As promised, I shall now attempt to ponder small figures and why people, such as me, like to use them. Why put up with the sneering of ‘biggers’, as Terry Pratchett might have put it? What is the point? I suppose there are as many answers as there are wargamers who use figures of such stature, but I shall try to outline the world according to me.
Firstly, in my experience, space is an issue. I returned to wargaming having got married, and we were living in a one bedroom shoebox, which was all we could afford. Fortunately, the Estimable Mrs P and I were quite friendly, but there was not a lot of space left for hobbies. The options rapidly became 6 mm and 2 mm figures. Samples were sought, and my aesthetic advisor suggested 6 mm because they looked more like people than the 2 mm blocks. Decision made. My first wargame table was a two foot by thee foot piece of chipboard, and the battles were fought out on the floor (oh, what knees I must have had in my youth!).
One reason for 6 mm wargaming is, therefore, the need to be able to have battles in confined spaces, and make them look like battles. This is another interesting factor. I am used to 6 mm now, and 25 mm demonstration games, no matter how exquisite, look like skirmishes to me. Conversely, someone noted somewhere that 6 mm battles did not look right. What we are used to modifies our perceptions quite radically, it seems.
Secondly, there is the option to fight big battles in a relatively sane space. More distant battles certainly, can be fought, realistically, on a normal sized table with a lot of troops on the table. I have to admit that it does look rather good, even if the sheer quantity of work entailed in doing it dwarfs my paltry painting efforts, not to mention the cost. This sort of thing does show exactly how big a ‘real’ battle must have been, and how difficult manoeuver and command was. It also illustrates why, for example, one wing could collapse and cause little more than a ruffle of interest on the other, at least for a time. The dynamics of armies is an interesting and rather little thought about subject, I suspect.
A reason, I believe, for the writing of DBA was to encourage wargamers to buy two armies that were matched. The idea was that, as the armies were only twelve bases, two armies were within more or less everyone’s budget, and so there would be less excuse for ahistorical match-ups. To an extent this worked, at least for a while, but I do not see much diminution in the ahistorical battle perpetrated at some show tournaments. Perhaps that was too big a task.
Anyway, if two armies of twelve bases in, say, fifteen millimetres scale is good for the budget, then two at 6 mm is even more of a bargain. This is not because (as someone told me once) 6 mm figures are ‘interchangeable’ or ‘flexible’, but because 6 mm figures are, per base, cheaper. You can, in fact, experiment more with them. You can build more armies and have much more variety of battles than if you were landed with an army of biggers. Maybe I am a flibbertigibbet, but I do like to try the odd, unusual and obscure in my wargame periods. As I have previously observed, my 1618-Campaign could hardly have got off the ground in any other scale. The third reason is cost, therefore.
The next reason is related to space, but slightly different, I think. I do not have the time to have a large battle with hundreds of figures on a massive table. I have a life. A job. A “career”, if you want to be polite about it. I do other stuff, including reading about history, as well as other things. I have limited time to play wargames. As I have mentioned, twelve bases is about all I can manage. Some fast play rules help as well. But the idea of wargaming Waterloo on even a one base is one battalion basis fills me with the creeps, at least in terms of time, space and money.
Some people, of course, go mad. I suppose all of us, as wargamers, are probably, at some level, megalomaniacs. But few of us would go so far as M. Foy’s acquaintance who modelled down to the half-company. Well, maybe we would, but only with someone else to push the bases around. Such an exercise might be interesting for understanding drill, perhaps, or the evolution of how a battalion might constitute itself, but it seems a trifle over the top. I know Mr Berry once had a French line battalion one a one figure to one man display item, to show what could be done, but I doubt anyone is really playing wargames this way. It was, however, interesting for showing how thin a line, even 3 deep, was, and how close a column, that much vaunted attack formation, was to a line.
Finally, of course, you can attempt to us 6 mm figures as you would 25 mm. Put a few figures on a base and move them around as if they were on castors. It seems to me that you get, here, the worst of both worlds. It does not look much more than a skirmish, and the aesthetic qualities of the figures is not the same (not better or worse, just different). Wargame rules usually have to be butchered to enable them to be used as single figure removal is a bit tricky with the smaller scales. Not that I cannot think of a few rule sets that should not be butchered, of course…
I do not think that there is much of a philosophy of 6 mm figures to be had. Wargaming is, by and large, wargaming. What we have are matters of taste and context. I am not going to change, because I have too many small figures to make it worthwhile, and they suit me. Those with larger afflictions probably feel the same.