I have to admit that I am currently being strongly drawn to Warhammer 40K! I'm not really sure what the motivation is - nostalgia, aesthetics or possibly that it gets played at the club a lot - but nonetheless, I want to put together a Space Marine army. Unfortunately, when I looked up the GW website I was horrified to discover just what the cost would be! A starter box of about 35 figures and 3 vehicles sets you back a whopping £140! And that probably only amounts to about a third of what you really need to play a decent size game!
But this got me to thinking about the value of an individual figure and the context in which it seems OK to pay over the odds for them. First off, the material seems to have a big value. Most people I know seem to value metal over plastic because of the heft of the miniature. And to be honest, I actually fall into that category. For some unknown reason, it feels better to pick up a miniature that has a bit of weight to it. But then we look at resin figures. They are as light as plastic, but are much crisper and more detailed than their metal counterparts. But in the end, once a figure is painted to a reasonably high standard, does it really matter what it's made of? I have come to the conclusion that it probably doesn't.
Take the recent move away from metal towards plastic for Malifaux. The prices have remained unchanged; you are still looking at £25 odd for about 6 figures. But this doesn't seem like a bad deal. The figures are very well detailed and full of character. Also, look at the figures you get in the WH40K box set Dark Vengeance. I think that the quality of these castings sets GW head and shoulders above almost all plastic figures I've ever seen! And you get about 50 for £61.50 (and a good bit cheaper if you shop around!). And the Finecast figures are just superb! I actually bought a Blood Angels Chaplain (shown below) a while ago just to paint and was most impressed with the quality of the resin (perhaps this was the seed of my heresy!). Whatever problems they used to have, GW have sorted it.
|A Chaos Space Marine character from Dark Vengeance. This is plastic!!|
|What's not to love about this?|
So, boutique games or top quality plastics in small numbers? I'm totally fine with paying for plastic what I would pay for in metal. BUT!!! The game changes when you're trying to put together an army of 50 or so figures or more. In this case, you can get metal figures of perfectly good quality for about £1 to £1.50 each. If you were building a platoon for Chain of Command or something then you could get a whole platoon in metal for about £50 at the most from Artizan. And in this case, plastic figures usually offer a cheaper alternative to build your forces, albeit for a slight drop in quality, in my opinion. (I'll admit that the new Perry WW2 stuff has changed my mind about that!)
So, why do GW think it's OK to charge £25 for 10 Space Marines when you need about 40, plus characters and vehicles, etc? We know they can cost this stuff cheaper. One look at the Dark Vengeance box set shows you what they can produce for a pretty reasonable cost. A rule book, templates and about 50 figures for £61 seems fine. You'd pay that for a decent board game these days. Of course, the argument that they can charge what they like holds. If that's what people value their product at then that is their business. I, however, do not!
So I am refusing to pay the RRP for anything from GW if I can help it and I include some of the discount online retailers in that. There are some good 25% discounts to be had, but the shipping just bumps it back up. My project, therefore, is to acquire a Space Marine army for what I actually think it's worth. This will probably mean eBay for the most part, so we'll see how we go. I aim to try and average out at about £10 a unit, so getting close to about £1.25 per figure taking big stuff into account. Of course there may be some characters that I have to buy new, but as long as it's offset by some cheap as chips bargains, that will be OK. I'll no doubt let you know how it pans out!