Miniatures Directory Definitions

This is where we explain what everything stands for.

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The size of a miniature, relative to what it is a replica of, is known as the Scale of the figure.

Scales - 6mm (CnC modern infantry), 10mm (Warrior ancient spearmen), 15mm (Ral Partha fantasy human militia), 25mm (Ral Partha fantasy human longbowman). U.S. dime shown for comparison (about 1.8cm across).

Measures of Scale

Traditionally, three different systems are used to rate scale:

  • Most miniature wargaming scales are simply listed as a certain height, such as 15mm or 54mm. Thus, an average man in 25mm scale would be 25mm tall. However, there is disagreement about the proper way to measure height...
    • Some manufacturers tell us that the traditional height is measured from the bottom of the foot to the figure's eye level. This was done as a matter of practicality, since you can usually see where a figure's eyes are, but the top of the head might be covered by headgear.
    • Other manufacturers tell us that they've never heard of the so-called traditional method, and measure to the top of the head!
    Therefore, when a manufacturer says his figures are (for instance) 15mm scale, he might mean "15mm to top of the head" or "15mm to eye level."
  • Some miniatures are listed in scales as a ratio, variously written as either a ratio (i.e., 1:300 or 1.300) or a fraction (i.e., 1/300). The number on the right of the pair indicates how many units (inches, centimeters, etc.) on the original are equivalent to one unit on the replica. For example, with a 1:300 scale miniature, if the miniature is 1" long, then the original was 300" in length. In spoken English, you would say 1/300 as "one [pause] three hundred scale."
  • A few miniatures are rated according to the scales recognized by the model railroading hobby. These scales have one- or two-letter names, such as HO or N scales.

Even figures which ostensibly are in the same scale may differ considerably in body build, head size, and general sculpting style - even when made by the same manufacturer! (For instance, older figures vs. newer figures from the same company, or figures from different sculptors.) Styles may differ considerably, as some manufacturers see their goal as to make scale replicas, while others concentrate on making "gaming pieces" which are inexpensive, durable, or easy to paint. Plastic figures may be sculpted in a thinner style than metal figures. Therefore, if you are concerned whether you can mix figures from different product lines or companies, it is often wise to order samples from the various manufacturers.

Scales (from small to large)

ALLShows results for all scales.
1:3000Used for naval and space models. Europeans prefer this scale; North Americans traditionally prefer 1:2400 scale.
1:2400Popular naval gaming scale.
1:2000Used for starship models.
1:1200The original naval gaming scale, though for periods with large vessels it can take up a lot of tabletop (or floor space).
1:600Used for naval and science fiction (space) models.
1:300Small scale popular for staging battles involving large numbers of tanks or other combat vehicles. Europeans traditionally use this scale, while 1:285 is more popular in North America (the two scales can be mixed, as there is only a 5% difference in size). Considered identical to 6mm scale.
1:144Scale used for aircraft models.
15mmThis popular scale allows one to field large numbers of figures on a typical tabletop, yet the miniatures are large enough to show considerable detail.
28mmOriginally called large 25mm or heroic scale 25mm, this is now recognized as a separate scale. Very popular for fantasy and science fiction skirmish gaming.

Converting Between Types of Scale

So you want to know if (for instance) 1/285th scale figures and 6mm figures can be used together? To convert from one ratio scale to height scale or vice versa, divide 1610 by the scale.

To convert ratio scales into height scales, divide 1610 by the scale (using the rightmost part of the ratio only). For example: 1/285th is a ratio scale. 1610 divided by 285 equals 6 (rounding to the nearest integer), which means that 1/285th scale is equivalent to 6mm scale.

To get ratio scale, divide 1610 by the height scale. For example: Let's suppose that you game in 28mm scale, and are wondering if any of the plastic models at the hobby shop (rated in ratio scales) are compatible. Well, 1610 divided by 28 is 58, so 28mm figures would be equivalent to 1:58 scale models.

Where does the Magic Number "1610" Come From?

The magic number is simply the height of the "average man," rated in millimeters.

Why does it work?

The magic number works because equivalent height and ratio scales, multiplied, result in the same constant (our magic number). The simplest case is to figure out what the magic number is in "real life" - scale of 1:1 (one inch = one inch). In real life, an average man is 1610mm scale because he's 1610mm tall. And 1 (the ratio scale) multipled by 1610 (the height scale) equals 1610. Therefore, 1610 is the constant.

Why it doesn't always work.

In theory, what we've just told you is perfectly correct. In practice, however, there's a problem. Remember how we mentioned that some manufacturers measure from the top of the head vs. some who measure to eye level? Also, to make this conversion, it is necessary to make an assumption about the height of an "average man" - not necessarily the height of the average modern man, but average men throughout history. The magic number of 1610 assumes that manufacturers are measuring to eye level, and that the height is 1610mm (5' 3").

Calculating Your Own Values

This calculator lets you make your own scale calculations, based on the assumptions you prefer.

is equivalent to
Height of Average Man

Comments or corrections?
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