3mm, World War 2

Adventures in 3mm

I recently got some 3mm WW2 figures to try out on a bit of an impulse. I wanted to do some jungle-type bases in a similar style to my 6mm WW2 Eastern Front bases. While I had done some such bases in 15mm, this really only amounted to putting a load of foliage on the bases, there wasn’t the room on the base that you get in 6mm to have some kind of coherent style. The problem was, I didn’t like any of the 6mm Japanese currently available. For these kind of bases, you really need figures to be well animated to give you the options to create thematic bases, figures by Adler or 2D6 would have been ideal, but I fear it’ll be many years before any appear.

So I figured I’d have a go at some 3mm, as the figures were so small that the posing would be pretty much unnoticeable. I decided to go for 50mm x 30mm bases instead of the 60mm x 40mm that I used for the 6mm. This was really a conservative choice in case I wanted more relative table space in terms of ratio to unit area, and the base size still represented a substantial area in 1/500 or 1/600 scale. That’s a tennis court on one base for example.

Initially, I looked at some photos and pictures for inspiration and then had a go at reproducing them. One thing you can do in 3mm is get a lot of relative height with vegetation on the base without creating storage issues, or having one tree take up half your base.

Following on, I decided to turn the bases into groups of 3 that fit together in a ‘T’ formation. This is how units are represented in Nuts Big Battles, and would also work for ‘Rommel’ if there’s ever a Far East supplement. These were the two sets of rules I had in mind. This meant being able to recreate a large space in terms of scale. At 1/500 (allowing for scale creep on the figures) the two front bases give a frontage of 50 metres, and a maximum depth of 30 metres, allowing for a fair amount of detail.

One of the common approaches to 3mm is to paint everything a bit brighter than it would normally be, and have a contrast with the base colour so the figures stand out. I decided to eschew this entirely. If the figures were hard to find in the scenery, then that was a good thing as far as I was concerned. It is the jungle after all.

It seems like the other attribute of 3mm would be in the terrain. There’s an opportunity to just use clump foliage for woods and therefore have a great deal of versatility on where your forests go. Up the sides of hills for example. Built up areas could also have more buildings, and look a bit more ‘convincing.’

I had a go at making a Burmese village. I got some Monopoly houses, which seem to be the go to choice for ease of use in 3mm. I had to trim them a bit and really it was just better to make my own. Buildings were made from 3 bits of balsa and a bit of card. The stilts were painted on the lower section, which is something you can easily get away with in this scale. Once you get a system going, you can produce a lot of buildings in quick time, then just add a bit of vegetation to set it off.

One thing I really missed that you can do in 6mm was the ability to add in small details that catch the eye. I have a 6mm Japanese village with washing lines, children pointing at shops, people playing go etc. And these little details add a lot of interest to the whole. It’s not really possible to do that in 3mm.

The benefits of 3mm are really in terms of cost and time. I use GHQ vehicles in 6mm, so you can get 45 3mm vehicles for the price of 5 GHQ ones. It’s marginally quicker to paint the figures, but the scenery is much quicker to do. However, neither of these benefits apply to the tabletop, and looking at the bases, there really isn’t anything I couldn’t have done in 6mm, and with the scenery being the main attraction of the base, in hindsight I should perhaps have stuck it out with some Heroics and Ros 6mm figures.

I think that 3mm may really shine in terms of the terrain as noted earlier, so the next thing to do is to make some Commonwealth bases, and a bit of scenery and try out a game. It’ll probably need some scatter terrain to help the scenic bases blend in to the table.

Overall, I don’t think I would have tried 3mm had 6mm figures that I liked been available. But, in true Magnus Magnusson style, I’ve started so I’ll finish. There may be some other (tabletop) attributes that 3mm has over 6mm as yet undiscovered.

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