I'm newly returned to Lego, and, holy cow -- It's a different world than the one I left in the 80s.

I always wanted to build a Lego city. The constraints of childhood kept that endeavor at bay. But, now that I have a kid of my own, the door has reopened. Never mind the fact that he is barely old enough to hold a Duplo.

I'm shooting for a modular, micro/mini city. But one of the things I'm struggling with is determining the right scale for me. At first I decided to pursue the "Micropolis Standard." Simple enough. Small enough. And well supported. The scale is roughly 1:285. If I did my math correctly.

To get my feet wet I bought and built Lego's 2014-15 Bricktober Mini Modular series (40180-40183; 40141-40144). I think these are roughly in the ballpark of the Micropolis scale.

But then I bought and built Lego's Mini Modular set (10230). The buildings in it are quite a bit bigger than Micropolis scale, which allows for more detail. Detail that is simply tremendous. I immediately fell in love.

Now, I know that Lego doesn't have a fixed scale. I've learned that Minifigure scale changes depending on measured dimension (height vs. width of a thing). And in any case, scale is "violated" all the time to make things look better. Compounding this, it appears that 10230 is about quarter scale when compared to the rest of the Creator Modular series. The buildings in 10230 are scale models of scale models with some oddball features.

If I can figure out the approximate scale of 10230, my hope is that I can upscale a variation of the Micropolis Standard to build my city. But I need help validating my assumptions.

At first pass, I've calculated the height of a plate to be roughly 2ft. Which would put the scale at 1:190. Real example: The big brother version of the Parisian Restaurant (10243) has floors between 7-9 bricks high. Which would roughly be between 10.5-13.5ft in real life. Which seems about right for older European buildings. At the scale I'm shooting for, these same rooms should be between 5.25-6.75 plates high. Which, when compared to 10230, and rounding up, seems about right too.

It also is a 1:1 to Lego Units, which would be pretty great.

Surely someone, somewhere has done this same exercise. Can anyone point me to that resource? I've looked -- micro, mini, modular... these are all pretty generic, all encompassing terms. There's a lot of content out there, but almost none of it speaks directly to the scale of the mini modular set. So any assist is greatly appreciated.


1 Answer 1


You already have put quite a lot of thought into this and it definitely is an interesting question. However, I don't think it is answerable as stricly as you might hope, but I don't think that's a bad thing actually. Your computations aren't that far off, though.

You already realized that figure scale in LEGO is a strange beast due to the rather weird proportions of LEGO figures. So when using specific Modular Buildings for reference, you already have a problem with the minifig version not being entirely accurate to reality. Add to this the fact that storey heights can also vary significantly in reality. Trying to pin that to an accurate scale might get rather difficult. That BrickArchitect article is a good start, though, and a rough approximation that I tend to go by for figure scale is indeed 1:42, which is also conveniently about half of H0 scale (1:87), as known from the model train world.

But then you also have the problem of abstraction. The Mini Modulars, albeit about a quarter in size of their bigger brothers, also might abstract some elements in order to get a better representation of the original's overall style less than its accurate dimensions. But if we go by quarter scale, we could say it's maybe around 1:175, which isn't that far off your 1:190. That would also mean a human would be conventiently around 1cm tall, which is also roughly over 1 brick, whatever measurement you prefer. However, the exact number doesn't quite matter too much. What is more important, and the Mini Modulars demonstrate that too, is picking something that fits the pieces. For example using SNOTed 1x2 tiles as doors is a common technique. Also the premade 2x2 windows make for useful elements. So ~2 bricks for one storey isn't a bad idea, which would also match with your results.

For some more practical examples, I have seen a few YouTube cities using an approach inspired by the Mini Modular style, too, and working with 8x8 modules. This conveniently fits to the LEGO grid of 32x32 basplates and the like. It also has other advantages, like simple 2-lane roads being 6 wide with 1 stud sidewalk on each side, which in turn fits a road built sideways and made up of 7 plates per lane with a neat 1 plate striping in the middle. This can then conveniently host 2-wide cars, or the "CITY Advent Calender scale" ;-). For people they tend to use either nanofigs (what BrickLink calls "trophy figures") or builing something about 4 plates high, which also fits to the scale not too badly.

Afterall, even the Micropolis standard isn't as strict as everything always adhering to 1:285. You can really put anything between 1:250 and 1:300 into a Micropolis layout and maybe even more. It just has to fit the overall aesthetics and be reasonable to build. You don't want to build cars that are 1.25 or 0.75 studs wide, you want to put a tile onto a jumper and have an iconic and recognizeable micro car. I haven't worked too much in Micropolis myself, but I made the experience that you shouldn't pain yourself too much with thinking if that fence should be one plate higher or lower rather than if the overall look fits and it's practical to build. In fact I've even seen houses in the scale of the Mini Modulars put into a Micropolis layout (she even uses her own micro versions of LEGO Modular Building sets) and although they can look a bit big if you try to compute the exact scale, I think it works very well in the overall layout.

I personally also try to compute an actual scale for at least my Architecture models that try to get real-world proportions as close as possible, but even there it's not always easy to compute that to an exact number based on abstractions that the LEGO system requires. You might have to build it higher than it is wide or you might have to build that window smaller than it really is. And with something like a freely designed micro city, it's more important you have a solid idea how to build roads, cars, doors, and whatever in a convenient way and everything fits well together.

So on the bottom line, have a rough scale in mind, but don't get hung up on the exact number. In fact, what's more practical is having various numbers in mind, for each of the different use-cases, and then pick whatever fits to what you're building. I.e. establish a reasonable standard for major elements that works well together and that you're comfortable with. If people are then actually 1:175, cars 1:150 and trains 1:200 doesn't matter all too much because noone will actually do those computations as long as you got a coherent model. The ideas for how to build it from the pieces you got will then come with some experience in the scale. Some easy guidelines for Mini Modular scale (which also fit to what you came up with) would probably be:

2-brick storeys, 1-brick people, 2-stud cars, 1.5x Micropolis, 1/4 figure scale, or anything between 1:150 and 1:200.

  • You are spot on. The critical aspect is consistency across elements. And scale matters less than doing what looks good. So, do that. Also, I realized that I made some bad assumptions about real world floor-to-floor height of commercial and multifamily buildings. My new calculations put the scale closer to 1:120, I think. BUT this is important: There are no 8-stud wide buildings in the real world that would also have the heights depicted in 10230. This is much too narrow. In other words, use whatever fuzzy scale that works for you in the vertical dimension, and do what looks best for the rest. Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 22:26

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