It's not called battle of this and that farm for nothing. Buildings are an integral part of battle landscape. Battles are fought for the control of towns and castles. Important traffic junctions naturally attract human activity and consequently buildings and with growing population, it's actually getting hard to find worthwhile place without even a humble shack or hovel in sight.
Scratch building houses is fun, but making many of them is a time consuming enterprise. There are ofcourse kits available, but even with the advent of the new MDF kits, these tend to be on the expensive side.
Model railroaders are another group of hobbyists who share an interest in model buildings. Even though usually model railroad stuff is very expensive, there are some inexpensive kits available and I'm not talking about cardboard either (don't get me started on that subject). So I got a few OO scale kits from Dapol to see how they measure up. That's about 1:76 scale for those of us who are not intimately familiar with model railroad terminology.
There's a separate review for the kits as kits. But let's consider the scale issues as well.
We've talked about figure scale in the article about cars. But the problem with buildings is more profound. That's because almost every game out there actually has two scales in use: figure scale and terrain scale.
It is very rare for these two scales to match. For a number of reasons the selection of game genres where equal figure and terrain scales can really work is pretty limited: wild west shootouts at high noon and gladiators battling in the arena are the most common examples.
But it only takes a musket, with an effective range of maybe 100 yards, to show the necessity of compressing the ground scale. With equal scale your table quickly becomes unmanageably large.
There are a couple of other approaches too, including ignoring scale altogether (aka: "everything you buy from us is in correct scale") and ignoring long range firefights (aka: "everything is always in range"). But no matter how much you wave your hands, at the end of the day it has to look good or it won't be much fun.
With abstract terrain features like hills and forests, scaling is pretty simple. Even though I've never seen a wargaming forest with enough trees to even remotely suggest a real forest, they do manage to create a reasonable illusion of a wooded area as long as the trees are not totally wrong scale (in which case there's usually still a good shot at an illusion of an area of shrubbery).
Buildings can be more difficult, depending on how the game handles them. There are a few basic ways to handle buildings on the table:
We start by taking the three sample buildings an taking their measurements. Real size is calculated simply from the stated scale (1:76). We'll just use that as a rough indication how large the building is supposed to be.
|Building||Model size (l x w x h)||Real size (l x w x h)||Picture|
|Country Inn||114mm x 65mm x 60mm||8.6m x 4.9m x 4.5m|
|Ticketing Hall||126mm x 51mm x 37mm||9.6m x 3.9m x 2.8m|
|Petrol Station||129mm x 65mm x 32mm||9.8m x 4.9m x 2.4m|
I picked the sample figures simple because they happened to be handy. It should be noted that while none of them are actually on slottabases, the cop has a very thick integral base roughly equal to a slottabase.
|Man||Make and Model||Height with base||Height w/o base||Picture|
|The Reporter||The Assault Group||34mm||32mm|
|The Soldier||The Assault Group||33mm||31mm|
|The Cop||Warm Acre Games||37mm||32mm|
Let's place the men beside the buildings and see how it all looks.
As the above pictures demonstrate, the closer the figures are to the building the more apparent the scale disparity becomes. But it takes only a little bit of distance to fool the eye and blend everything in. This is probably because without anything locking down the distance between the figures and the building, we subconsciously use the relative sizes as a measure of distance. Thus the house does not seem small, it just seems a little farther away. This sort of thing is called forced perspective and if it's good enough for Peter Jackson, it's good enough for me.
As long as the majority of the action does not happen right next to the buildings, they fool the viewer quite well.
What's the point of having a house if you can't get in it? As discussed above, you might very well want to place troops inside the buildings. They might even want to move from room to room and take cover behind the sofa (something I used to practice a lot when there was something too scary on the telly).
I had intended to measure the shoulder width of the figures and so on but at the end of the day it al boils down to this one measurement:
Door size (w x h): 13mm x 27mm
Interestingly, the door size is very well standardized in these kits, all the single doors are the same size. And it is painfully obvious that even discounting the base, the only way any of these figures are going to fit through the door is maybe somehow diving through head first.
In Hollywood they built sets with tiny doors to make certain actors appear taller, but this is bordering on ridiculous.
I base almost everything on 25mm round bases. All of the sample buildings have roughly similar footprint, and can house 8-10 models. Provided there is nothing else in the building and without leaving the models any real room to move about. With slightly smaller bases you may be able to squeeze in a few more models, but the overall result is pretty much the same.
And as these pictures show, adding any interior detail like furniture very quickly eats up the available space and allows only a couple of models to actually occupy the building. It is perhaps best to limit the interior decoration to rugs, paintings on the wall and similar two-dimensional things.
All the buildings are tall enough to house the sample models even with the roof on (barely, but still), but you can forget about actually building a dividing floor for the supposedly two-storey inn.
Space is tight, but you can actually place usable amounts of figures inside the buildings, making them a viable choice at least for enclosure type representation of buildings.
The doors are too small, so you will have to waive any "must physically fit through the opening" sort of rules.
But there are real 28mm scale buildings on the market! What if you're like me and have gathered buildings from various sources? Will the OO scale buildings fit well with larger buildings? I picked up a couple of Warbases MDF buildings I happened to have handy. These are purposely-built gaming buildings meant for 28mm figures. Rather than bore you with more measurements, I will let these pictures speak for themselves.
And even the Warbases buildings are a bit on the small side, if you consider them as scale models of real buildings. Decked out with interior walls and furniture they are awful cramped living...
OO scale model buildings do offer a viable low-cost alternative to adding buildings to your gaming table with a few caveats.
P.S. If you liked this, you might like my earlier piece on Viability of 1:43 Toy Cars in 28mm Gaming.
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Copyright 2003-2014 Mikko Kurki-Suonio