Erstwhile Muse

Jun 10, 2007

Perceptions of scale

A Two Value System of miniature impact.

I've been rather scattered today, bouncing around from project to project without really achieving a lot in any one area. I blame my magical super-coffee for this, even though I did my best to make it a low powered dosage this morning.

One of the projects I started and abandoned today was making some Warhammer scale terrain from what the Games Workshop studio goons always tend to call cereal packet, although in this particular case it was a couple of discarded macaroni and cheese boxes. The initial trial was a bit of a disaster unfortunately, largely due to an almost complete and total lack of planning on my part—once again, I largely blame my caffeinated vibrational harmonics for this. That's not to say it was entirely a loss. I have a much better idea of some of the pitfalls to avoid in the future should I make another attempt, and what little bit of planning I did manage to conduct will be useful in general, so I'm going to share it here in case it might make other's lives easier. It's a brief discussion of scale as it pertains to making Warhammer terrain, at least as far as I see the issue.

One of the problems that confuses some people when starting the Warhammer hobby is the fact that there are really two scales to deal with. One is the movement and weapon range scale, which is generally unrelated to the figure and terrain scale. The first is roughly a 1" = 10' (1:120) scale, whereas the latter is (to my figuring at least) a 1⅛" = 6' (1:64) scale. This is why the movement and firing ranges seem a tad anemic to many that assume the scales are the same. Under a 1:64 scale, your standard bolt pistol has a range of just over 21 yards, and the bolter gets a whopping 42+ yards. Using the 1:120 scale, these ranges advance to a more reasonable 40 and 80 yards respectively. Note that I am not stating this makes the ranges completely realistic. These distances are still somewhat short of established range of the M9 pistol and woefully under that of the M1 carbine, but they are much closer than the 1:64 ranges. It also gives some validation to the rules for moving and firing under the most recent version of the rules when you realize that on a standard turn most foot troopers are moving 20 yards at a near sprint using this scale for movement and firing.

So where did these numbers come from? To be honest, I don't remember where exactly the idea of the 1:120 scale came from, but I've had it in my head for a long time. I want to say that it was a discussion with a Games Workshop rep back when I was working in games retail or something along those lines, but I have no specific recollection. The 1:64 scale however is based on measurements taken today during the early stages of the abortive terrain project. Games Workshop has always nominally been a 28mm scale for figures, although this seems to expand a bit as years progress and each successive resculpt needs to be bigger and more buff than the last (although, except for hats—because everyone knows the guy with the biggest hat gets to lead—they have yet to be quite as ridiculous as some of the newer Star Wars toys). I figured since I was making this terrain to go with my armies, I'd use some of them as scale reference, so I went with one of the old plastic Goliath models that form the clone cultists for my Slaaneshi army, and one of the newer plastic Chaos Space Marines that will be transformed into the Castrati for the same force. The Goliath measured in at 32mm including the base—subtracting the 4mm height of the base gives us 28mm exactly, which is ≅ 1⅛". In the Necromunda fluff, the Goliaths were the ones most concerned with physical stature and prowess, so assigning a real world height of 6' to the average Goliath is not unreasonable. One could probably argue that they might even have an average height closer to 6' 6" or so, but that makes for some ugly math, so let's avoid that in lieu of round numbers. Note also that this is to the top of the head, not including the original mohawk height as all of my Goliaths have been freshly shorn of ridiculously flashy hairstyles (well, except for the Sentinel Pilots). The Marine, also ignoring extraneous height provided by horns, tassels or other evil paraphernalia came in at 34mm in height with base, only 2mm greater than the Goliath, or roughly 6' 7-8" to scale. A bit short perhaps of the average assumed height of 7' for Marines, but it's a good bet that may be a rounded number as well. All in all it seems to indicate that 1:64 is a fairly accurate scale for miniatures and terrain to share. Under this scale, an basic building unit (ceiling height for example) of 10' translates into 1⅞"—rounding to 2" would obviously equate to 10' 8" in the real world, which is probably close enough for people not keen on constantly measuring out those ⅛'s of an inch. If there's one thing all this has shown me is that my growing appreciation of the metric scale for measuring distance is well placed…



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