Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Model Aircraft Scales For Wargaming

 From left to right - Scotia-Grendel, Warlord Games, Revell, Airfix.

Warlord Games introduction of their innovative Blood Red Sky has kickstarted WWII fighter games; a genre that has been in the doldrums for some years.

However, aeroplane miniatures are based on traditional model scales rather than wargame miniature sizes so I have pulled some planes out of my collection to demonstrate what's available. These are all ME bf 109 models.

The most popular aircraft scale with a vast selection of aircraft on offer. There is ferocious competition between manufacturers keeping prices down. You can expect to pay about £7.50 per fighter.
Pros: Large, detailed, look great, good value, many prepainted.
Antis: Large, take up space, expensive per model.
Equivalent: Usually reckoned to be 20mm to 25mm wargame scale, but they take up much the same table space as a 28mm vehicle model - planes are big.

This scale has languished in recent years but it has taken an upswing in recent years as Far Eastern manufacturers and diecast model makers have adopted the scale. You can expect to pay about £5 per fighter.
Pros: Large enough for reasonable detail, small enough to have a small footfall on the table, many prepainted, good value.
Antis: Restricted range in west, expensive per model.
Equivalent: Usually reckoned to be 8-10 mm but they take up as much room as a 15mm vehicle model.

This was the scale chosen by Wings of War/Glory and has been adopted by Warlord Games. Very few other models available. Expect to pay about £15 for a prepainted WoG model or £20 per six planes unpainted from Warlord Games
Pros: As 1/144 but prepainted are expensive, unpainted good value.
Antis: Very restricted choice of manufacturers and models.
Equivalent: Similar to 1/144

These are the classic metal wargame models. Expect to pay about £1.50 per plane.
Pros: Small so don't take up much room, cheap to buy, metal so tough.
Antis:Limited range of planes and manufacturers, small so undetailed, metal so heavy.
Equivalent: 6mm

Other scales

1/48: Are you mad? The classic model makers scale. These are big so good for play across a tennis court floor for demo games. Great range, all levels of detail and price.

1/100: The classic 15mm, these are rather rare.

1/285: Can be used more or less interchangeably with 1:300.


  1. A useful escape guide given the increasing popularity of air warfare games recently.

  2. Any thought on 1/600? Immediate pros would be cheap, good ranges, bombers are a reasonable size. Cons - tiny, metal, hard to to paint / differentiate.

    1. I know of at least one air gamer who is very in to 1/600. Personally, I think they are too small too look good in what is a visual hobby. One could just use counters.

    2. I disagree John. I've got 1/300 and 1/600 planes and they do look good (especially when massed when naval wargaming - you can definitely get the 'swarm' effect

    3. Take your point about the 'swarm' Phil. Can see how this would work in an operational level game as opposed to skirmish.

  3. Cool list of pro's and con's John, 1:48 scale can be useful with some of the larger heroic scale models but find that their best used as scenery or objectives. I guess for each of us it's down to space we have available

    1. I also use 1:48 planes as terrain, Dave. Of course ,GW has the equivalent of 1:48 aircraft as tabletop wargaming pieces in 40K. But they fudge the rules a fair bit :)

  4. 1/700 is also out there for use with naval models, similarly you get pretty small scale fighters for actual naval miniatures, although those would be based as units, rather than individual planes.

    1. I have been very tempted by the great value Japanese boxes of mixed 1:700 planes but I think my elderly eyes and tendons would have trouble painting them.

    2. Fortunately most paint schemes in the last 50 years have been variations of "grey" and "blue grey"!

    3. LOL, I tend to seek out the more baroque paint schemes and use those. Somewhere, someone always painted their fighter a funny colour.

  5. you can also get 1/1200 and 1/2400 scale aircraft for naval wargaming

  6. Cool - thanks!

    Are you aware of PSC's revitalised Battle of Britain game?