tisdag 6 maj 2014

The scale conundrum

No this isn't a previously undiscovered Sherlock Holmes novel, it's just the matter of which scale our small figures are? I will ramble a bit, do some math and then reach a surprising discovery in the end.

This whole scale creep issue is annoying, but the whole thing is muddled because when we talk about our beloved wargames miniatures we are talking about  a size, not a scale. (I will assume you do know how to calculate scale, if not then read this first.) As a metric person I can't understand why stuff aren't in easy scales like 1:100, 1:50 and so on. The blame lies partly with the imperial measurements. Dare you read on, fellow gamers? I promise there are some shots of miniatures after the break.

It all started with model railways.

In the early 20th century toy trains was a popular hobby with mechanical and electrical train sets for the rich families. Size was limited by how small you could make the motors but there was a need for standardization and Gauge 1 was set at 1:32. Model builders recognize it as a common large modelling scale and there are still Gauge 1 train sets. But with increasing skill the toy manufacturers  managed to shrink the trains and thus Gauge 0 was created. It was named Gauge 0 or 0-gauge because it was smaller than 1-gauge. In germany it was set at 1:43.5 (for some reason) while in the UK it's commonly 1:48 -- also a modelling scale. After WW1 H0 gauge was invented, being 1:87 or Half-0 scale.

Picture from
In the UK real trains where slightly smaller than their continental counterparts. Therefore Hornby and Triang decided to manufacture their model trains in a slightly larger scale -- 1:76 -- but using the same track as H0 gauge, 16.5 mm. 1:76 was chosen because of the handy fact that one foot is 304.8 mm, divide this by 76 and you get almost exactly 4 mm. This meant that 3 inches in real life equalled 1 mm on the model, making it easy to convert measurements.

1:72 scale on the other hand was invented just before WW2 and was used by the allies in making aircraft recognition models during the war, adding to the scale's spreading. The scale was decided after the fact that 6 feet is 72 inches; thus a 6 foot long human being would be 1 inch tall in the model scale, again making it easy to convert measurments. After WW2 Airfix contributed to make the scale popular, but they still made their military models in 1:76 since that was the accepted scale for everything on the ground, a practice repeated by Matchbox.

15mm, 1:87, 1:76 and 1:72 scale Hanomags.

Confused yet? It gets worse. Now we come to the figures scales.

Traditionally wargames figures are measured in height, not scale. The number of sizes have grown over the years, when I started there was 6, 15, 20 and 25 mm figures. As I have heard it the size was originally measured "from the soles of the feet to the top of the head" of the figure without measuring the base. However various figures could have different headgear making it hard to measure, so the definition was changed to "from the soles of the feet to the eyes" making the figures slightly larger. This also gave the sculptors the opportunity to add more details. Also, while model figures usually have anatomically correct proportions wargames figures tend to have oversized heads, feet and weapons, because wargames sculptors want to put the emphasis on those parts.

Sometime during the 90's Games Workshop decided to rename their scale as 28 mm scale, since hey, that was how big they were. Yet they kept increasing the size with each release and now it's called "30mm heroic scale", meaning a human being is anywhere between 32 and 35 mm in height.

Three Games Workshop figures, 25, 28 and "heroic" 30 mm scale. Late 80's, early 90's and late 00's.

If we do the math we find some interesting things.
  • If we assume a human is 180 cm tall, or just shy of six feet, this will make 6 mm 1:300 which corresponds with several manufacturers. Yet GHQ is using 1:285 scale instead, and Games Workshop stated in the last version of Epic that they are using 1:250.
  • 10 mm, which is a new scale, corresponds well with N gauge which is usually 1:160. As 10 mm figures invariably are around 11-12 mm anyway it works.
  • 15 mm should be 1:120 which corresponds with TT gauge, yet several manufacturers have used anything between 1:110 as their figure scale and 1:100 as their vehicle scale as it fits better with the very oversized heads and hands on the figures.
  • 20 mm should be 1:90 if we use a 180 cm tall man as our template. This would match well with H0 gauge, but 20 mm is universally regarded as either 1:76 or 1:72. Most "20 mm" figures are between 22 and 24 mm tall.
  • 25 mm. Here is the odd one out. Mathematically speaking this should be equal to 1:72, but as this has always been a wargames scale it does not match well with 1:72 models. Yet I have some old jeeps and anti-tank guns I bought in the late 1980's that were labelled as "25 mm" and match perfectly with 1:72. Today almost no models are labelled as 25 mm though.
  • 28 mm. There never was a proper scale for this. Most 28mm gamers used 1:48 scale vehicle kits with their figures. Although oversized they seemed to look ok with the "heroically" styled miniatures, especially if you are accustomed to the bloated Games Workshop vehicles. Never the less an industry standard of 1:56 surfaced during the late 90's.  
  • Heroic 30 mm: Your guess is as good as mine.
  • 36 mm. Some companies like North Star and Gringo 40's started to do 1/48 scale miniatures that were realistically proportioned in metal and resin to use with the 1/48 scale kits. The reasoning was that while there was a lot of model kits there wasn't much figures to use, and a 1/48 scale figure would take up as much space as a heroic 28 mm figure but look much better. It didn't take off though, but can still be found here and there.

Richard Ansell's 1/48 German figures available from Scarab Miniatures.

So what's my point with all this rambling? As I'm moving into 28 mm WW2 gaming I'm stumped for choice; do I buy resin 1:56 vehicles from Warlord Games and Blitzkrieg Miniatures among others, or do I use 1/48 scale model kits from Tamiya, Italeri and similar manufacturers? To add to the dilemma I'm actually quite fond of making models in plastic and don't mind a little bit fiddly. On the other hand the resin kits are usually more sturdy and stand up to the rigors of gaming better. On the third hand they aren't as detailed as their plastic brethren.

So naturally I ordered both a 1/56 resin model and a 1/48 plastic model to compare. My choice fell upon the Sd.Kfz 222 armoured car, as it was used the whole war and as I happened to find a cheap Tamiya kit on eBay. The Warlord version cost me a princely sum of £16 from Wayland Games while the Tamiya kit went for just below £20 including postage from Hong Kong.

The size difference between 1/48 and 1/56. Also note the lack of extra equipment on the resin model.
The Warlord vehicle was just a few parts; the wheels, a pair of headlights and the front bumper was quickly glued to the body. The turret was one piece, and the machine gun and autocannon was just one other piece. Finally the grenade screens were two parts in case you wanted them open, but as there were no inside details I will use them closed. The resin body had reasonable details, but a lot of stuff was missing. No tools, no license plates, no jack and no Notek light. There were no turn signals or locator rods but in all fairness the Tamiya kit didn't include them either.

Hm, I wonder if I fit in here? I doubt it.
The Tamiya kit turned out to be a repackaged ICM kit along with one extra accessory sprue lifted from Tamiya's Panzer IV. Certain not so fine parts on the ICM kit were to be replaced with Tamiya parts although upon closer inspection only the Notek light and the fire extinguisher was substandard. Included was also a fret of photo-etched parts, including the anti-grenade mesh which would go on top of the turret. Irritatingly THIS was done as a single part so if you want it open you have to cut it in half. Not the easiest thing to do with a thin sheet of brass.

Ouch, my spleen! 
Looking at the 1/56 model and comparing it with the figures it's hard to imagine two people fitting inside that tiny turret. It looked ridiculously tiny. So ridiculous I decided there and then to use the 1/48 kit and sell off the resin model.

Perfect to pick up girls with, until they see the small door.
On the other hand, the Sd.Kfz 222 was a small vehicle, only 1.7 meters high. And you always see the crew sitting on the edge of the turret. Maybe they did so because it was bloody cramped inside.

That doesn't look right...
...this looks better.
If you look closely you can see some small differences between the kits. The resin kit has triangular covers for the hubcaps while the plastic kit has an additional storage box on the hull. I did some googling and found out that the plastic kit was of the later Type 3 hull while resin kit was a Type 2 hull. This made the Warlord Games resin model better suited for Deutches Afrika Korps while the Tamiya kit was better suited for a late war vehicle. Ironically the box cover for the Warlord kit showed a late war paint scheme while the Tamiya showed a DAK vehicle.

Palm emblem, check. Triangular hubcaps, check. Crew on the side of the turret... 
So I decided to use the 1/56 model anyway. I used the radio operator from the Perry DAK box in the turret since I thought the headphones were fitting. I also used the surplus Notek light from the Tamiya kit to tart the Warlord model up a bit. I will also use the extra shovel and see if the jack fits, anything that adds to that lived in appearance really.

Achtüng! Britische Untoten!!!
So ok, I have now commited myself to 1/56, at least for my desert forces. This means that I can use all the tasty Blitzkrieg models that the Perrys are releasing with crew. But what about the Tamiya kit? Well, I can always just paint it as display model.

So why the hell did I buy this for then???
Until next time, brothers and sisters.

15 kommentarer:

  1. Thanks for the quick history lesson!

    Nowadays I try to search accurate info from web before ordering miniatures that I haven't seen "live". Miniature blogs and sites that have comparison pictures and reviews of miniatures from different manufacturers are doing great job for the gamers, I think - by the way thanks for those 222 shots! I don't mind few millimeters differences between miniatures from same force (people come in different sizes) but if their equipment is noticeably different in size that always bugs me a bit. But that's my problem - being a scale watcher should never come in the way of actual gaming :D



    PS. I don't want to rub it but apparently Italeri is releasing that same Sdkfz.234/2 Puma in plastic and 1/56 scale later this year ;)

    1. Yeah I know... Will probably by that one as well.

  2. The 28mm scale is very close to 1:64, which sounds like a scale someone must make, but apparently isn't. At that scale, even 1:56 is really to big, but would certainly look better than 1:48 scale. As in my view slightly underscale vehicles look better with any figure size/scale, I would probably go with 1:72 with 28mm figures. As 1:64 lies exactly half-way between 1:56 and 1:72, the choice seems to be aesthetic.

    That assumes, of course, we are looking at 'true' 1:28mm figures. Thirty mm is 1:60 (taking the figure represents a height of 180mm (slightly taller than average at a little under 5' 11"). Then you best bet will probably be 1:56 after all.

    It has occurred to me that the 1:48 scale figures (37.5mm) might have a market associated with Army Men types, which don't actually have a scale, by the look. Armyb Men gaming seems to be growing in popularity in its own right. Well scupted figures could end up as elite types among the cruder ordinary Joes.

    1. Lots of good points, thanks!

      Yes 1:64 is a model railroad scale, it's common in the US.

    2. 1:60 scale. Yes it should be true 28 mm scale but AFAIK only West Wind productions are doing 1:60. I think it was Tony Ashcroft who pioneered 1:56 with his lovely Army Group North Miniatures and then everyone just seemed to tag along.

    3. Never thought of army men. They might be 1:48 but I think they are larger...

    4. Aren't most of the plastic army men 1/32? I kind of remember those old Matchbox etc. plastic soldier boxes being labeled with that scale. But of course then you had those cheap 100 in a bag type army men that didn't have a consistent scale even between the minis in same bag so...

    5. Army Men vary rather a lot! My own ... collection ... varies from 40mm to 60mm - that is about 1:45 to 1:32, though most lie in the middle of that range (50mm = 1:36).

  3. Nice review. Although, are not the Perry figures somewhat smaller than other WWII figures? I seem to recall having heard that, but I do not have any Perry or others to compare with...

    1. They are the same size as the WW2 figures the Perry Twins did for Foundry early 2000-s. So they are true 28 mm while everyone else make 30 mm heroic scale following GW.

  4. Great blog post!! Very informative and interesting comparisons.

  5. Good post Leif. Some food for thought!

  6. Interesting post. I find the proportions of most '28mm' miniatures doesn't help, even if you find a vehicle that scales correctly for the height of your figures, it often looks a bit small because the oversized proportions on the figures (and their weapons). So hatches, turrets and weapons just don't look right.

    So for WW2 I'm sticking with 1:72, or is it 1:76, or HO/OO? Oh dear... ;-)

    1. Oh dear indeed!
      Most of the 20 mm figs are ok together though.


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