Games Workshop May Be Abandoning Heroic Scale

June 16, 2021 by Solar Cross

Although I am a fan of Games Workshop’s crazy products, there is one thing about most of them that I never really liked and that is “heroic” scale. I have griped about it before, see my kit comparison between GW’s Handgunners and Perry’s Mercenaries. Recent releases of miniatures however seem to be moving away from this rather cartoonish warping of proportions and towards more normal proportions. True scale, as it is called.

Notes on Heroic Scale

Heroic scale is a not properly speaking a scale as such but rather just a particular way of warping the proportions of a given scale so that weapons are particularly oversized and fat. Hands, feet and heads are also warped to be bigger and thicker to fit the weapons.

Heroic scale is all but unique to Games Workshop’s miniatures, but not all of Games Workshop’s miniatures are in this scale. Notably all the minis under the Tolkein IP are in true scale.

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Evidence of a Shift to True Scale

Primaris Are Not Just Bigger, They Are True Scale

I think the first indication that Games Workshop might be moving away from heroic scale came with the release of the Primaris Space Marines.

The first thing everyone noticed was that the Primaris were considerably taller than the old marines. However what that size change disguised was a huge change in the proportions too. The proportions of the Primaris Space Marines are much closer to that of normal human proportions.

primaris scale and proportions compared with old marines
Primaris to the left, old marine centre and to the right primaris proportions comparison.

Check out the picture above. There I have put the sales art of a Primaris Commander next to the sales art of an equivalent commander of the old space marines. Finally to the far right I have scaled the Primaris art down so that it matches the height of the old marine. This is so that we can fairly compare the change in proportions.

When comparing the proportions we can see the weapons on the primaris are more realistically sized and proportioned. The head is relatively smaller and so are the hands and shoulder pads. Even the other details like the skull medallion and the spiky halo thing are smaller.

For Years Not Much Changed

For the few years following the first release of the Primaris I do not think too much changed.

Games Workshop lost me on their fantasy lines after they blew up the world of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, so I have not paid very close attention to releases there for Age of Sigmar.

Also I am not interested in the Space Marines particularly either but I do follow with some interest the releases for Warhammer 40k in general.

Subsequent big releases after the Primaris for Warhammer 40k were new models for the Adeptus Sororitas and Necrons. Honestly I am not sure either are obviously closer to true scale. Although the new sisters of battle are a bit less chonky than the old metal models.

Something Different About the Gravelords

I said that I am not interested in Age of Sigmar but I did notice the release of new undead models recently. I still have an interest in making a Vampire Counts army for Warhammer Fantasy Battles and I might still use some Age of Sigmar models for that.

It did strike me that the new undead models, the new zombies, bloodknights, deathrattle skeletons and characters seemed to be rather more slender than previous releases.

Heroic Scale vs True Scale Undead Gravelords
Left: old GW skeleton. Right: new GW skeleton.

When comparing the old skeletons with the new ones, as we can see in the picture above, the new ones are far more naturally proportioned. It is definitely a better look to my eyes.

That the undead received a major reworking in something closer to true scale rather than heroic scale was what made me think this might represent the beginning of the end for heroic scale. Perhaps the Primaris were just the beginning of sweeping aesthetic reform and not just an anomaly.

A Cadian Counter Indication

Then the Cadian box was re-released with an new upgrade sprue. The Cadian models just might be one of the worst proportioned, most heroic scale, kits that GW has. It would seem to be a kit ripe for a true scale revamp.

true scale vs heroic scale
True Life vs Heroic Scale

Yet instead it just got an extra sprue with bits that had to be compatible with the old bits on the old sprues, and so also heroic scale. This would seem to indicate that GW is not going to do a root and branch reform to true scale, or else why not simply redesign the whole kit?

There might be economic reasons that pushed for this half-measure. Revamping the cadian box would also mean redesigning the command box and the heavy weapon teams. Perhaps Astra Militarum just does not sell well enough to justify all the new molds it would require.

Lore wise the Cadian’s home planet is destroyed too. This might suggest that eventually the Cadians will get squatted, once all the back stock is shifted. The token upgrade sprue then might just be a way to stimulate new sales of old stock in order to shift it faster.

Then perhaps they will release an all new Astra Militarum regiment in glorious true scale goodness. We will just have to wait and see.

My review of Gaunt’s Ghosts released alongside the updated Cadians shows that they are closer to true scale than heroic.

Krule Boyz Are True Scale Orcs

Now at the time of writing a new box set is coming out for Age of Sigmar which features a major reworking of the orcs. These new orcs are decidedly more true scale looking than previous GW orcs. See the picture below where I have put a old savage orc next to one of the new Krule Boyz.

Left: old orc. Right: new orc.

Now it seems that at least Age of Sigmar is going to get a true scale reform across the board. Aesthetics is always a subjective experience, so the new orc look may or may not be more pleasing to you. What we can say objectively is that the new orcs are closer to true scale in their proportions.

If true then this is great news for my project True Scale Warhammer Fantasy Battles, as it will mean still more sources for true scale fantasy miniatures.

It remains to be seen if Warhammer 40k will get a similar treatment.

Would you be happy or sad to see the end of heroic scale?

Share this article to my twitter @SolarCrossGames or my reddit community r/SolarCrossGames and let’s chat about it.

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