After having collected and painted a small force of 28mm pirates and British Marines, I was up to a new challenge. We use the pirates for games of Flashing Steel, which is based on the Songs of Blades and Heroes system and published by Ganesha Games. Those are fun rules and we always have great games full of dramatic twists (I will post battle reports in the future, so stay tuned).
Flashing Steel works best with a handful of figures per side. For a new project, I wanted something bigger, giving each player not individual figures but units to command. As SAGA is all over the place, I decided to give it a try. However, pretty early on I decided to not do it in 28mm but in 15mm.
The main reason for this was the eternal trinity of time, space and money. My job doesn’t allow for much free time and I know how long it took me to paint the pirates. Being impatient and wanting to play sooner than later, but also stubbornly abiding by the old adage ‘Never play with unpainted figures!’, I reasoned that forty Vikings and Normans in 15mm would be finished in a much shorter time than their larger counterparts. Also, there is no wargaming club near where I live, so I didn’t have to consider other people’s figures.
Space was another pressing issue. We live in a small city flat and don’t have a permanent set up for gaming (let alone a games room). Also, there is not that much storage. I am still shocked by the amount of space the 28mm pirate terrain takes up! Our dining room table is about 120cm x 80cm and everything we are going to play has to fit there. As with SAGA you also need space for the battle boards and the buckets of dice you are rolling, scaling down seemed like a good idea.
Money was the last incentive: With 15mm figures, I can experiment more with unit composition, as the purchase of a couple of models more won’t make that much of a difference.
So how did I do it? Well, I didn’t only reduce figure scale, I also decided to reduce ground scale. The first idea of just halving the distances didn’t work out – everything looked too fiddly. The good thing is that SAGA uses fixed measuring sticks, so as long as the proportions between them stay the same, you can scale them as you like. I decided to shorten the distances by one third. This had the additional effect of fitting perfectly with the 15mm washers I was basing the figures on – the diameter of two of those make up VS distance (althought this is not in the rules, it somehow seems right to me). With this reduction, the green felt mat we usually use for gaming represents a playing field of 48″ x 48″ in the ‘official’ scale.
For once, everything worked out as I have expected: The painting indeed is faster, storage more economic and I got quite a lot of SAGA points worth of figures for my money. An additional pleasure was the discovery that 15mm is a much more forgiving scale for scratchbuilding terrain (especially buildings).
I have now painted about 8 points of Vikings and 5 points of Normans. Most of the figures are from Khurasan Miniatures, which look fabulous, with lots of detail and a variety of dynamic poses. Unfortunately, their Norman light cavalry is out of stock (it is being resculpted, but I was impatient), so I ordered some from Donnington and Baueda. These are still in progress, but will be finished soon, completing the Norman pool of around 8 points.
For scenery, I re-use the hills, the river, the lake and the roads from my 28mm pirate stuff. As jungle plants and palm trees don’t fit British weather (be it Dark Ages or Modern Times), I got some H0 trees on ebay to make wood bases. The rest is built from scratch: some houses, a church and a watchtower. I really enjoy working in that scale, so more stuff is on the horizon.
We have had half a dozen of games which were great fun, although we are both still occasionally struggling to get our bearings (well, me more than K., judging from the last beating her Vikings gave my Normans!). I am really happy to have decided on this scale and already have further plans. The next step will be a campaign, and then… something to surprise you!