Monday, April 24, 2017

Tor Megiddo: scale tanks in 40k?

Find a more reasonable tank?

Those of you that frequent the Ammobunker forums, or follow Inq28 scene, might be aware of a new collaborative event called Tor Megiddo. In an event hosted by Alexander Winberg and Helge "Wilhelminiatures," a group of extraordinarily talented hobbyists are building warbands and ramshackle vehicles to race across the sun scorched ruin that is Tor Megiddo. While certainly conjuring images of Mad Max, the primary thing that came to mind when reading about the project was GorkaMorka (old GW skirmish game with Orks) and my early years in the miniature wargaming hobby. With memories of orks crashing rusted buggies and trucks together on the open sand, I decided that we needed to take part in Tor Megiddo in some way. With some thought, I realized it would be a great opportunity to explore a concept that I have been meaning to for quite some time, can scale historical tank models be used to build Warhammer 40k vehicles? Surely the blazing sands of Tor Megiddo would have a few tanks cruising around, alongside war rigs and motorcycles? Long before the rise of Games Workshop, with people building scale models of airplanes and tanks, particularly ones replicating vehicles from World War II. To see if using a scale model might work for 40k, I decided to build a Tamiya 1943 T-34 Russian tank. Read on to see what I learned!

The box and contents of the Tamiya 1/35 1943 T-34.

A problem of scale
While there is certainly not a dearth of model kits available, deciding what to buy was a challenge, particularly concerning what scale would best match 40k models. The scaling conventions used for historical model kits are fairly different from those on Games Workshop models, or at least different in how they are expressed. With historical model kits, scale is listed as a fraction of the height of the actual item being replicated. A 1/35 scale tank is about 1/35th the size of the actual full-size item. For model tanks, the scales 1/35 and 1/48 seem to be the most common, but how do they relate to the scale of Games Workshop models? Most miniature wargaming models are made in 28mm scale. This naming convention comes from the practice of naming the scale off of the height of a humanoid figure, measured from their base to their eyes, or sometimes the top of the head. Differences in measuring conventions led to fairly different scalings across manufacturers, even if they all proclaim to be selling 28mm models. This is partially due to many companies, Games Workshop included, using Heroic scale rather than true scale for their models. With Heroic scale, proportions are exaggerated, like increasing the size of a model’s head or hands. Some of this was initially done due to limitations of mold technology, but the practice never faded away with improved mold making techniques (though current GW models do not look anywhere near as wonky as models from the 80s). If you were to compare the 28mm scale to the conventional fraction scaling, it is somewhere around 1/56. But due to the Heroic scaling of Games Workshop models, 1/56 tanks (Warlord games has a lot) look far too small. This leaves 1/35 and 1/48 as possible solutions for 40k relevant tanks. After struggling to find any pictures comparing the two scales to GW models, I decided to just buy an inexpensive kit to build and compare it to some of my 40k models. I ended up choosing a 1943 T-34 in 1/35 scale, produced by Tamiya; the T-34 being very influential to the WWII and a personal favorite.

The T-34 in all of its unassuming glory!

The T-34 went together really easily, without any assembly issues.

Comparing the T-34 to space marine tanks
Immediately upon starting to build the T-34, it was clear how differently proportioned it was from Warhammer 40k vehicles. Games Workshop vehicles tend to be very short (and quite tall in the case of a Leman Russ). While the T-34 model was about as broad as a Space Marine Predator, it was far longer, comparable to a Land Raider. The disparity is even more evident when looking at the crew members that came with the kit. They tower over Games Workshop human models, only just being able to fit through the turret hatches. Amazingly, these hatches are almost identical in size to GW hatches, despite 40k models being far smaller. Although I have not spent much time with real life tanks, all of these elements suggest that while real tanks tend to be extremely cramped as well as long and low to the ground (lower center of mass), tanks in the 41st millennium are short, tall and spacious. Furthermore, all of the T-34’s weapons are far smaller than an 40k counterpart (although this comes as no surprise as GW always oversizes its weapons).

1/35 scale models are clearly larger than GW's 28mm heroic scale models.

A space marine and a Skitarii ranger next to the completed T-34.

Although smaller, the T-34 is actually as long as a space marine Land raider.

Top view of a space marine predator, the T-34, and a Land raider.

In terms of size, the 1/35 T-34 sits comfortably in the middle between the smaller predator and the larger Land raider.

At a glance, the T-34 seems like a good scale, but ultimately I believe it is too big.

Having built my first scale model tank, I learned a lot about how the 1/35 scale compares to Games Workshop models. Whether or not it is a good scale for building models to use in 40k, I am not 100 percent decided. While aspects like the hatches look just like GW models, other elements look too large. Ultimately, I think 1/35 scale models would work fine for 40k, considering their tendency for exaggerated proportions. Before trying to build something for the Tor Megiddo project, I plan to put together a 1/48 scale tank for comparison purposes. I still plan to experimenting with painting the T-34 in a desert scheme to practice some weathering and rust effects to prepare for the final model. Let me know if any of you have dabbled in scale models! Any comments or suggestions are welcome!

- Eric Wier


  1. Dear Eric,
    from my expierience, 1/48 is the proper size to use, but details will always have to be adjusted (as you have already mentioned), hatches, weapons, some equipment, etc, in order to allign it to GW-exaggeration.
    The T-34 is not even a big tank, and at that scale of 1/35 those kits will take up too much space on the battlefield, 1/35 is rarely used for gaming purpose for that reason. The problem for me always was, that the available range for 1/48 is much smaller (and thus less affordable) than the others.

    I am really looking forward to your motorized insanity! Cheers!

    1. Thanks for your input, I think 1/48 scale is probably best, particularly if I want it to look realistic, because as you said the t34 is not even a large tank (or not a king tiger). However, I think it is still usable considering GW clearly does not care too much about scale with their tanks, based on the extremely odd proportions on their Leman Russ and others. But as someone who is constantly bothered by incorrect scale, I feel the need to use something that is closer to life, so I will be experimenting with some 1/48 stuff soon!

  2. I've recently taken up Bolt action and painted up a 1/56 crusader as the perry miniature desert rats are a more true scale than the usual GW or even warlord heroic scale and look better alongside it.
    Interestingly enough the perry humans make a normal space marine look ace and the proper sized so it's more that GW make guardsmen to big and not that marines are to small.
    Back on subject though It may be worth giving world of tanks a whirl as it's a great introduction to the many designs of tank and vehicles from the more bonkers like the TOG or KV2 with its massive turret
    to the more normal like your T-34. I think the scale you chose will largely depend on the type of tanks your converting over and which elements you want in what size.

    1. Good to hear you have taken up Bolt Action, it is something I have been meaning to look into for a while now. I strongly suspected that a less heroic scale guardsmen would largely alleviate space marines looking too small, but it is good to hear it from someone first hand!

      I have heard good things about World of Tanks too, and am sure it would be a great way to learn more about the innumerable tanks from World War II. But I think you are right that the scale will depend on what sort of tank I ultimately chose to try to modify, as nothing will be perfect.

  3. Hey mate, I build quite a lot of scale tanks and really like the concept you guys are going for here. I actually sort of messed around with a t-34 inspired, space marine predator conversion about 6 years ago, but haven't been bold enough to chop up and modify any of my 1/35th kits for gaming.

    Keep up the great work, I'm a lurker mostly but I love the stuff you post up on your blog.

    1. Thanks for the reply and following the blog! That is a great looking predator, the extra details really make it look more like a real tank. I will continue to build some more scale tanks and eventually convert something, so expect more related posts in the future!

  4. I am pretty curious as to what features on the 1/35 scale tank came across as too large? I think as far as a base of a true scale Leman Russ the T-34 looks about right as far as a footprint goes but obviously would require a lot of work to match the appearance of a Leman Russ. I've been thinking of how to do this for quite some time now though so I am glad you all are jumping in first haha. I think the main reason 40k Vehicles suffer from such crazy proportions is presumptions made on boards they will be played on and trying to accomodate as many models as possible. True scaling things definitely changes how things look when using GW's terrain and even just having a few correctly proportioned tanks on a 4' x 6' table would look considerably more clustered I would think. When you take them to more of a skirmish setting though maybe a tank or 2 max per side it would look less over the top. Really interested to see where this goes!

    1. Honestly, I think the scale is only off if you want to represent the T-34 in the 41st millennium. If it is to be a new tank, it should be just fine. I do not think it would look out of place on a 40k board.

  5. I love this idea! I've been looking for an excuse to buy some 1/56 scale WWII Italian and British vehicles from Company B, especially the cars they used in North Africa and this seems like the perfect project.

    1. That sounds great! A lot of WWII vehicles look a lot more convincing than their 40k counterparts. 1/56 scale might look a little too small to go alongside 40k models, however. Good luck with the project!

  6. Part of the reason that scale models always seem off, is the bases. GW bases in particular are quite thick, and coupled with the various scale issues of the figure itself, makes the tank seem out of scale.

    Another part of it is that people assume that tanks are bigger than they really are... early WWII tanks in particular are quite small.

    Anyway, looking forward to seeing what you can do with these, and a 1/48 comparison will be welcome as well.

    1. Yeah, that is a very good point about the bases, they are pretty thick. Also I agree that people do think tanks are larger than they often are. I still need to determine what 1/48 tank to get. Maybe I will just get another T-34; it would make the comparison easier :D

  7. Replies
    1. I have made a couple of tanks for 40K out of scale models, and I have found that 1/35 is just too big unless you are trying to make a super heavy tank. 1/48 seems to be the correct scale. You do usually have to make the hatches a bit bigger and definitely the weapons, but you can get some pretty good results. The main problem I have though with 40K tanks is their armament. I mean, I space marine predator Is armed with a turret mounted auto-cannon. That is, a weapon which a space marine can carry by himself, which can even be carried by a mere two Imperial guardsmen. Surely the point of a tank is to be able to carry weaponry heavier than what infantry can carry!

    2. Thanks for your input! I am going to try to assemble a 1/48 one soon, as I think it will be more reasonable. You are quite right that tanks should be able to carry weapons that infantry cannot. It is pretty silly how it is now... At least Space Marines do not carry around battle cannons...

  8. Stuck in Japan, with limited/overpriced 40k options, I'm constantly looking at model sets that are more widely available here. Bandai makes impressive models, but Gundams rarely fit with the grim dark. There are few 1/35 scale sets Bandai makes.
    Check out:
    [H.G.U.C Ral Ramba Zeon Commando]
    [Hard Graph Zeon Mobile Scout Set]

    1. Wow, some of those look really neat! I love Gundams, but agree they do not easily fit into 40k. But maybe now that Guilliman is embracing science again... ;)

  9. Hi ;)
    Nice work ! I'm looking to convert a Emhar Tadpole 1/35 to use it for a dark mechanicus big tank, do you think it's going to be too big ? As the tadpole is not very large, so i guess it could do it

  10. Eric, just discovered the blog and already impressed with many of your conversions. Found this entry while researching scale for a future blog entry of my own. Discussion of the incorrect scale of 40K armour has already been mentioned, but worth mentioning that of the 6.7 meter length of the t-34, about half is motor and drive-train . . . which apparently is not needed in most 40K armour (Baneblade pattern & artillery notwithstanding). Quick google fu leads to this handy chart for relative scale comparison (read in 4 columns: name/height/width/hull length)
    GW Leman Russ, H: 4.42m, W: 4.86m, L: 7.08m
    GW Predator, H: 4.4m, W: 6.0m (with sponsons), L: 6.6m
    Tiger, H: 3.0m, W: 3.56m, L: 6.56m
    Panther, H: 2.99m, W: 3.27m, L:
    T-34, H: 2.45m, W: 3.0m, L: 6.68

    Based on that, your decision to go with 1:48 scale was probably the best. And in terms of weapons, based on comparison of scale, the barrels of a predator would be akin to the Panther's 75mm cannon - which they could only carry 79 rounds for, making the 120 held by a Predator a bit of a stretch . . . (given that your OP is 2 years old, all of the above is probably a moot point)
    Sherman Firefly

    1. Thanks for the reply! Seeing some actually numbers is quite helpful for the discussion! I agree with your assessment of the panther and predator. The predator cannon always looked pretty believable. The leman Russ, is another story...

      I would love to see what you do for your own post!