Miniature Ordnance Review looks at the world of historical and fantasy miniatures wargaming and model building. From 15mm Flames of War, to Warhammer 40K, to 1/35th scale tanks, with some potential surprises on the horizon - you'll find them here!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Team Yankee and Flames of War: Game Scale vs. Ground Scale Redux

One of the frequent criticisms of the Flames of War and Team Yankee systems is that often - especially when players are using armies that have multiple armored vehicles - the table begins to look like a "tank parking lot" with numerous vehicles very close together. The main problem is that people tend to assume that the ground scale in Team Yankee and Flames of War is the same as the miniature scale, which it isn't - ground scale is compressed and in some cases sliding which creates the impression that tanks are running fender to fender, when in reality based on the table scale, they wouldn't be.

So how compressed is the TY and FoW ground scale?  In short, a LOT.  Just taking a couple of examples (and I'll use metric for ease of conversion):

The Soviet 125mm gun used on the T-72 has an in game range of 80cm.  Multiplying that by miniature scale (~1/100), you get a "real world" range of 80m for the T-72 gun - or less than the length of a football field (which ever type of football you prefer!).  In reality, the effective range for the Soviet gun is between 800m (nighttime) and 1000m (daytime), which means the ground scale is compressed by at least a factor of 10 to 12.

Similarly, battle rifles like the AK-47 and AK-74 have a range of 20cm, which translates in the real world to 20m.  In reality, the effective range of these weapons is between 200-300m - again representing a compression factor of at least 10, maybe as high as 15.

Correcting the miniature size based on true ground scale
So based on the ground scale, the corresponding miniature scale would be 1/1000 to 1/1200 or so. That means that 6mm (1/285) micro armor is 3X to 4X too "big" for the current ground scale. There are companies that make 3mm (1/600) and even 2mm (1/914) ranges to give you a rough idea how small we're taking about here.

Not so close as the table would lead us to believe!

So assuming we have two AFVs that are 3m by 6m (roughly the size of the hull of a T-72 or other modern main battle tank) and they are sitting 2mm apart, what does that represent if we actually remove the compression and go to a true ground scale? First the miniatures themselves have to be "shrunk" to the right scale using the center of mass as a reference point. Once that is done it is fairly easy to check the distances, and what you end up with is two 15mm miniatures 2mm apart corrected for range compression actually represent two vehicles nearly 30 METERS apart on the battlefield!!!

And that sort of gets to the crux of the issue. Team Yankee and Flames of War both make certain compromises to provide an enjoyable game that makes a reasonable representation of late and early 20th Century combat respectively. Neither game is a hard core simulation. One compromise is the miniature size - 15mm is a good size to get good detail while retaining ease of painting. Smaller scales have less (and in some cases a LOT less) detail and are exponentially harder to paint to a high standard. The standard 4' x 6' (yeah, I went back to Imperial units, deal with it) would need to be 40' by 60' to achieve the right "look" on a company scale game with 15mm miniatures - which is impractical at best.

Ultimately the player needs to decide whether these compromises are acceptable. It is also helpful to keep in mind what the compressed ground scale really means - even when tanks are "fender to fender" on the tabletop, they're effectively representing tanks at least 20m apart because of the compression. Granted, this causes some strangeness locally when dealing with buildings and line of sight, but that is yet another compromise of the system players must judge on their own.

Monday, July 10, 2017

What's (Back) on the Table - Team Yankee Volksarmee Build Log Part 1

Guardian Games in Portland is running a Fulda Gap campaign this summer, and I'm still hoping to get in a few games in some of the later turns. Unfortunately my Team Yankee armies are no where near done because of my recent work schedule, but I'm madly trying to get a few points on the table as quickly as possible.

My first purchases were way back when TY first came out, but other projects took priority over them. I still plan to go back and do an American force with some fun markings appropriate to the mid-1980's period (when this particular author was in high school), but when the Volks Armee release came out with the miniatures in the (admittedly) late 1980's NVA paint scheme, I'd "found my army" so to speak.

Battlefront's teaser for the T-55AM tank - though they really should have done it in plastic

At this point I'm still playing around with a few different lists - I wanted to have some of the T55AM tanks in the force because they're fairly iconic for the East German armed forces in the mid-1980's, but they're hopeless when faced with a third generation main battle tank from the front, so I decided to base the force around the more capable T-72 while maintaining a unit of T-55AM tanks as a flanking unit.

At this point I'm sort of working with this 100 point list:

  • T-72M Panzer Bataillon
    • HQ: 1X T-72M (3)
    • Required 1: 7X T-72M (23)
    • Required 2: 7X T-72M (23)
    • Support 1: 10X T-55AM2 (16)
    • Support 2: Full BMP-1 Mot-Schützen Kompanie + AGS-17 + SA-14 (21)
    • Support 3: 4x ZSU-23-4 Shilka (4)
    • Support 4: 3x BM-21 Hail (5)
    • Support 5: 3X Spandrel (3)
    • Support 6: Recon TBD (2)

So that ends up being a lot of vehicles - some of which I had picked up from the outset and started on (i.e. the boatload of T-72's that came in the initial release). I've been supplementing these with additional purchases as time went by until now I think I have all of the "stuff" I need to actually get this force together.

Some of the vehicles on the painting table ready for primer

So far construction of the Team Yankee vehicles has been a bit of a mixed bag. The plastic T-72 kit (TSBX01) goes together pretty well without a lot of fuss. I'm not crazy about the join line in the external fuel tanks, so I'm doing a little work with a styrene punch and disc to replace some of the detail. I also managed to lose one in the move, so my commander may have dropped his rear fuel drums.

Overall the plastic BMP (TSBX02) goes together well too, but the front lacks detail and has too many join lines on what should be a flat plate. Right now I've got several puttied and will be adding other detail later. The Shilka (TSBX05) kits aren't bad as resin and metal kits go, and assemble quickly. Though I'm not using them at this point, there are a couple of Gopher (TSBX06) SAM launchers above. I found the turret assembly to be fairly ticky on these.

T-55AM tank in progress

The T-55AM (TEBX01) tanks are turning out well, but they're taking a fair amount of extra work. I'm not entirely convinced the commander's hatches provided separately with the kit are exactly right based on 1/35th scale versions - so I'm kit bashing a better looking version with the parts included. Took me a couple to get it "right," but they seem to be coming out okay now.

The rest of the in progress T-72 tanks (I still have more to start) and the Hail launchers

The Hail Battery (TSBX08) is one unit where I've had some major issues. The resin casting on the truck bodies is really not up to normal Battlefront standards, but they're salvageable with a little work. However two of the three launchers have severe distortion and mold shifts resulting in "curved" tubes. I've sent a note to customer service asking for replacements after trying and failing to fix them

That being said, the Spandrel platoon (TSBX11) meets or exceeds the best that Battlefront has had to offer for several years. The resin is well cast. The design of the wheels is good, and the casting is top notch. I had been thinking about using the BMP as recon, but I like these miniatures so much I may end up going with BRDM-2 (TSBX10) platoon... because... well... cool minis!

So as I said, I have a lot of building to do at this point. I've also got one more business trip and then a trip back to Tennessee to see family coming up as well that are going to take some time out of my schedule. I really want to get this done before too late in the year because I will have another big build project to tackle later in the year - so keep watching this space...