Monday, July 7, 2008

Why I only collect 15mm miniatures

In a previous discussion on my "Age of Reason" project, I have been recommended some 25/30mm miniatures. I confess, I have been tempted to seriously considered a new period in a new scale, but after some further consideration I am inclined to stay the course, and look into 15mm options. 15mm is the my scale of choice, for all my periods: napoleonic, colonial, WWI. Why?

When, in the late '80s, I decided to start a serious collection of lead miniatures, I faced the common dillemma: which size? At the time, the two options were either 15mm or 25mm. (Nowadays, at least 10mm and 20mm would be serious contender for several periods.) It didn't take long to settle for the former scale, 15mm, driven by four considerations:

A. cost. 15mm were (and still are) cheaper, and more competitively priced than 25mm. Keep in mind: at the time I was buying with Italian liras, not the strongest currency for purchases in the USA or UK;

B. space. With 15mm I can play a decent size battle on a relatively contained table. I never even dreamt of a space larger than 4' x 6'. We didn't have hobby-dedicated basements in Italy, and in the US I have lived in major urban areas, where space comes at a premium.

C. figures availability. At the time, 15mm lines were covering all my wargaming interest, even more than 25mm (for instance: Miniature Figurines had WW1 in 15mm, but not in 25mm.)

D. painting skills. I considered, and still consider, myself as an average painter. Of course, skills have improved over the years, but I would rate myself at 6-7 out of a scale of 10. I compare my miniatures with the occasional purchases on eBay: some of those don't deserve anything better than a 5, but some other pieces are clearly in the 8-9 range. For these reasons, I wanted to buy miniatures that would look good in larger groups, at a distance of 3'. The red pimple on the nose of the second infatryman from the left? Not something I want to deal with.

20+ years later, I still stand by my early decision. The rationale for C has faded away: nowadays, you can basically find figures for any conflict, in any scale; if you don't, you can have them done on-demand at Eureka's 300 Club. Figures availability isn't an issue anymore, unless you are working on the most arcane of the conflicts (yes, wargamers have that tendency…)

A. and B. remain valid point. Space remains a constraint; price have fluctuated, but they never changed in such a dramatic way to make 25mm affordable or smaller scales more desirable out of purely financial considerations.

On D., I am ambivalent. Nowadays, 15mm can be extremely accurate. I would not hesitate to compare the amount of detail in today's 15mm to the quality of 25mm twenty years ago. Since there are plenty of opportunities for painting details, I could easily move one notch up, to 25mm. But I still think that the efforts that go into a well painted 25mm miniature are an investment, in time and painting skills, that I am not particularly interested in doing at the moment.


Bluebear Jeff said...

There is nothing wrong with 15mm figures. Sadly there is something wrong with my eyes.

The result is that, for me, I need larger figures OR very simple 15mm figures.

That being said, if your eyes still see the smaller figures well, then go for it. The first couple of points your make are very valid.

The important thing is to enjoy what you're doing.

-- Jeff

Steve said...

...there is also the terrain aspect - once you start collecting in 15mm for one period, and hae bought the terrain to be able to fight battles, then often that terrain can be used again for another project - which leads you to further 15mm purchases... this months "Battlegames" John Preece makes a good argument that 20mm is the perfect wargame figure size - I would argue that 15mm is even better - for all the reasons John mentions, and those you do... which is why (with one exception) all of my projects are in 15mm to... :o))

Donogh McCarthy said...

I would even argue that for 6mm the arguments you make for 15mm are even stronger. But as Steve says above, at this stage the investment you've made in 15mm means that the cost of switching scales is prohibitive