Now that we have established that we will be gaming at a “Regimental” level I need to pick a scale that my troops will be represented at on the table. How big a footprint in inches on the table will a regiment occupy? How big are these miniatures anyway?
A good ground scale for Regimental gaming in this period and, one more or less accepted as a standard for Regimental games, is one inch of table space is equal to 50 yards. A 6’ by 5’ table decked out for a war-game at this scale will cover something like a 2 by 1.6 mile patch of ground. I will be using this ground scale partially because I think it right but mostly because I don’t have a good reason to zoom in or out.
A regiment of this period would have fought primarily in a formation called a “line” which would have been two rows deep with 1 man per yard in each rank. Soldiers would have formed themselves in the field by placing one arm on the should of the man next to them in order to ensure the spacing. Using 2 men per yard as a standard, an average size regiment of 400 men would have occupied 200 yards of real distance and 4 inches on my table.
OK… we now know two things about troops on my table. One… 400 men covers 4 inches and two…a regiment would have been two rows deep. As you can see by the picture above… this has a certain signature Civil War look. I like that signature look and want to keep it for my miniatures. (Keep this is mind as I go through the various miniature scales below.)
A number of popular miniature scale options exist ranging WILDLY in size. Miniature Figure scales are described in millimeters from the base of the foot to the eyeball (not the top of the head! Hats vary in tallness and pointy-ness but eyeballs are usually at the same height.) The most popular scales for ACW minis are 15mm and 25mm and but others are used including 6mm, 54mm and 2mm (yes… 2! mm)
15mm is by far the most popular scale for ACW regimental gaming. At this scale you can tell very easily by looking that miniatures are for a given period and it’s even possible to make out a lot of the details on the figures. These figures are big enough to paint well but small enough that a mediocre paint job will be hard to fault. The figures in the image above stand on 4 separate bases each of which (I would be willing to bet) must be near and inch in width. These 12 guys must represent 400 soldiers.
15mm is pretty affordable and it paints pretty easily. I have seen MANY poorly painted armies done in 15 mil that looked pretty good on the table. I would estimate that 60%+ of war-gaming occurs at this scale
To give you a better idea of the scale here is a figure… and a thumb:
25mm miniatures is also popular. At this scale you can see all the details you might hope to see. I table of 25 mil miniatures can take your breath away if the painter is an artist.
The problem for me at this scale is that you can’t tell what the troops are supposed to be. I would estimate that each of the two stands above are about 2 inches in width. That would mean that those 8 figures represent 400 soldiers… Yikes! This looks NOTHING like the picture of soldiers in line above.
I should point out that gamers who do 25 mm miniatures tend to be elitists. They paint to a high standard and really are into the craft. They play on bigger tables and really nail things like buildings and terrain.
6mm is the new kid on the block in terms of scale. It has been possible to buy minis at this scale for only about a decade now but it is growing in popularity.
At this size detail is sort of lost. If I were to show you the same figures above painted grey with different flags then you would have no difficulty believing that they were Confederates. For this reason, they are really easy to paint. There is very little detail to screw up. 6 to 8 colors may do for an entire army.
In the image above, each stand is (once again, “I bet”) three inches wide. that means that at this scale 32 figures would fit (in two rows of 16) on a 4” front.
I think these figures look MUCH more like the pictured men fighting in line above.
Needless to say… this scale is insane. The figure above is probably 1.5” wide. The stand does NOT represent a single regiment but rather 3! Using figures at this scale I could fight Gettysburg on the hood of my car. Blech!
54mm miniatures are simply huge. It’s a statement. A figure at this scale would take 6-8 hours to pain and would look bad from across the room if not well done. The three guys above would barely fit on a 4” front and each would represent over 100 men each. Blech!
To be fair, guys who game 54mm do so VERY abstractly or VERY literally. I have seen skirmish games where 54mm figures where used and each represented one man. Very novel. Also, I have seen Brigade level miniature game where one figure was placed on a rectangular stand and was meant to represent literally thousands of men.
And the winner is….
Once upon a time, I had a 15mm ACW setup and was pretty happy… until I saw a table using 6mm. It looked like a battle. It was surreal. If you picked the miniatures up and looked at them, they looks sorta… blah. BUT if you put them on the table and hovered above it then suddenly the dioramic characteristics of the figures took over. It made me want to start over again. …and, years later, I did.
I am painting 6mm figures at a ground scale of 1 inch = 50 yards.