We design wargames for historical military miniatures
Battlefront WWII
Starting Out

While many, if not most, of the Battlefront WWII family are Historical Miniature veterans, for some it is their first foray into the world of historical miniatures, even if they have been exposed to science fiction or fantasy figures before. Some of our customers have noted that we do not carry or promote a specific line of figures and vehicles ourselves, but leave army acquisition to our customers. For long-time WWII fans, this usually doesn't present a problem, but for a newcomer, the choice of armies looks like a difficult task. This page is dedicated to those beginners, especially those on a limited budget. The opinions on this page reflect the experiences of the webmaster, who has been acquiring figures for longer than he likes to think about (since the early 1970's).

  1. Choose your scale.
    The first step in building your armies is to choose the basic figure scale. BF:WWII is works well for 4 popular scales: 5mm, 10mm, 15mm, and 20mm. With modification, it can be used for 25mm. The "mm" figure is the basic height of the figure, usually measured from the base of the foot to the eyes or the base of the hat or helmet. While there are some variations on sculpting style, figures from the same basic scale can often be used together. This gives you the ability to create stands with considerable variation in figure poses and action. The price of figures roughly corresponds to their size. However, so does their detail and visual appeal. After you choose a basic scale, I recommend that you visit The Miniatures Page where you will find an extensive list of manufacturers including contact information.

    • 5mm or micro scale
      These figures are small, and are well suited to a limited budget, with a single vehicle running about $1.00->$1.50US and infantry coming in at about 10 cents or less. The scale incorporates both 1/285 and 1/300 figures, which are virtually indistiguishable for wargame purposes. Because of their size, it is often difficult to discriminate between different types of infantry and older eyes sometimes have trouble painting them. However, if you want to build a quick and relatively cheap army, 5mm may be the way to go. The premier vehicle manufacturer in this scale is GHQ. Their miniatures are extremely detailed, but slightly more expensive. IMHO, the best infantry is produced by the British company Heroics & ROS, which also produces vehicles and many different types of 1/300 aircraft, but their casting standard for vehicles is not as good as GHQ. However, for wargame purposes they are more than sufficient. Also in 5mm is Scotia Micro Models, which has vehicles cast to a comparable standard to H&R. C-IN-C also has an extensive line, and they have re-emerged from several years of obscurity. Their casting quality was extremely good in the past. There probably are others. By looking through the catalogs of the various companies, you should be able to find almost every vehicle that you might need.
    • 10mm scale
      This is a new scale that has just become popular. This scale has the major advantage of being similar (in fact a little bigger, but close) to to N gauge model railroad equipment, which can provide a lot of buildings and terrain of the proper size. Paul Bernadino, one of the F&F playtest team, put on a nice Normandy scenario using 10mm figures, pictures of which can be seen here. Vehicles cost about $3US each and infantry runs in the 15-25 cent range. However, The Last Square offers some starter packs which include large numbers of figures at a very reasonable price. Minifigs also offers a growing line of 10mm figures. As I have not had direct experience with 10mm, I cannot comment on compatibility between the various lines. What I have seen at conventions looks quite nice.
    • 15mm scale
      15mm is the scale in which we developed BF:WWII. There are several major manufacturers, including Battlefront, Old Glory, Peter Pig, and Quality Castings (see our links page) Vehicles run about $10-$15US each with infantry from 30->50 cents each. If you can't find these at a local store, try mail-order. Your humble webmaster has personally received excellent service from Old Glory/Command Decision, Two Tin Soldiers, Brookhurst Hobbies, Quality Castings (Now owned by Old Glory 15s), and Battlefront Miniatures/Flames of War (despite the similar name, they are not affiliated with us-but that is a long story). If you are into odd periods try the True North Miniatures line (Now owned by Old Glory) which carries minor power figures and vehicles. I also can recommend a nice range of 15mm resin models by Gaming Models, which have the major advantage of being less than 1/3 the cost of the metal models ($5/vehicle). My own collection uses figures from all of the manufacturers listed above. I have had excellent luck with QC, Flames of War, and Gaming Model vehicles. I really like Peter Pig infantry. Old Glory infantry comes in large bags of 50 figures for a reasonable price, with about 8 different poses in each bag. This works fine for infantry but less so for support weapons (Do you really need 50 gun crew figures?). Most manufacturers' figures are compatible in size, but Quality Castings infantry are slightly smaller, although they are in the process of resculpting them. However QC figures are quite nice and they have an extensive selection, including some useful platoon packs (all of my U.S. paratroops are QC) and their slightly different sculpting style is a good way to distinguish between units. Once again, you should be able to get any figure and vehicle types that you need.
    • 20mm scale
      20mm figures are larger still. Vehicles run about $8-10 each with infantry from .75 and up. I have not had any personal experience with 20mm, but the larger figures I have seen paint up quite nicely. Eric Feifer ran some Blitzkrieg scenarios using 20mm mounted for skirmish at Fall In 2000.

  2. Choose your sides and period.
    There is no need to buy all the vehicles and figure types for all of the armies. Instead concentrate on developing a flexible force with two armies from the same time period that can be adapted for to several battles. Our basic card set provides data for late-war Germans, Russian, and U.S. Our supplements added the French, Poles, the Afrika Korps, Italians, Japanese, Chinese, U.S. Marines, Dutch East Indies, Australians, and Commonwealth forces in Burma. Our prototype card database adds several more. With a few exceptions, the Germans fight everyone in the European theatre and the Japanese fight everyone in the Pacific. In addition to your nationality, also choose a time period and buy units that are consistent for that period (you will need to do a little research). Essentially the initial card set and the late-war units can be used for late 1943-45 and the Blitzkrieg for 1939-41. If you have a regular gaming buddy, share the burden, with each person concentrating on one army.

  3. Your first forces
    While the tendency of the beginner is to immediately stock up on super-heavy vehicles such as Jadgpanthers and King Tigers, these vehicles were historically rather rare. To build a flexible force that can be easily extended later, your first forces should be 1-3 basic infantry companies. Our Basic Rules contain organizations for the mid-war Russians, Germans, and U.S. Our Orders of Battle page has the organization for many other nations and time periods. In the Basic Rules, the standard infantry companies are GE ME-10, US ME-06, and RU ME-04 and ME-06. With the addition of a few extra figures, these forces can be adopted to form the core of almost all of the standard organizations. This is not accidental, as the actual armies were deliberately organized around standard "building blocks", so if you follow the historical lead, your miniature force will be flexible as well. Your second purchase should be a company (or Battalion for the Russians) of Medium tanks. In the Basic Rules, these are GE ME-01, US ME-02, and RU ME-02. At first, stay away from the heavy vehicles and stick to Panzer IVs for the Germans, Sherman 75mms for the Americans, and T34/76s for the Russians. If you choose these forces, make use of note (c) on ME-01 for the Germans and only purchase 4 Pz IVs. Experience has shown that because of their better weapons, 4 PzIVs are about equivalent to 7 Sherman 75mm or T34/76. These basic forces can be used at the core of almost every battle.

We are now going to show how to translate our Orders of battle into a purchase list. We are going to build a U.S. Infantry Company (ME-06). By purchasing 3 full companies and adding a few extra stands, you can have a full U.S. Infantry Battalion (BG-05):
U.S. Infantry Company U.S. Infantry Battalion
  1. Choose your ground-scale and the number of figures on each stand. Our recommended basing is found on P.3 of the rulebook and repeated here. For this exercise, we are going to assume 2 figures/stand and standard base sizes. Note that if you use one of the smaller scales (10mm or 5mm), you might have more figures on each stand.

  2. Calculate the number and types of figures you need.
    The U.S. Infantry company requires 1 command stand, 9 infantry stands, 1 LMG stand, and 1 60mm mortar. This works out to 2 command figures (officers/radio operators), 18 infantry figures, a LMG, gunner and loader, and a 60mm mortar with 2 crew, for a total of 24 figures, a LMG, and 60mm mortar. In most of the scales, the LMG and gunner are cast as a single miniature, and the light mortar stand often is cast with its crew. Looking at the notes, we see 3 of the infantry stands can have bazookas. This means that we should replace some riflemen with 3 bazooka gunners and possibly some bazooka loaders.

    To build a full battalion, you need 3 companies and add a commander, his jeep, 4 extra LMG stands, 2 heavier mortars and an anti-tank gun and transport.

    Total Figures for a U.S. Infantry Battalion
    Figure TypeNumber Required
    Light Truck1
    Command Figures8
    LMG7+7 loaders
    60mm Mortars3 + 6 crew
    81mm Mortars2 + 4 crew
    57mm AT Gun1 + 2 crew

    Our other requirement for our basic force is a Medium Tank Company ME-02, which consists of 7 M4 Sherman 75mm tanks.

    To build our battalion and tank company, we need to purchase 9 vehicles, 1 AT gun, and 106 assorted personnel figures. This will set you back about $40 in 10mm, but will give you a basic force that can be easily expanded to fit your needs.

  3. Paint them (or have them painted).
    Our hobby is a visual hobby, and discovering the exact uniform colors, learning techniques such as staining and drybrushing, and creating a realistic army can give a lot of pleasure. As a start, you can use the colors on our unit cards, and there are LOTS of books on the subject. I would also like to recommend the Battlefront Miniature/Flames of War site as a source of painting info.

    If you do your own painting, the only real choice is whether to use acrylic or oil-based paints. I am partial to acrylics, primarily because they clean up with water, but many serious painters prefer oils.

    Alternatively, you can pay to have the painting done for you, and there are several painting services who have links on our site.
I will now end my ranting. I hope that this gives beginners a starting point.

This page was last updated on 10/30/2013 at 02:30PM

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