GWS 2019 – Digging into the numbers: size matters - to whom?

In Jasper’s GWS 2019, Size Matters post, he presents a summary trend analysis of changes in scale/size preferences over time. The analysis suggests preferences on figure size have drifted over time. Jasper notes that the preference for 28mm (and Heroics) has fallen while interest in the smaller sizes for specific settings (ship, aircraft, space ships) has increased.

Rather than a longitudinal analysis of the trends in figure size preference, I tackle questions on the current state, 2019. I will explore some of the survey demographics embedded within the survey with respect to figure size. If size matters, to whom does it matter?

Wargamer categories

As in previous blog posts, I define a respondent’s primary hobby interest. Assignment is based upon Question 11 in the survey. That is:

Do you consider yourself mostly a historical, or more a sci-fi or fantasy wargamer?

Possible responses span an integer scale from Historical (0) to Fantasy/Sci-Fi (6). Making a judgment call, responses of ‘0’ or ‘1’ were classed as Historical gamers, responses of ‘5’ or ‘6’ classed as Fantasy/Sci-Fi gamers, and ‘2’,‘3’,’4’ classed as Mixed gamers. Some survey respondents did not choose a value for Question 11. Those respondents are classified as Not Specified. All responses for Primary Interest were recoded to these guidelines.

The table below shows the counts of responses to size categorized by Primary Interest. Remember, each respondent may select more than one size so that a particular respondent may choose as many figures sizes as desired. While the table can be scrutinized for various relationships and inferences, I pick out a few to highlight.As Jasper correctly points out, 25-28mm (28.57%) and 28mm Heroic (21.20%) comprise the largest percentage of popular figure sizes at about 50%. Every Primary Interest category selects 25-28mm about 28% of the time. That is consistent and a sizeable chunk of the market. Clearly 25-28mm is a popular size across all gamers. As for 28mm Heroic, Fantasy/Sci-Fi gamers overwhelmingly choose this size for gaming. Fantasy/Sci gamers also dominate the 40mm+ category.

Plains, ships and space

Jasper also mentioned the increase in the popularity of airplane, ship, and spaceship miniatures. While the rationale for this increase may be due to Star Wars and Cruel Seas, notice that the largest proportion of respondents choosing these scales fall in the Mixed category; not that Fantasy/Sci-Fi gamers pick Star Wars and Historical gamers choose Cruel Seas. No. About 55% of totals in each of these categories are contained within Mixed classification.

Being in the Mixed category, what does this suggest? To me, this outcome suggests that airplane, ship, and spaceship miniatures represent a genre that has crossover appeal between both Historical and Fantasy/Sci-Fi groups. That these groups have grown from near 0% in 2014 to about 5% in 2019 suggests that crossover genres may hold promise for growing the hobby.


One final observation regarding these counts. While all groups tend to select 25-28mm as their most preferred figure size, there is a divergence between these two groups when examining the smaller figure sizes. Fantasy/Sci-Fi gamers tend to overlook sizes less than 25mm. Historical gamers, on the other hand, frequently pick the smaller figure sizes for their gaming. In fact, 15-18mm is second only to 25-28mm in popularity for Historical gamers. 20mm or 1/76th is definitely the realm of the Historical gamer.

Does size matter? It seems to matter at least to Fantasy/Sci-Fi gamers and Historical gamers. Fantasy/Sci-Fi gamers prefer the larger figure sizes while Historical gamers gravitate toward the smaller figures.

Do these tendencies correspond with anecdotal evidence? You decide.


Robert, thank you for your comment. Good to see someone going back to revisit some of the older analyses.

While the general trend may be for historical gamers to fight larger battles with smaller figures, the 2019 survey is unable to make that distinction. Your observation and experience are too subtle to be picked up in the survey. The 2019 survey asks respondents to list their Top 3 figure size preferences with no way to map a particular figure size to a particular size of battle. Since the 2023 survey allows ordered ranking, perhaps this is something to consider for a future post?

Jon Freitag

The results are consistent with my own observation and experience, but there is, perhaps a subtlety missed. I keep, for example, a 28mm “horse and musket” set, very much in the Young/Grant tradition, and good for up to about eight line infantry battalions and the rest in proportion for relatively small engagements where formation and unit attrition matter. I keep period-specific armies for SYW, Napoleonics and ACW in 6mm, and those are the armies in play for battles involving a corps or more. I think you’ll find a general trend among historical gamers that the larger the historical battle, the smaller the miniature figures are.

Robert Piepenbrink

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