Matters of Scale
By smacdowall, Jul 3 2017 04:41PM
A long time ago when the world was young, I was slim and the internet had not yet been invented — there was only one wargames scale. That was 25mm. There were also Airfix HO/OO plastics which were more or less (mostly less) the same size. For quite a while my Airfix plastics and Minifigs metals served alongside each other quite happily until the latter began to grow in size — especially the telegraph poles they carried instead of spears.
Then we began to hear rumours of 15mm scale but I was not tempted. The first samples I saw seemed pretty crude. Even when much better ones came along I saw no reason to ditch the scale I already had for my ancient — mostly Roman armies — and their enemies. Even as 15mm came to be the most popular scale for ancient wargaming I remained a die-hard 25mm hold out.
As new 25mm castings began to grow in size, I kept my older miniatures and they still happily fight alongside each other despite the differences in size and detail. I do, however, draw a line at the newer bulky 28mm figures which are really closer to 30mil or even larger. In the old days the scale was measured head to toe. With scale creep it is now often toe to nose so that a 33mm tall figure is still called 28mm.
It was not until the turn of the millennium that I started to collect my first 15mm army. I wanted to fight the campaigns of Belisarius against the Persians and — coincidental with a move to London and severe reduction in playing space. I succumbed because I realised that if I wanted to conduct sweeping cavalry actions in a campaign where all the best troops were mounted, I needed an army with smaller troops. Later I took to 6mm scale to field the massed legions of Caesar and Pompey at Pharsallus.
Inspired by the research I did for my book of the Vandals I am returning to Belisarius with the idea of re-fighting his battles in North Africa against the Vandals. Although Belisarius had a significant infantry contingent he rarely used them in open battle and by the early 6th century all the Vandals were mounted, sometimes ineffectually supported by Moors.
Rather than expanding my existing 15mm collection I have decided to scale down to 6mm. I find painting smaller miniatures easier and more fun than larger scales and I was reminded of this when I painted up my 1:2400 scale ships for the Battle of Sole Bay.
Needing masses more horsemen for the 6th century North Africa campaign, I really could not see myself managing to bring the armies to completion in 15mm scale, let alone 25/28mm. 10mm would have been a good compromise but the last thing I need is yet another scale. I can happily paint up a unit of a dozen 6mm horsemen in a couple of days. It takes me more than double that to accomplish the same in 15mm. The other impetus for the much smaller miniatures is that some battles, such as Ad Decimum, were fought over a vast area with different bodies of horseman heading off in all directions. Using 6mm miniatures makes it possible to recreating this an similar actions on a reasonably sized table-top.
Although a fan of the smaller Heroics and Ross 6 mil figures, I have decided to go with the larger and more detailed Baccus miniatures for this project, if for no other reason than I already have some of them which can be drafted in. Baccus do not make any Belisarian era Romans but there are plenty of suitable figures in their other ranges for bow-armed 6th century Roman horsemen.
On the painting sprue are some undercoated Baccus Sarmatians who will become Belisarius’ bucellarii. The painted unit in the background are Baccus Sassanid Persians painted up to be regular Roman heavy horse archers. One of the blessings of this smaller scale is that in the end it is the overall look of the unit that matters — not individual detail. Therefore you can use a variety of miniatures regardless of what the manufacturer calls them.
Good luck with project in 6 mm and the 6 mm scale does give options for plenty of sweeping cavalry movement. I agree that that your 6 mm approach to the Roman civil war was extremely logical as the sheer number of legionaries makes it the only viable option. I think that some of the Alexandrian campaigns and early successors would do nicely in 6 mm. I have some 6mm Punic troops that may see the light day due to your current inspiration.
Good luck with the project and interested to hear about your progress.
I've recently gone through a similar thought process, moving towards the same end. After a long break from ancients (my first armies were long-ago Ral Partha 25mm Greeks and Persians in high school), a couple of years ago I started collecting 15mm "Arthurian" armies in 15mm, but with diorama style bases (12-14 heavy infantry or 6-8 heavy cavalry per 60mm frontage base). They look great, and my initial thoughts were to expand them back into the Late Roman period proper. I may still do that, but two things happened last year to move me towards 6mm: first, I handily inherited thousands of mostly painted 6mm Republican Romans and Greeks and Macedonians, and mounting them en masse on 60mm bases convinced me of the "look". Second, I bought the SoA campaigns booklet, which has a wonderful Crisis of the 3rd Century campaign - but for which I would have to field large and varied armies of various types. 6mm looks like a great option for that (probably on smaller 40mm bases), so I look forward to seeing what you come up with.
My 3rd C armies are quite happily 15mil as there are not too many cavalry, at least for the Romans and Germans. Pendraken have some rather nice 10mil for this period I think.