Universal Scales

Just to expand on the "Matters of Scale" posting the other day, I couldn't help but further generalize the findings to see what other scales might look like. With some fairly crude estimations, I get something roughly like this:

Notes: In actual use, you would of course want to round the numbers off to whatever values you find convenient. The bowshot (longbow) ranges are for outdoors usage; divide by 3 if used indoors (10' ceiling). Again, the whole system has been arranged linking distance & time scales so that movement is fixed at any scale (12"/turn for normal men).

In addition, at some high-level scale, our overall assumptions for a medieval-style wargame would break down and become unusuable. For the higher values, it would be: (1) historically inaccurate to have so many homogenous troops in a single block (requiring a game of greater abstraction to reflect mixed troop types), (2) historically inaccurate to have so many ranks in a single formation, and (3) quite unplayable to have ranged weapons that shoot miniscule distances on the game board. Exactly what level that breakdown occurs at (500 or 1,000 or so?) would be a subject for further research.

ODS spreadsheet here.


  1. Dan,

    Would be interested to hear any thoughts you have on which scales (and specifically, ratios between scales) are most playable.

    For example, one could use a simple 1:10 ratio. However, that has consequences in that it makes single figures extremely vulnerable. A 1:4 ratio may be more playable as single figures might be surviveable (that 4th level fighter counts as one whole figure when he comes against a party of 4 orcs or whatnot) but makes it harder to cover large distances and longer times.


  2. Yeah, the short story is that I do like the 1:10 ratio, that's what I play with personally these days. Some reasons are (1) customary from S&S and Battlesystem, (2) nice decimal number, (3) very nice combat statistics reults are possible, (4) immensely convenient scale for modelling ship & castle actions.

    However, you do have to digest the fact that it more-or-less requires "name level" PCs to appear as solo figures (much like you observe).

    Other scales rattle around my head mostly because there was some interest expressed recently in how this hooks up with Chainmail 1:20 scale, and sometimes I wonder about higher scale (1:100+) so as to simulate historical events with tens of thousands on a side.

  3. Hrm... Just thinking about ways to tackle the "survivability" problem.

    A 1:5 scale ratio might be a compromise. Its still fairly easy to scale up or down -- not as easy as powers of 10, but close. Additionally, a typical first level adventuring party (consisting of 5 players) will probably take up one figure. If they have an entourage, then 2-3 figures. That's convenient. In the mid-levels, each PC can be a figure quite easily rather than having to wait until name level. It basically allows you to start making use of a mass-battle scale (or exploration scale) one higher at the mid-point of a campaign.

    Another approach would be to stick with a 1:10 scale and make PCs twice as durable as other monsters, so that a level 5 PC can be one figure on a 1:10 map.

    Or, you can just deal with representing name level PCs as single figures and make that the "end game."

  4. Are you familiar with DBA and related games? I've just read Hordes of the Things. Their scale is about 1 inch : 250 feet, and their archers only shoot an inch, less than they can walk along a road!
    It sounds very strange, but the WRG (Wargames Research Group, the publishers of this ruleset) are serious folks, so there must be something to it.