Monday, 15 March 2021

Second World War in 12mm

I've been wanting to play company and battalion level Second World War games for a while but have not been able to settle on a scale. My first venture back into miniatures gaming about ten years ago was with the Crossfire rules and while these are also company level I played using 20mm figures. However, in my opinion, those rules work best for infantry action in dense terrain settings and so 20mm worked well enough. 

Popular rule sets like Flames of War have used 15mm as their scale and this seems to be the case with other sets like the Two Fat Lardies 'I Ain't Been Shot Mum' (IABSM). I played IABSM for the first time at the end of last year and for that we used 15mm which worked well. I liked the rules and so begin to think that I should get serious about putting together units to play games at this level.

The recent publication of Dave Brown's battalion level Second World War rules 'O' Group has been a further incentive, particularly as the same figures and basing would work for both rule sets. So, what finally got me over the line was the release by Victrix of their 12mm range. I liked what I saw and their infantry sets provide enough figures to create a company at one figure to one man. That's perfect for IABSM, as that plays with all units at a 1/1 ratio, however I didn't intend basing figures individually at this scale. For ease of play I've grouped infantry on bases of one, two or three figures. That allows me to handle removing casualties using the bases with one or two figures as 'loose change'. 

In the case of IABSM most sections would be made up of three bases for the section with 8-9 figures per section and then the section/squad leader is based separately. So here's a typical German squad for 1944 for IABSM (an eight man squad to reflect casualty levels).

I've never painted anything smaller than 20mm so this is something of a departure for me. I think the key is to paint for the table and a viewing distance of a few feet, so high contrast shading seems to be the answer. My 28mm First World War Germans seem like giants after a session painting these.

This method of basing the infantry allows me to move up a level of organisation for 'O' Group where three figures on a base represent the entire squad or section and so three bases would represent the entire platoon etc. The individual figures that represent platoon commanders in IABSM become company commander for 'O' Group.

Given the ranges that are available currently from Victrix it was obvious I was going to start with doing Normandy and NW Europe with a British and German force.

I'm impressed with the Victrix tank models, they really pack a lot of detail into such a small kit and the molding is very crisp. I'm finding them easy to paint and very pleased with the finishes I'm getting.

I'm working on other scales at the same time and it's easy to see how little space you need to store two troops of tanks compared to one 1/72 model.

While I have the airbrush out it makes sense to do batches at the same time, even if the scale varies.

The Victrix tanks come with six in a box. For the British I have the sets for Cromwells, Shermans and Sherman Fireflies. There is one odd thing though, which didn't occur to me until I'd bought them, and that is the Shermans are M4A3 variants. These were not supplied to the British and given Victrix do not produce anything else for the Americans (yet), only for the British, I'm unclear why they would do this. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it, I think at this scale a Sherman, is a Sherman, is a Sherman. While the Firefly is accurate I'm also not sure why you would need six, as they were normally parcelled out with one to every troop as the fourth tank. Chances are you would have no more than two troops on the table and so six Fireflies are far more than you should normally require.

For the Germans I have the PzIVH and the StuGIII sets. The kits come with the option to have the commander's hatch open or closed and they include suitable figures for the commander should you choose to have the hatches open.

They fit well with the infantry. One thing I hadn't considered at this scale was how basing the infantry would make them proportionally much higher/taller. A 2mm base on a 10/12mm figure adds around 20% to the height. At this scale that's quite a lot and while I wasn't inclined to base the vehicles I did give it some serious consideration to compensate for the height difference.

At the time of writing Victrix make a set of Panthers and have just released of a set of Tiger tanks. As with the other tanks these come in a set of six. Again I'm not sure I need quite that many, so I looked around to see what other models are available in this scale.

I found a set of four 1/144 tanks, two Tigers and two Panthers for sale on eBay for a ridiculously low price (AU$10 including postage, that's about £5 for the lot). They were coming from China and took quite a while to arrive, but arrive they did. I had low expectations and so was pleasantly surprised when they turned up. While no one could claim they were highly accurate masterpieces, they are not unacceptably bad either. The Panther seems too long and squat, while the Tiger is a little over-scale, but considering the price it seems churlish to be overly critical.

They've been designed as toys and so required some surgery prior to painting.

A lick of paint and they come up well, I think.

Here's a before-and-after shot of the Tiger.

I was experimenting with an ambush camouflage scheme for a 1/72 Panther and so tried to replicate the same with the smaller model.

I've tried to see how well they fit with the Victrix models and made a size comparison. In the background is a 1/72 Revell Tiger and PzIVH. The 1/144 comparison would indicate the Tiger might be slightly too large but there's not much in it and the chances are the two won't be on the table at the same time anyway.

Here they are compared with the Victrix StuGIII and PzIVH.

I have focussed on the Germans first and now have enough for a full company for IABSM or a battalion for 'O' Group.

I also have nine bases made up with a single figure, so that I have enough to replace bases for casualties in each of the nine sections for IABSM (there is no individual casualty removal in O Group).

The German force is nearly complete.

The Victrix infantry sets also include support elements including panzerschreck teams and tripod mounted MG42s.

The sets also include radio operators and so I've based those with a commander figure for each of the company commanders in O Group. The same base will work as the company commander (or Level IV leader) for IABSM.

So for IABSM I will have the individually based leader figures as the platoon commanders and the one with the radio operator as the company commander.

The German set also includes 81mm mortar teams. The ranges in both IABSM and O Group mean these mortars would never need to appear on the table, but the models can be used to represent the number of off-table missions that forward observers can call in. With that in mind I've made up a different base with the mortar team and included a dice frame for a mini dice to help keep track of the number of mortar teams (IABSM) or the number of fire missions available (O Group).

The Victrix range is advertised as 12mm, as opposed to 10mm, an already established scale for miniatures. The initial response from many in the gaming community was to ask why Victrix had opted to create an entirely new scale. However, if you don't know already, 12mm corresponds to 1/144 scale, a popular scale for model aircraft but also one that has existing ranges of figures and AFVs from companies such as Revell and Pegasus. 

That said, word out in the gaming community is that the 10mm ranges from companies like Pendraken are very compatible with those from Victrix. This is important because the Victrix range is far from comprehensive at the moment and what is missing from my collection so far are key support weapons, particularly anti-tank guns. So I've placed an order with Pendraken for weapons like the Pak40 for the Germans and 6 pounder for the British. 

Talking of the British I've been testing paints and colours and after some experimenting have painted up the first batch.

You can follow more of the build for this collection and the start of terrain construction in this post.



  1. Fantastic painting as always , that picture of the Pzr IV and the 12mm ones made me think of a mother duck and her ducklings :)

    1. Ha ha, that's what happens when you leave a mummy and daddy PzIV alone for a few minutes....

  2. Excellent paintwork. Well done. You could also look at Minifigs as they are 12mm rather than 10mm, as well as the old Wargames South 12mm range.

    1. Ah yes, Minifigs, forget about them, thanks I will definitely check them out. It's funny with a new scale, it's like you have just come into the hobby and have to discover all the ranges and manufacturers.

  3. Magister Militum still have stocks of the 1/144 Takara WTM AT gun sets: for £2 you get a PaK40, a 6 pdr and a Soviet 76mm. I filled my boots some time ago!

    1. Thanks Geoff, that's a good tip, unfortunately I just checked them out but postage makes it less attractive unless I place a bigger order with them and right now there's nothing else I need, but who knows down the track?

  4. Very interesting and enjoyable post - thanks. I have just ordered ‘The war on The Ground’, a set of rules that Victrix are stocking and that can used with their kit.

    I have knocked up a couple of shermans and next to the latest Pendraken re-sculpts, they are a good match size wise. I will likely go to Pendraken for my tigers, as like you, I just need a couple.

    Your figure painting at this scale is spot on and shows the figures off well.

    1. Thanks Norm, I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on the new Victrix rules, atlhough to be honest between IABSM and O Group I've probably got enough to get on with for now.

  5. Really great work on the 12mm Germans. Always amazed at your output.
    A nerdy question. I’m interested in the colours you used for the Germans. I’ve been painting up 15mm 1940 Germans using Vallejo field grey with bronze green for the helmets. Always looks a bit dark particularly after a wash of agrax Earthshade. Could you tell me what you are using because they look excellent. Thanks.

    1. Thanks Peter. The Germans are primed in black and then the base uniform colour of Vallejo Feldgrau is painted straight out of the bottle, however I don't cover the entire uniform but leave the black base visible in folds, between arms and body etc. I then lighten the Feldgrau with Vallejo Buff. At this scale you can really lighten it quite a lot to get the figures to pop. I then block it in, you should be able to see from the pictures how that's been done. I don't use a wash over the uniform. If you are going to use a wash then I'd suggest you make the base colours very light, but I find washes can darken colours quite a bit. I only use them selectively on certain items of kit rather than the whole figure. I hope that's useful.

  6. Much appreciated. I’ll give that a go.

  7. This is a really great article! Thank you. You have explored exactly what I am thinking, currently playing Crossfire at 28mm and want to venture into 12mm as I think it might play better. May I ask what size bases you went for when basing you 12mm infantry, and what is that superb looking flock you used?

    1. Thanks, I’m happy with 12mm and I think it will give a good game of Crossfire with a good sense of space on the table (also make it possible to play on a smaller table if need be). The flock is a mixture put down in two layers. The first layer is a mix of two standard scatter/flock from Noch. The second is a layer of static grass. It’s a bit of effort but the end result makes it worth it.

    2. Excellent, thank you! What base sizes did you go for at 12mm?

    3. I ended up using spare bases from Perry 28mm sets, which are 20x20mm.

  8. The detail and proportions of the figures look excellent, and the painting really does them justice.

    Regards, Chris

    1. Thanks. That’s the main difference between Victrix and Pendraken. The former are very well proportioned and realistic in appearance, the Pendraken are shorter and stockier and less realistic in appearance but only really noticeable when inspected closely, which is not something that’s going to be happening much at this scale.