2mm Wargaming

When I first bought 2mm figures I had never seen (and still haven't) anyone else using 2mm figures - which is quite surprising, as Irregular tell me that they continue to sell very well. I was fascinated by them; whole armies in the palm of your hand, 'real' looking bodies of troops instead of a few representative figures and a tiny storage space needed.

I started with buying a lot of ACW stuff and a few samples from other ranges, the ACW never came to much as I got bogged down developing Corps level rules to go with them but the Ancient/Medieval seemed to offer some scope. I was beginning to get back into DBA with some 15mm 'Dark Ages' armies and didn't fancy DBM but a local group were experimenting with a 'big battle' version of DBA and I wanted to try out their ideas (plus a few of my own) but had nowhere near enough figures. The 2mm blocks seemed a likely answer so I started thinking, always a bad move for me, and ended up with hundreds of the little buggers.

Since then I have done more gaming in other scales and still not found many opponents for my 2mm. Comments I get aplenty, some of them quite appreciative, but no-one wants to play. They unfortunately remain a personal & private passion but still give me a lot of pleasure. Maybe with Big Battle DBA I can convince people more easily when I can pull out any 3 armies I fancy from a box a foot square.

I wrote the above more than 5 years ago. Since then I have taken my 2mm to a few shows and painted many thousands of the blocks, both for myself and for other gamers, but I STILL haven't seen anyone else playing a game with 2mm figures 'in the flesh'.

Generally the responses I get at shows are very positive. Many people shyly admit to owning a few 2mm and even the odd one who plays with them. What has surprised me is the general disbelief at what can be achieved with 2mm - it always seemed so obvious to me !!!

Adapting Rules

There are two basic approaches when downscaling an existing rule set to 2mm. Rules rarely give any specific basing or scale options for 2mm so you have to decide between reducing the scales (usually to base sizes of about 17-25mm frontage - that's 3/4 to 1 inch to the imperialists) or packing in a number of blocks on a base size for 15mm figures.

I have recently done some work for gamers who have gone even further and used even larger bases and, I have to admit that they do look good. You need a lot more blocks per base and a careful consideration of how they fit onto the base to best represent the unit concerned but, if you have the space, go large !

I originally went for the first option because that is why I started with 2mm: small bases, less space and more elements for the same amount of painting time. I was not entirely convinced that the other option worked that well anyway, lots of figures on a base look great in 6mm but 2mm elements still look like a lot of blocks, not an homogenous unit. Still, each to their own, the second option has its supporters and they do have the advantages of being easier to handle and requiring no rule changes. I haven't really changed my opinion on this but, because most others seem to be doing it, I am in the process of  re-basing my DBA elements onto 15mm scale bases (40mm frontage).

Looking back I now realise that I was clinging to my original ideas too closely - almost any size of base can be used successfully with 2mm.

Distances can be a bit more awkward when adapting rules to 2mm, they do tend to be rather small. I reduced from 100paces=25mm to 100paces=15mm and made the playing area a bit larger in relation to the base sizes than the 15mm version. In DBA 1.1 this did make a difference with some manoeuvres but the differences in DBA 2 will be less due to some of the rule changes/clarifications. I think that this is needed to stop move distances becoming too 'fiddly'.

As the Internet gave me access to the opinions and idea of other gamers in this scale I realised that the same problem had faced almost everyone and that there were too many possible solutions to list. Suffice it to say that, with a bit of simple arithmetic (which is all it takes - honestly), you can convert any ruleset to use with 2mm.

Painting 2mm

There are no hard and fast rules about painting any size of figures - don't believe anyone that tells you there are - developing your own ways and means may be frustrating but it is fun and it brings a sense of satisfaction and achievement you won't get by trying (and often failing) to copy others.

Having said that, it is still a good idea to look at what others have done and see how they did it - good ideas never harmed anyone, but use them as guides, not rules. Some techniques are more difficult to master than others, some just aren't for you (or me) - they just don't seem to 'fit' with the way you do things. For me one such technique is 'dry-brushing' - I have only recently, after years of trying, got it to work a few times. The effect was impressive but the failures numerous - hardly worth the effort and I can't see them working with 2mm - the detailing is too low relief.

With 2mm you have to start by realising the limitations - they aren't as great as you might imagine but there is a limit to what can be done with such a small item. Trying to overdo detail is actually MORE likely to wreck the paint job than choosing to exclude some details. Choose a limited set of details that you feel are essential to ID the troop or unit type and then work out how to include them BEFORE you start to paint a load of blocks. Trying ideas out on a few blocks can be a good idea -throw them away if they don't work, 2mm blocks are cheap enough for that.

What I have found to work is a good, plain paint job with some of the details picked out in bright, contrasting colours and then a final wash of well thinned black or dark brown paint (I use tube acrylics for this, liquid acrylics don't settle into the gaps as well). I also find that the tiny dot of flesh for the faces and another dot on top of that for helmet, hat or hair are features that you need on all blocks as they help the block to appear as a group of separate individuals.



There are even less rules about basing 2mm armies than there are about painting them. Keep any 'decoration' or 'texturing' of the base fairly low relief and try to contrast it with the colour of the blocks if possible. I made the mistake of doing 'realistic' colours on bases and the figure blocks don't stand out enough. Go for light colours and some variety to break up the surface of the base and keep texture to a minimum.

Fine sand sprinkled onto thinned PVA or mixed with cheap paint (I have used both craft acrylics and household emulsion paint with success) can both be applied fairly quickly and give a pleasing effect. Sand can be replaced by fine scatter if you want some variety of colour or the sand can be over-painted if you wish.

What I do think is important is to plan out the arrangement of the blocks on the bases. What you are aiming for is to make the different types of base easily distinguishable from each other while still retaining the 'look' of the unit you are representing. Irregular makes quite a wide variety of block sizes for the H&M period so choosing the block size that best suits your design is important and should be done at an early stage in planning your army. As it isn't easy to ID similar blocks on the table (e.g. Ancient Legions and Spearmen look very similar), laying their bases out differently can make IDing their bases much easier.

Some blocks can be quite easily cut and stuck separately or in small groups onto the base in a more random manner. Skirmishers and light horse are particularly suited to this treatment.