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Blog [CS] – Measuring Scales

Wargame scale is something that often doesn’t get enough attention in my view, and I mean that applied to both types of ‘scale’ in gaming.


Firstly, there is ‘scale of engagement’. That is, are we playing skirmish, platoon, army scale, etc. And secondly there is ‘scale of representation’, which is what we traditionally think about and refers to how big the models are that we are using. Its very tempting to think of these two concepts of scale as linked, and I think that this is why we often only think about a single concept of scale, but in fact they are entirely independent. Its entirely possible to play a 6mm skirmish game, and likewise similarly possible to play a 28mm army scale game with tanks and aircraft and hundreds of troops. Obviously, its not common, and in most cases it makes most sense to reduce scale of representation as we increase the scale of engagement.


When writing rules, its very important to have a very clear idea of where your game fits into both these concepts of scale. Scale of engagement appears obvious, but it has far reaching implications for the level of granularity of a rules set. And army scale game should not deal with whether combatants are armed with a sword in their left or right hand, and this level of detail slows a game down to unplayable. But beyond this, it impacts in any of one hundred different ways. For example, and pertaining to Dark Portents, I wanted to include formation types but at ‘company level’ its important that details like this are relatively streamlined, and only included where they will actually impact the game. Every rules will have a cost/reward associated with it, cost in terms of how much it slows a game down and makes rules more difficult to grasp, and reward in terms of its influence on the table and achieving the goal that you are looking for. In general, at ‘company level’ (around 100 minis on the table per side) there is room to include some character rules but these must not slow the game down and should be streamlined. There are also optioned that are opened up and both ends of the spectrum. Larger scale, as we head towards ‘army level’ games give more scope for larger models on the table, and more variety – fliers, war machines, etc. However, as we head further towards the skirmish end, we get more out of the individual characters in the army, from commanders having more influence and a bigger role in a game, all the way to every model having a specialisation and role.


While scale of engagement is usually a personal choice that people naturally gravitate towards, scale of representation is often far more deeply rooted. A lot of gamers will only play a single scale of miniature, and while this can make good sense (“I need trees in how many different scales?”) I feel its a bit of shame that so many gamers never break out of 28mm, not only for their games but even just using different ‘muscles’ when painting at a different scale. I usually think of miniature scale in two different categories – individually based (15mm and larger) and group based (10mm and below). Its possible to create a set of rules that can be applied to one of these two groups, but it becomes more difficult to have a single set of rules that can deal with both categories without increased abstraction. Even when, at the end of the day, the miniatures are really just evolved meeples.


See you in 7…. approximately!


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