Help support TMP

"What is a fair price for wargames rules" Topic

26 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Wargaming in General Message Board

Areas of Interest


Featured Hobby News Article

Featured Ruleset

Featured Showcase Article

Cheap Scenery: Giant Mossy Rocks

Well, they're certainly cheap...

Featured Profile Article

The Training of an Assistant Editor

How a two-year search for an Assistant Editor finally ended.

Current Poll

679 hits since 4 Jun 2020
©1994-2020 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Northern Monkey04 Jun 2020 8:44 p.m. PST

I am in the process of waiting for a new set of rules to be released and was interested to follow a discussion about the cost of wargames rules compared to wargames figures. It did make me wonder whether we view rules highly enough. The game company were proposing a price that was the equivalent of three packs of 8 unpainted 28mm figures from a well know company.

Assuming that a set of rules is well produced and presented, and in this case from a company whose games I have always really enjoyed, this seems to be rather cheap. I was wondering what do people think is a fair price for a rule set?

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Jun 2020 9:26 p.m. PST

I think of it this way.

In terms of "cost to develop" it is hundreds of hours of labor to write, test, tweak, play test, etc. Then some cost to finalize, edit and publish, on paper or PDF. At $50 USD each very, very few designers will make minimum wage.

In terms of "entertainment" value – if the rules give you an entertaining game that lasts 2.5 hours, that's the length of a movie. So 2 movie tickets (you and your opponent) is what, ?30 with no snacks or parking? And a rule set can easily give you a dozen such games.

But at the ened of the day a fair price is what people will pay.

HMS Exeter04 Jun 2020 11:09 p.m. PST

It's difficult to generalize. As with all things you're balancing cost with value. An inexpensive rules set that is a poorly produced, incoherent, train wreck has little value and represents a questionable bargain even for pennies. As production values rise, clever innovations are introduced and thorough testing conducted the cost must inevitably rise.

Unless you're willing to fence sit until reviews come out, or it flys or stalls at cons, or your crew take them up,…

ya pays ya money, and ya takes ya chance. After that you'll know if it was a good value.

Coyotepunc and Hatshepsuut04 Jun 2020 11:35 p.m. PST

I would figure that a full color 200-page rulebook is going to cost more that a one page photocopied rules sheet that goes along with a convention game.

UshCha05 Jun 2020 1:16 a.m. PST

We estimate it took two of us, both enginneers somthing like 2000 hre to define and write Maneouvre Group. Thats not including time from our friends play teating for free. Most of it was fun but the last 6 months was hard work, reading and re-reading to get it suitable for the market.

We knew it would not ever make money. Two well paid engineers is a LOT of money.

We decided that £10.00 GBP was better than giving it for free as it meant it was only bought it was wanted it so it was a bit of a pleasant feedback system.

We published it only as PDF. This is a bit mean as a small number of folk may not easily access it but it mant less "wasted" time formatting to get a precise length and made it cheaper to the players as the publishing overhead is less.

Why folk want commecial games really supprises me. Our own experience shows you will never make a good economicaly sensible set of rules. The time spent will never be recovered by even the largest wargames rules production run. This is made far worse in my opinion with "Coffe table" rules that spend valuble resource on pointless photos. Rules need just clear line diagrams.

Decent wargames rules will always be a labour of love not a commerial proposition. Perhaps a better question is why pay lots of money for production, cards, pretty photos excetra when you can have just as good a set of rules for much less?

The gerat rules like DBM never sunk to the level of needing pointless photos to demonstrate there worth.

Decebalus05 Jun 2020 3:00 a.m. PST

The problem of rules as seen from buyer side are threefold.

1) That rules are cheap for the fun they give, is true for boardgames who are ready to play, but not for wargaming rules. You have to factor in all the other costs you have, i.e. the armies and the terrain. Wargaming is still a cheap hobby, but you cant compare two hours wargaming with a cinema ticket. (and maybe buying a new ruleset wont give you the fun, you have, by looking at new bought houses, treey or civilians on your battlefield.

2) Most rules nowadays see many, many versions, making all older versions absolutely worthless. If i buy a new FoW army for 500, it will still have a worth of 250 after 5 years. If i invest in 4 FoW rulebooks for 100, they will have a worth of 10 after five years.

3) There isnt much innovation in rules. So (including the effort to learn new rules) it is often not worth to get new rules, because they will be more or less the same. I own and like DBA. Maybe Triumph or AdG are better rules, but are they so different, that it makes sense to invest the money only to notice the little difference?

FusilierDan05 Jun 2020 4:18 a.m. PST

There's a few factors that go into it but I find $25 USD-$30 is my price point. I'm getting more selective in my old age and have a a few sets of rules I like so am reluctant to buy new sets that may not get past the getting read stage.
That said I don't think $50 USD is outrageous but I would have had to have played the game first.

Desert Fox Supporting Member of TMP05 Jun 2020 7:42 a.m. PST

+1 FusilierDan

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Jun 2020 7:45 a.m. PST


Keep in mind, though, many rule sets exist to sell models and codexes/army books.

The Flames of War guys made good money on their rules, in part because it sold models. Ditto 40k, Infinity, Warmachine et. al.

Not sure Black Powder made any money (once time is taken into account) but you don't write rules to get rich…

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Jun 2020 7:50 a.m. PST


Of course, if you buy rules for a period you already have models for, movie tickets are a more apt comparison.

Multiple versions in not new. WRG went through what, 7 editions? I have dozens of rule sets from the 80s and they are already on multiple editions. So that is not new.


I think in part the photos is because you can do it now. I published a fanzine as a teenager. It was very expensive to print simple black & white and took a lot of special skills to do so. Now anyone can publish a full color, lavishly illustrated book for comparative pennies.

Also, gamers love eye candy. I know plenty of gamers who buy the rule book for the pictures.

Kevin C Supporting Member of TMP05 Jun 2020 8:06 a.m. PST

It depends on how much you enjoy the game.

MajorB05 Jun 2020 9:11 a.m. PST

Calculate the cost of printing from your preferred printer/publisher.
Add a reasonable % markup for your profit margin.
And you have a sell price.

arthur181505 Jun 2020 12:59 p.m. PST

'Fair'to whom?

To the purchaser, who is frequently buying rules without having had the chance to play them first, who has to rely on the publisher's announcement, and reviews if he's prepared to wait for them to appear?

Fair to the rule writer, who may have put a great deal of effort into researching the background, writing, playtesting and formatting the contents for publication?

A 'fair' price for the former will make little or no reward for the latter, whilst a 'fair' price for the writer may dissuade wargamers from buying untried rules.

My personal view now is:

1. Stick with simple rules I have that work satisfactorily – I can always 'tweak' them to suit my tastes – so I don't waste money or time buying rules I end up not playing.

2. Only experiment with new rules that I can download for free or that appear in magazines like Lone Warrior or WSS that I buy anyway. All I'm investing is my time.

3. Don't bother with any rules that are long and/or complex as they will take too long to learn myself/teach others with whom I play and may be impossible to 'tweak' easily.

toofatlardies05 Jun 2020 3:07 p.m. PST

Calculate the cost of printing from your preferred printer/publisher.
Add a reasonable % markup for your profit margin.
And you have a sell price."

That does rather seem to presume that the cost of developing the rules is zero. The only cost is the print run.

coopman05 Jun 2020 6:35 p.m. PST

I prefer simple rules like "DBA V3" and "TRIUMPH!", but don't mind paying up to $50 USD or so for rules that are a total package and beautifully illustrated and inspire me to get involved in the period. "ADLG" is a great example of this.
I despise "codex" type publications where there is a basic rulebook and then numerous add'l. supplements which have the OBs, unit stats, unit cards, etc. needed to play the game in each specific theater of operations. "FOW" is a good example of this in all of its versions.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP06 Jun 2020 1:55 p.m. PST

I'm not sure "fair price" is a useful concept here. Everyone would like to be rewarded for time spent, but we pay for the pleasure we get out of something, which can be quite different. EC's right.

Coyotepunc is only half right. The 200-page full color rules will be priced higher than the one-page set initially, but that doesn't mean anyone will or should pay that price. The only time the 200-page rules set is objectively superior is if you're weighting something down while the glue dries. In rules sets, length is a poor indicator of utility or pleasure. Other than rule junkies, people won't pay for new rules if the ones they've already paid for are satisfactory, and they won't pay much if good ones can be found in old magazines--nor should they be expected to. (Tournament-prone rules also have a problem of longevity. My troops last forever, but a lot of rules die of old age in three years. It's really more like they're rented.)

Me? Mostly home brew or taken from a magazine. The exceptions--the times I bought new professionally-published rules and have not regretted it--are two types. Either I buy clear simple rules all in one volume like the Mersey Ospreys and pay what they ask, or the rules are a bonus, and what I really paid for was the campaign system, the scenario generator, the orders of battle or the terrain-making guide.

Back to you, Boreal Simian. Did you write the rules to make money? If so, you were poorly advised. Next time buy penny stocks or pan for gold. If you wrote them because the research and writing gave you pleasure, you have been rewarded, and the pay is a bonus. Also please note that if someone is actually offering to write you a check, you're ahead of the game. I very much doubt that most people who self-publish ever make back the printer's bill. Not fair, perhaps. But in a fair world, most of us would be much poorer, and perhaps dead.

Lucius06 Jun 2020 2:01 p.m. PST

I'll pay the same for rules as I do for a good board game, but I'll only commit to a game that has numerous balanced scenarios, and has some unique mechanic.

Frankly, the boardgame world produces better games because boardgamers expect more, and will spend more. They'll pay for something that gives them a few hours of pain-free entertainment in terms of rules and components. There's still this weird element of tabletop gaming that expects buyers to DIY key things like scenarios and play aids. Fortunately, games like "Fallout Wasteland Warfare" are chipping away at that.

Yesthatphil06 Jun 2020 5:25 p.m. PST

Interesting discussion. I will look in again if there are any more comments. There are a number of ways to look at the costing, but you can't get more than people will pay (generally) – but if the price is right and the product is good, people will likely come back next time.


Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP07 Jun 2020 10:57 a.m. PST

I find that people will pay for a set of rules if:

Its a set that his opponents are keen for/already playing.

Its a set from a stable that already have a good track record.


Its sad that many folk see free wargames rules as worthless. Many give a good game for the price of printing them out!

Sgt Slag09 Jun 2020 9:23 a.m. PST

I self-published a set of rules for gaming with inexpensive, plastic Army Men figures, back in 1998. I also ran Community Education classes, where I allowed students to play my game, both children and adults. I ran my mail-order business for nine years. I sold around 150 copies of my game, mostly within the USA, but I also had customers in Canada, Australia, and Europe.

My rules cost me around $9.00 USD to print; I never calculated how much time I spent folding, stapling, etc. Nor did I factor in my gas costs running to OfficeMax to print them off on their copiers. They retailed for $12.00 USD-$20.00, over that period.

Was it a success? That is open to interpretation. Locally, it was quite successful: I was always asked to run 2-3 additional classes, every time I ran them, as they sold out for attendance!

My advertising budget was $0.00 USD… I had fun doing it. I still play the game, though I've tweaked it numerous times.

The rulebook was on colored paper, but it was B&W only. At that time, color photocopiers were available, but the cost was $1.00 USD/page, and the book was around 49 pages…

I'm considering putting them on, with color PDF and POD hard cover. The price will be high enough to make a small profit, but I won't get rich, or even need to declare them on my taxes… Sales will not be high enough to warrant that. ;-)

There are no army lists, no high-dollar miniatures to sell, no rules updates every two years to churn the market by sucking additional funds out of gamers' pockets. If I pull the trigger, it will include as much as I can cram into it, for an affordable price. The hard copy will cost a bit, but that is only for those who want/need a hard copy.

My rules have always been aimed at kids new to miniature gaming. For that reason, there is a lot of verbiage dedicated to explaining things like: simple terrain making; simple, effective, painting techniques which are truly fast, and look decent at arm's length; some ideas on adding new vehicles to the rules; how to make a simple gaming table; etc.

For the demographic I am marketing to, everything needs to be spelled out for them, making the rule book longer than a single page. >;-) The game plays fast, using readily available d6's, a tape measure, some circle templates, Army Men, and a few other easy-to-get items.

When I published the first iteration, I included scenarios in the book. Later, I removed them, putting them on the web site, so I could combine the rules into one book (used to be a Basic, and an Advanced book, due to page limitations in the simple binding technique used).

With PDF and POD, I can put everything into one book, without issues. I plan on expanding the scenario list, in the new version. Kids love scenarios, and so do I!

The new PDF/POD options, have opened new vistas for small-time publishers, like me. If the buyer likes the PDF, they can always come back for the POD, if they deem it worthwhile. To me, this is a wonderful time for gamers, and publishers. Cheers!

UshCha10 Jun 2020 7:17 a.m. PST

I have to agree with Sgt Slag PDF is the way forward for rules IF you consider rules as rules and not picture books.

I always note the technical manuals for computer simulation rarely have color pictures except where they are critical to the running of the system. So are you buying the rules as an entertainment, or as a set of rules. You pays your money and takes your choice.

Hence we went for PDF publication.

arthur181510 Jun 2020 11:00 a.m. PST

In the end, a 'fair' price for something that is not a necessity, that you can choose to do without, is what you're prepared to pay.

La Belle Ruffian10 Jun 2020 11:58 a.m. PST

It's a funny hobby, one that started with a lot of home production and utilising toys and models produced with economies of scale.

As time goes by, there's been an increasing acceptance that if we want to have better quality figures and terrain in a wide range of periods and scales, available rapidly and at our convenience, then there are cost implications beyond that of the metal, plus 'somethng for the sculptor/vendor's time'. Now, this may be due to people having less free time, or raised expectations but even when hard plastic became a thing, people understood that tooling costs are expensive.

On the other hand paying for the production costs, other than printing, that come with rules seem to be ignored. I'm not sure why. Is it because people often start by writing their own rules and then continue applying houserules to commercial products? Is it because there are so many free options available these days or figure companies subsidising the cost of rules? What's the added value of having a widely-known ruleset which will make it easy to play down at the club or games store? As DTP became cheaper and better, did a focus on pictures and colour outweigh rules development in many cases as the market became flooded? Perhaps some efforts would have been better as well-produced scenario books

It's similar to painting services. We drastically undervalue people's time, perhaps in part at least because there are so many part-time producers, unlike many other hobbies.

UshCha11 Jun 2020 1:22 a.m. PST

"What's the added value of having a widely-known ruleset which will make it easy to play down at the club or games store?".

To me none, for me its an extention of my interest in warfare, by definition a one size fits all rule set is not going to be the best at one particular job. If it has to appeal to both the drifting type more bothered by the figures, and the historic limitations buff who demands a set that requires some significant knowledge of the period and its tactics. even its Command and control, then it is doomed to be a failure. Part time produces like myself can provide a taylored product to apply to a specific mindset, largeley unfetterd by the need to sell figures or appeal to the coffee table book market.

We are in reallity at the golden age where you can find a set of rules that covers what you want and with the rise of 3D printing whatever models you want to partake of the period/rules you want to play.

La Belle Ruffian11 Jun 2020 5:19 a.m. PST

Dare I say it Ushcha, but you appear to be an outlier in many respects, based on your posting in general?

Perfection is the enemy of progress, so the 'one size fits/suits all rule' isn't necessary for sets to become dominant. Pick out any of the popular rulesets 40K, DBA, WRG, CoC, BA, FoW. BP. Whilst there are many critics of each in turn there are sufficient adherents to ensure widespread adoption and add to the problem of later rulesets trying to usurp them, regardless of their respective quality.

As you said, you spent 2000 hours on your ruleset before you were happy with it. I think most most gamers would rather spend a hundreth of that time on learning a set which will guarantee opponents, then painting or indeed, actually playing with the remaining 1980 hours….

UshCha11 Jun 2020 12:53 p.m. PST

You mean they would WASTE 20 hrs painting! Most of the 2000 hrs was FUN, you start to get an understanding of why forces are organized and what the key drivers are. That to me is intrinsic to writing your own rules and why rules are so important, it is part of under standing warfare.

I could take up football so I could get to play regularly (NOT for me), playing a game that is not interesting makes watching paint dry look exciting and less costly.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.