Tag Archives: problems in wargaming

0.04 Tipping the Scales

Gaming and modeling scales are a bit weird, and perhaps a note explaining them might be of use to someone.

If you see something like 1/72 or 1:72, you’re looking at a ratio. That ratio is telling you what 1″ in the real world is equal to in the scale model’s world. So, 1/72 means that 1″ on the table equals 72″ in the game world. There are 12″ in a foot, so 72″ divided by 12″ = 6 feet. Finally, what it’s really telling you is that 1″ = 6′, so infantry figures should be roughly 1″ from feet to top of the head. Except when they’re not.

If you see 20mm or 25mm or 28mm, that figure represents some arbitrary measurement of height on a scale figure. One manufacturer of 25mm figures might measure from foot to top of head and another might measure from foot to the eyes, while another might measure from foot to the top of the helmet. More or less.

Now, you’ll find that rules treat ground scale quite differently. It’s, especially in rules representing the modern period, typically quite compressed. Shrunk (what a weird word), if you will. Considering that your typical large-caliber rifle has an effective range in the hundreds of yards (max ranges are going to be a mile, at least), that an inch covers only 2 yards (at 1/72 scale), and your typical table is only 72″ long, and you begin to see the problem. Let’s not even discuss tanks, mortars, and anti-tank guns.

Yes, it’s all quite confusing, and wouldn’t it be great if everything was rigorously produced to scale? Keep the big picture in mind, though; a few millimeters isn’t that big of a deal when it comes to figures and we’d never get to play if you had to build boards that were 30′ long.