Miniature Wargaming Club Leuven
Schild & Vriend
'Historical' Chapter

'Schild en Vriend' is an old Flemish battlecry, used in the rebellion of the city of Brugge against the French, May 18, 1302. Legend tells that it was used to differentiate between the French-speaking (who could not pronounce 'schild') and Flemish-speaking citizens. Nowadays, historians tell us that it was probably 'Des Gilden Vriend'.

Wargaming 101

When new players take up wargaming, one of the most difficult things to grasp are all the different scales that are in use. Everyone is, of course, familiar with the figure scale (15mm, 25mm, ...), but what about ground scales, time scales and so on? A proper understanding of these can often help players to resolve any disputes or problems on the gaming table, such as visibility, deployment of troops, etc.

Figure Scale

Lets start with the most visible scale of all: the figure scale. The figure scale simply is the scale of the toy soldiers we use in our wargames, and can be expressed as the actual height of the figure (usually in millimeters) or as a proper scale (e.g. 1/300). There is no one-to-one mapping between the mm-scale and the scale-ratio. The reason for this is that some prefer to use the height of a man to compute the ratio, others prefer the height up to the eyes. The following table gives an overview, and indicates some of the uses of the different scales. We give two scale ratios, one based on a 1m75 cm measure, and another on a 1m50 measure. This gives you at least some idea about the range bracket for the different scale ratios in use, and indicates what scenery/vehicles can be used with figures of a specific scale.

mm scale
Scale Ratio
Scale Ratio
54 mm 1:28 1:32 The original toy soldier scale. The traditional toy soldiers are in this scale, but is seldom used for wargaming.
40 mm 1:38 1:44 A rare wargaming scale.
30 mm 1:50 1:58 This scale used to be popular in early wargaming, but is rarely used these days.
28 mm 1:54 1:62 Sometimes referred to as 'large 25mm'.
25 mm 1:60 1:70 One of the most popular wargaming scales. Figure heights might vary considerably between manufacturers. Some ranges, which used to be called 25mm, are now explicitly marketed as 28mm.
20 mm 1:75 1:87 Also an often used wargaming scale, but less popular. Since it is roughly the same scale as OO/HO in railway modeling, it is mostly used for modern periods. Plastic soldiers (Airfix, Revell, ...) are usually in this scale.
15 mm 1:100 1:116 Another very popular scale, especially for mass battles.
10 mm 1:150 1:175 Some manufacturers produce figures in this scale, but is not a widely used scale.
6 mm 1:250 1:292 A very popular scale for modern tank battles. Mostly labeled as 1:300.
    1:600 upto 1:6000 Scales used for naval wargames, such that model ships can be adequatly repreented. Never used for individual soldiers.

Since there is some difference in actual figure heights between manufacturers, be careful about what figures you want to mix. On the other hand, different scales often go together. E.g. 1:300 or 1:285 can often be mixed. Scenery designed for 15 mm can sometimes be succesfully used for 25 mm games and so on. The smaller the scale, the larger the tolerance.

Ground Scale

The ground scale indicates the distance in the real world that corresponds to a distance on a table. E.g. if 1 centimeter on the table corresponds to 50 meters on the real battlefield, the ground scale is 1:5000. Ground scale is not uniform in wargames, and is often specified for a specific ruleset. The ground scale will determine firing ranges of different weapons.

Representation Scale

This scale indicates how many soldiers a single figure on the table represents. For skirmish games, this might be 1:1 (1 figure corresponds to 1 real soldier), for larger mass battles games the scale might be 1:60 (1 figure represents 60 soldiers). The representation scale is usually specified for a specific ruleset.

In historical rulesets, there often is a connection between figure scale, ground scale and representation scale. E.g. suppose you want to put a Napoleonic battalion, deployed in line, on the table. From history, we know that a battalion had a certain number of men, and the whole line would take a certain length. Using the ground scale, we can compute how many centimeters this line should occupy on the gaming table. Suppose we use 25mm figures. There are only so many figures we can deploy in this space. Comparing the number of miniature figures with the number of soldiers in such a battalion, we can compute the representation scale. In the same way, a proper ground scale can be computed from figure scale and representation scale.

For certain type of games, this relationship is not important. E.g. for spaceship combat, the miniatures on the table are often seen as 'icons', without there being a relation with the assumed ground scale. The spaceships are merely dots on the playing surface, but are represented by a model spaceship of a certain size for visual purposes.

Time Scale

Most rulesets use a turn based mechanism to structure the wargame. The time scale is used to indicate how long a turn lasts. For skirmish games, a turn might correspond to 10 seconds, for grand-tactical games, a turn might represent an hour.

The time scale is important, because it defines what troops can do within a certain time limit. Given the time scale, and given the ground scale, we can determine what the movement rate of our figures on the table is, since we know that the real troops could have moved a certain distance within a certain time. We simple combine ground scale and time scale to reach our movement distances. We can apply similar procedures for the effect of fire. If we know how much damage real troops can do within the time represented by a turn, we can then make some fire effect table that corresponds to this damage.

Height Scale - Buildings, Trees, etc ...

Since wargaming is a visual hobby, we want to put scenery such as buildings and trees on the table. Now here we have problem! Given the ground scale, we should be able to compute how much space a single building takes on the table. So far, so good. However, our miniature soldiers have a certain height, and we want the buildings to conform to their height. The problem is that the figure scale (which would determine the height of the building) is not the same as the ground scale. Scaling a building differently in width and height looks ridiculous, so we have to find a solution!

The solution comes from introducing a seperate representation scale for buildings. We want the building to look right with the figures, so the figure scale determines the size of the model building. Using the ground scale, we can compute how much space this model building would take in real life. This is usually far too much! So, we say that this single building actually represents several buildings grouped together. A group of 3 model buildings can represent a village, a group of 5 buildings a town, a group of ten buildings a city and so on ... This takes some time to get used to! Again, this depends on the ruleset.

Trees have the same problem. Also for roads, we tend to use the figure scale instead of the ground scales, such that roads usually take too much space on the wargames table as opposed to their real equivalents.

Height Scale - Hills

The problem with hills is related to the scale problem of buildings, but it is slightly different. Using the ground scale, we can compute how much space a hill occupies on the table. However, the height of our model hills is often determined by the thickness of polystyrene tiles or other materials. In any case, the height scale of the model hills is not the same as the figure scale. This has the consequence that sometimes the miniatures are actually higher than the hills, and they are able to look 'over' the hill. This is not a problem, as long as you remember that the hills are actually much higher. So, never determine a 'line of sight' by actually following the line of sight of the miniature, but by taking into account the different height scales. Claiming that a miniature can see an enemy at the other side of the hill is a mistake beginners often make.

Remember: Height scale for figures and buildings is different from the height scale used for hills!

This page was written by Phil Dutré and is maintained by Bart Vetters
Schild en Vriend Miniature Wargaming Club Leuven