Size doesn’t matter...too much

From towering titans to diminutive warriors, each scale brings its own unique charm and challenges. However, as seasoned wargamers would argue, the importance of size might not be as paramount as one might initially think. In this exploration, I meander into the realms of 6mm, 15mm, 28mm, and more, dissecting the nuances of each scale and shedding light on the compelling reasons why size doesn't necessarily dictate the enjoyment and depth of the wargaming experience.

Richard Bird

1/19/20244 min read

When it comes to historical wargaming, enthusiasts are presented with a wide array of figure sizes' to choose from. These sizes are referred to in the main as 2mm, 3mm, 6mm, 10mm, 12mm, 13.5mm (epic), 15mm, 18mm, 20mm, 25mm, 28mm, 30mm, 32mm, 40mm, and 54mm. These sizes refer to the height of the figure, not scale, in my view. The height depends on the manufacturer, who determines the height to be from the base of the foot to either the eye or the top of the head. People are different heights; just look around you. The widths varied a little, but then I would argue that our military ancestors were fit, maybe healthy, and probably hungry. Look at any old photos of the American Civil War and any of that epoch to get my drift. There were very few rotund guys there.

What most artists, illustrators, and sculptors know is that the head is one ninth the height of an average person. However, when it comes to model figures,. The size of the head looks wrong at small sizes and can cause problems in production, especially in 3D printing. I speak here of 6mm to 10mm. Adjustments are sometimes necessary for the ‘look” of the figure. This makes sense.

Now, when scales are mentioned, I tend to think in terms of 1/32, 1/72, 1/76, 1/56, and so on. So, whether it is height or scale, it all comes down to the manufacturer and the brand.

Let us not forget horses

One thing that has really bugged me over the years is horses. I won’t buy a cavalry figure from any company that cannot get the gait or the anatomy of a horse reasonably correct. Many do, but sadly, many sculptors fail their clients. I cannot bear to see a gallant-looking cavalryman on a child’s hobby horse or something resembling a Warg; I just won’t pay, and I’ll find a brand that can do horses.

The Brand: The Look and Feel

I have, over my gaming years, collected a database of manufacturers and am familiar with their brand, the ‘look and feel’ of the figures. So when I plan a new army, I look at who has the biggest range for the era. Do I like the style of their figures, especially the horses? Will they fit with another brand? With regards to the last question, a quick email to ascertain height, especially if it is going to give me some sleepless nights,. A little due diligence on the internet, and I’m off. This is not always the case with newbies to historical wargaming. More research is needed. Ask and look. Check out the forums, as there is a lot of experience out there in Googleland.

Mixing figure brands has never been a real issue with me. For my 15/18mm Napoleonics, I have happily mixed Battle Honours, Old Glory, Blue Moon,AB, Essex, and Campaign Game Miniatures, although I do prefer the horses from AB. There has been no loss of enjoyment in the battles they have fought, nor did anyone notice or care.

Epic size (13.5mm) has exploded on the market in the last few years. I do not have any yet, but I have it on good authority that the ACW range from Warlord Games matches Kallistra’s 12mm. That, if true, would expand the choice tremendously. Again, that was ten minutes of research. Kallistra produces a delightful range of 12mm figures, including ACW, WW1, AWI, and medieval. Its a good niche. They even have a terrain system of their own.

One of my favourite sizes is 10mm, where mixing brands doesn’t work for me as I find the style and height between brands more pronounced at this size. Its a me thing, I guess. With Napoleonics, for instance, I have found that Old Glory cavalry looks good with Pendraken infantry. It’s a horse thing again. However, with Pendraken’s League of Augsburg and the American War of Independence, the range of cavalry is excellent. Another project for the coming year. What I also like about this size is that it is compatible with N-gauge railway buildings, which are varied and plentiful. I even managed to find a few trains for ACW and 19th-century games on eBay. Playing big battles at this size gives one so much more space to manoeuvre.

Microsized (6mm) figures aren’t my usual cup of tea; 10mm are about as small as I want to go at present. Playing large-scale battles with these figures looks appealing, especially when the terrain has been carefully created to compliment the figures. Adler, Heroics, Ros, Baccus, and irregular are the main contenders in this niche size. Check out this link for brand comparisons.

Plastic figures at 1/72, 1/76, and 1/32 scales are common, relatively inexpensive, and usually well sculpted. There are several brands here, but size, look, and feel can vary. To get an idea of what each manufacturer produces, check out the guide at this site: Plastic Soldier Review. Some of the figures here I war-gamed with as a boy are still being produced. I found some of the rarer figures on eBay. I did try to fit 1/72 with some 20mm metal figures for a particular period, but they weren’t compatible in any way. Moreover, compatibility with common railway model sizes extends the potential supply of buildings and scenery, especially for later periods of gaming.

Coming to the larger sizes, 28mm in particular covers a broader variation in height. Just a call or email to the supplier or manufacturer will ascertain whether mixing brands suits your desired outcome where height is important for you. Some measure to the eye and others to the top of the head. You are certain that, among the numerous brands, you will find a range of figures that can build your chosen army. 25mm size is still very much alive, and I have found that certain brands fit well with some of the 28mm brands. Experiment; it’s personal; its about what you like the look of.

What’s exciting is the development of 3D figures and buildings. Nearly every supplier of 3D models I have chatted with is happy to scale to a specific size to fit with whatever collection I have. I have not been disappointed with recent purchases made via certain small businesses on eBay. The number of 3D buildings out there on eBay and Etsy is growing by the month. In my article on this site, I referred to being aware of 3D quality when purchasing these buildings. You cannot do better than visit Battle Honours 3D, a trusted and helpful company.

The above diagram shows the main wargame figure sizes and scales, showing the measurement to both eye and to top of the head.

Red is measured to eye
Blue to top of head
Green are typical scaled sizes generally used for plastic figures.