Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Matter of Scale...

The pic below is for any of my non gamer friends who wander here from Facebook. This shows the differences in scale used in wargaming. I guess I should be more precise: Scale is an expression of size in terms of relation to the original. So a 1/48 scale model is 48 times smaller than the original. Put in these terms, I am a 1:1 scale model of a human :)

However, us wargamers have taken, inaccurately, to using the term "scale" when we refer to the various sizes of miniatures on the market. What we should be saying is "size". Size is expressed usually in mm and is the most common way of describing a miniature's size category. So a 28mm miniature is 28mm tall from the bottoms of the feet to the eyes or the top of the head. There are a bunch of different scales. The most common are 15, 20, 25/28, and 40 mm. There are also 2, 6, 10, and 54mm.



Each of these "sizes" is supposed to have a corresponding "scale". Except many don't. For example, 15mm minis are supposed to scale out at 1/100 while 28mm is supposed to be 1/48 or 1/56 or whatever the maker decides he wants to call it. Worse yet, the sculptors mix various scales on the same model. This is what I call "stylization". In essence, each sculptor has his own way of sculpting the various details of a model. Different sculptors emphasize different things. Hands and weapons are often bigger. The head might be smaller, the legs shorter, and the arms stubbier than a real human shrunk to the same "scale". Sometimes details are exaggerated or missing altogether.

Part of this is deliberate on the part of the sculptor and for a simple reason: aesthetic value and style choice.

Part of this is due to the material used to sculpt masters and the material miniatures are cast in (thicker weapons cast in metal will bend or break less easily). Some of it is skill level. Some of it is because some sculptors like to leave off fine detail to make painting a miniature easier or cut details very deeply. Sharp edges and defined details make for a great model to paint, if not always completely realistic looking. The brush picks out the details and sharp edges much easier this way. I personally like miniatures in a more defined, and slightly exaggerated style for this reason alone.

Sometimes the limitation is the size of the miniature. It is harder to sculpt realistic miniatures in 6mm without them being so thin and frail as to be fragile. Plus the human eye needs some exaggerations at smaller sizes to be able to pick up exactly what the viewer is looking at and for the miniature to be recognizable.

There is also this thing called "scale creep". This is a phenomena whereby over the years, miniature sculptors and manufacturers keep making their miniatures bigger. So "25mm" miniatures from 20 years ago are now "28mm" while the old "25s" are closer to today's 20mm minis. And it goes on and on like this. There are a variety of theories on this and endless arguments. Suffice to say stuff keeps changing. This really irritates the pedantic among the wargaming community. Most of us just buy the minis we like, paint them, and play wargames. So today, there is even the category of "30mm" or even "32mm" or "Heroic 28mm" scale miniatures. A good deal of it is just marketing.

Us wargamers like new and shiny.

A lot.

The pic below shows several common "scales" I had sitting on my desk:

The mini on the left is a base of five 6mm German WWII minis from GHQ.

The mini in the middle is my 28mm Pennsylvania Provincial from Eureka.

The mini on the left is my recently finished 15mm Pennsylvania Provincial from Blue Moon/Old Glory.

The other item seen here is this thing called a "Penny". Sometimes they can be found on the ground or on the floor of the car. I realize these are not commonly seen in our plastic money age...but Lincoln is there for size reference anyway.

(edit: I just realized the "grass" on the bases of these minis is all from the same source. The same "scale" grass. Funny how on the 6mm mini that grass is waist deep grass found on the steppes of Russia, while on the 28mm mini it is well groomed golf course fairway grass, and on the 15mm mini it is what my yard usually looks like for most of the summer).

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