Saturday, July 20, 2013

It's all a matter of scale

1/285, 1/300, 6mm, Z scale. Too many competing scales that are almost (but not quite) the same. I was never a scale Nazi and for me, "close enough" is close enough. I know MANY wargamers who are far, far too anal about scale and ok, it's their game and their hobby, so they have that right, but it's still highly annoying if you happen to be gaming with them.

However, no manufacturer makes everything you'll ever want, all in just one scale. You have to be a bit flexible when it comes to mixing scales if you want to get as much vehicle/figure/aircraft/building variety as possible. So, for me, if the various scales aren't radically different and they don't look out of place on the same table, I'm a happy camper. 

I don't have the same vehicle in two different scales, so let's look at two comparable vehicles
The top is a Russian ZIL-157 in 1/300 by Heroics and Ros and the bottom is a 1/285 US M35 "deuce and a half" by CinC. As you can see, virtually the same, as indeed the real vehicles are. I realize they look to be painted identically, but they aren't. It's just the crap camera on my iPhone. 

Z scale however, is noticeably larger. Again, I don't have two of the same vehicle, but here is a 1/300 VW Beetle by Armstrong Miniatures (now part of Heroics and Ros) and a Z scale VW van by Noch
Yes, a real van is a bit bigger than a real beetle, but as you can see, there's a very large difference here (Z scale is actually 1/220). The same is true with Z scale buildings. So I use this scale only when I can't get something in any other scale or when it would be quite large in real life. Take for example, this German city gate with an attached apartment building and pharmacy
A real beauty of a Z scale model railroading building by Kibri and nothing even approaching it is available as a wargaming building. That's the 1/285 US M35 truck in front of it for scale
A bit out of scale, but in order to get such gorgeous and unique buildings on my table, I'm willing to overlook it. In any case, it's a noticible difference, but it's not a ridiculously glaring one. 

I couldn't afford TOO many Z scale models, as the price that model railroaders are willing to pay is literally breathtaking. However, quite a lot of these things are on eBay and I can just put in a low bid and if I get it, I get it and if I don't, I don't. Generally I don't, because the model railroaders go crazy for this stuff, but if I'm patient, I eventually get one for a low price. I only use Z scale for things that are totally unobtainable in wargaming scales, such as post office, fire station, etc. For my 80's NATO v WarPac games, I like to represent the sizeable German civilian population that realistically would've been caught in the middle. 

If you've ever been to Germany and seen the old Fachwerkhäuser (half-timbered houses), they're actually very large and imposing compared to modern houses. So when I do urban battles, I'm happy to use the noticibly larger Z scale houses. I just try not to mix wargaming scale buildings immediately next to any Z scale. 

I'd welcome comments on how you do (or don't) mix scales


  1. I'm fairly flexible on scale. I try to get all the same models from the same manufacturer for any particular vehicle. For example all my M113s are Peter Pig, my M113 Mortar Carrier is Flashpoint and it looks the same size (though I did go to the trouble of sawing off the cast on base which I dislike).
    With aircraft it's difficult to get everything in 1/100 so my rule of thumb is 10 each side. I have some aircraft which are 1:110 and I would go to 1:96 (a common scale for large aircraft). I even have the Revell Tug Boat for Vietnam in the rather unlikely scale of 1:108!!!
    Generally if it looks right I'll go for it. 1:144 is too small for me for 15mm - though I did considering using all 1:144 air - but this comes unstuck for Vietnam as you need Hueys which will be on the table and in the air... So they need to look right when they are landed.

    1. I agree. When I was young, I was a stickler for scale, but now, I just want the maximum variation possible

  2. I have to agree, flexibility is essential when gaming with '6mm'. I have vehicles from H&R, GHQ and C-in-C simply because their ranges are different and I buy what I need where I can get it. I haven't bought any 'Z' scale buildings but only because this scale isn't easily available here in the UK (shipping costs from the US are exorbitant!) but I'm always on the lookout for stuff.

    Personally I don't find the difference in scale between 1:300 and 1:285 too much of a problem. I never mix the same vehicles from different manufacturers because detailing and 'quality' of the models is much more of an issue for me. I can buy supposedly identical vehicles from two manufactures and they can look completely different.

    A great article and a great blog (my first visit)…+1 follower!

    1. Lee, Z scales is widely available in Germany. The postage from there would be a lot less than from the US.