Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Sprue Cutters Union - Heroic Scale!

Greetings Wargamers and Hobbyists, and welcome to September's Sprue Cutters Union post.

This month we have been asked for our thoughts on a subject that certainly means something rather different for us miniature wargamers than it will for my scale model building compatriots:

What is your favourite scale to work in and why?

I am working on the assumption that when a scale model builder is considering this question, it will nudge them to consider which of the various standardised kit scales they prefer to build, and I also suspect that this relates generally to vehicle kits of one sort or another, whether they are WWII armour or 21st Century fighter aircraft and super advanced naval vessels. I imagine there will be questions raised about the relative complications of working at various scales, or perhaps the availability of favoured kits or lack thereof in certain scales.

As a wargamer, for me this means the same, but at the same time something different, because a different scale of model means more than just the size of the finished build, and the intricacies of the project depending on the level of detail involved. To a wargamer, a different scale often means an entirely different game system, if not also a different genre as well.

So, when wargaming, what does it mean to model an army at a particular scale? Well in wargaming circles there a plethora of game systems to choose from, covering every period in history and even the future, science fiction and fantasy, steam punk and alternate realities. And that barely scratches the surface.

So why would different games use different sized miniatures in the first place? Typically it affects one thing in particular: The size of the conflict. If you want to fight a small skirmish, perhaps between a half dozen or so elite models, then collecting, assembling and painting 54mm models or larger is a fulfilling project. If you want to fight out the Battle of Waterloo at the same scale however, with one model representing one soldier, then you would probably need a battlefield the size of a football pitch to play out the engagement at 54mm.

From the Waterloo Diorama Facebook Page - #makesmewannaplay

Battle size. That's the name of the game then. If you want to be able to play a game with less than 10 models per side, you can be happy working at anywhere from 28mm up to 90mm. If you want to play out your average battle game at around 50-100 models per side, then 25-28mm is about right, and seems to be the most commonly occurring and popular scale. If you want to be able to play out truly epoch shattering battles, then the size to go for if you a). want to be able to conclude the game in this lifetime and b). don't want to have to barricade yourself inside the local town hall to have a big enough space to play it out is probably 6mm or less. I only found out this year that there is such a thing as 2mm model soldiers! 

Our game of choice affects both which scale we are likely to be working at, and also how likely we are to come into contact with other scales. If you are a hardcore 40K player for example, playing at 28mm 'Heroic' scale, then all your models will be at that scale, whether they are infantry models, tanks or mighty bipedal war engines and aircraft, however if the game setting is as much a draw to you as the gaming, and you want to be able to play out other types of game set in the Grim Darkness of the Far Future, then you could be drawn into playing Epic - a large scale battle game with 6mm models - for really big battles, or Battlefleet Gothic for the battles in space before the land battles even begin.

A game of Battlefleet Gothic, in which Imperial Torpedoes are 200ft long!

A very old shot of the precursor to Epic - where entire companies of tanks and infantry engage in battle

Fellow modellers, we have our choices, our options, our world of hobby goodness to cherry pick what we like from and bend the resin, metal and plastic to our will. But which scale do I prefer? Well the games I play most are Warhammer 40,000 and Age of Sigmar (until recently Warhammer: The game of Fantasy Battles), and the vast bulk of my collection is at 28mm Heroic Scale. 

This is a malleable scale that offers great modelling and painting opportunities, and isn't as daunting as a larger model may perhaps be. It is also a very popular scale in the industry, which means that even if we play predominantly one game, we can sometimes find suitable models for that game from outside the system. For example, it is becoming more and more common to find models from Mantic Games or Mierce Miniatures in Fantasy armies, or Kromlech and Wargamma models in 40K armies. 

But...the problem with models collected for armies is that there tends to be rather a lot of them, and sometimes, it is a welcome change to be able to work on something not only from a different genre of game, but also an entirely different scale. This is part of the reason I have recently been adding to my collection of Battlefleet Gothic ships, and have just started the task of refurbishing my entire collection of Man O' War ships. 

Models such as Battlefleet Gothic and Man O' War ships, and miniatures for games like Epic are of course much smaller and the level of detail is, well, not necessarily less fine, but certainly less 'specific', and this means that they are in some ways easier to paint. BFG ships for example can easily be made table-ready with a spray base coat, followed by some dry-brushing to bring out the detail, and finished with some carefully applied spot colours to 'bring out their eyes', and all in double quick time, and this is a far cry from a large unit of 28mm models that all require upwards of five or six colours, details like weapons, armour, pouches and belts, teeth and eyes etc. 

This doesn't mean that you can't spend far more time on the smaller scale miniatures as well, and produce some mind boggling results on a much smaller miniature, but this isn't always necessary, as the desired effect is the look of the model, army, fleet or warmachine on the tabletop, in amongst other miniatures, scenery and the accoutrements of a typical wargame. If you are a gaming hobbyist it is more about the overall impact of the game, and less about the individual model.

The answer to the question then, of which scale of miniature I prefer to work on, can only be this. It depends on which call to war I hear blowing on the wind on any given day, and I will prepare my chosen weapons of war accordingly.

As always my friends, thanks for reading.