Most gaming miniatures fall into a few categories based on two basic factors: materials and scale. The question of materials is simple, since most gaming miniatures are made of metal or plastic. Metal miniatures are usually more attractive and durable. Plastic miniatures are cheaper, but the paint-job degrades over time as the flexible plastic allows chipping of the paint. The question of scale is more complex and requires some explanation. Most gaming scales are expressed using one of two standard methods: fractional and metric. Each standard of scale has it's own normal area of usage which we will outline below:
Fractional: Most lines of miniatures designed on a fractional scale standard will be centered on man-made devices, such as tanks, ships, planes, trains, etc. The fractional scale system works just like it sounds. The scale refers to the difference in size between the model and the real thing. So a 1/2400 scale battleship model will be 1/2400th the size of the real life ship. This means that the 863 foot long battleship Yamato would be about 4.3 inches long in 1/2400 scale (863 ÷ 2400 = .36 feet). Some of the more common fractional scales and their common applications are:
The most common fractional land war scales in use today are 1/76th (which corresponds to the metric 20mm scale) and the 1/287 and 1/300 "micro-armor" scales (which correspond to the 6mm metric scale). The most common air war scales are 1/72 for WWI combat, and 1/300 scale for other periods. The most common naval gaming scale is 1/2400, with the new 1/6000 rapidly closing in as a very popular scale for WWI combat and later.
Metric: Most metric gaming scales emphasize recreating the human form, hence the wide use of the metric scale models for use for land based combat. In this system, the scale refers to the height of a single human. So a 20mm scale model series will be based on the calculation of a scale human figure being roughly twenty millimeters tall. However, different model designers use different measurement standards to design their figures. Human figures are always created mounted to a small base, and some designers include those bases in the overall height. Others do not. The result is a wide variation in size, even among theoretically identical scales. For example, the very common 15mm figure range features some manufacturers who offer figures whose scale "humans" are only 13½mm tall, whereas some other makers of 15mm figures offer miniatures whose scale humans are nearly 18mm tall! The variation when placing two such differently designed figures side by side is very noticeable. This is why we offer a WTJ "Man Height" standard, which measures from the top of the base (bottom of the scale figure's feet) to the approximate top of the scale figure's head. This offers a rough standard which allows comparison of figures from different designers. The chart below offers a rough outline of the most common metric scales and a few related periods of land warfare.
As can be seen, the most common scales used are 15mm and 25mm. The second most common are 20mm and the 6mm "micro" scale, which corresponds to the 1/287th and 1/300th scales. 10mm and 12mm are new scales which are increasing in popularity due to their combination of economy and detail. Since the main designers of 10mm figures design their figures slightly oversize, and the current designer of 12mm figures design figures which are very slightly undersized, both scale are currently very compatible with each other. Maybe they should get together and rename the scale 11mm!