Friday, 22 May 2009

Thirty Years War Armies - In 2mm!

What's 2mm you say?

Well if a 28mm miniature represents a 6' foot human by making the miniature 28mm tall and a 15mm miniatures represents a 6' foot human by making the miniature 15mm then a 2mm one...

Yep, that's right :)

Each casting represents, not a individual miniature, but a whole battalion laid out shoulder-to-shoulder with little flags flying overhead. In effect you go from creating a battalion or regiment by using several soldier miniatures to creating a higher formation by using several battalion miniatures.

These castings are from Irregular Miniatures and have been painted to represent troops of the Thirty Years War period (1616-1648)

(On all these pics, clicking for the fullsize is recommended)

Battalion stands, muskets "sleeving" pike. Some artillery up front and a little General figure. For our rules we assume that each individual base represents a complete foot regiment of about 400-800 men.

While Irregular do make generals and staff in 2mm we find them too small for individual basing and decided upon generals from their 6mm ranges instead. Obviously 3 times too large but for some reason they look OK when lined up with their smaller brethren. Stylised, but it works. We relegate the 2mm officers and staff to the battalion bases as Colonels and couriers.

Cavalry. Cavalry are cast in multiple ranks, three and two. We use the three ranks to represent caracoling cavalry (that formed in many ranks and fired pistols in preference to meleeing - retreating to the rear of the formation to reload) and two ranks for charging cavalry - the shock tactic of charging straight in with cold steel that started to find favour during this period and ultimately won out. Cavalry are really easy to paint, probably the easiest of all the 2mm castings which is a nice change to larger scales when painting cavalry is a chore. This allows for large cavalry forces to be quite practical, very handy when often cavalry could comprise 50% of an armies manpower in the TYW.

These are Irregular's offering for Tercio, the Spanish/Imperialist huge formations of shot and pike that were cumbersome, wasteful of manpower and inflexible but very difficult to defeat and kept morale high by sheer weight of numbers. However we didn't feel that they looked imposing enough - so these represent more foot regiments in a different formation to the bases above. There's no game difference, it's just a visual effect.

And here we have our intrepretation of Tercio - 4 pike block bases with the corners guarded by "castles", formations of shot. These are my favourite units in my TYW armies as they look great but the shot are due to be replaced with bigger castings (more men) as over time I have come to think that the shot look drastically understrength.

Finally our 6mm Generals.

OK, you say how the hell do you paint something this small?

It's actually dead easy, once you remember that you are painting the casting as a regiment would look at a distance.

I simply undercoat everything in matt black and then drybrush a main colour one. For infantry this will be a red, blue, grey, buff etc. with buff drybrushed on the pike hafts and silver drybrushed on the tips of the pikes to hint at metal blades. Cavalry get drybrushed in a horsey shade.

Then I just take a brown paint and randomly dot in a bunch of heads (representing hats), then another brown, then a grey and so on. I dot large blobs of flesh-coloured for faces, this makes a massive difference to the finished look. Even though the faces are widely overscale, it seems to work. You can even create animation in the figures by adjusting where you dot the pink blob and create the illusion that individual soldiers are looking to their side or up in the air. Contrasting coloured flags are usually one colour and a splodge of another. You can paint dozens of castings in an evening.

One of the things I love about 2mm as a scale as that it appears to carry no compromise between ground scale and figure scale. Most wargames armies don't have anywhere near the numbers required - for example in the Napoleonic Wars period a theoretical full strength French battalion number 720 men (not that it ever did - half this would be a more realistic field strength) and even at a 1:20 figure scale, that's only 36 miniatures (18 for our depleted field strength). In 2mm you have armies that look like armies and the painting concentrates on painting an army - not individual model soldiers. To show you what I'm talking about look at this painting of the Battle Of White Mountain (you'll have to click to see the full width of the pic - Blogger has decided to only show half the bloody thing until you click it - don't ask me why)

That's exactly what serried ranks of 2mm miniatures look like.

Obviously you need to ensure your rules work around the idea of not having individual figure removal - since that's rather tricky when they are all moulded together... We use Renaissance Principles of War which records hits upon a unit on a roster and the unit is removed when it's hits run out. Some like Warhammer, where you remove 1 or more individual figures at a time wouldn't be suited to 2mm but I have toyed with the idea of a ruleset that does involve individual casualty removal but each removed model is a whole 2mm battalion - but that's something for another day.


  1. Congratulations, this is a very interesting and beautiful work. I do agree with you when you talk about numbers and scales. I'd like to replace the cardboard counters of "Musket & Pike" GMT's Series for this 2mm miniatures. Thanks for sharing your work with all of us.

    Maestre de Campo.

  2. Beautiful work! Can you tell us the various sizes of bases that you used with your units? I quite like your interpretation of the tercio. Thanks!


  3. The frontages are all 45mm, this is a strange figure but is the effect of playing Renaissance Principles of War with half measurements - and frontages of all units in RenPow are 90mm. Tercios are square so are 45mm deep.

  4. Maestre de Campo: I have the same idea regarding M&P using 2mm. I have ordered the miniatures and will start preparing Lützen shortly. This is a follow up project to my 6mm M&P project.