Opinion: thoughts on ‘The Three Foot Rule’

The Three Foot Rule is a commonly-used, but not always clearly defined, miniature wargaming concept. At its most basic, the concept involves balancing the level of effort exerted in creating terrain or painting miniature wargaming figures against the expected level of visual scrutiny the terrain or figures are likely to be under during a game. For many wargamers, terrain or figures are rarely observed at distances closer than three feet, so the three foot rule implies that a given detail should be represented on a figure, vehicle, or piece of terrain if someone observing the model from three feet away would expect to see it. Any additional details beyond that level would cost unnecessary time and effort, as it is unlikely that any player would notice them.

It is possible to render incredible levels of detail and realism in miniature, as military miniature dioramas and model railroad layouts attest. Many Old School wargamers view painting their figures and scratch-building terrain as part of their hobby, and excellence in painting and attention to detail is, to them, as noble a goal as superior generalship.

The question for the wargamer, then, is how much effort to exert in order to have an immersive game, without spending weeks or months preparing it. Some view the Three Foot Rule as a middle ground, a compromise between detail and playability.

For Army Men Wargaming, we are using unpainted, poorly-sculpted plastic toy soldiers as miniatures. While some players may feel nostalgic using the figures out of the canister, the esthetic appearance of the tabletop is less important than historical accuracy or having pupils painted on the eyes of each soldier. Those soldiers set the tone for the rest of the tabletop. The level of quality we seek would enable players to look at a piece of terrain and, know, for example, that a building is made of brick, that there are windows on the first and second floors, and that there are doors in two adjacent sides. Apart from that basic functionality, we don’t much care what it looks like.

How about you? What level of detail do you represent in your games? Please consider sharing your thoughts in a comment ot this post.

Review and Casting Tutorial: Meng 1:35 Concrete and Plastic Barrier Set

It’s been quite some time since we’ve posted a video. This time, it is a quick review of the Concrete and Plastic Barrier Set by Meng. A pleasant surprise was that the set actually included a mold for creating these road barriers from gypsum or casting plaster! The review of the set is followed by a quick tutorial on casting barriers from plaster. If you obtain the set or have any ideas that should be added to the tutorial, please let us know in the comments.

Killer find – a true 1:35 Abrams Tank for less than $2

The toy tank, among 1:35 scale terrain.
The toy tank, among 1:35 scale terrain.

My son and I make frequent visits to Savers, something of a thrift store that helps the environment by re-purposing second hand items and donating some of its proceeds to various charitable endeavors. It’s a fine place to obtain used video games, board games, books on military history, and, of course, army men and suitably scaled vehicles for them.

While we have been disappointed with what was available during our past few visits, we really struck gold today -a toy tank, modeled to closely resemble an M1A1 Abrams, pictured at right.

Without the price tag to differentiate, it would be tough to discern between the toy and the model.
Without the price tag to differentiate, it would be tough to discern between the toy and the model.

Actually, the words closely resemble are an understatement, as you can see by checking the next image; the toy tank is on the left, while a 1:35 military model of an M1A1 is on the right. You’ll notice that the length, width and height are nearly identical. When I checked the scale with a scale calculator, I found the difference between the toy and the scale model is virtually none.

The best part was the price. The item was tagged at $1.99 U.S., but that number dropped to $1.40 after my military discount was applied. We’ll have some great gaming with this piece, after it gets cleaned up and painted…

Tutorial: Re-purposing a Toy Truck for Wargaming, Part I: Concept and Modifications

We’ve uploaded another tutorial, this time as an attempt to turn the ECCVALEV mystery vehicle into something workable for 54mm wargaming. Part 2 should be up in a few days. Until then, happy viewing!