What can you get for a box of Space Marines?

Recently I expressed my surprise at the cost of some recent GW 40K Space Marine miniatures. I also, back in 2011, suggested using the GW as a universal form of cross-game currency comparison.

But after some consideration I thought that it would be fun to see just what exactly you could get for some other game systems for the same price as that single box of Space Marine Centurion figures. Please note: your results will vary. Games Workshop has some bizarre world-wide pricing that makes it difficult to compare prices from country to country. The same Centurion box that is $94 in Canada is £45 is the UK which converts directly to $77 Cnd. All this is then is what one Canadian gamer could get for the same cost as a Space Marine Centurion boxed set.In order to make this easier to write and research I used the Wayland Games website to do price comparisons. The site allows you to view prices in the currency of your choice. This is not entirely accurate but most companies do not do the same country-based differential pricing that GW does so it made it much easier to pick approximately $94 Cnd of figures from another game system.

The comparison is also not entirely indicative of what one can get for 40K versus some other system based on the unique pricing system that GW uses to raise or lower the MSRP of a product based on its rarity or power level. In terms of plastic and startup costs the Centurion box shouldn’t probably be higher in price than a Tactical Squad box.

Games Workshop
As noted, Games Workshop will provide us with three 40K Space Marine Centurion models (and a pile of bits to be honest)

Centurions

Score: Three plastic models plus a pile of bits. Per model $31.33

Avatars of War
Avatars of War produce plastic, metal and resin 32mm scale figures for games like Warhammer Fantasy Battles. A $94 purchase from AoW will get you

Bronzeshields

  • Dwarf Veteran Champion (1 model)
  • Dwarf Bronzeshields Command plastic group (3 models)
  • Dwarf Bronzeshields plastic set (21 models)

Score: 24 plastic figures and 1 metal figure: Per figure $3.76

Bolt Action
Bolt Action is Warlord Games’ brand for their 28mm WWII figure range. It consists of a mix of plastic and metal miniatures and resin and plastic vehicles. A $94 purchase of Bolt Action figures will get you

German Infantry Set

  • Pioneer Panzerschreck and Flamethrower team (4 models)
  • plastic German Infantry boxed set (30 figures)
  • 2 MG 42 HGM teams (6 figures)
  • 81mm Mortar Team (3 models)
  • German Command team (4 models)

Score: 47 models. Per figure $2

Bushido
GCT Studios produce a 32mm miniature game based on Japanese mythology and history. It is more of a boutique miniature manufacturer. For $94 Cnd you can get:

Bushido

  • The Prefecture of Ryu Starter Set (5 models)
  • Mikio – Sumo Wrestler (1 model)
  • Matsu Takashi (1 model)
  • Daisuke (1 model)
  • Fujitaka (Banner Bearer) (1 model)

Score: 9 models. Per figure $10.44

Dropzone Commander
Dropzone Commander is a 12mm scale sci-fi game produced by Hawks Games. It is a bit of an unusual game in that the starter sets for the armies are typically more than the $94 cost we are using as a guideline. The game will soon have a two-player starter set that will sell for a few dollars more than the Centurions but these products are typically priced more competitively than regular releases so the comparison wouldn’t be fair. Still, for $94 Cnd you can get:

Dropzone Commander

  • 2 PHR Siren Corps infantry (4 stands of 3 models each)
  • PHR Juno A2s tanks (2 models)
  • PHR Triton A2 Strike Dropships (2 models)
  • PHR Neptune Medium Dropship (1 model)
  • PHR Menchit Battle Walkers (2 models)

Score: 11 models. Per figure $8.55

Dystopian Wars
Dystopian Wars is Spartan Games’ 1:1200 scale Victorian Sci-fi air, land and sea game. For $94 Cnd you can get:

Covenant

  • Covenant Naval Battle Flotilla (12 models)
  • Covenant of Antarctica Ptolemy Class Bomber (3 models)
  • Covenant of Antarctica Plutarch Class Destroyers (3 models)
  • Covenant of Antarctica Galen Class Escorts (3 models)

Score: 21 models. Per model $4.47

Infinity
Corvus Belli have been producing amazing 30mm sci-fi figures for their Infinity range for some time.

Infinity

  • Yu Jing – Chinese The Imperial Service Starter Pack (6 models)
  • Karakuri Special Project (3 models)
  • Invincible (HMG) (1 model)

Score: 10 models. Per model $9.40

Malifaux
Another strong contender is Wyrd Miniatures’ Malifaux skirmish games. The range has numerous 30mm steampunk figures. A $94 order will get you:

Rasputina

  • December Acolyte (1 model)
  • Rasputina starter set (5 models)
  • Wendigo (1 model)
  • Silent One (1 model)
  • Arcane Effigy (1 model)
  • Blessed of December (1 model)

Score: 10 models. Per model $9.40

Perry American Civil War figures
The Perry Brothers have been producing 28mm historical figures in metal and, recently, plastic for many periods. For $94 you can get a decent starting collection consisting of:

ACW Infantry

  • 2 American Civil War Confederate Infantry plastic sets (44 models each)
  • American Civil War Cavalry (12 models)

Score: 100 models. Per model $0.94

Warmachine
Privateer Press has expanded into the world of PVC plastics and added numerous boxed sets to their range of 32mm steampunk and fantasy figures. $94 will get you the following Warmachine figures.

Cygnar Starter

  • Cygnar Battlegroup (4 models)
  • Cygnar Stormblade Infantry and Storm Gunners (9 models)

Score: 13 models. Per model $7.23

Obviously the historical ranges give you the most value for your money. And one could venture into the world of 1:72nd scale historical plastics and be even more amazed by the number of figures you can get for your money. Mind you, at that price category they quality is not anywhere near the models that I have listed above.

In a lot of instances the figures listed are also enough to play these games. The Malifaux list is actually slightly more figures than I used to use in a 25 Soulstone battle and the Dystopian War list is about 700-800 points. My last DW game used fewer models and was still a fun evening. Clearly one can’t build a Warhammer army from the Avatars of War purchase but that is the price of playing a mass combat game.

Some of the games were more expensive per model than I thought they would be. Warmachine is less per model than I thought but you do need quite a few more models for it than for games like Malifaux or Dystopian Wars.

To make it all easier to read here is a table of the data with a few other additions from the GW Space Marine preorder page so you can compare those products to some of the models shown here.

Game/Models Models Price per model
Space Marine Centurions 3 $31.33
Warmachine 13 $7.23
Perry ACW 100 $0.94
Malifaux 10 $9.40
Infinity 10 $9.40
Dystopian Wars 21 $4.47
Dropzone Commander 11 $8.55
Bushido 9 $10.44
Bolt Action 47 $2.00
Avatars of War 25 $3.76
40K Space Marine Tactical Squad 10 $5.00
Space Marine Sternguard Veteran Squad 6 $10.00
Deathwing Command Squad 5 $14
Imperial Guard Cadian Shock Troops 10 $3.47

Now to be fair to GW some of their models are actually far more reasonable. Mostly the troop choices but GW models can come down to $4-5 per model. This is less, on average, than the price of a Warmachine plastic troop model. Those prices though don’t reflect some of the most outrageous examples such as the $21 – 35 character models, the $55 plastic Dreadnoughts and the $80 vehicle kits.

Obviously other manufacturers have examples that are just as outrageous. Privateer Press has numerous $100+ models but they are usually much, much larger than GW kits. What makes the pricing for GW products so odd is the scale at which they are produced. Games Workshop makes more figures than any other company and the start-up costs are such a minimal amount of the per unit cost of the figures when you factor in the number sold that they might as well be non-existent. When one talks about the cost of producing a smaller volume unit like Centurions you typically factor in a larger percentage of those start-up costs based on the number of miniatures made. That just isn’t the case for GW though. Even a low volume unit like Terminators or the new Centurions will sell in numbers higher than any other manufacturer could match.

Where GW has costs outside their competitors is the overhead for their staff, infrastructure, advertising and stores. Even a company as large as Privateer Press doesn’t have these kinds of costs at the level GW does. How much of an impact those add to a set of figures is difficult to figure out since GW doesn’t really break out their sales costs in a way that makes it easy to apply them to model sales.

People have been talking for some years that GW was pricing themselves out of the gaming market. The fact that this conversation has been going on for years indicates that there may not be the level of truth to that statement that people think there is.

I think that is it clear that Games Workshop is, year over year, attempting to continue to float their bottom line off of a diminishing set of gamers. The long-term sustainability of that model is, at least to me, doubtful but the company has entered a stage where it has captured their audience not only through the scale of their games but also due to the fact that their core audience probably can’t afford other games. I suspect that they also can’t afford to play 40K and Warhammer in the ways that they did previously. A common theme on message boards is people trading or selling armies or units to afford new models or to expand existing armies. I see a lot more people focus on one or two armies for the games they play.

While it is more of an academic interest to me since I no longer play 40K or Warhammer (the sticker shock at the price of a Necron army was one of the final nails in that coffin) it will be interesting to see what the impact of these continuing price increases and changes will be given that most other systems are keeping their prices more in line with inflation.

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