You’ve all seen them – the posts from those who are new to wargaming that ask the apparently simple question: “What scale should I game in?”
This is usually the cue for any number of gamers claiming that 54mm/40mm/28mm/20mm/15mm/10mm/6mm/2mm (delete as appropriate) is “God’s own scale” for wargaming and that the poser of the question would be stupid for choosing anything else. The discussion usually goes downhill from there…
However, it’s a perfectly valid question – so what are the criteria that you should consider when choosing what scale to game in? Here are my thoughts on what you should consider when choosing either a new period, or even getting into gaming for the first time:
What has everyone else got?
One of the first considerations when choosing your scale of miniatures for a new period is to actually ask who your opponent will be, and what armies do they own? If you are in a situation where you will be playing other people, then it would seem sensible to ensure that you choose the same scale figures, so that you have ‘instant’ opponents to do battle against.
If no-one else has an army for that period, then you may want to consider creating two armies rather than one, so you always have opposing forces in the same scale – just in case.
This leads us to the next question:
What terrain do I already own?
If you already play wargames in another period, then the chances are that you own an amount of scenery. Unless you end up gaming in some strange, alien environment, the majority of terrain should be interchangeable between periods. Hills, rivers, trees and hedges, as well as dirt track roads, are all pretty much interchangeable across the ages. Yes, there are some geographical differences which could change the species of tree or hedge, and some terrain is found in some locales but not others, but as a general rule of thumb, this is the case.
So, if you start a new period, you should consider choosing the same scale as what you already own – it means that you may only have to purchase/build different fences, walls and buildings – everything else remains the same.
What game am I playing?
I think it’s fair to say that an awful lot of games these days are systems, in that the rules have an integrated model range. If you want to play Bolt Action or Saga, for example, you will most like want to play the game in 28mm.
Obviously, you don’t have to play that game in that scale, but you may struggle to find opponents outside of your gaming group should you choose an alternative scale. So, if you plan to play a particular game system in tournaments, or with several groups of fellow gamers, this may well dictate your scale.
How much gaming space have I got?
Whilst there are so many games that seem to assume that players have access to a 6′ x 4′ gaming table, this is not the case for everyone. Perhaps this is one of the reason why games that play on a smaller 3′ x 3′ (such as Frostgrave, Guildball or X-Wing), or even 2′ x 2′ table (DBA anyone?) have become more popular in recent years – these games can be played on the kitchen table (indeed, Saga had the fact that it needed to be able to be played on a ‘standard’ kitchen table as one of it’s design parameters).
There are also several sets of rules that can have their playing area reduced if you reduce the size of the elements or miniatures: Sword & Spear or Basic Impetus can be played on a 4′ x 2′ table with 60mm x 30mm elements. Those same sized elements can be used with To The Strongest on a 3′ x 2′ playing area.
How much storage space have I got?
One thing many of us don’t think about when we are looking to buy our latest army is where we are going to store it? This question is even more relevant with regards to scenery – especially for those of use who haven’t got access to a convenient cupboard at the local gaming club venue.
Let’s face it, if you thought 28mm miniatures were a pain to store, 28mm buildings take up far more room. Start multiplying this by the potential of multiple periods, and space very quickly reaches a premium.
Obviously, the footprint of 15mm or 6mm buildings makes storing them (and the accompanying scenery such as trees, hills etc) far easier – so if you are short of storage space, the answer is really to go small – either in table size, or model scale.
So, what’s the best scale for wargaming? As I hope I’ve indicated, it all depends on your circumstances of gaming.
Given a clean slate and no preconditions? I think I would probably choose 15mm as my overall scale of choice – especially after playing Chain of Command in that scale and seeing how well it works, even for skirmish games. It’s a good all-round scale, whether playing skirmish games or larger battles.
However, 6mm is a close second – big battles look ‘BIG’ and small battles can be fought on a much smaller board.
28mm? I need to build an extension to my house to store everything…