GWS 2023: Buying quantities

By Jon Freitag

Another of the new questions in 2023 edition of the Great Wargaming Survey asked about the quantities in which new figures are purchased.

Specifically, the survey question asked, "When you buy new figures do you:"

  • Buy all you need for a project you have in mind
  • Buy large quantities ‘just in case’
  • Buy your miniatures in small quantities

It turns out that the question was open-ended, so respondents could add any answer they wished. While most stuck to the prescribed choices, others went off on their own (not so beneficial for analysis!). To reflect these non-standard responses, the stragglers were reclassified into two additional categories. They are:

  • ‘Depends’
  • Other 

The diagram below illustrates that "Buying all you need for a project" (Project Buy) and "Buying in small quantities" (Small Buy) capture the bulk of the responses. Together, these two responses make up about 86% of total entries. By percentage, Project Buy narrowly beats out Small Buy in the survey results. "Buying in large quantities just in case" (Excess Buy) makes up about 10% of totals.

This, in itself, is an interesting result in that respondents tend to buy it all or buy in small quantities. Can any insights be gained by drilling down into the data?

For this exercise, five attributes will be examined. Those are Age Group, Primary Interest, Location, Collection Size, and Number of Unpainted Figures. Let's see what the data suggests.

Age group

When examining buying patterns by age group (ignoring 81+ since that has a very low headcount), the groups tending to Project Buy and those tending to Small Buy are roughly evenly split. Age Group 51-60 tends to Project Buy more than any other group while the 20-and-Under group leans toward Small Buy. Notice that having reached the 51-60 plateau, Excess Buy tends to decrease as a percentage with increases in age.

Primary Interest

When respondents are classified by Primary Interest (Historical, Fantasy/Sci-Fi, and Mixed), the survey results suggest that Historical wargamers are more likely to buy by project than their Fantasy/Sci-Fi counterparts. Conversely, primarily non-historical wargamers are more likely to purchase figures in smaller quantities. As expected, the Mixed grouping falls somewhere between historical and non-historical gamers. Roughly 10% of all respondents buy in quantities surplus to demands (Excess Buy).


Again, the split between the Project Buy and Small Buy is roughly even across locations with more respondents tending to buy for a project than purchasing in small quantities. The curiosity in the chart below is that UK and Irish wargamers tend to buy in smaller quantities more often than the other regions. Also, this same group is less likely to buy figures in quantities surplus to needs.

Why this difference? My hunch is that frequent and readily accessible wargame shows in the UK allow gamers to purchase in smaller quantities and on a regular basis. With easy access to traders and low or no postage costs, perhaps there is less need to buy in bulk in an attempt to reach price break points on shipping?

Collection size

Breaking the results down by Collection Size produces an interesting and consistent result. Consistent, that is, except for the spike in the Project Buy category for those with collections in the 10,000-15,000 group.

What are these tendencies? As the graphic below illustrates, Project Buy and Excess Buy increase as collection size increases and Small Buy decreases as collection size increases. Big appetites consume big resources.

Unpainted figures

Finally, we turn to the number of unpainted figures and buying patterns. Again, another interesting pattern emerges. In the case of unpainted figures, the Project Buy percentage remains roughly the same regardless of the size of the unpainted figure pile. The difference is that Excess Buy increases monotonically as the number of unpainted figures increases while the Small Buy decreases monotonically as the figure pile grows. These results suggest that painted figure output cannot keep up with the unpainted figure input [gasp - surprise!]


What has been gleaned from this exercise of looking into figure-buying tendencies?

Results suggest:

  • UK and Irish gamers tend to purchase in smaller quantities than other regions.
  • As collection size increases, so does Excess Buying. Conversely, Small Buys tend to decrease as collection size increases.
  • As the unpainted figure pile increases, so does the Excess Buy percentage. Similar to collection size, as the number of unpainted figures increases, Small Buys tend to decrease. 

Based upon these results, is it any surprise that some gamers have large piles of unpainted figures? No surprise to me.

How do your troops come marching in?


Nigel, thanks for your comment. In variable association (correlation), there is no “back-to-front” or “front-to-back” assertion. Keep in mind that correlation does not imply causation. While Collection Size and Excess Buy show association, any causality is beyond our grasp.

Jonathan Freitag

I think the correlation between collection size and excess buy may just be a back-to-front view. Surely the causal factor of large collections might well be the tendency to excess buy in the first place?!

Nigel Britton

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