Size Isn't Everything - A Discussion on 2mm Wargaming

This blog started out as a firmly 28mm blog.  It was all about 40K at first, then moved into other historicals like WWII, with a wide variety of fantasy and non-fantasy games.  But they were all 28mm - until my recent American Civil War campaign, when I got into 2mm wargaming.  In this article I'm going to share some of the reasons for my love of 2mm gaming, and hopefully you'll share your own thoughts as well.

Cinematic, realistic, dramatic... 28mm wargaming all over.
How did you start collecting 2mm?

My main motivation for collecting and painting models is for the visual effect on the board.  I want my armies to look realistic - like a shot from a film, where possible.  Clearly, the biggest reason I started in 28mm was that it's the dominant scale for all wargaming, thanks to GW.  But they're also a good balance between detail and collectability, and every model I paint in 28mm improves my skill at that level and reinforces the preference.

I've always resisted wargames that aren't 1:1 scale - that is, games where one figure on the board doesn't represent one man in real life.  These games can still look great on the board, but for me there's just something not right about putting down ten models with a flag and calling it a 'regiment'.  It just chips away at my suspension of disbelief.

Ten men waving a flag just doesn't feel
like a 'real' regiment to me.
(Pic from Web Ramblings)
That's why, when I started an ACW campaign, I reluctantly decided against using rules like Regimental Fire and Fury and the lovely Perry Miniatures sculpts.  Instead, I explored the possibility of using a new scale.  I can't over-emphasise how much of an eye-opener this was.  Looking back, I can see how much I've missed out on by restricting myself to 28mm gaming - it's like trying to explain to a square what a cube is.  

Searching the internet  for alternative scales, I of course looked at 15mm, 10mm and 6mm.  But I also came across Irregular Miniatures' site, which conveniently has figures in just about every scale imaginable, and the first on the list is 2mm.  I was drawn to it primarily because it allowed me to have a 'true' representation of the divisional-sized games I wanted to play.

What's so great about 2mm?

So that leads nicely into some of the benefits of 2mm gaming.  The first is the ability to recreate massive, army-sized clashes without compromising on scale.  In our recent ACW campaign we could have figures for each individual regiment, grouped together to make brigades in a real 'bird's eye' view of the battlefield - and suddenly legendary encounters like Waterloo, Naseby, Gettysburg, become very achievable.

The Battle of Chattanooga - an engagement that would
have been impossible in any other scale.
That scale benefit also means, of course, that the games are much more easy to set up and play.  In 28mm, a 6 x 4' board equates to roughly 110 x 75 yards - a minuscule snapshot on any battle except a skirmish.  In 2mm, a 2 x 4' board works out at (depending on your interpretation) about 2 x 4 miles.  You can recreate much larger battles with much less space.  The armies themselves are tiny; I carry around 20 Civil War brigades in a small storage tray.

Of course, then there's the terrain.  Roads and rivers can be represented by string, and Irregular do a nice range of small buildings and farmsteads.  If you don't think that sounds good, take a look at some of our battle report shots.  Those 'forests' are just clumps of tree material glued to green paper.  Again, very easy to carry around and set up, taking up much less space.

And finally, of course, the cost.  Breaking into a new period in 28mm gaming can be an expensive business.  Irregular Miniatures sell army packs which contain a staggering quantity of troops (tens of thousands) for £12.50.  We recently decided to start an English Civil War campaign (more on this next week), and for an initial investment of about £30 each we got a sizable army and enough terrain to do an exact replica of the town of Newark - including all siege defences, roads, bridges and rivers.  My conservative estimate for doing this in 28mm would need at least two thousand pounds and certainly a dedicated gaming room to make the model town.

Of course, it's not to everyone's taste.  I won't list any of the disadvantages I've found just yet - I'll let other people comment.  I'm not trying to suggest that 2mm is the best scale and everyone should immediately start collecting it.  Horses for courses - I still use 28mm very regularly for skirmish games, because it's the best scale for that sort of action.  But by including 2mm in your armoury, you widen the scope of what you can even consider gaming.

What are your thoughts on other scales?  What's your primary scale and why?  Would you / have you ever tried 2mm?


  1. I've not tried a 2mm game but Epic40k was(is) 6mm, and that is such a challenge compared to 28mm 40k. There are actual tactics the scale really lets you use terrain to your advantage...

    1. I think that's the main attraction for me. The relative ratio of models : space is so small in 40K, there's barely any space for trees let alone manoeuvre.

  2. 6mm was a great discovery for me, but given the flamboyant nature of the armies I usually play, I wouldn't use smaller figures. My reasoning behind this is that some sort of aesthetic should be maintained - while I have trouble doing minuscule details on 6mm figures, a wash and a highlight yield good results, something smaller figures would not reflect so well. I have contemplated using 3mm for WW2, however.
    On one hand, I like to stick to a scale once I started collecting it (I'm preparing a post about the wars of the Polish Republic in the 17th century using Baccus figures), on the other, I ponder a lot over other scales and do my math to see how many figures I get for my money, simply because my disposable income is limited.
    I think it is also worth pointing out that some sort of abstraction must be maintained even with small scale. Using figures in large numbers sort of negates the advantage of the less space they require. I can easily field a thousand 6mm figures on a 120x120cm area (meaning there is enough space to maneuver and not just throw units against each other) and they look topper, and in my humble opinion this matters more than meeting historical numbers.
    My 'primary' scales would be 1/72 and 6mm. The number of other scale figures and models in my collection is small in comparison. I'm impartial towards 1/72, because those were the first available for me - nothing to regret as most figures done in this scale are not only well sculpted but very cheap too. I started 6mm because 1/72 figures were lacking in the SYW period. Then I bought some Ancients and now I'm looking into the 17th century, as mentioned above.
    In the strictest sense, I've already passed the line with 1/4800 though :)

    1. That's the main turn off for most people I think, the lack of detail. Having said that you can be quite creative in 2mm, with the flags and uniforms and although I'd admit a higher level of skill is required you can certainly still achieve distinctive and visually impressive armies.
      1:72 is, I think, one of the ideal balance scales as you can get very cheap models and still put the detail on there.
      I think at the end of the day it all depends on the period; if you play skirmish games where the men are a few yards apart in real life (ie 20th century) then 10mm or possibly 6th is as small as you could reasonably go (in my opinion). On the other hand for any mass armies fighting in formation, anything larger than 6mm and you're going to have to start making concessions on accuracy I think.
      Oh yes, forgot all my naval stuff! That's way way smaller than 2mm...

    2. Wow Andras you and I are exactly alike regarding out choices. My two primary scales are 1/72 (first) and 6mm. And I'm considering 1/4800. Great minds think alike.

    3. Thanks mate - interestingly I started in 28 and came to 6 and 2 later. What sort of periods were you thinking of doing?

  3. Great post as ever, I'm definitely a convert now, although I was slightly reluctant at first - although I never had much of an issue with 28mm figures not being 1:1.

    Whilst you do lose a bit of the "eye candy" as it were (although I'm impressed with what you managed to do with them), the games are no less enjoyable. You're not really thinking about the models themselves while you're gaming but rather what they represent. Although I had more of an umpire role in the ACW stuff, they were still some of the most enjoyable games I've played. I think Andras is right about the room for manoeuvre, and 2mm (or 6mm) is perfect for that.

    Another bonus of 6mm, if you want more detail in your miniatures for similar sized games - there's always 6mm. And 15mm looks mega-detailed now.

    1. Echo those thoughts, I suppose even with the nicest miniatures I'm slightly guilty of just getting into the game and seeing them as representations of the historical people. Again, it depends on how much of a painter you are, and how much of a gamer.

  4. Gone too far down my own rabbit hole. I'd have been much better off starting with Epic - I'd still have filled three 4x6 tables, but imagine that for one moment, if you will....

    1. I was interested to see what you'd make of this topic. Proof that imagination can sometimes triumph scale...
      That would be... there's no other word for it - an epic achievement.

  5. I love the look of 2mm scale!

    WW2 Brits in 2mm would be PURE OLIVE DRAB too - nothing else - which would be right up my painting street!

    1. Haha why do I always pick the colourful historic armies? Making work for myself!

  6. If I wasn't so heavily invested in my current 15 and 28mm projects, I'd be willing to give smaller scales and sizes a go. As long as everyone involved is painting and not playing with bare models.

    And 2mm must be easy to paint as there are far fewer details to worry about?

    1. That's true, breaking into a new scale is always a big undertaking, but 2mm is probably the best cost-wise.
      They are to a point - it depends how much detail you want to put in. I'm painting up some ECW figures at the moment and honestly a single stand takes about the same amount of time as a run-of-the-mill 28mm figure, mainly due to the flags and layers of washes.


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