A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Hooptedoodle #5 - Obfuscation

Two figures, both nominally 25mm - Hinchliffe (on the left) vs Scruby

This post is to share an email conversation – dating from about 3 years ago – between a collector of 20/25mm metal wargame figures and a well-known manufacturer and supplier. It is entirely factual - I thought it was probably worth showing to a wider audience because I feel it is relevant to my discussion of figure scales and sizes, and the way in which the whole subject seems to defeat both logic and commonsense.

It is, as you will see, ultimately a rather sad exchange between two buffoons – there is no good guy, no bad guy, and certainly no winner. The point, if there is one, is the futility of trying to make sense of the various scales and the terminology when the manufacturers themselves are confused.

This is the sort of thing which makes manufacturers and collectors of plastic figures shake their heads smugly.

We start with an enquiry from the would-be customer:

Hi there

Have been looking at your 20mm and 25mm ranges of Napoleonics - very attractive. Problem - as ever - for me is figure scale. Everyone has their own inspired definition of what 20mm and 25mm actually mean!

The bulk of my armies are old [various manufacturers’] figures - which means I am looking for figures which are pretty close to 1/72 scale with HUMAN PROPORTIONS(!) - i.e. men without hats should be 22-24mm tall. Recently I have identified that current-range figures from Falcata, [etc etc] are all suitable, as are [etc] (sometimes).

At risk of being a nuisance, could I please ask how big your 20mm & 25mm Napoleonic figures are? A figure sample would be excellent - if there is a charge for samples, please let me know.

Best regards


And back comes a very prompt answer:


Our 20mm Napoleonic figures are 24mm from base to top of head.. Our 25mm figures are 30mm!!!!.

We can send a sample of each, but would require £2.

Thanks, D----

There is then a short pause, during which the manufacturer exhibits at a wargame show and the prospective customer orders some figure samples from him:

Hi D----

I made the 250 mile round trip to Stockton to look at your 20mm Napoleonics. Very nice. I also took a millimetre rule with me - your 20mm figures are about 18mm from base to top of head, not 24mm as stated. Just like [another manufacturer], in fact.

You should make a note of this, it will save you telling some other prospective customer a load of b----cks on a future occasion.

Best regards


Another rapid response from the manufacturer:

Hi C----

Oddly enough I have 1 of our 20mm French napoleonic figures in front of me
now, and it measures 24mm from base to top of head (not top of shako even)!
I don't think it's me "talking b----cks".


Which must surely be the last word on the subject, you would think. But – no – back comes another shot, this time with some actual evidence:

Hi D----

Oddly enough, I have to hand a £2.75 sample pack of 4 of your 20mm Napoleonics which have just arrived.

I attach a photo, which demonstrates very clearly that the figures (whch are very nicely sculpted, by the way) are in fact 23mm to the top of the shako, which is what I discovered in Stockton.

As I mentioned before, b----cks.

Best regards - hope your eyesight gets better soon


And that, I am sure you will agree, is quite enough of that.


  1. I LOVE this! Technology has made it even easier for people to be rude, meanly sarcastic, dismissive, willfully obtuse, and pig-headed. This same kind of interaction is all over the web in the form of blogs and discussion boards as I'm sure you're aware. It never ceases to amaze me.

    Best Regards,


  2. Absolutely - it hadn't really struck me that this was an example of something of wider significance (ignorance, after all, is nothing new, and is not technology-dependant), but I agree with your general point.

    The worst examples I come across are in British football fan fora - it makes you wonder what kind of people feel the need to be so violent, hateful, homophobic etc etc, just because it's anonymous. Could it be they are too timid to say anything publicly? It also makes me wonder why site moderators don't feel it somehow reflects on them, and do something about it.


  3. What with all this political correctness? I thought the emails were nice and British , polite and rude at the same time. Noble tradition. Dont lets get sidetracked I dont think this is an example of anything serious.

    Enjoying the blog


  4. As someone who does on occasion get a bit 'excited' on forums, only ever with complete idiots I hasten to add (I myself - of course never suffering that particular form of weakness, ever, actually...), feel I aught to hang my head at this point, and remain quiet in the corner...However I have an opinion on this!;

    The problem seems to be that having had the Germans set out, establish and follow an accurate family of 'sizes', namely 20, 25, 28, 30 and 40mm flats and 40, 50, 60, 70 and 90mm solids and semi-flats in the middle of the 19th century, subsequently - to be fair - followed with some accuracy by Britians for over a hundred years and which Airfix towed the line on for 50-odd, war-gamers managed - sometime in the 70's to get hopelessly confused trying to use horizontal Railway 'gauge' nomenclature, applied to WWII recognition model 'scale ratios'....I think?

  5. Thanks for getting us back to the point - I freely admit that, despite the fact that I regularly sound off on the subject of scales, I don't know enough to allow my views to become cluttered with actual facts! I know what sizes I am stuck with, and I know what works for me, and am interested in how we got there, and what went wrong, so all views on this welcome.

    1/72 has a nice feel in countries which use feet and inches, simply because a 6 foot tall man becomes a 1 inch model. 1 inch has a pleasing approximation to 25mm, and I think that is what I collect. So I like figures which are about 23 or 24mm tall (no hats, as in the "b----cks" discussion in the post!), being average guys a little under 6 feet. I don't actually care what the scale is called - I don't even care a lot if it has two names, apart from the confusion it causes!

    People talk about "25mm to the eye" as being a correct measure - is this an accepted view? I don't know.

    Some figures are the right size for me, a lot aren't. It would simplify life enormously if there was some means of understanding how big potential recruits were without actually seeing and handling them!


  6. Hmm, of course it wouldn't surprise me at all if one figure in the range was 22 high and the other 24. (been there, bought that) But what makes you think plastics are immune from this phenomena?

    But thanks for sharing that interesting exchange!

  7. A while ago, trying to sort out some SF figures (which turned out to be Minifigs 'S's, I found the little SF/Fantasy wiki, and the sizes 'given' by the manufacturers included 25, 26, 27 and 28mm, some 28's are now 30, the plastics guys - particularly Zvezda - haven't a clue what they're doing and have produced 1/72 'scale' figures from the same conflict which can't in all reasonableness sit together on the board.

    It would need the whole hobby to get together and start again, but it will never happen. The Role-players won't talk to the War-gamers, the metal fans won't talk to the plastics guys, the big boys (Airfix/hornby, Tamiya) won't talk to each other let alone the aftermarket people.

    Meanwhile on other peripheries of the extended family of hobbies, the Mini's boardgame manufacturers use a new size of figure with every game and William Britain (no real connection with Britains) and King & Country have decided that 54mm should actually be 61mm!

    That's why I follow the Plastic Pelisse and PSR!

  8. I hadn't realised that the plastic world had the same problems - not sure whether that's a comfort or a sadness!

    This is going to be a real digression, but I see a parallel. This behaviour pattern - where people with related interests could help and support each other, but factionism prevents it - can be identified in all walks of life. I'll avoid the obvious reference to religions.

    Jazz radio (What?). For years, jazz fans in the UK only had the occasional late night programme on the BBC to listen to. Then along came Jazz FM, and later a DAB station, The Jazz. It didn't work, people.

    (1) Jazz fans (of which I am one) have bleated for years about the lack of financial and media support for their branch of the Arts, and claimed that there were X number of fans, yet the reality is that there is a horrible little snobbery element in there which would be appalled if the music actually had a mass appeal. [**Paradox alert**]

    (2) A large part of the legacy of jazz is the stock of old recordings. Because the quality of much of this vintage music is not ideal for commercial FM or DAB radio, the broadcast content of the new stations tended to be weighted towards more recent stuff - which did not go down well with many listeners...

    (3) ... which is really only part of a wider issue - jazz is full of umbrella-rattling arguments between people who accuse each other of listening to material which is not "real jazz", often with an astonishing amount of vitriol. Most of the feedback to the stations consisted of complaints about the inappropriate content in the playlists.

    The advertisers couldn't believe it - they paid attention for a while, and then took their money away. Jazz FM evolved into Smooth FM, which is basically a Soul station, and The Jazz sank without trace, leaving a lot of disappointed fans blaming each other, and bleating about lack of support.

    Digression over - you can come out now.

    Hey - it's Trafalgar Day!