aren't going to find the golden BB here. I also think that, at least some, manufacturers, deliberately make their miniatures smaller or larger than their competition to try and keep you buying just from them.I think that what scale gives us is that ability to sculpt things to different heights and being able to keep everything in proportion to everything else.

      Those redundant figures are exactly why we are never going to see a single or even multiple scales, but I would at least like to see them move away from the MM designation to some scale even if we are besieged with multiple scales.

      I to have a perennial ECW, well TYW, project!

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  5. Amen. Unfortunately the same issues occur among and between manufacturers of 1/72 figures.

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    1. Here I sit waiting for the trolls and the flaming to start and it turns out that I'm really just preaching to the choir. Its starting to sound like gamers really would prefer to have defined scales rather than our ambiguous, yet precious, MM measurements. Okay, I promise right now that if I ever start a miniatures company I will only produce miniatures to scale. Now if I could just win the lottery I would be in business.

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  6. I'd fairly strongly prefer a notional scale, too. I get frustrated when someone says that 1:43 vehicles work with 25mm figures and then supports this with a photo showing figures that barely reach to the roof of a Camaro model (or whatever). People have no idea how big machinery really is. (Especially true for AFVs, which are usually nowhere near as large as people seem to think they are.

    The other issue with scaling is, to my mind even more important than height. Figures that are five heads high really don't work well with figures that are eight heads high unless you're doing a circus freak Necromunda gang or something. I can tolerate either realistic or exaggerated proportions, but not next to each other.

    Given that we're not likely to ever get a real scale for minis, I liked the figure reviews that MWAN used to run. They had an actual defined and comparable measurement system and a three-bucket system for "heft" (or whatever they called it). It gave a much better feel for which figures might work reasonably well together.

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    1. It is interesting that the only place I got a scale "pushback" as it were was in the Reaper forums from a fantasy guy. Since D&D used 1"=5' then all figures should be sculpted to that scale. Of course the answer really is, they used to be!

      I always chuckle when someone is advocating 1/43 scale vehicles although to be fair that's a nominal scale, most of those vehicles are really scaled to fit in the box. So sometimes they really are close, but you certainly can't count on it.

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  7. No, no, no. D&D used 1" = 10' indoors and 1" = 10 yards outdoors. (For some value of "D&D used".)

    The attitude seems often to be a shining example of making perfect the enemy of good. "We can't fix everything, so fixing anything is just pointless."

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    1. I didn't check, I just used what the gentleman on the Reaper forums used. I do vaguely remember your numbers from oh so long ago though. Yea, because there is no point in fixing it if it means you will only buy minis from us.

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