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GW - Counting the Cost$

Hi all.

I wrote this article a while back and found it in the dusty recesses of my laptop, so I thought I’d dust it and put it on here. The original intention was to send it to BOLS, but they take everything a wee-bit too seriously for my liking anyway. I thought I’d share it with you guys to see what you think...

I continue to read the many complaints voiced by hobbyists at the cost of GW games & the Warhammer hobby in general, yet I haven’t read a single post/article which attempts to argue the case for value. Yes I know, radical? Impossible? Well let’s see what we can gather from a little thought/historical comparison…

To keep it simple I’ll be focusing on 40k products in general using £’s as the currency. This will focus on cost only, even though the contents varied greatly – this comparison is from the view of costs to playing the game at a basic level.

First a little sporadic comparison in time featuring starter sets, some units and Codex books… 2nd Ed Boxed Set (1994) = £39.99 (£19.99 for necessary expansion) 3rd Ed = £50 5th Ed (AOBR) = £56.50 – or £45.50 from an online retailer (little difference over 16 years but better models –less scenery).

3rd Ed Battle Forces were £40. They now range from between £50-60 (£41-48 from a 20% discount retailer - again little difference but better models). Unit Examples: Dark Eldar Wyches 3rd Ed – 5 for £10 (metal) now 10 for £15.50 (£12.40 from 20% discount retailer). Space Marine Tactical Squad 3rd Ed - £10 now £22.50 (£18). Okay Tactical Squads are silly money, but if you want one with a Rhino you may as well buy a discount Battle Force for £41 as it’s cheaper than buying new and you get 15 more models @ 265pts worth basic (or you can sell them).

Leman Russ (1990’s) = £14.99! Now it’s £30.75 (£24.60) but with most of the options and interchangeable parts, in all a £9.61 increase in 15 years.

Another example would be the Space Marine Land Speeder, which was originally metal in 2nd Ed at a cost of £17.99. Now it is plastic, has more options, and costs £18.50 (£14.80). Characters ranged from £2.99-£5.99 in the 90’s to an average of £8-13 now. They are probably the most dramatic increase. Again the quality of the design/mould is also what we’re paying for, as well as its points cost upon the battlefield.

All this said the main thing to consider is how Points Values have changed in relation to models needed from 2nd Ed. Again some are more or less the same, others are half the points cost they were back in 2nd Ed, meaning you need more of them now. A whole article could be written on the differences between the game now and then, but as a quick example Marines were anything from 4-16pts+/- more expensive back in 2nd Ed. On average you’d need about 40-80% more models compared to 2nd Ed. Codex Books: 2nd Ed = £9.99 3rd Ed = £8 (but they were balls) 5th Ed = £17.50 (£14 from discount retailer) or FREE if you know where to look. A £7.50 increase over 16 years isn’t that bad, is it? Think how much cars/house prices/petrol/footballers have risen in that time (I know it’s a wild comparison but everything’s risen in price in the last decade).

There’s an obvious conclusion to be read from this. NEVER buy from GW direct unless you have to. The 20% discount offered by most online retailers can save you about £40-80 on the cost of a new army that’s about 1,500-1,750pts worth, even with delivery added.

So after our comparison we see little difference between individual model costs in the past compared to today. Yes things may be more expensive due to needing more of them but they are also far better quality. Given these prices cover a 15 year period we shouldn’t, realistically, be that surprised. Most products are as expensive as they were 10 years ago, others are more or less expensive depending on what they are. If you really want cheaper gaming with a skirmish type feel then try downloading the 2nd Ed rules & Codex books.

What is Value?

Here I’m talking about our conceptions of value. Many are purely materialistic and see value as how much (in terms of models) they get for their money. I see it as value I get for both money, time & points. A Tactical Squad may cost £22.50 IF I were to buy it from new, yet it may take anything from 1-30hrs + to put together & paint, not to mention the possible infinite gaming time you’ll get as well. It’s also 170-210pts depending on how you equip it, which isn’t bad. If you spend more time on your models then you get more value out of them - simple. I always regard the £’s I spend in relation to Points on the gaming table. Let’s say the average army is 1,750pts (although 1,500 is enough for me). Depending on how you choose your army it will equate to how much it costs. If you want everything mechanised, then expect to pay double the basic cost of the unit. On average you’ll get 10pts for every £1-3 spent depending on which army you buy and how you choose to field them. In this regard most Battle Forces are great value, ranging from 300-500pts+/- in a box. Marines are the most cost effective army to collect & they are also the most popular. Horde armies, especially Guard, are the most expensive to collect, yet you get on average twice as many models for the same points as Marines, meaning more potential painting time.

And those expensive character models? £8-13 for anywhere between 100-200pts+/- & a good afternoon’s worth of painting at least is, again, good value when you take into account the 10pts to £1 principle.

But what about paints & hobby items?

It’s often best to look beyond GW for stuff like this. Army Painter do a basic paint set with 2 Brushes & a can of White Primer for £20. Add Boltgun Metal, Devlan Mud & Badab Black for another £6-8 & you can pretty much paint anything to a basic gaming standard. Add another £6-8 for a can of their colour primer & you can paint an army quickly. Clippers, a knife, a cutting mat, a palette & glue will cost around another £30, but once they’re bought they’re bought (it’s only blades for the knife you’ll need to buy). Dice are cheap & Vallejo paints offer better coverage.


Can’t afford a new army in a single month? Then do a ‘Four Gamers’ & buy it a month at a time. Let’s face it, most of us can afford to spend £40 a month on the hobby, in 6 months you can easily get a 1,500-1,750pt army & have the time to paint it all in between purchases. Given the amount of unpainted armies in circulation and the excess of unfinished/abandoned armies on eBay such an approach may be best, as you’ll be less likely to part with a fully painted army you’ve spent several months collecting. Whilst your army grows, why not proxy in the mean time? Not only will you be able to play games, but you’ll discover what units you want to spend your money on or not.

A Different Perspective…

My dad makes wonderful, award winning model sports/F1 cars. He’s moved onto resin and white metal specialist kits and can expect to pay anything from £90-250+/- on a single kit, not to mention all the spray paints/specialised decals he buys. On average he’ll eek out over 100hrs onto a kit, which makes his investment good value for money at £2.50 an hour, max. Once he’s finished they just sit in a cabinet and look pretty. For £250 we can buy an army, spend as much time, if not more, making it look just as pretty & we can conquer or destroy worlds with it afterwards.


Ultimately the hobby will cost as much as you want it to. If you want a really nice, forgeworld parts & all, 1,500-1,750pts army, then expect to pay £350+ for it. Games of 40k can be played at 400-750pts on a 4X4 space and are just as much fun (for me) as larger games. A Battle Force & a Character will set you back about £60 or less, a Codex book can be free & books/household items can be scenery. No one is forcing us to buy huge 3,000-12,000pts armies. If you feel you need to buy at least one of every unit in the Codex then of course it’s going to get expensive quickly. If you’re competitive you may have to spend more on those choice units, but that’s your decision.

A lot rides on your own creativity as well. If you want a cheap skirmish game then try using 1-2 squads at equal points using the free Necromunda rules as a base – no one’s stopping you. If you are part of a trust-worthy, close-knit gaming group why not collaborate on an army and share the burden? You can then swap the army around between each other & if you model/paint it well you’ll easily make a profit if you decide to sell it on later.

As a close I honestly don’t think Warmachine is any better value per model, it’s only better value as you need less to play a game (although 40k can easily be played from 400pts). The way they’ve structured their points is representative of that. I’ve noticed the new Khador Gun Carriage has gone up for advance order for £53 here in the U.K. Considering I can get a Stompa or a Baneblade for £50 I’d say that wasn’t good value in terms of modelling (although it may well be comparative points wise). Who’s to say Privateer Press won’t write rules (optional or not) for bigger games because they think it will be ‘cool’? To me that’s a natural progression & things like the Gun Carriage are the start of that progression manifesting itself.

Gaming and collecting should be fun, if you’re not having fun then you're better off spending your money elsewhere. I still love playing GW games & the cost hasn’t deterred me from stopping yet. I feel it’s up to hobbyists to be more economical with how they buy their armies. Fight the ‘I MUST HAVE IT’ bug, buy to a list like you would for your groceries, eat less take out & proxy an army if you want to know exactly how that army you think you want will play, if playing is your main concern, before you invest your hard earned money.

I know GW's rules/design team aren't perfect with their approach to the community & I know many of us (myself included) feel there games could be more dynamic/realistic/towards how we feel a certain army/unit should play. After nearly 18 years of playing GW games I no longer expect them to be perfect or as balanced like a tight rope walker - yet this never stops me from having fun whenever I play. I feel the community's internet tournament mentality/fixation is as much a problem as anything. Warhammer has never really been written with tournament play in mind, so why expect it to be tournament perfection? Yes GW could write specific rules for Tournament's in mind, but that's never really been the spirit of GW's games.

So what do you think? Do you think the hobby has become too expensive compared to 15 years ago? Do you see value purely in money terms or do you think that per hour the hobby is good/bad value? If GW were to release (hypothetically speaking) official skirmish rules that offered a same entry cost as games like Warmachine would that make the hobby better value?

Thanks for reading - Warspawned.


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