One of my buddies once gave me an overview of BFG, and one of his key points was that the ships in that game aren't actually to-scale. Given that space engagements are fought over ranges of tens, even hundreds of thousands of kilometers, the models on a standard board would actually be just a few millimeters long--and that's for point-blank engagements.
I've taken to visualizing 40K the same way. For example, a rapid fire weapon's range is 24" max. Seems awfully close, doesn't it? Speaking from military experience, a trained soldier should be able to consistently hit a man-sized target at 300-600m. In fact, an M16 rifle can engage point targets at up to 800m (though at this distance human eyesight has already faltered, for most people). Vehicles also seem almost unreasonably slow. Honestly, if 40k models were built to the correct scale, I'd hazard that they should actually be the same size as an Epic 40k model.
Time dilation may apply in the same way. For example, when my base was hit recently, the firefight lasted approximately 2 hours. And that was with just a handful of insurgents attacking. I heard an Afghan support gunner squeeze off an entire belt of machine gun ammunition without stopping; it took approximately 15 seconds. So to me, one shooting phase = one reload. Soldiers in my theater of operations are trained to make their combat load (9 magazines) last for extended lengths of time. Marines elsewhere in theater have been known to still have magazines remaining after a 10-hour 'firefight'. A 40k game can only last as long as the infantry's ammunition lasts. So, at absolute maximum, 10 hours.
I'll expand this to flyers as well. Air support from a nearby airfield took about 45 minutes to arrive. I'm lucky enough not to be getting into firefights often (I wasn't actively involved with this one, but sheltering with my unit 400m away), but from reading after action reports, this seems to be about the length of time it typically takes for air support to arrive. Therefore, if a flyer arrives on turn 2, 45 minutes of battle have already elapsed.
So, viewed through the lens of modern warfare, I would deduce that a typical 6-turn game would last 4 realtime hours. Coincidentally, that's about the time a 1850-pt game actually lasts! Whaddaya know?
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Last edited by maelstrom48; 02-19-13 at 07:45 AM.