maandag 21 oktober 2013

15mm vs 28mm: My take on the Myths and Legends

The difference between the two scales... If one starts strolling by various forums, ask opinions at clubs and with gamers, you'll get answers ranging from 'the one true scale' to 'a poor man's army'.  It's kind of like a bitchfight between wargame scale afficionados.

Now, for the purpose of this article, I will be generalising the scales.  There are a lot of variant scales, then there is 'realistic' versus 'heroic' and not all manufacturers and brands are identical in size.  For instance, under 15mm it can go up as far as 18mm, while in the 28mm range you get things like 30mm, heroic scale etc... It's like you want to make a silly comedy about, say twin brothers and you would cast Arnold Schwarzenegger in the one lead role, and Dany DeVito in the other... oh wait...

No, what I'm going to look at is the following points, and why I have been swinging towards the smaller of the two scales in recent years, and more so now that I'm back on the painting roll.  I'm not on the means of lecturing you all why one scale should be preferred over another, but just what has made me go lean more towards the 15mm ranges and what I 'see' when comparing the two scales, so I hope you enjoy the read and feel free to comment afterwards (but please, no flame wars!!!)

1. Popularity
2. Price
3. Basing
4. Space
5. Storage

1. Popularity

Now, popularity is a very curious thing, and dependant on a whole lot of factors one doesn't have in hand.  First of, your game or scale needs to get a serious boost by one of the 'big guns' in the gaming industry, and what Games Workshop did for Fantasy and SciFi in 28mm, Flames of War did for 15mm and WW2 in particular.
You can have a game within your group, being played week in week out, and think it might actually be rather popular, only to get 'outside' and be unable to score a single game.  The best example of this is Babylon 5 from Mongoose a few years ago, we played it for years, even getting in a wargales magazine article about TSA... and got labelled in that said magazine as an oddity as space game players.
Now, from within my reach, I can tell 15mm, excluding perhaps Flames of War, isn't popular around here at all.  Most games you see played are the two GW 'biggies', WarmaHordes and Malifaux, while when I was still in TSA the historical side of things tended to be either own brewn rules, or as I noticed recently over at their forum Dux Britannium.  Now I know some of our eminnence grises over there have a love for Too fat Lardies, and for the Dark Ages, so this is in a way not a suprise.  But they play it also in 28mm after having played SAGA before with those models.
As I said personally in my post a few weeks back about trading cards around the world, popularity is linked to support, and the best way to measure support is by counting the amount of tournaments held in your area.  With Antwerp now counting a full number of ZERO brick and mortar independant retailers, and only a Games Workshop in the centre of the city, you can imagine events being downed to a minumum.  There are some model shops like Verschooten who support the hobby, and in their case a club based in the same watering hole I play Magic, but those are also fantasy players and the tournaments occasionally popping up on the radar are said Privateer Press and Wyrd games.

It is my conclusion if your looking for an easy game to find, with a variation of opponents, 28mm Fantasy is the most popular in the Antwerp area.

2. Price

An often heard argument in favour of 15mm is that it is cheaper.  In my opinion, this is not true at all.  Sure, you get more small figures in your 10 euro pack then you get with 28mm, and usually these figures are enough to field the required unit / horde / banner / posse while you'll need usually more blisters for said force in 28mm.
But the fact that 15mm is more based on fielding large armies and swooping all-or-nothing manoeuvers then 28mm where you get more of a mano-a-mano kind of battle, you will be needing a lot more units and as such also blisterpacks.
Excluding perhaps the fact your transferring your 28mm force on a miniature by miniature ratio to 15mm, and recalculating the ranges.  But then your not actually playing another scale for the sake of the scale benefits bar size...
For example, a battle pack of 28mm in any range usually gives you a skirmish force of about 10 - 12 models with a commander, some flashy gimmick and some core troops good for a small scale kitchen table battle of about an hour.  In 15mm that money buys you a battle box with a heap of units, a vehicle left or right etc... and good for a battle on the kitchen table that lasts about an hour...
So if you make the calculations, the money / playable ratio stays the same, you'll be expanding either scale force anyways afterwards, and the total tally will end up around the same.
One benefit 28mm USED to have was the better looking rulebooks, but, again, since Flames of War this has seriously been changing.  Remeber the DBA edition 1998... and compare that to any Warhammer Historical book that came out around that period as well...

In conclusion, I think it is a misconception that the smaller scale carries the smaller price tag

3. Basing

Excluding perhaps Napoleonics, in whom each 28mm rulesystem seems to have an unwritten rule that they should come up with their own unique basing system, this tended to be a big point in favour of 28mm.

Usually, the 28mm models are based on a 2 by 2 square or 25mm round base to make up the core of forces, and are quite singleminded on this over the whole range of games and systems.
Oddly, in 15mm this has often been not the case... until even oddlier enough the advent of the 10mm Warmaster system from GW!  Since those where based on 4 by 2 bases, and it was a system easily adapted at first to other settings, and later to other scales and periods (for example, Future War Commander and variants, written for 6mm scifi, even says it in it's afterword it is based on Warmaster) the 4cm by 2cm became a rather uniform base in further systems, more then DBx, even though it also used the frontage.  This point goes to Warmaster (for me with Blood Bowl btw still the best GW ever produced, BB for the fun, but WM for the rulesystem and felxibility) as a saviour.  For once not FoW, as they used their own bases, not really adapted by other systems.
Since then, especcially the 4cm frontage has become a norm rather then an exception in 15mm games systems, and often depth does no longer become a real issue, as long as it fits the models.  HOTT is for example a good case of this, as long as you use the frontage, everything should be okay they reason.
And the cases a units depth is really an issue in a wargame due to basing is, I can say with 20 years under the belt, rather exceptional.

In conclusion, this used to be and still is more easy to do for 28mm games as you can base up blindly, but it might still be best to do a quick google search on your game / era of choice in 15mm just to be sure about basing conventions.

4. Space

Again, a misconception that 15mm takes on less space as 28mm.  Yes on an army by army ratio, but as these pictures I blatantly borrowed on other blogs I follow show, the table stays just as 'full' in either scale.

The main difference though is that when you go out to organise mega battles (like the annual ACW game at TSA, look in my archives to find mightily impressive figures), truth to be told 15mm lends itself much better.  Sure, no gamer is going to take a smaller table if he is able to choose one, he'll just pop on some extra army or such instead, but a more important part is that the scenery is also half as big as with 28mm.  The treeline gets lower, the village is less in the way for the infamous wargamer 'belly-bend operation' and this can accomodate an easier rate of play.  The same goes for that most dreaded part of any large wargame: the movement phase.  Your movement tray to move an entire regiment is not only lighter and smaller, it is far more stabler.
This comes due to the fact for me that models are usually based in stands, meaning a regiment will be around 8 'pieces' only for like 30 of your brave souls moving to their dooms, where in 28mm people then to base up individually.  This can cause more models knocking over, or making the move last a lot longer as all models need to be properly placed and aligned when no trays are used... and with the small stands of 15mm this goes a lot faster.
So even if the 'floor space' a group of models in 28mm or a unit in 15mm might occupy is almost equal for both scales, it is in my opinion that the larger the gaming table becomes, the more inclined I am towards 15mm.

In conclusion, out of practicality, 15mm is far more intresting an option for 'mega battles', but otherwise it just suits your taste what you pick.

5. Storage

No discussion here, 15mm trunches 28mm on that part.  Like I said yesterday, but will repeat for the sake of completeness, it is not only smaller and lighter then their larger counterparts, but handier.  It is not the fact that the scale is half the size of the models in height, it is due to the fact that the models are more compact, usually not with all kind of portrusions and oddities on them.  This results in units generally staying 'within' the boundaries of their base, while it is common in 28mm to have all kind of things like swords, arms, bit and bobs 'hanging' over the sides of the footpiece.

This makes it easier to store the small ones, as they can rank up better (and not with an actual movement tray floorplan of which trooper has to go where as I once saw some people having to do with a Warhammer regiment!!!!), and you can put your shelves closer together, opening up space for one or two extra shelfboards in your cabinets, and as such more miniatures to go there...

In conclusion, there is no doubt on this point, a clear benefit of 15mm over 28mm

So that are my views of the difference in scales between the two most played globally, 28mm and 15mm.  Of course, the smaller a scale you go, you can just switch in the new scale and do the same observations (15mm vs 6mm for example) but like I said, this article is of me bing an (ex-)28mm afficionado slowly comming more into the 15mm scale for a lot of reasons.

What should you choose?  I got no idea, this all depends on what you like, what scale you want to paint, what kind of games you're going to play... I guess that are decisions everyone needs to make for himself.  On the other hand, I just got word yesterday from Willie (yeah, the ol' prezze) about By Fire and Sword perhaps going to take off, and I actually HAVE some of those models (I bought a skirmish pack at North Star after being intrigued by the Kickstarter campaign), I just had totally forgotten about them (due to reasons stated in my post yesterday) so I think I might over time dig them up in the garage.  IF that takes off, just going to stand back and look first (WOW, no impulse buys on FACTS, no rushing in projects... I'M GROWING UP, KIIIILLL MEEEEE) and then decide to give it a shot.

But at least it will be painted by then... and if it doesn't take off, I still can use it in a variety of other systems because... it uses 4cm frontage ;-) and I have a few hundred of those Magister Militum and Renendra bases lying around still.

5 opmerkingen:

  1. Excellent post! Nothing I can disagree with and I'm pretty much in the same boat when I start a new project. Of course, the obvious answer is to follow my lead: ACW in 15mm and 28mm :O/

  2. Interesting post! The reason I don't paint 15mm is the usually poor anatomy of the figures. I like my figures to look like people not gnomes!

  3. They both have there good/bad points. The quality of recent 15mm figures lately give you a lot of choice of doing those small projects cheaply and scratch that itch.

  4. Good write up with some valid points, But lets face it there is only one true scale..10mm :-)