That thorny old issue... Scales


sample page from Rolling Thunder!

We are developing new products all the time. Right now I am close to finishing and publishing the Mad for War fleet rules which are called Rolling Thunder! The system uses multi-based ships on a 1:1 basis  utilizing smaller scale models to facilitate the painting and use of entire fleets in the Anglo-Dutch War period. This can mean upward of 100 ships per side.

sample page from Rolling Thunder!

The system is tidy and produces very realistic results based on the tried and tested mechanics of Mad for War but for epic scale battles such as The Four Days Battle June 1-4, 1666, done ship for ship.

Squadron data card sample page from Rolling Thunder!

I burned a lot of brain time pondering the mechanism adaptions and blithely accepted certain other aspects without really questioning them. Something was not sitting right without being able to put my finger on it. It pinged across the synapses for months, but it was only the bubbling up of yet another project which finally got me to recognize my unresolved and unquantified unease. 

Full Dutch squadron ship for ship

As I painted some superb 1/4800 scale protos of WW1 ships which Ark Royal hope to release in 2023, I questioned myself. These are 1/4800 right? Maybe not, has the designer produced 1/6000 scale without us talking about it? How did I arrive at this stomach lurching moment? How could I be questioning the work of someone who is amazingly accurate in everything they produce? It must be me that has made the error.

Ark Royal British WW1 Amoured cruisers in 1/4800 scale

Well, one of the painted cruisers was sitting on my work table beside 1/4800 ships I had been basing up for Rolling Thunder! The sailing ships looked massive beside the cruiser. I knew the cruiser was 500 feet long and the biggest 17th century sailing ship was no more than 200 feet including the bowsprit with most being nearer 150 feet. This is less than 33% of the size of the cruiser, yet, the sailing ship model was massive in both height and length compared to the cruiser. 

See table (accuracy of 1/4800 HMS Glorious)

It was time for the most fundamental of checks so, out came the ruler and calculator. What I have discovered is that the models I have assumed to be 1/4800, because they are marketed thus, are more likely to be be somewhere between 1/2400 and 1/3000. Rulers and arithmetic don't lie.

Screen grabs of computer generated size differential on Dutch 80 gun 1672

To challenge my thinking I bought a 1/3000 Navwar AD Wars 1st rate. Compared to the TD 1/4800 it is tiny although, it should be significantly larger.

I am a little surprised this anomaly has not been spotted before knowing the general thinking patterns of our brethern. It does not materially changed anything in the attractiveness of the models, nor does it affect all the work done so far in multibasing nearly 200 of these models. Most importantly of all, it does not impact Rolling Thunder! in any way other than, I will no longer say the rules are designed for use with 1/4800 ships, rather, they are for use with multi-based ships.

Ark Royal 1/4800 QE (circa 643 feet long)

TD 1/4800 4th rate 

TD 1/4800 1st Rate

An exercise in pedantry? No, I don't think it is. I think true 1/4800 is far too small a scale to game sailing ships. Grains of rice would suffice. The ships I have painted are quirky and nice and probably as small as it is feasible to go, they should not however, be called 1/4800.