Sunday, November 23, 2014

Understanding Scale

One of the biggest issue for wargamers is grasping the idea of scale. Especially in any abstraction beyond the 1 to 1 of skirmish gaming, it is easy to forget that you miniatures represent a much bigger number of men. It is also easy to underestimate distance, but that is another issue (one easily curable when you go visit and try to walk the battle-lines in one of the big American Civil War national parks.)

Here I am going to talk a bit about figure scale. I.E how many real humans your figures represent.

Let us start with the real thing. Using my 10mm Russians here is what a closely packed company of 168 men would look like , and a battery of 6 guns (sorry for the bad photo)


Our real strength company of 10mm men is longer than 12 inches (30 cm) four deep. If it was one deep it would be longer than 72 inches (120 cm). If we say a full adult occupies 60cm (24 inches) of space that means 4 deep our company is 1800 cm long (18 meters). One deep it would be (72 meters)

Now usually a 19th century regiment would be made up of 3-6 battlios, each battalion of 4 to 10 companies.

As you can probably comprehend a 1 to 1 representation of a battalion, let alone regiment is beyond the financial and space capabilities of gamers.

Let me put it this way. Suppose you want to represent in 10mm at 1 to 1 ratio a full Russian regiment of 1877. You would need 5 companies per battalion, three battalions per company. That amounts to about 840 figurines per battalion, and 2520 per regiment.

Each battalion if we put companies in line, each company four deep would be 200cm or 2 meters. If we put all the battalions of the regiment side by side, it would be 6 meters long, only 60 cemter short of my height.

Not many have a room or place big enough to accomodate that many miniatures let alone play a game with them.

So we abstract. We scale up. Let us say we use a scale were 1 figure= 40 men, and 1 gun=6 guns.



Our company now looks like this, and our battery of 6 guns can be represented by one figure.


A Russian regiment of three battalions and a divisional artillery brigade looks like this then. Still substantial, but now manageable. But we can go up the scale more.


If we use Bruce Weigel's Grand Tactical Scale, two bases of infantry represent a battalion (1 to 100 scale), and one base or artillery now represents two batteries or 12 guns. Thus three double bases of infantry are a regiment, two regiments a brigade, two brigades a division.

This gives us 2 divisions and thus a corps, permitting us to play medium sized to big historical battles. 


Let us go up the grand tactical level. Let us say we want to play multi-corps battles. One in which we command an army. Using the Altar of Freedom basing convention, now each three bases of infantry represent a brigade of about 4000 to 6000 men (1 to 400 ratio).

This gives us 16 brigades. Each division has two brigades, thus we now have 8 divisions of infantry, and 1 of cavalry, or 4 corps. Historically this is substantial 19th century force, and in the case of some  states, their whole army. Obviously at this level you lose some of the benefits of using miniatures, but gain the ability to fight huge battles in a reasonable time frame for working adults.


Here is my army based for Neil Thomas 19th century rules. 12 units of infatnry, 3 of cavalry and 6 artillery.

Using scaling you can thus play multiple types of games, from small battalion actions to massive battles. But never forget that your little figures, actually represent tens, hundreds or even thousands of men. 

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