Friday, May 4, 2018

Making Sense of Wargame Small Scales

Minifigs English Civil War figures, 25mm

Aside from the  plastic figure scales mentioned in a previous article, classic wargame figures have been measured in millimeters. There are N - 12mm, 15mm, 20mm, 25mm, 28.8mm, 30mm, 40mm and 42mm. These were the supposed height of a scale figures representing a 6-foot man.

These measurements were not absolute. There was  controversy. Back in the 70s, some makers measured from bottom of foot to top of head. Some measured from the bottom of the base. Others measured to the top of the headgear rather than the head itself. Lack of a standard caused a lot of confusion. One of the common lamest was how one company’s 25mm looked like another’s 30mm, and vice versa.

So-called 20mm scale is actually HO. It is covered in a previous article. (Click here for article:

I am including 45mm because it has become popular with toy soldier gamers. Many of the Chinese clones of plastic figures run small, and 45mm has become common as a result. The recast Marx Army Training Set and old Payton figures are 45mm scale.

Some wargame scales equate with model kit and model railroading scales. For all intents and purposes, 25mm = 1/72 scale. 28mm = 1/64 (S Gauge for trains) 30mm = 1/60 scale  40mm = 1/45  scale (German O scale) 42mm = 1/43.1 (British O scale). 45mm = 1/40 (The scale of the old Renwal / Revell military models).

Here is a breakdown of the scales and the size of one scale foot:

N 2mm = 1 scale foot   A 6 foot man is 12mm, or ½ inch tall
15mm 2.5mm = 1 scale foot   A 6 foot man is 15mm tall
25mm  4.3mm = 1 scale foot  A 6 foot man is 25mm tall
28 (28.8) 4.8 mm = 1 scale foot   A 6 foot man is 28.8mm tall
30mm  5mm = 1 scale foot    A 6 foot man is 30mm tall
40mm 6.66mm = 1 scale foot   A 6 foot man is 40mm tall
42mm - 7mm = 1 scale foot    A 6 foot man is 42mm tall
45mm - 7.5mm = 1 scale foot A 6 foot man is 45mm tall

The difference between 28.8mm and 30mm is a mere 1.2 mm. These scales are often intermixed. Likewise, 40mm and 42mm have a difference of 2mm. They are often used interchangeably. 25mm is 4,2 mm different from 28.8mm and 5mm from 30mm. The difference between N and 15mm is 3mm.

Minifigs English Civil War figures, 25mm

A 10-foot vehicle

Let us consider the actual length of a vehicle that is ten scale feet long. Here we see the differences in size clearly.

N - 20mm, Between 3/4 and 7/8 inch
15mm - 25mm. about 1 inch
25mm - 43mm.  1 inch and 3/4 inch
28.8mm 48mm A little more than 1 and 7/8 inches
30mm - 50mm. Almost 2 inches
40mm  - 66mm  2 and 9/16 inches
42mm - 70mm 2 and 7/8 inches
45mm - 75mm - 1.2mm shy of 3 inches

A 40-foot platform

The 40 foot boxcar is one of the standard sizes for model railroading. Consider a 40 foot platform in wargame scales.

N - 80mm - 3 and 3/16 inches
15mm - 100mm - almost 4 inches
25mm - 172mm About 4 and 7/8 inches
28.8mm - 192mm 7 and ½ inches
30mm - 200 mm About 7 and 7/8 inches
40mm - 264mm 10 and ½ inches
42mm - 280mm 11 and 1/16 inches
45mm - 300mm - 4.8mm shy of 12 inches

Minifigs English Civil War figures, 25mm

If you would like European-style paper house kits scalable for 25mm to 40mm (one is pictured with Minifigs soldiers). click here:

The main problem with wargame figures is that they are often disproportionate. The heads and hands may be too large. Good, proportionate figures can be used for trackside scenery.

25mm to 30mm figures are scaled about right for use with S scale and Marx O27 “scale” models. The 28.8 and 30mm figures approximate 3/16" to the scale foot. 25mm can be used for shorter people.

40mm are close to 1/48. (A 6 foot man in 1/48 is 38.1 mm, which is 1 and ½ inch.) The difference is 1.9mm.

15mm is TT scale.  TT is popular in Eastern Europe. For instance, TT World War II German Infantry would be scaled right for the old German Reichsbahn. I have seen these trains in TT, made by an East German firm.

Solido and Verem vehicles run about 1/50. For wargaming, they look good with 40mm, 42mm and 45mm figures.

At least one wargame makers has been using 28.8 figures with 1/56 armor. 1/56 is about halfway between 1/48 and 1/64.  A 6' figure in 1/56 would actually be about 34mm tall. Most semi- scale O gauge freight cars run about 1/56 in size. Full 1/48 scale boxcars are notably larger.

Again, one maker’s 25mm might be another’s 30mm. For example, I remember the old Stan Johansen Samurai from the 70s. He insisted they were 30mm, but most folks considered them to be 35mm

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