Home Forums General General Board wargame vs wargame rules sales

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    Nick Riggs

    I’m interested in finding out how many people are currently buying/playing board wargames as opposed to miniatures rules. I’m thinking historical/modern period gaming, I’m not considering Warhammer 40K etc. Does anyone know of any useful sources, surveys etc? Even rough orders of magnitude would be useful.

    As I think board wargames are more popular in the US than in the UK, I might use a wet-finger estimate that there are five times as many board wargamers as there are miniatures wargamers, purely based on pro-rata’ing the relative populations, but I’d prefer hard data to guesstimation.

    Phil Dutré

    It’s a topic that regularly comes up on boardgamegeek as well. The answer usually is that nobody knows. The next answer is to quote some print runs from published wargames, which might be a rough indicator of the number of active wargamers.

    There also are some surveys, e.g. the annual WSS survey. But surveys are not good for estimating the total number of wargamers, they only tell you something about how many people have filled out the survey. So at least you have a lower bound 😉

    In the end, it doesn’t really matter. The only thing that matters for companies is that they have a good handle on how many product they can sell in their slice of the overall gaming market.


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    Nick Riggs

    Thanks Phil!

    Andrew Beasley

    Wonder if the wholesale distributors would know and share rough figures?

    Main issue I can think of is that more small direct sales (forgive the phrase by ‘mom and pop’ outlets) are made in gaming than classic retail that I think the figures would be unrealistic and not a true reflection.

    Norm S

    Not a straight forward answer because we no longer live in a world in which you are either a boardgamer or a figure gamer, the huge sales in GMT’s Commands and Colours system attests to that, as do the fact that gridded games for figures have become commercially viable with rules like To the Strongest. People are increasingly doing both.

    Of interest is the French Vae Victis magazine. It is a wargame magazine with a boardgame in it. the first half of the mag is committed to boardgames, the second half to figures and it remains a fully viable magazine with a shared audience of interests.

    I know that a figures based set of rules recently sold out of a 3000 set print run after 5 years and there is enough potential for a reprint.

    Boardgames are often run on p500 / kickstarter schemes, so 1000 supporters could easily see a fully commercial print run of 1000 – 2000 games and these often go into reprints.

    Another important factor is that the number of different and new boardgame designs published each year significantly towers over the number of printed rule sets, so that total represents high volume sales, though shared across many titles.

    40 years ago, Avalon Hill could easily shift  print run of 30,000 and the likes of basics quad leader and Panzerblitz hit the 100,000 mark.

    You can’t even use magazine sales any more to gauge gamer numbers as so many it seems have abandoned magazines, being able to get free content night after night on the internet.

    At their peak in the early 80’s the S&T magazine that included a boardgame in each issue was circulating as a bi-monthly at around 35,000 copies.

    I did read somewhere that Covid had increased the crossover in gamer interest as the boardgame offers a small footprint game for big battles and many of the titles play well as solo games.

    I have collections of both.

    Nick Riggs

    Thanks Andrew. Interesting points, Norm. One thing that occurs to me is that the incredibly large number of boardgames being published compared with wargaming rules means that boardgame players will often frequent BGG and see more value in it, whereas some tabletop rules players may stick with and play the same rules sets for years on end, and therefore feel no need to visit BGG and weigh in.

    Norm S

    I wonder how long the boardgame publishing bubble can last. Certainly on Kickstarter, games are receiving a huge bundle of stuff and no longer has it arrived and the next Kickstarter is off. I also note at Consimworld (boardgame forum) that quite a lot of the older gamers are slimming down their collections.

    For myself, I am turning my collection increasingly over to series type games, so that only one rulebook has to be learned to be able to play all of the game in that series. Bit by bit I am trying to cover the various periods that interest me. In that regard, those figure gamers who have happily found a single set that they can know and understand to get the most out of them, are at a place that I think some boardgamers can envy.

    BGG is a valuable place for the boardgamer and though the site hosts rulebook systems such as Black Powder, it generally does not have an audience that has been big enough to generate a momentum of visitors.

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