Atomic Ancients & Miniature Medievals

DBA in 2mm

Danielle Varelli's review of the Irregular Miniatures 2mm Ancients (on the SoA website) prompted me to re-work a leaflet that I produced some time ago to support demonstrations that I did at some shows here in the North of England during the past few years.

Unlike Danielle, 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 .....




Elephants with Howdahs [ABG21]

De Bellis Minisculis

Indian Elephant with crew astride [ABG15]

The standard base sizes and scales for 2mm suggested in the DBA rules are 30mm frontage by 10mm depth using a battlefield the same size (600mm) as for most other sizes. This needs up to four 2mm blocks (those made by Irregular) per base and requires cutting many blocks to fit. If we assume that a 2mm block represents a unit, why not use them as such and use a base size that will fit the blocks and modify the ground scale and playing area to suit.

The advantages of using this scale are that it is possible to quickly and cheaply create almost any army and then play it just about anywhere.

It would be a good scale for trying out army tactics or effectiveness before buying and painting a 15mm or 25mm army.

Elephant with Light Infantry

ABG1 (above) - Blades - ABG2 (below)

Painting is fiddly but not too difficult as you only need to include a minimum of detail and this also makes it possible to produce generic troop types that will serve in a large number of different armies. Cavalry in any army from Akkadian to Albanian looks much the same in 2mm. You do need reasonably good co-ordination to make accurate moves so don’t play this with the ‘the range is 75.5mm so your war engines can’t fire’ types.

Changes to the DBA rules

Auxilia [ABG13]

Base Frontage : 20mm

Base Depth : either all 10mm or 8mm for all but Hordes, Chariots, Elephants, War Wagons and Artillery which are 10mm

Ground Scale : 15mm = 100paces

Playing Area : between 360mm and 400mm square (14-16 inches)

Camps : 50-60mm wide by 30-40mm deep

Rule Changes : The only rule change suggested is that all units consider a base depth to be 10mm wherever this is mentioned in the rules (e.g. in recoiling).

Which blocks do I use ?

Massed Bows [ABG20]
Listed below are the codes for the Irregular Miniatures blocks I have found most suited to different elements. The number in brackets indicates how many to use per base if more than one. Notice that I have used blocks from the Renaisance (RBG) and Horse and Musket (BG) ranges as well as the Ancient (ABG) ones.
Camels [ABG23]

See Table of Blocks used for each Element Type



Basing at such small sizes is best done directly onto a magnetic base. The thicker type, available in sheets or strips, is rigid enough once the block has been fixed to it. Using a magnetic base makes the elements easy to store and carry, place them in tins or on small boxes lined with steel paper or thin tinplate. I have nearly 500 DBA elements stored in a box only 250mm by 270mm and 60mm deep. This stuff is fairly expensive but it makes the job of basing and storing such small items so much easier that it is worth the extra expense.

Artillery : Carroballistae [BG20]

If you use the self adhesive magnetic strip then cut the required number of bases to size first. Remove the backing paper and press the block base firmly onto the sticky side. If the base doesn’t stick or if you are putting individual figures on a base I wouldn’t risk the self-adhesive. Use super glue if there is any doubt it will stick

Artillery : Siege Engines [ABG25]

Put the textured blocks in a tray and sprinkle fine scatter or fine, dry sand over the lot. Shake or lightly brush off of the excess scatter. I find it best to seal this texturing to the base by overpainting up to the edges of the block with textured paint that is a bit thinner than normal. If you use coloured textured paint it also acts as the base colour and you can finish off the base after painting by dry-brushing with a darker or lighter shade.


Artillery : Bombards [RBG30]

Don’t be tempted to try basing too many at once. It is more fiddly and frustrating than it looks and if you leave the adhesive too long the scatter doesn’t stick as well.

Painting Tips

At the risk of trying to teach my Grandmother to suck eggs (my 15mm figures never won a painting competition and nor will my 2mm) the following seem to work for me.

Warband [ABG6]

Clean up the blocks and file the bottom flat so they stick to the base adhesive well.


Soak for 2 hours in white vinegar, then rinse in hot water. This helps to remove grease and moulding additives and the undercoat covers better. (This helps to solve the problem noted by Danielle of the paint not penetrating into the detail.)


Use a dark grey spray undercoat, Acrylic sold for cars works well. Use it sparingly. I have tried both white & black too, grey works best.


Base figures and texture the base (see above) before painting.


Use bright and opaque colours and high contrast if using more than 1 colour.


Use light flesh where possible, it shows up better. For darker skinned troops use lighter coloured clothing against dark flesh colour.


For Regulars paint clothing all the same colour and shields all the same.


For Irregulars use a mixture of colours, at least on the shields.


For Barbarians use duller colours with bright spots or more flesh & bright spots.


Use Gold for Bronze and Silver for Iron, they show up better.


Use brown/black to pick out weapons with a touch of silver/gold for points & blades.


Finish with a very much thinned coat of black, this settles into the hollows to emphasise detail on some blocks. Experiment to find on which ones it works for you.


Paint horses a range of colours if you want. This is quite possible because most of the blocks of mounted figures have a small space between the horses.


Use a level of detail that suits you. If you want to paint saddles, shield decoration, barding on Knights or symbols on the flags then it is possible with some care and a lot of patience. Do bear in mind however that you will probably be the only one that sees it unless you point it out to people.

Cavalry [ABG8]
Cavalry [ABG4]
Light Horse with Bows [ABG9]
Light Horse with Javelins [ABG10]

General’s Elements

In most scales it is possible to use figures with standards etc. to indicate a general’s element but 2mm is too small to do this easily. You could add a large standard of appropriate type to an element with thin wire, a small drill and some foil.

Click picture to view larger diagram

on a separate page

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Because my units are generic (i.e. I don't have Roman, Greek or Hunnic Cv I just have Cv) I have made separate standards based on steel paper so that they can go under a based element and be moved with it. This means any element can be converted to a general. The diagram shows how this is done.


You need a fairly smooth surface as a playing area. I started by using carpet tiles with very little ‘nap’ but I haven’t seen them in the shops for ages. A cloth or an MDF board given some texture with masonry paint does just as well.

Terrain features can be bought with the figure blocks and some are OK. Walls, hedges, bridges and buildings & settlements are all available but of variable quality, the woods look good but are too small. The ‘Road & Tree pack’ paints up very well as either roads or rivers but needs a lot of preparation as it is poorly cast.

There is a list of Irregular's 2mm terrain range here and some scans of them here.

Woods can be carved out of cork tiles, coated liberally with PVA and then sprinkled with scatter. Fields of crops can be made by painting thin lines of PVA onto brown card and sprinkling bright green scatter on them. For bad going stick a few small stones and tiny bits of moss onto card. Hills are best made with a smooth surface and less steep than normal as the bases won’t stay on a steep textured surface, I use 2 layers of 6mm MDF filed and sanded to shape and then painted with only a bit of texturing.

Spears [ABG18]
Pikes [3 * ABG17]

Distinguishing troop types

War Wagons [RBG31]

Telling one type of element from another or even which way an element is facing can be difficult during a battle and so I paint a coloured dot on the two front corners of the base. The colour is used to distinguish between different elements with similar appearance (e.g. Sp, Bd & Bw are all close order foot).


El, Ar, Pk, WWg & SC don’t need dots as it is obvious what they are.


Hd are the only 2 deep element.


CF have no dots, they are made obvious by their position.


Green Base

CO Inf LO Inf OO Inf Mounted Chariots Sand/Earth Base
Red Sp Wb   Cv LCh Red
White Bd Aux   Kn HCh Black
Yellow       Cm   Green
Light Blue Bw Cb Ps LH SCh Light Blue



Kn(4) - Cataphracts [ABG22]

Danielle makes it quite clear in his review that he considers this scale only suitable for the manic or the obsessed and I can't fault him on that. Surely anyone who plays wargames fits pretty well into that category.

2mm won't suit the 25mm brigade (but surely VIKINGS should have BLUE eyes !!!) and the owner of a 2mm horde will suffer from a certain amount of derision and be the butt of eternal 'small' jokes so a good sense of humour is called for.

Taken as a serious proposition, accepting their limitations (lack of detail, fiddly to make and play) but also recognising their advantages (cheap, small, portable and quick to produce), 2mm armies are viable and fun. The figures may be tiny but the armies look HUGE.

Knights [ABG14]




All those elements not included in the main text

Heavy Chariots [ABG19]

Pikes [RBG33]


Light Chariots [ABG7] Hordes [2 * ABG6] Late Medieval Knights [RBG14]
Psiloi - Javelin [ABG3] Crossbows [ABG24] Earlier Medieval Knights [RBG13]
Psiloi - Archers [ABG12] Arc of the Covenant Italian Carroccio



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