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 even the popular 6mm (1/285) scale 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.


  1. What do you think about scales at 6mm? I've started playing TY in that scale and it 'feels' right or better in scale.

    1. Personally, I don't have an issue with FoW or TY at 15mm, but I'm of the opinion that you should play your game in the scale it works best for you... so if that's 6mm - go for it. Only downside is it doesn't financially support the guys that are writing the rules past the rulebook purchases.

  2. Great and well reasoned article - well done Sir!

  3. 6mm 1/300 1/285 is very easy to paint to a high standard, simpler I would say when compared to 15mm or 28mm. You are not going to pick out the same level of detail of course, but as long as you follow the 3' rule, it's dead easy.

    1. Yeah, the 3' rule and I have never really got along... 15mm I can get to almost the level of larger scale kits, 6mm you sort of have to follow the 3' rule... :D