Hip to be square
There is one thing I don’t understand about wargaming today. There is a growing preference of and predominance for round bases when it comes to basing models. That goes primarily for singles but even for groups of figures. Nearly every new game or model now comes supplied with circular or oval bases, particularly if the game is designed for skirmishes or has a modern or Science Fiction theme. This may be due in part to the general trend towards smaller, skirmish-style games, but then how come skirmish games ‘require’ round bases?
Somewhere along the way, we’ve been convinced that if it’s a skirmish game then the base has to be round. I’ve often asked myself “What is wrong with a square base?” I believe the trend probably started when a certain well-known games company started using circular bases to distinguish their new science fiction game from their fantasy game with ranks and files. This ‘distinction of product’ trend continued when they created a game for a well known fantasy movie trilogy franchise. Then, round bases were used again to clearly distinguish that game from their core fantasy game. Now, the latest incarnation of their fantasy game uses exclusively round bases - square seems to have been completely left behind.
I guess my suspicion of round bases has a long pedigree. Now I can hear what you’re saying…. if there’s little difference between square and round, why make such a fuss? Does it really matter? Well, perhaps not, but there are some strong advantages to square bases.
The main purpose of the square base was to make formations easier. Thus it is no surprise that they are used where rank and file are important. Some games limit the line of sight of models, or have disadvantages to being attacked in the flank or rear. Square based models make that task easier to work out. Moreover, a square base is just as stable as a round base of the same diameter (corner to corner), but can be placed closer to a terrain piece than a round one. Storage is also easier as square bases fit into boxes more easily, as they can be ranked up.
Maybe it’s just me being quirky or old fashioned, but I’m going to carry on preferring and basing all of my miniatures on square bases.