Overview
My first introduction to scales was in model building. The scales of choice were 1/12, 1/35, 1/48 and 1/72. I moved onto model railroading, my prime scale being 1/87 (HO scale). When talking to other railroad buffs, I usually referred to gauges - N, HO, O, and S. When I started role-playing gaming, I purchased these nifty lead 25mm figures. I had assumed, incorrectly, that all lead figures were 25mm (or about an inch) tall.

When I moved to historical miniature gaming, I was introduced to a variety of figure sizes and scales. Everything from 1/1200 nautical ships to 1/285 micro-armour. I then broadened my gaming genres and played with 6mm, 1/200, 20mm, 1/76, 10mm, 15mm, 28mm and so on. Like many people, I had become truly confused about scales and miniature sizes. The manufacturers themselves confounded the problem.

My original 25mm Ral Partha fantasy figures were about an inch tall from the top of the head to the feet. At some point, perhaps the early 80's, it was decided that the measurement was now taken from eye level to the feet. This was to take in effect the various types of headgear, hats, etc. which would throw off the standard. So manufacturers of all types of figures made their figures a little bigger. My original 25mm Ral Partha ranger was now 22mm tall. To add more confusion, manufacturers began a game of one-upmanship.

Some manufacturers decided to make their miniatures a little thicker and a little bigger still. This was to add more detail and appeal to a broader market. So a 25mm miniature became 28mm from foot to eye level. This, of course, is very annoying to any gamer who is trying to build any kind of army, large or small. Even figures from the same manufacturer could be of different heights and thickness. So, if you are talking about 25mm scale, the miniature could be from 22mm to 28mm from foot to eye level. At that scale, a 6mm gap can start to make a big difference. As well, I have noticed that models do not strictly follow the correct scaling. In 1/72 and 1/76 model and figures, the size difference between different manufacturers can be horrendous!

Model makers and some miniature companies still sell their figures by scale (e.g. 1/72nd). So where does that odd number fit into my allowable size tolerance? If we state the height from toe to eye level in millimetres of an average man is 1700mm, then we can convert the mm and 1/n scales back and forth.


Convert mm to Scale
To get the scale from the figure size, divide 1700 by the mm size. For example, a 6mm figure is 1700/6 = 283, or 1/283.

Size Scale
3mm 1/566
6mm 1/283
10mm 1/170
15mm 1/113
20mm 1/85
25mm 1/68
28mm 1/60
54mm 1/31

Convert Scale to mm
To convert a scale to a size, divide 1700 by the scale. For example, a 1/72 scale figure would be 1700 / 72 = 23.6mm.

Scale Size
1/1200 1.4mm
1/300 5.7mm
1/285 6.0mm
1/87 19.5mm
1/76 23.3mm
1/72 23.6mm
1/48 35.4mm

Model Railroad Scales
The model railroad hobby provides a good source of terrain and buildings. I have included the scales of various model railroad gauges. From the chart below, for example, N scale models are good for 10mm battles.

Model RR Gauge Scale Size
O 1/48 35.4mm
S 1/64 26.6mm
OO 1/76 22.3mm
HO 1/87 19.5mm
TT 1/120 14.2mm
N 1/160 10.6mm
Z 1/220 7.7mm

Barrett Measure
The Courier Magazine used the Toby Barrett Measurement System (BM) to simplify the comparison of figure sizes to one another in the Reviewing Stand section of the magazine. Briefly the number is the height in millimeters from the bottom of the figure's foot (top of the base) to it's eye. The letter refers to the "heft" of the figure:
L = Light, M = Medium, H = Heavy
H will fit well with other H and somewhat with M but not at all with L, even in the same scale (size). Thus a 27M is a larger 25mm figure of medium heft.


External Resources
Below are some external web sites that continue the scale vs size debate.
Note: We are not responsible for web site content for external sites.