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What is “Scenery Scale” and how big should my doors be?

Which of these people are taller than the others?

Following on from my previous article on the changes that basing your figures does to the relative “look” of vehicles, here is another article on the same effect on your scenery.

“Scenery Scale” is a term that allows you to generate a “relative size” for certain scenery elements which need to be adjusted when you base your figures.

The most prominent of these scenery items are the doors on your buildings. So how big should my door be if my figures are X tall and a base Y thick?

Firstly lets define our door size:

A rough global average of a door-frame is ~ 920mm x 2040mm for a “standard” exterior doorway.  Of course these numbers are a fudge as there is no such thing as a global average exterior doorway, but we need somewhere to start!  The figures are from some common sizes drawn from 5 different countries (UK, USA, Aus, Brazil, Germany) and fudged into a universal size. (That being, for the imperialists out there: 36” x 80” or 3 foot by 6’8”.)

OK, so lets now take our “average” wargames figure at 5’8” and see how it looks against a standard door:

Standard exterior door against average height human

Remember that as humans we have particular ways of judging the height of certain things, when somebody walks through a doorway we judge how tall they are by seeing how much space there is between their head and the top of the doorway: the closer their head is to the top, the taller they are. Take a look at the following image and you will see what I mean:

Which of these people are taller than the others?

The chap in the middle looks taller doesnt he? In fact all 3 are the same height, but the doors are different sizes. The left and right images are only “technically” the same height, as they are scale representations, to our eye they look the same because “relatively” they are. (confused? dont worry!)

Right then, so lets accept that we judge somebody’s height by comparing them to the door, so how does this affect our models on the wargames table? The big issue here is that we generally base our figures, the most common example being that 28mm figures are usually put a base that is 3mm – 5mm thick. This radically changes the overall height of our figure and makes doorways look rather different, the chap on the right will suddenly look taller, even though he isn’t:

based and unbased human and standard doorway

Even being able to see the entire doorway the figure on the right looks taller, or the doorway looks smaller (depending on your point of view).  To make the doorways appear the same relative size, we have to adjust the size of the door to take into account the height of the figure base:

unbased human and based human

Now the doors (or the figures) look relatively the same. The actual change in the size of the doorway, to make it appear relatively the same size as the “un-based figure” is quite significant:

The adjustment in the size of doorway is the size of the door that we need to make to add to our scenery so that everything looks “Proportional”, and this is what we call “Scenery Scale”.

The above images are all in real sizes but we can easily adjust those sizes to match that of common wargames “scales”, f.ex, 28mm or 1/58th:

1/58 (28mm) Scale Door: 920 x 2040 = 15.8mm x 35.1mm

28mm “Scenery Scale” door size: 998 x 2214 = 17.2mm x 38.2mm

Now the real modelling “trick” with these numbers is that you do not need to adjust your entire building to make it “look right”, all you need to do is change the key visual elements that humans use to judge sizes, the two most common being doors and windows. Indeed we can, and usually always do, make wargames building MUCH smaller than they would be if done “in scale”, all we need to remember to do now is to make the doors (and windows) be proportionally sizes to take into account the extra height of figures when they are based.

The effect of our basing choice becomes dramatically more significant the smaller our wargames figures are.Take a look that his 6mm figure for an example:

The base height radically affects how the door appears
Door now looks correct but is now MUCH bigger.

The adjusted door on the right is almost 25% BIGGER than the scaled-doorway on the left, which in modelling terms is MONUMENTAL adjustment.


Here are the sizes for some other common wargames figures:

18mm (1/89) = 11.2mm x 24.9mm            (base = 1.9mm)

15mm (1/107) = 9.3mm x 20.7mm            (base = 1.6mm)

10mm (1/161) = 6.2mm x 13.8mm            (base = 1mm)

6mm (1/268) = 3.7mm x 8.3mm                 (base = 0.6mm)

28mm, 18mm, 15mm, 10mm, 6mm

In this case we have kept the actual figure on a thickness of base that is proportional to the 3mm base on a 28mm figure, however that is not what most people do, so if we take the same stats and adjust it again for more common thicknesses of basing we get this:


18mm wargames figures


15mm figure on 3mm base

Put a 3mm base on a 18mm figure? Door becomes: 11.7mm x 25.9mm  (was 11.2mm x 24.9mm)

Put a 3mm base on a 15mm figure? Door becomes: 9.9mm x 22.1mm (was 9.3mm x 20.7mm)

Put a 2mm base on a 10mm figure? Door becomes: 6.7mm x 14.8mm (was 6.2mm x 13.8mm)

Put a 2mm base on a 6mm figure? Door becomes: 4.5mm x 10mm (was 3.7mm x 8.3mm)


So what do we need to remember about this?

The key thing to remember about “Scenery Scale” is that the thicker the base that you put your wargames figures on top of, the larger you need to make certain key scenery elements for those elements to still “look correct” and doorways just happen to be something that we humans use a lot to see if something is “the right size” (scale). Indeed we do this to such an extent that we can completely fool ourselves into seeing something that is, in scale terms, far too small to be the correct size, look as if it is “just right”:.

The perfect example being a small house with the “Scenery Scale doors” on it…

Left-hand house looks smaller than the right, relative to the figure size.

the house on the left “feels” smaller because the doors and windows are smaller and do not take into account the extra height of the figure afforded by the addition of the base, the house on the right “feels” bigger because the doors and windows are bigger and take into account the “effective height” of the based-figure.

Neither building is anywhere near the correct size for something that the figure could actually live in, but if placed on the wargames table then house on the right will be accepted by most people as being “the right size” simply because the doors and windows “feel right” for the overall size of the figure. Conversely if we used the left-hand building most people would feel that the building was “too small” or “the wrong scale”.

This fudging of scale, using a larger vertical scale than the horizontal one, is exceptionally common in wargames and understanding how and what to change on your scenery is a key to understanding just how much you can get away with on the gaming table, without having anything look like it is the wrong scale, too small or too big.

“Thus “Scenery Scale” is the scale, or size, that we need to use on key scenery elements to make them “fit with “figures of a different scale, when based on a certain height/thickness of base.


2 thoughts on “What is “Scenery Scale” and how big should my doors be?

  1. […] Finally there are building, which are usually designed around people and sometimes vehicles. When working on architecture the placement of Windows & Door, and how big should they be. […]

  2. […] Workshop’s post on how big should doors be, covered the sizes for 18mm, 15mm, 10mm, and 6mm miniatures. I wanted to do the same for 25mm, 28mm […]

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