What Scale Are Miniatures in Wargames?
This is a hotly discussed topic because there is no perfect answer to the question. And, while the "this is pretty close" mantra may work for some people, very often historical wargamers are looking for precision in their miniatures.
What Scale are Bolt Action Models and Vehicles?
The model soldiers that you buy from Warlord Games, who make Bolt Action, come in 28mm scale, but it's 28mm heroic scale. "Heroic scale" means that the models' heads, hands and feet are bigger, making it easier to paint details onto them and, in some gamers' view, look better on the tabletop. The Warlord Games scale of vehicles is 1/56th scale. However, some people believe that for the 28mm heroic scale to fit in with the vehicles, the vehicles SHOULD be 1/48th scale.
However, not all gamers love these scales, and the truth is that with a historical wargame you are free to use figures from whatever manufacturer you like. Bolt Action is not a game like Warhammer, where they require you to use their minis or you're simply not allowed to play the games in their stores or at their tournaments. With World War Two gaming, there is a wide variety of miniatures available at whatever scale you like.
What Does 28mm Scale Even Mean?
When something is said to be 28mm scale, it is 28mm from the base of the miniature to a certain point--but that point may be different according to different companies. Some measure from the base to the top of the head, whereas some measure from the base to the eyes. And when you take into account the fact that some humans are taller than other humans, a 28mm figure can really range from 28mm from base to top of head to 35mm from base to top of head.
Because of this, they can range anywhere from 1/48th scale to 1/61st scale. This can be, understandably, annoying to customers.
What Is the Best Scale Vehicles for 28mm models?
For 28mm realistic models, the scale of the vehicles could range from 1/50 scale to 1/64 scale. For heroic scale figures, it's more like 1/48 scale to 1/56. In practical terms, however, you will almost always use either 1/48th scale vehicles or 1/56th scale vehicles because it's very uncommon to find vehicles in those other sizes. They do exist, but the selection is often very small and the prices tend to be high.
Where Can I Find WW2 Miniatures That Are Non-Heroic 28mm?
There are a lot of places that sell 28mm World War 2 miniatures that are not in heroic scale. While it is definitely true that Warlord Games is the big kid on the block when it comes to this, and their models are the easiest to get ahold of (almost their entire range is easily found on Amazon and can be shipped to your house in two days), there are other manufacturers who do not use heroic scale.
Gaddis Gaming, for example, has a wide variety of WW2 minis that are both 28mm and 1/56th scale, non heroic. The downside is that they sell almost exclusively in metal (which many people don't like for many reasons, with customization being chief among them) and they cost slightly higher than Warlord Games miniatures--though, admittedly, not much higher. Selection-wise, it's about a wash. They tend to have similar armies, with each company specializing in different factions. (For example, Warlord offers Siberian Soviet figures, and Gaddis offers Finns.)
Frontline Games has a small selection of 28mm WW2 figures, but their webstore is a mixture of their own stuff (almost all metal and quite expensive) with resales of other companies' miniatures, including Warlord Games.
Perry Miniatures is one of the best 28mm manufacturers and their site has a wonderful range of high-quality plastics. The problem is that, while they dipped their toe into WW2, there are currently only three boxes available: Afrika Korps, Desert Rats, and US Infantry. It would be nice to see them expand their range, but they appear to be focused fairly strongly on other areas.
When it comes to vehicles that fit in well with 28mm WW2 miniatures, you can't beat Rubicon Games. They have 1/56th scale vehicles from all parts of the war, representing all armies and theaters. Their selection is far wider than that of Warlord Games, including lesser-known vehicles such as the LVT-2 / LVT(A)-2 Water Buffalo, or the M32B1 Armored Recovery Vehicle. Some of their kits are in plastic, while a few, including the very least-used, are in resin. They do tend to have good customer satisfaction ratings and the miniatures look quite good.
What Scale Are Warhammer Models?
Technically, Warhammer models range somewhere between 28mm and 32mm, but in practice that means very little. Space Marines are seven feet tall (without power armor) and Primaris Marines are even taller than that. And Xenos races are of varying heights. It really only comes into play when you're talking about Imperial Guard (regular humans) but even there a 28mm Imperial Guard model would look very out of place standing in a unit of 28mm Warlord WW2 miniatures.
What Are the Scales of Other Miniature Games?
Marvel: Crisis Protocol has their units at 40mm. Star Wars: Legion says that theirs are 35mm. Games Workshop's Middle Earth range is 28mm non-heroic (which makes them look small and out of place next to other Games Workshop products.) Heroclix is 28mm. The majority of Warlord Games' other ranges (Black Powder, Pike and Shotte, and Hail Caesar) are all 28mm non-heroic. Mantic Games' Kings of War is 28mm heroic.
Of course, there are many other scales for wargames to be played in. Warlord Games recently released their American Civil War in what they call "Epic Scale" which works out to about 13mm. Baccus sells their miniatures (which range anywhere from ancients to fantasy to WW2) in 6mm.