GWS 2022: Bring out yer lead!

By Jon Freitag

My conclusion when I last visited this topic in the 2020 survey (see The Future is Plastic) was that there was a great future in plastics. The 2020 showed that hard plastic figures were the most preferred figure material. For me, the 2020 result was both a curiosity and a shock given my preference toward metal figures.

Did the 2022 survey reinforce the 2020 tendency of plastic figures taking the top spot in figure material preference, or was the 2020 survey result a curious blip?  The 2022 results suggest that hard plastic figures continue to gain popularity.  Even I am yielding, somewhat, to hard plastic figures for at least one collection. 

What does the 2022 survey show for wargamer preference in figure material?

First Choice in Figure Material

When all survey respondents ranked their top choice in figure material, Hard Plastic came solidly into the top place. For the 10,502 respondents answering this question, Hard Plastics garnered almost 54% of all of the responses as top choice. Metals, coming in at a distant second place, captured about 32% of the responses. All other materials saw low single digit percentages. To my untrained, metal-centric eye, the dominance of Hard Plastics as the preferred material still astonishes me. Hard Plastics and Metals capture nearly 86% of all responses regarding favorite material.


 Material Frequency Percent Cumulative Frequency Cumulative Percent
Hard plastic 5647 53.77 5647 53.77
Metal 3354 31.94 9001 85.71
Soft plastic 513 4.88 9514 90.59
3D Printed 379 3.61 9893 94.2
Resin 319 3.04 10212 97.24
Plastic-Resin (Siocast) 152 1.45 10364 98.69
PVC 96 0.91 10460 99.6
Paper 29 0.28 10489 99.88
Wood 13 0.12 10502 100.0


In an attempt to understand the drivers of these numbers, let's break these totals down by a selection of attributes.

Material Preference by Primary Interest

When responses are stratified by a wargamer's Primary Interest (see Figure 1), a wide chasm emerges. 68.3% of respondents classifying themselves as primarily Fantasy/Sci-Fi wargamers choose Hard Plastics as their first choice in material. Metals is a very distant second at 9.8%. A surprise?

For Historical gamers, Metals as a first choice in material dominate at 58.7% with Hard Plastics coming in second at 32.4%. Historical wargamers still seem to prefer metal figures over anything else. For the Mixed category, Hard Plastics are still first choice in 57.6% of responses with Metals in second place at 28.6%.

Graph of preferred materials by primary interest

Material Preference by Age Group

When breaking down material preference by Age Group, what does the survey show?

The next figure illustrates that the younger age cohorts heavily favour Hard Plastics. The general tendency is that Metals preference increases with age at the expense of all other materials. Even in the 61+ age group, though, Hard Plastics are the first choice for almost 30% of the respondents. Seems that the Hard Plastics category has a solid foothold across all age cohorts. Notice that the youngest age cohort chooses Paper as first choice in about 13% of responses.

Graph of material preferences by age group

Material Preference by Collection Size

When one considers the expected tendency when examining the effect of Collection Size on Material Preference, what is a reasonable conclusion?  A reasonable conclusion might hold that older wargamers would tend to have larger collections and that older age cohorts may have come into the hobby when metal figures were more prominent than hard plastic figures. Large collections take many years to accumulate. As seen in prior year analyses, surveys suggests that older wargamers tend toward historicals and fighting big battles. Larger collections, therefore, ought to tend toward metals.

Graph of the relationship between collection size and preferred materials

Do the 2022 results support those inferences? Yes, they do. The percentage of respondents choosing metal figures as a top choice increases as collection size increases.

Do the effects of Primary Interest, Age Group, and Collection Size upon Material Preference match your experience or intuition?

Now, there are other factors or attributes captured in the survey that could be brought into this analysis to extend the study. What effects do figure scale, wargaming period, game size, game type, and gamer location have on material preference? What do you think the effect of these attributes have on material preference? Any? 

I leave those analyses for another time but would enjoy reading your thoughts on Material Preference and the drivers of this choice for you.


I wonder whether there might be a relationship between games system as well? For example, if you are into Age of Sigmar, WH40K or Bolt Action (all systems with extensive hard plastic lines), then perhaps you would expect to see hard plastic dominating – it’s what is available and ‘pushed’ by the companies. Where a rules set is not tied to a particular miniature line, then perhaps you might expect to see greater variety?

Personally, I game a lot in 15mm, and for me the metal options are far more aesthetically pleasing than the hard plastic figure options. In contrast, most of my vehicles are hard plastic kits. Yes price is a factor but not necessarily the most important when buying figures.

However, it will be interesting to see what impact 3d printing has on this over the coming years. Until very recently I only had a very small number of 3d figures but the option of printing miniatures for which there are no current options is very appealing, and allows me to expand into areas that previously I had opted out of eg Horus Heresy but in 15mm.


Price is always the first consideration. If I can get a box of 30 plastic figures for say $35 and a box of 24 metal figures for $32, I will go for quantity. I may mix in some metals depending on the sculpts. I do, however, take part in kick starter campaigns that offer metal figures in 28mm, but again, with the reduced offers and stretch goals it usually is a very good value.

Don Mac Intyre

Hard plastic is the best overall material for miniatures. The reasons are manifold but the two most obvious are weight and ease of modeling by the hobbyist. Resin comes in second for me because it’s a good medium to make minis, but has a range of it’s own issues, not the least of which is you can’t use paint thinners on it.

Metal, although 50% of my mini collection, or more, is last because it’s the most unforgiving and difficult to model by the hobbyist.


I think scale would be very important. Historical games from the 80s and 90s used a lot of 15mm figs which are almost always metal. If that is what you have been collecting for 30 years then it’s understandable that you would want to stay with that. I do 25-28mm historical armies and I love hard plastic. The sculpting is better and the cost is lower. I only buy metal when there is no better option.


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