Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Base sizes and types

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!


  1. Your stuff is always magnificent! What a thrill it must be to play on these tables!!


  2. Magnificent explanation, love the stuff from Warbases and Martin (very helpful guy), i liked the idea of leaders on the hex base, too late for me now but future projects beckon...and congrats on 100 posts!

  3. An excellent post and a damn good read! I can't champion Warbases enough, I stumbled across them as well and there's NO going back!

  4. Thanks Sidney. An excellent post. Congrats on the 100th post too.

  5. What those three guys said. Those bases certainly look splendid. Good post!

  6. I'll just join the throng and say that this is a great post. Making a base tray is a brilliant idea. One that I'm certainly going to borrow.

  7. Real great post with some wonderful examples as I've come to expect from you.
    I bounce around quite a bit with base sizes and height so it varies with me, but I would say mine have tended to getter flatter and flatter recently.


  8. Thank you for the walk through; I've often wondered about the hexagonal bases, but was too embarrassed to ask! Wonderful to see the examples listed.

  9. Like your style. I´ve gone for my own sized bases (unless based for impetus) and for more or less the same reasons...I´ll pinch the hex shaped bases idea for commanders..good idea.

  10. Some games require certain base sizes. Sometimes people use overly large bases for cinematic purposes. This is probably more common outside the historical miniature gaming community.

    What about pre-caste resin bases? I've switch to using them most of the time. There are a lot of manufactures and it does cost money, but I paint so slowly/rarely that if it either A) saves me time or B) gives better results then I see it as valuable.

    I collect a bunch of links to various manufacturers:

  11. I'd be the first to admit that I don't spend enough time on the basing of the figure as usualy the patience has worn thin by then.

    But your basing are themselves works of art that compliment the figures beautifully that I really should take inspiration from your example

  12. Congrats on 100, and another great post! Its a subject I've been thinking about lately.

  13. Excellent post, Sidney...I get to see all your different bases all at once.

  14. Great article and lots of lovely eye candy. Next up, would you mind showing us how you did that lovely map objective? It's gorgeous.

  15. Thanks for the comments everyone. They're welcome. I wasn't sure that bases were that exciting, so the comments have reassured me a bit in that department!

    @Furt, Angry, Ray, Rodger, Jim and Kris - thank you all very much!

    @Christopher - interesting that your bases are getting slimmer while mine are getting fatter!

    @Michael and Paul - ah yes, the hex bases. There's method in my madness …

    @Zerloon - thank you!

    @Muskie - welcome back!! I've looked hard at pre-cast resin bases. There are some wonderful examples around. My concern there is that most historical miniatures are cast with good strong bases, and cutting those from the figure to pin the figure to a resin base goes against the grain slightly.

    Alternatively, you could just glue the figure to the resin base, but then there's some more work needed to ensure that the base is disguised and blended into the resin base somehow. One very clever way of doing resin (or plastic bases) is what Battlefront did with their pre-cast bases, leaving small holes into which figures can be glued. I think that works very well for 15mm or multi-figure bases, and I'm slightly surprised more companies have not followed that very innovative approach.

    @Kingsley - thank you, but it's really not very difficult! Anyone who can paint like you can do a wonderful base!

    @Monty and Captain Richard - thank you!

    @Lead Legion - Thank you. I shall certainly make time for showing you how I did the maps - they were really very simple to do. Towards the end of April or early May I am hoping to do a German Trench Loot follow up to the British Trench Loot I did earlier in the year, and I'll feature some German trench maps in that.

  16. Too late for my Great War stuff, but I have stolen the hex base idea for my big men for Dux B. Hopefully I will pick up some movement trays from Martin on Saturday.

  17. Congratulaions on the 100th post!

    Funny thing is... I have gone from Litko to Warbases for the same reason. When the USPS raised their prices on transatlantic shipping (and removed the ground mail option at the same time) splitting a larger order up became unreasonable. Large orders were expensice from a s&h point of view (again the USPS fault not Litkos) plus the added cost of tax and duty. So I moved to Warbases as well when I found them and I agree... he has been very helpful with custom bases!



  18. Thanks guys.

    @Phil Robinson. Looking forward to seeing how your Dux Brit stuff turns out. Also, looking forward to meeting up on Saturday if you're around - I think Rich is aiming to be in the Fox by about 12 midday. Either there or the other Blogger meet up with the Posties (Fran and Ray) at 1pm. It'd be very good to see you, mate!

    @dhcwargaming - Exactly my experience as well, dhc. I do feel bad for the Litko guys, who gave me brilliant service for years before Martin and Warbases came along. The Litko products are really fantastic, but it was getting very expensive with the postage and shipping to order from them. I've decided that I'll order some special one offs from them - such as the great stuff coming out from "Jim's Product Labs" instead of the bulk bases - as I do think Litko deserve supporting in any way I can. That being said, Martin's product is pretty much identical, and he's a really decent and very helpful chap. So I guess it's a good result all round in the end.

  19. Enjoyed reading your views on basing.
    Your black edge/picture frame look is very tempting and I may try this when I actually get round to starting my WW1 project.
    Congrats on your 100th post, telegram on its way.

  20. Wow that's a ton of quality info. Always good to see a passion for the figurine games. Used to play myself back in the day. Followed

  21. Sydney,
    Great review of your techniques. On top of that, what a marvellous assortment of painted figures! You could publish your own version of the Foundry Compendium.
    Thanks for sharing your talent with us.

  22. Sorry did not see your reply as we went down Friday am. Thought I may have seen you looking at the Oshiro samurai game, but I could not over there before you moved on. I hope to post pics of the first two figures for Dux during the coming week.

  23. Thanks guys.

    @SilverWhistle: Thank you very much. The black edge does add something (in my view). Give it a go, even if just on a vignette or rear-areas/command piece and see what you think. I'd love to see where it takes you.

    @ThrashersFan: Thank you very much!

    @Digger: Thanks mate! That's way too generous, though! Seeing you do what you've done with your own terrain boards has been inspirational for me to watch!

    @Phil: Arrraaaggggghhhh, I can't believe we were that close, mate! That's a real shame. We shall have to meet up at another show, though. Looking forward to seeing your Dux stuff!

  24. Sorry for being late on catching up on this post, Sidney, especially as I was the one who asked for it. (My wife and I are currently holidaying in the Dordogne so I've fallen behind on my blogging and have been forced to peck away on our tablet!) Thanks so much for the excellent information! I had stared at your bases for quite a while, estimating what sizes you may have used and came away pretty close! Nonetheless it's great to get confirmation on the hunches. I'll definitely be using many of you ideas in my upcoming Great War project. The only thing I may add is a different shape of base to differentiate between the rankers of the Central Powers and those of the Entente.

    Thanks again!


  25. rereading this post something came to mind...the 'Big Men'. I understand why you have chosen to go with the 30mm wide hex bases and it makes sense. However, doesn't it also make it easier for your opponent to spot the 'Big Men' easier and try to take them out? The snipers in the "Through the Mud and the Blood" rules come to mind.

    I'm considering using the same 25mm bases for all the individual minis. However, for the officers and NCOs what I'm thinking of doing is painting a bright color on the edging, about 5mm long, along the back.

    Officers could be white and NCOs red or even broken down more to indicate specific ranks if one were so inclined. Not only would this allow a person to discern the "Big Men" from the others, at least from the back, but it might make it harder for a sniper to chose his shot.

    An example for a German Hauptmann (Captain) could be a white 5mm length of edging with two yellow pips.

    Just a though.


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