Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Mixing scales on the tabletop: heresy or not?

This is not the first time I have written about this topic ... but something that I read elsewhere has made me return to it. What sparked my return was a discussion about the use of 1:700th-scale model aircraft with 1:2400th-scale model ships in a World War II wargame set in the Pacific. Most of the people who took part in the discussion expressed the opinion that it was perfectly in order to mix these two scales on the tabletop, although there was a minority who felt that such a suggestion was almost heretical.

This set me thinking. In the past I have quite happily mixed 1:87th, 1:76th, and 1:72nd-scale vehicles and figures on the tabletop ... and yet I know of some wargamers who would blanche at the thought of using inconsistent scale vehicles and figures in the same game. At the same time Zvezda has been producing a World War II wargame - Operation Barbarossa - that mixes 20mm-scale figures and 1:100th-scale vehicles, and that seems to have been quite successful ... although I suspect that most of the vehicles have been bought by wargamers who use 15mm-scale figures. In addition, Irregular Miniatures produce a range of Really Useful Guns which are described as suitable for use with both 15mm and 20mm-scale figures.

On reflection I cannot see why 20mm-scale figures cannot be used alongside 15mm/1:100th-scale vehicles ... and I think that I will give this a tryout in my next wargame.

58 comments:

  1. I have a couple of thoughts on this.

    When it comes to 1/87, 1/76 and 1/72, I mix these scales without a problem. Honestly, unless I have two tanks of the same type in different scales side by side, I can't tell the difference. It helps, I think, that I played WWII in these scales, and the terrain was dense. Figures were rarely beside each other at all.

    One reason I'll bet the mix of smaller ships and larger aircraft works well is that it might just make the illusion of looking down on the ocean full of battling ships stronger. The larger planes will appear to be closer to the viewer than they are, and therefore higher.

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  2. Hi Bob,
    In my WW2 battles, the ground troops, mostly from Flames of War, are in 15mm. The aircraft, also by Flames of War, are in 1/144 scale. I find it gives a very nice look to the game.
    When i was much younger, I used a mix of ROCO vehicles(1/87 scale), and Airxi figures(1/76-1/72-?) depending on the box. Remember how well fed your British Airborne looked next to the poor Eight Army guys? It was funny how different an early ROCO Sherman, a late ROCO, and an Airfix Sherman looked....
    When I made the jump to metal, it was to play colonials. I was mixing Jack Scruby's, Ral Partha, Hinchcliffe, and Minifigs. There was no commonality of height or bulk. It never bothered me.
    a few years ago, i was playing a lot of Flames of War, and wanted to try out a British Armoured Company with about twenty Sherman tanks. I bought them all in the forom of 1/72 Matchbox toys, and converted an re-painted them. The first time I used them i was told. "Their 'footprint' is too big. It affects the game." I asked "to whose favor?"
    My opponent was not sure, but he knew it would mess something up...I never used them in another game at the store, but got a lot of use out of them at home.
    I am now painting and basing my armies for the American Revolutionary War, using plastic flats. I was amused to see that the cavalry and infantry are the same height, which I now know to be called "Toy Soldier Scale". It works for me!
    -Steve

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  3. Hi Bob,
    Most of us non-wealthy WWII Airfix figure-users have always had to use a variety of vehicle scales until fairly recently, when more 1/72 kits are on the market (and more figures, too, thankfully). I say non-wealthy because there are Preisser, Heiser and other European 1/87 kits available that are inordinately expensive for the average wargamer.

    No one seems to mind that the Memoir 44 series has a different vehicle scale -- except those who prefer to use larger-scale vehicles on more wargamish terrain -- but they probably would prefer that anyway.

    I'm looking forward to see the results of your experiments along these lines.
    Regards,
    John

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  4. Mex em up says I.

    Unless you are doing a display for a museum - this is a GAME! These are TOYS!

    Play with them!

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  5. To state the obvious, my figures are "25/28mm size"; I am just finishing a unit of Front Rank figures and they are HUGE, ? 32mm, especially compared to my vintage Minifigs from the 1970's. But in separate units ion the tabletop, I don't worry about it a bit.

    Same applies even more so to ships and ground units, and Planes vs. Ships vs land unit is a similar case... not unlike my 25mm buildings, which are in scale to the figures, but certainly NOT the ground scale!

    Peter

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  6. Back when I played 15mm ACW, we used 10mm buildings . . . as the rule book suggested . . . and they worked fine together.

    I agree with Murdock, they are Toys . . . play with them any way you like.


    -- Jeff

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  7. I too have mixed vehicle scales in my gaming (1/72, 1/76. and 1/87) and unless it is the same vehicle type it doesn't seem to be a problem - of course the main thing was that things looked right, as I feel that having the "right look" adds to my gaming enjoyment. Of course the ground scale is 1:1800, and each vehicle represents a platoon size element. Having the same type of equipment in different scales can look silly if they are wildly different scales though, and is in my opinion best avoided.

    The Axis and Allies miniatures game 'War at Sea' uses 1/1800 scale ships and 1/900 scale aircraft and the effect is quite visually pleasing.

    So I think it boils down to what suits the gaming tastes of you and your opponents If all parties are happy to have mixed scales fielded then no problem. I have objected to playing against an army was a mix of 1/100 and 1/72 scale troops and vehicles. It looked awful, but more importantly it was difficult to determine what each piece represented - the 1/100 scale jeeps had 1/100 scale HMGs that looked like the MMGs on other vehicles, in addition to other issues of a similar nature. Conversely I happy play against other armies that field mix scales in a similar way to me, that make it easy for both players to tell what an element is. And, of course in the 1/72 moderns I play, the aircraft are generally 1/144 scale.

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  8. I agree with Murdoch, too. It's your game, do what you want.
    As a solo player my usual opponent has never had a problem with how I play my games.

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  9. Here here, Murdock, that's my feeling on it as well!

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  10. Possibly my most egregious mix of scales is my use of 20mm plastic foot troops alongside my 1:300 scale navy. They look good that way. Try matching scales. My 8" long Benton would have to be nearly the whole width of my table! Can't be having with that!

    The trick is, of course, that we already mix scales: the ground scale and figure scales are generally very different. It so happens my ship scales lie somewhere between the figure and ground scales, and look rather like vessels seen from the shore.

    Had the range been broad enough, and the availability much greater than it was, I would have gone with 1:87 scale vehicles with my 20mm WW2 figures. Having said that, I miv 1:72 and 1:76, though try to avoid having different scales in the same unit - like Uncle Brian and others in that respect.

    But I have discovered that I prefer 1:144 scale aircraft with these, rather than the 1:72. I don't really know why. Maybe it has something to do with the sheer size of the aircraft in 1:72 scale that kind of does viol;ence to the ground scale.

    For the rest, I'm gradually adding plastic figures to my Napoleonics inventory. These are the traditional 20-25mm guys, rather than the 28mm fellows. I prefer the bigger guys in these ranges (Italieri are pretty good in that respect).

    But as my Russian metals are indeed 28mm (or a bally big 25mm), I believe that if I get plastics to finish them off (I need horse and guns), they will have to be 28mm, no question.
    Cheers,
    Ion

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  11. H'mmm ... somehow bit about ACW armies in my first 2 paragraphs got left out. I was, of course, speaking of my ACW stuff.

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  12. As has been said "it's a game" and we humans have a well developed capacity to rationalize everything. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    BC.

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  13. Will Scarvie,

    I have had similar experiences when using model vehicles that were different scales. Unless they are right next to each other, differently scaled models of the same vehicle are not usually noticeably different when on the tabletop … and different manufacturers have different ideas about how big vehicles are. (I have seen three models of T-34s from three different manufacturers side-by-side … and they were all a different size from each other.)

    You are certainly right about the relationship between aircraft and ship models in naval wargames. See from above (the wargamers normal perspective on life!) the aircraft will appear to be nearer, and therefore larger.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  14. Steven Page,

    We seem to have shared quite a considerable number of similar experiences! My World War II armies were all a mixture of ROCO and Airfix models (with the occasional Roscopf vehicle creeping in as well) and the size differences between them (especially between the early ROCO Sherman and the Airfix model) was quite noticeable … but we did not care! We were wargamers, not model collectors. I do like the modelling aspect of wargaming, but not to the exclusion of everything else.

    I like the sound of your plastic flats! When are we going to see them in action?

    All the best,

    Bob

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  15. The Ferrymen (John),

    I totally agree with you. We wargamers are so lucky nowadays to have so much stuff available to us, even if some of it is rather pricey. I would love to use some of the European models I have seen on sale, but I am just not that wealthy!

    You are also right about MEMOIR ’44. No one queries the different scale playing pieces in use … but then it is a BOARD game, and therefore not a ‘proper’ wargame in some people’s eyes. (If it doesn’t fit in with the published Codex, you can’t use it! :^})

    All the best,

    Bob

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  16. MurdocK,

    I totally agee! I am a warGAMER ... and I use toy soldiers!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  17. Gonsalvo (Peter),

    Scale 'creep' has a lot to answer for ... and it is not a new phenomena. I loved the original Airfix German Infantry set, but if you put the figures alongside ‘modern’ Airfix figures that are supposed to be made to the same scale, they look tiny! So they have to serve in different units … and when they do, they look perfectly all right!

    I used to use 15mm-scale buildings with my 20mm-scale figures and vehicles, but more recently I have been using even smaller scale buildings … and I have never had a single adverse comment. Likewise when I have used 1:1200th-scale ships ‘offshore’ to support amphibious wargames, no one has ever made a comment.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  18. Bluebear Jeff,

    Thanks for your vote of support. It would appear that quite a few of us 'mature' wargamers have a similar attitude.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  19. Hi Bob,

    Judging by the number of comments thus far this is quite an emotive subject!

    From a personal perspective I have used 1/1800th warships with 1/900th aircraft which works well for the reasons already mentioned.

    I have also played Memoir 44 with the scale differences incorporated in the models used in the game.

    For my own games the scenery I invariably use is out of scale with the models (or even blocks!) and this is not a problem, it looks fine. I know that Art of Tactic uses 3 scales in its system (1/72nd, 1/100th and 1/144th) and appears to work OK.

    I guess that it is a matter of personal choice and for me I would want figures and vehicles (and artillery) to be of a similar scale - which would allow for the great 'close but not quite the same as the figures in use' Roco based tank fests of yesteryear.

    Whatever works for whatever you want to do is the way to go methinks!

    All the best,

    DC

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  20. I've always preferred to use 6mm scale buildings with 15mm figures as it gives a much better impression of the ground scale. There's something abstract about it which "just works".

    We've also used 6mm generals with 2mm blocks (TYW period). This looks great too, again abstract. It was a serendipitous discovery on the first occasion we used the 2mm and found that the freshly painted command bases were still at home! A few 15mm napoleonic generals were used and we realised that it didn't look terrible.

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  21. Bob,
    I heartily concur with most of the points made about mixing scales - if it looks aesthetically appealling, why not? Smsller scale planss above a ground battle look as if they are high above the action, for example.

    What one can't do so successfully, in my opinion, is mix scales outside the boundaries: 25, 28 and 30 mm are okay; so are 20mm, 1/72, 1/76 and 1/87; 15 and 18mm - but not 25mm and 15mm, or 15mm and 19mm. (Though 30mm and 6mm might work for Gulliver in Liliput!)

    Here's an heretical thought: what about using a - slightly - larger scale for emperors, army/corps commanders &c who are important, high status personages, whose names are often used by military historians as a convenient shorthand for the formations under their command -'Soult advanced onto the Pratzen Heights.' for example - and smaller scale, less detailed figures for the anonymous 'scum of the earth' in the ranks, who are 'but so many chickens' to many of their leaders?

    Regards,

    Arthur

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  22. It's definitely heresey. I do it all the time.
    Frequent combinations are 1/72, 1/76 and 1/87 figures and vehicles on the same table as buildings in 1/300, 1/200 and 1/76 and aircraft in 1/144 and 1/300.

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  23. Uncle Brian,

    I think that you point about it having the ‘right look’ is well made, and one I would agree with. Likewise, I don’t think that mixing 1:100th and 1:72nd-scale figures would appeal to me … although in reality that is rather like putting someone who is 6’ tall next to someone who is 4’ 6” tall, which is not actually unreasonable.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  24. Fitz-Badger,

    You are very lucky. The chap I play my solo wargames with is an awkward and unreasonable person to deal with ... or so my wife tells me!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  25. Bob

    If they look ok on the table then mix them up. Given the range of sizes in "25mm" I don't see a problem.

    And FYI I use 1:1200 airplanes from Cap Aero with my 1:2400 ships from GHQ. In this case, the "bigger" miniatures make it look like your given a bird's eye vie of the game. Plus the Cap Aero planes are wonderful and you can identify plane types, unlike true scale 1:2400 planes. You can see pics on my blog or at Curt's http://analogue-hobbies.blogspot.ca
    Cheers
    PD

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  26. Don M,

    Yet another comment of agreement! It looks like I might actually be on to something that meets with general approval.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  27. Conrad Kinch,

    The voice of well-argued reason as usual. The monster must die!

    I would expect nothing less from you! :^)

    All the best,

    Bob

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  28. Tradgardmastare,

    You are right ... and I will!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  29. Archduke Piccolo (Ion),

    Mixing 20mm-scale figures with 1:300th-scale ships sounds sensible to me. As you say, they look like they are being seen from a distance. (I have done something similar myself … and it works.)

    I started with ROCO vehicles and Airfix figures … and had the ROCO vehicles remained as cheap as they once were, I would have carried on using them. I agree about not mixing models of the same vehicle in different scales in the same unit, but other than that I think that whatever looks ‘right’ must be so.

    I also agree about aircraft flying over land battles needing to be of a smaller scale, and I like the 20mm/1:144th and 15mm/1:300th ratios for vehicles/aircraft that I have seen used. They just look ‘right’.

    Good luck with your growing Napoleonic collection. Mine is all metal figures … and some kneeling figures are easily as tall as some standing ones, but because they are in different units it does not seem to notice.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  30. Archduke Piccolo (Ion),

    I guessed as much from what you wrote.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  31. David Crook,

    I must admit that this subject does seem to have produced a much larger response than I had expected … and the general feeling seems to be:

    1. It is your game, so do what you want.

    2. It is only a game, so who cares?

    3. We all make compromises, and what looks ‘right’ usually is right.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  32. Coopdevil,

    I think that you have summed it up with the best expression I have read so far; ‘There's something abstract about it which "just works"’.

    I like the idea of using larger scale figure for generals. I seem to remember that they did something similar in the CALLAN film.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  33. Arthur1815,

    I think that you are right about not mixing figures from drastically different scales together … although the idea of using slightly larger figures for generals and commanders (as made by yourself and Coopdevil) does have a certain appeal to it.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  34. Tim Gow,

    If a heretic like you does it, then it must be all right!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  35. Pat G,

    I wholeheartedly agree.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  36. Peter Douglas,

    I must admit that those aircraft models mixed with the ship models do pass the 'look right' test.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  37. I beleive in using buildings that match the ground scale rather than figure scale. In games where columns and lines move about the table the buildings,in scale, would seem too big for the formations on the table. I have played in a friend's 28mm napoleonic game and the buildings dwarf the size of the columns!
    Dick Bryant
    No scenario survives first contact with a wargamer!

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  38. This seems to be one of those subjects that it seems no one will ever completely agree upon.
    For my WWII skirmish games I use Valliant plastic figures which are 1/72nd scale but the have a reputation of being a bit on the 'hefty' side and are probably closer to 28mm scale. When used alongside 1/72nd vehicles they do look rather larger than they should in reality but I for one can live with it as I like the figures.
    Another regular example of scale mixing can be seen in a lot of horse and musket games where players choose to 'down-scale' their model buildings to reduce footprint. For some unknown reason this never looks out of place.... It is, as with everything else in this hobby purely a matter of personal taste. If you like it then it's right.

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  39. Dick Bryant,

    The sight of buildings that are correctly scaled to match the figures but not the ground scale has always been something that has jarred with me; they should not, but they do. Like you I much prefer smaller buildings whose footprint is more compatible with ground scale.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  40. Steve’s Wargame Stuff,

    As you say, in the end it all comes down to a matter of personal taste. I don’t mind people mixing vehicle and figure scales that are not too incompatible, but I can understand that this is not something everyone else will agree with.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  41. Bob (and Dick Bryant)

    The problem is that we have a vertical scale on the figures that doesn't match the ground scale. There's 3 choices
    1. use buildings that match the figure scale and call each one a village, but good luck if you want La Haye Sainte or the Alamo!
    2. use buildings that match the ground scale, and ignore the fact that they look small compared to teh figures.
    3. Use cartoon buildings that are tall and skinny that kind of fit both scales.

    IMHO any of these will work. if it looks right on the table it's good to go.
    Cheers
    PD

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  42. Peter Douglas,

    You have outlined the problem very concisely. I tend towards a combination of options 2 and 3 as being the best way to achieve something that looks 'right'.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  43. Approaching Arab-Israeli wars recently has made me address this very issue.
    In the end I plumped for 1/87th vehicles (mainly because I had a lot & with some work you can find or convert most needed for 1967 & 73), with "20mm" figures.
    I normally use 1/144th aircraft but the required types for 1967 were scarce, so instead I went for 1/100th airpower.
    As I am contemplating using Megablitz, buildings will be 1/200-1/300th scale.
    Many people hate this sort of abstraction & then use "battalions" of 24-36 figures without batting an eyelid!
    The aircraft thing I have debated before; I perfer a smaller scale than ground types, others argue that they should be bigger as they are closer to your viewpoint (from above)!
    Neil

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  44. Neil Patterson,

    It sounds like an interesting project. I tried something like it many years ago, with loads of ROCO Pattons, Shermans, Centurions, T-34s, and T-54s and Airfix Half-tracks and 25-pdrs. Most of the figures were Airfix US Marines and British Infantry. For aircraft I relied upon Heller 1:100th-scale models (they did lots of useful French aircraft that were very suitable to portray the Israeli Air Force). The whole lot got 'lost' during a house move many years ago.

    I think that using the Megablitz approach would be very suitable ... and 1:200th/1:300th-scale buildings would be ideal for your project.

    Quite a few wargamers have a slightly schizophrenic approach to their wargaming. As you say, they will accept battalions with 30 or so figures (a figure ratio of 1:20 or so) but will balk at one tank representing a tank battalion.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  45. If mixing is heresy then I'm a heretic and proud of it. I've mixed scales my whole wargaming life and will continue to do so as long as I'm funding things. And, in the end, they're just toys and toys are meant for fun not chin-stroking!

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  46. The Dancing Cake Tin,

    It would appear that almost everyone who has made a comment is as heretical as you and I.

    Long live playing with toy soldiers!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  47. Pushing at an open door here Bob :O)

    Regards, Chris

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  48. Chris Kemp,

    It was seeing some of your models that made me realise that it was not only possible but also a very good idea.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  49. Bob,
    A lot of the old Heller 1/100th French aircraft were re-released. I have a Vatour & Super-Mystere in new Heller boxes.
    Some of the old Cadet models are about, some pricier than others but I recently got hold of a Mystere IV that I didn't even know they did as well as yet another Fouga Magister. The only real gap is an Ouragan.
    The "loss" of your collection must have been heartbreaking; I assume you lost it as in "left behind" or is it lost as in "somewhere amongst all the other boxes"? Lord knows I have stuff in the category!

    I also forgot to mention the mixed naval scales:
    SCW & Modern (intended for Banana Republics) with 1/3000 ships & 1/1200th airpower....
    Neil

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  50. Neil Patterson,

    Thanks for the information about the old Heller Cadet-series aircraft kits. I might be tempted to buy one or two if I see them on sale.

    I 'lost' my collection sometime during the 1970s. Thanks to leaving college and changing jobs several times I was moving about a bit ... and I suspect that they got left behind somewhere. Like most things I did not realise it was lost until I wanted to use it and it wasn't there!

    1:3000th-scale ship and 1:1200th-scale aircraft sounds like an excellent combination to me. It should look great on the tabletop.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  51. I'm going to disagree while in principle agreeing. I think it comes down to what you are trying to represent? If you are trying for a wargame that looks "real" then a consistent scale is going to maximize your chances of realizing that goal. If you only want figures as representations then the need for a consistent scale is removed, and one can use the differences in the scale of the models to convey different things, like for instance importance.

    Of course this does rather hinge on understanding scale, as opposed to size. Something that as a generalization is I find a bit lacking in the wargaming community. :-) YMMV.

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  52. Ashley,

    I gave up believing that figure wargames were anything approaching realistic a long, long time ago ... which is probably why I can 'live' with a mixture of scales on the tabletop. To me, as long as what I see does not 'jar' on my senses, it will be good enough.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  53. I always use 1/72 scale vehicles with 28mm figures. True 28mm vehicles are huge on the table top

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  54. John Curry,

    A lot of wargamers do seem to mix scales on the tabletop ... which was a bit of a surprise to me. I had expected a lot of 'anti' comments, but didn't get them.

    All the best,

    Bob

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