Monday, July 14, 2008

Harsh economics - are they taking you for a ride?

No wargaming for the last ten days for me, there's been and is still ongoing an awful lot of wedding/stag do/birthday party activity over these supposedly summer weekends to keep me busy. On another note, the intention to return to the Alps for at least one more season has been confirmed between me and the missus.

Nevertheless, that doesn't stop one formulating future armies; even if there is nowhere to put them. Coming very close to the completion of my Dwarfs (photo's soon I swear!) I casually pondered another army for 40k. In reality it's little more than wishful thinking, in truth if I want a 'new' army for that I should just pick up the latest army book for either my Eldar or Orks, the latter of whom are apparently now a kick ass army!

Anyway, my musings were inspired by a link to Battlefield Berlin: German (ooh, who'd have guessed?) operation that does distinctly Teutonic SCI-FI figures, blatantly designed with 40k in mind. One army I'd occasionally fancied for 40k was Imperial Guard (twenty years ago they were my most numerous 40k figures, some 50 of them. Now all sold.) so these seemed quite interesting, offering a distinct twist on the standard fare. I casually priced up a basic platoon.

And here we reach our point, prices.

No one who reads this blog really needs telling that 'fantasy' figures are more expensive that 'historicals' do they? Well, here goes anyway, I think the extent ofd difference may be intriguing.

Having priced up the 'Berlin' figures, I went and did the same exercise for several essentially identical make ups of forces. Each went along these lines:

  • Two senior officers
  • A HQ squad of five figures
  • Two infantry squads with support weapons, totalling twenty figures
  • Three heavy weapons and crewmen

That totalled a modest 33 figures and 3 cannon/mortar type items.

The prices I came too in order of cheapest first were as follows:

  1. Citadel Imperial Guard Catachan Jungle Fighters boxed set (no senior officers but two bonus war walkers) - All Plastic £50
  2. Bolt Action Miniatures (40 figures in total) WW2 equivalent set up - All Metal £51.50
  3. Battlefield Berlin - All Metal €117, approximately £90
  4. Forgeworld (a GW sidearm) - All Resin £146

What is staggering, is that however pricey we may think 28mm historicals are these days, they are bargains when compared to the 'gouging' of fantasy gamers. The plastic Citadel models have several advantages, but compared to a prestige range of 28mm Hisrtoricals the saving of 150 pence is not one of them. By contrast metal incurs a hefty price of around £2.50 a figure; and Resin? well, I'll let you figure that one out.

This is all the more incongruous when you realise that SCI-FI and fantasy gamers considerably outnumber the Historical community of gamers. The law of supply and demand would therefore suggest the WW2 figures should be the most expensive as they cater to a specialist market with lower margins for the manufacturers. Off course if it were that simple...

Apparently other factors are at play here. Even a very small company like Fire Dragon Foundry: produce custom moulds for gamers or small businesses that work out to around 30p per figure (for 28mm), so for large outfits, especially a behemoth like GW that cost must be smaller still? Plastic moulding technology is a different matter, sure, it is more expensive, but it's getting cheaper every day, Rendera and their work with The Perry’s and Warlord Games highlight that. No, it seems that Fantasy figure companies can apply their own rules, and more especially believe in the Inelastic Supply model of economics applying to their business:

At the other end of the scale, sculptors working for historical companies get paid a pittance (I should know, I been paid that pittance many times for vehicle masters). And most Historical figure company owners are either hobbyists, or making at best a modest living out of the hobby, only the big players are really coining it in, and they still don't need to charge silly money.

How long will that last though?

I will not presently be starting an Imperial Guard army, it seems.


  1. For the GW elemet it is a captive market. In order to play the games at store level you have to buy their product. Having bought said product it is then difficult to break out of the mould (no pun intended) into other spheres since all gamers appear to be stuck in the same loop.
    GW will charge what they beleive the market will stand - and fair play to them for doing so, it is a business afterall.
    It is the scale of the market that allows this to happen. no other figure manufacturer can compete on such a a massive scale.
    Compare that to the historical market where there is open competition for your pennies and the price is therefore far less.
    To bring GW prices down they need a competitor - but who would be brave (foolhardy?) enough to take them on?

  2. In Europe, Privateer Press and a number of French companies - but their models are even more expensive!

  3. often seems to me looking in from the outside (as I've never thought of building a GW or other fantasy era army) that there seems to be some kind of kudos effect ie. the more expensive the model, the more of it there is.....

    ...on the plus side - all those 12 & 13 year olds soon discover girls and alcopops, and then seem to dispose of their GW figures at quite astonishingly low prices on eBay and the B&B's??