So, over the weekend the new sixth edition of Warhammer 40,000 was released for pre-order by Games Workshop.
My initial reaction was ‘nice cover art’, and then the rather major issue of the price tag intruded noisily into my consciousness.
Be fair, I’m surprised that GW didn’t just make the book £50, what with it being price-riding season again over in Lenton, but no, this weighty 452-page volume is a snip at a mere £45.
But the question must be asked, do we really want to pay forty-five of our Earth Pounds for a wargaming rulebook?
Admittedly, two years ago I shelled out the same amount of money for the eighth edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, so I’m not judging anyone, but since the summer of 2010 two things have happened: 1) I became a father and as such now have only a pitiful allowance to support my plastic crack habit so that we might feed and clothe my infant daughter; and 2) I’ve encountered the products of quite a few other games, including their much, much, much cheaper rulebooks.
This isn’t a price rant, I have no sympathy for those who seem genuinely affronted that a large, international , publicly traded corporation should behave like the business it actually is. I know that this is an expensive hobby, but really, really, £45 just for the rulebook?
I’m sure that the book is exquisitely well produced, generously illustrated and presented in full colour throughout its 452 pages and from that point of view it is probably well worth the price tag. But are those really the attributes we want in a gaming rulebook? Don’t we just want something that will tell us the rules and that won’t drag us down when we are trudging through the snow to and from games?
Games Workshop have a justified reputation for pushing the envelope in terms of what it is possible to provide to the wargaming customer – usually in the form of ever larger and more elaborate kits for us to buy. But in this case I have to wonder if they are pushing the limits of the possible in an entirely inappropriate direction. I’m not sure there is anyone out there who genuinely decides what tabletop game to take up based on the sumptuousness of the rulebooks.
Given that future 40k Codices are probably going to follow the route taken by Warhammer Armies books and go all swanky and hardcover, WFB and 40k gamers are going to have a lot of weight to cart around, and very little of it will be all that relevant once to have minis on the table and the dice have started to clatter. Pretty pictures are all very well, but the primary purpose of a rule book is to tell us the rules, not to allow us to dazzle our friends and colleagues with the production values of said book.
In contrast, for the price of the new 40k rulebook I can purchase both the new Dropzone Commander rulebook from Hawk Wargames and the new edition of Firestorm Armada from Spartan Games, and still have some change left over to get some actual toys. Admittedly, neither book will be as elaborate as the 40k book, but I can be confident that they will tell me the rules of the respective games.
And again, I will have some spare cash left for toys, and surely that’s the point. Companies sell game rules as a means of encouraging us to buy miniatures. As if GW are now charging us so much for rules that there’s nothing left for the shiny then something has clearly gone wrong.
As for the Collector’s Edition, all I can do is echo the words of Homer J Simpson when confronted by a talking astrolabe in Tis the Fifteenth Season – “Oh god, it’s so unnecessary!” I’m sure it’s very spangly, but paying twice the price won’t make the rules any clearer, stop them becoming obsolete any quicker, or make the coffee and BBQ sauce stains disappear. And I doubt Fiona Bruce and the team from Antiques Roadshow will ever be clucking with barely contained excitement over a wargaming rulebook someone found in the attic. Of course, maybe this can be taken as a sign that gaming is becoming part of the mainstream, which has been using ‘collectors edition’ to mean something pointlessly ostentatious. I just hope the bragging rights are worth the extra forty quid.
Maybe this is all part of an attempt by GW to position themselves as being at the ‘prestige’ or ‘premium’ end of the market. Maybe they are trying to portray themselves as Marks and Spenser’s compared to Mantic’s Asda. Personally, I’ll stick with the mid-range Sainsbury’s of Spartan and Hawk.
I talked in my last blog post about how I was taking the change in editions as an opportunity to finally break from 40k and GW in general, and seeing the book has not changed my view. It’s not simply the money, it’s that I no longer feel I get the return for my investment in terms of value and enjoyment. Other games just don’t make buying and collecting quite so much of a chore and don’t give the same sense of pressure to keep buying more and bigger stuff no matter what. I look forward to a life free from the frustration and anxiety of wondering when (if ever) my army’s codex will be redone.
So, I think it’s so long to 40k for me. A few books and toys I know I will never use have already gone on eBay. The Brazen Angels will probably end up being a cool painting project I will dip into now and then.
I have the rulebooks for Dropzone Commander and the new edition of Firestorm Armada on the way, plus I still have the new version of Dystopian Wars to get to grips with and I have managed to get hold of a full pdf of the Heavy Gear Blitz rules. I shall have plenty of cool gaming stuff to read without having to worry about the 40k rulebook.