There’s been a lot of talk on the web about Games Workshop’s recent doings. As is usual with enthusiasts, the talk ranges from Apocalyptic End of the Hobby fare all the way through the spectrum to This Is the Greatest Thing Evar I (heart) GW 4EVS!!!! Actually, that really only applies to the ‘all-new’ Finecast range, which is pretty much all of the metal models from the catalog pulled out of circulation and swapped out for resin castings, along with some new releases for Tomb Kings and Dark Eldar, the most-recently published army books for Warhammer Fantasy and 40k.
The talk about the changes to the distributor agreement and the general price increase has been mostly neutral or negative. As I understand it, GW noticed that people in Australia were buying many of their miniatures from retailers in the UK, because currency fluctuations made the Australian MSRP much higher than paying for figures and shipping from the UK. Independent retailers in Australia, and more importantly, the local GW shops were seeing a lot less business, making them unprofitable, while shops in the UK were rolling in Australian money. Games Workshop made changes to their agreement, making shops sign some sort of agreement saying that they wouldn’t ship figures to certain countries. No agreement, no retail account. Games Workshop claims it’s a move to help recruitment in their local Australian shops, growing the hobby and helping the gaming community in the long run. People who were purchasing or selling the figures across the ocean see it as a ham-fisted moneygrab that restricts free trade and flies in the face of freedom. I think it could have been handled better (Games Workshop isn’t known for being tactful when it comes to legal actions), but I’m sure the company has a few accountants and economists looking over the numbers and this will probably blow over and work out in the end. Gamers in the affected countries will either buy the figures at the higher prices, quit gaming altogether, switch to a different game system from another company, or find another way around paying MSRP and wait for GW to catch onto it and snuff that, too. It probably doesn’t really affect me personally all that much, and it will probably not affect the ‘GW Hobby’ in Australia as much as the Doomsayers are predicting. It wasn’t handled well, and GW’s corporate attitude tends to default to condescending and secretive, but gamers will either pay the enforced prices or find another way around it.
The timing is a little off as well, with the annual price increase being announced at about the same time. Price increases hit about 1/3 of the line, with most of the increases coming in at 10-15% over previous levels. Some of the prices got smaller adjustments. Army books took a decent-sized jump, with the softcover books jumping up to $33 each. The hardbound books jumped up to $41.75. Most of the Lord of the Rings line jumped by quite a bit, and almost every Battleforce and Battalion took a big leap. Then it’s just a random assortment of boxed sets to fill out the remainder of the increases.
One notable thing missing from the annual price increase list is the Finecast models. They didn’t escape from it, though. They got a lot more expensive as part of the rollout of the ‘new’ line. Some of the figures got increases of up to 50%, making them more expensive than comparable Forge World models. Again, aside from a few new releases for Tomb Kings and Dark Eldar, these are the same old metal sculpts recast in resin. The casting quality from the press photos and releases has been pretty bad, with plenty of miscasts, air bubbles, broken parts, and mold lines across the line. Some of the pictures I’ve seen are pretty horrid, with entire parts missing and Space Marine figures with only half a Boltgun. Quality control appears to be uniformly terrible, and so far GW hasn’t addressed it. The much-touted midnight online release also got flubbed, with the website failing to update and offer the new models for same until several hours after midnight. I didn’t buy a lot of the character models anyway, but I did buy some of the metal figures from time to time, and it seems like there are always a couple of must-have units that aren’t available in plastic, so this change will probably affect me a bit. I hope that I can find most of the models for my lists on eBay in the old metal. Unfortunately a lot of other people have expressed the desire to do the same thing, so it may be a good time to put your metal figures up on eBay. So far I am not impressed with Finecast, and the switcherooney price increase that goes along with the change seems a bit underhanded.
Will all of this drive me away to another game? Probably not. I am too invested in the background and the figures to really go elsewhere. It really just pushes me further along a path that I’d already started down. The last two or three years of price increases have pushed just about every GW model up and over my psychological impulse purchase line. I can’t just go into the shop and buy an infantry box anymore. More often than not, it seems, I walk out empty-handed after a trip to the shop. Or if I feel really guilty about not buying something I will get a bottle of paint or a Thomas train for my son. Every year there is something, like the repackaging on many of the regiment boxes that dropped them from twenty figures to ten per box and increased the price per figure. Then the next year the ten-figure boxes got another bump in price. This year it is price increases, the great Australian trade embargo, and a poorly-executed exchange of resin for metal. Next year Games Workshop will do something else stupid that many people hate and more than likely increase prices on another group of figures. I can no longer afford to buy every shiny new thing that comes out, so I’ve been brain-storming about what to do. I took a look at my figure inventory and realized that at my theoretical painting rate I have something like a six-year backlog just in Warhammer Fantasy and 40k figures, but much of it doesn’t really fit into any list that I actually want to purchase. My plan is to focus only on the army lists that I really get jazzed about. I will work on one major project each year, and mix in one or two minor projects as well. I’ll probably start with one of my Orcs & Goblins lists, as I have most of the figures for them already, less a couple of trolls and maybe one or two odds and ends. A minor project to go along with it could be a skirmish game (maybe some Pirates or Old West figures), some terrain, or something else that’s been sitting on my shelf for a while. That system should allow me to focus my time and money on projects that are actually meaningful to me. I suppose it’s similar to The Pledge or the Frugal Gaming movement. Talking about it is all fine and good, but the proof is in the doing. Games Workshop will still be getting some of my cash, but not as much of it, and I should be getting more bang for my buck. I hope that the quality control on the Finecast line improves, as I may wind up needing a few of the figures to fill out my lists, and I’d rather not have to build a Boltgun or a cape from scratch.