Perhaps like all bloggers, reading the comments on my blog are one of the real pleasures of blogging in the first place. It's good to know people - yes, that's you dear readers - have enjoyed something posted on the blog. But more than that it's a great way for blog readers to ask questions of the blogger. Curt, from the excellent Analogue Hobbies blog, posted one about base sizes last week (thank you, Curt!).
I was going to just reply in the comments thread, but as I typed the reply it grew ... and grew. So I thought it might be helpful to add it as a new Blog post - which is my 100th post on the Blog.
So, here's my guide to the figure bases I use, their sizes and why I use them.
Thick or thin bases?
Ok, so every wargames figure needs a base. I've always tried to make a feature out of that necessity. After all, if you want to ensure your miniatures have a decent paint-job, why stop there? Why not make sure that the figure's base is also nicely finished off.
A long while back I started using thicker bases for my figures. I'd tried thin plywood (about 1.5mm) but I'd often found that instead of picking figures up from their bases I'd be picking the figures up themselves. Perhaps that's something to do with the dimensions of my fingers, or perhaps I'm lazy. For whatever reason, in the 1990s I started rebasing all my figures on thicker marine plywood, being the 3mm thick non-warping plywood you can get hold of at decent model shops.
I also liked the way the thicker plywood bases allowed the edge of the base to be painted. I chose black, in the case of all my figures. I know some people don't really like this style, feeling that the black edging breaks the figure off from the terrain too much. It's personal taste, I guess, but I've always enjoyed the way in which a black edged base sets the figure apart. Someone once described it as comparable to a frame for a picture, which is a comparison I like.
Bases Size - Background
I well remember one of the first armies I based up in the early 1990s. It was an Anglo-Dutch late 17th century force in 25mm. The bases were - hmmm, let's just say - overly large. In my defence, this was to do some groundwork on the base - fallen logs, casualties, reeds, that sort of thing. I'd rather got carried away and gone to town on the scenic setting in which the King's Lifeguards and Schomberg's Horse were based on. However, the bases were SO large that the Horse regiments were unable to wheel effectively in the close terrain which seemed to litter our tables at the Humberside Wargames Club. Physically, the Horse overlapped the terrain on the table. In the rules (2nd Edition WRG Renaissance - Lord love 'em)this disordered the Horse, making them even easier prey for my amused oponents. It was truly a case of suffering for my art (or at least for my terrain).
I realised at that early point that it is possible to make a base TOO large. But despite the early disasters I've always liked the look and feel of a larger, chunky base for a wargaming figure. It gives you more to get hold of. It allows the base to have a few scenic items or ground work on (and yes, less is definitely more in that regard). And when the figures bases are arrayed side-by-side, it possibly allows the figures on the base to keep a decent distance from figures on other bases to prevent them grinding together.
Base sizes - Dimensions
As in all things, there is a happy balance, but here's where I ended up with the Great War figures:
All single figures (except NCOs and Officers) are on round bases of 3mm thick plywood or MDF. The diameter of each base is 25mm, which gives enough room for a little landscaping on the base and plenty for people to grab hold of to lift the figure.
NCOs and Officers are on 30mm wide hex bases, again made from 3mm thick plywood or MDF. The reason for the hex bases is that when you're looking down at the table top it helps to be able to spot the NCOs and Officers immediately. In the rules we lpay for our Great War games (the TooFatLardies rules "Through the Mud and the Blood"), the "Big Men" drive the game forward. It's pretty important to be able to spot them easily. Basing the Big Men on the same bases as privates might lead to you spending ages looking for Corporal Hanbury in a knot of riflemen ...
2-man weapons teams (a Lewis gun or a MG08/15) are on round 40mm diameter bases, again with 3mm thick plywood or MDF.
Larger weapons, such as mortars, grenade throwers and small anti-tank guns, are on 50mm or 60mm diameter round bases, again with 3mm thick plywood or MDF. I tend to be governed by the size of the model in choosing between 50mm and 60mm bases for these weapons.
Single-man "special" weapons, such as anti-tank rifles, flamethrowers and prone snipers, are on pill-shaped bases which are 50mm in length by 25mm in width, again with 3mm thick plywood or MDF.
Company or Battalion Command bases (I've only done one British one so far, although I'm doing a second, German, base right now) are on 60mm diameter round bases, again with 3mm thick plywood or MDF.
The artillery pieces I've done so far were fixed to bases large enough to accommodate the model, the crew and the terrain items (fortified position or gun pit) designed for them. I ended up with a depth of 80mm and a width of 45mm for the two German field guns finished so far.
Casualty figures are on a mix of 40mm and 50mm diameter round bases, again with 3mm thick plywood or MDF.
Before custom cut bases came on the scene, I used to cut my own bases out of 3mm plywood (no round bases, unsurprisingly!). In 2007 I found Litko Aerosystems on the web, and I've always been very happy with the service and product I've had from them. The only problem has been the pretty high UK postage handling charges on parcels shipped above a certain value into the UK. Of course, this is nothing that a non-UK supplier sending a parcel to a customer in the UK can do anything about - there are some solutions, such as breaking down orders into smaller chunks, but the problem still remains. So, absolutely 5 star shells out of 5 star shells to Litko for service and product, but the circumstances of shipping the stuff to the UK are not ideal.
However, there is good news for UK gamers. In November 2011 I came across Warbases, run by Martin Murray. I was very impressed by the quality of Martin's products which dovetailed perfectly with the Litko bases. The prices for Martin's bases were also very reasonable - and no additional postage charges on shipping to the UK. Instead of plywood, Martin's bases are MDF, but after the groundwork's been added there's no visible difference at all compared to playwood. I bought some of his bases at the Crisis 2011 show in Antwerp, and bought some more in February 2012. I've been very happy with them, and Martin's been very accommodating in helping out with some custom bases for our Dark Age games. Certainly another 5 out of 5 star shells for fine products and exemplary customer service.
One very useful thing has been a six base tray which is perfect for the TooFatLardies forthcoming Dark Age rules, Dux Brittaniarum, and also comes in handy for other things as you can see below ...
So there you have it. See, I told you it was too long to go in the comments thread!