As I’m prepping this, we’re in the week just following the pre-orders for Lion el Johnson. This was a super big release and unfortunately, GW made a bit of a mess of it with their webstore going down and the Primarch and the new Arks of Omen book selling out before most people were able to get back in.
It was a month ago that we started getting the reveals of the new Primarch, but before that we had the Arks of Omen cards which were running for about 6 months and although I could never make out the Lion Constellation in the first card like some claimed, I definitely picked up on the hints in some of the later cards. So there’s been a lot of hype around this release.
And you know, that’s GWs thing. They build lots of hype, tons of excitement, and release with limited supply. Now, personally, I don’t believe GW have intentionally put together this perfect storm of FOMO. By all reports they’re bottlenecked at the factories. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to understand that GW’s job is to sell you lots of overpriced toys. So it’s always going to be about what to order for Next Week and never how to enjoy what we have today. What we need to do as consumers, is to understand how to best spend our money to get the most out of this hobby and avoid buyers remorse.
When we’re talking about hype, the first thing we need to do is work out what part of the hobby you get the most out of. This is key because the hype machine is constantly trying to paint a picture of you enjoying yourself, but you know from experience what you actually enjoy.
In the Why Warhammer? Video I suggested there are three main ways to enjoy the hobby, obviously this is a pretty big over simplification, but it’s a useful one. So we have Purchasing, Painting, and Playing.
- Having purchasing as it’s own pillar might be a little weird, but most people in this hobby are grown ups with more disposable income than time, and it can be nice to pick something up just to have it.
- The Painting part of the hobby is pretty accepted. Assembling and painting miniatures for many is a pretty relaxing and rewarding hobby where you have something good looking at the end of it.
- Last we have Playing, since these are games we should be having fun playing them. So pretty simple.
So lets look at a couple of examples from my own collection.
First we have a Black Library special edition of Armageddon. You’ll see me open this book for the very first time in next weeks video. It was expensive and I don’t have a fancy bookshelf to display it on currently, but I’m very happy to have it. It’ll eventually be set in a fancy spot to show off.
The second is the Gaunt’s Ghosts box. This one is a little weird as I would like to eventually get around to painting them, but for the time being I’m just happy to have the kit.
Next up we have a few miniatures. The first is the Warden King, I saw this model years ago and really wanted an excuse to paint it. I did eventually justify it to myself by having him feature in our Christmas game of Warcry, but really I just wanted to paint him.
Next is Eisenhorn. Like the Gaunts Ghosts, this is a model I wanted to have because I’m a big fan of the books. In this case though I did actually get around to painting him probably because he’s more of a signature piece.
Last we have a random Jakhal that I picked up from my local GW store as a monthly figure. I have no plans for model, it was just a fun miniature to paint. Currently it’s in the GW Dublin store with a bunch of other versions of the same model which I think is pretty cool. In each of these cases, the hobby part was the entire point, I didn’t have a plan to play these. I think maybe you could make the case that the first two were models I wanted to have, but wanted to have painted rather than in the box.
Finally we have some things I picked up to play more than anything else. I love bloodbowl, so I picked up the most recent starter box when it came out. I already had a few teams from the earlier editions but this was a chance to update to the new rules.
In the middle we have a Imperial Navy Marauder Destroyer. I really enjoy painting Aeronautica models, and in this case that definitely was a factor. What I was more interested in was having a bomber option for games of Aeronautica. So the box with two marauders was picked out primarily for game play reasons.
Last we have the Gnarlwood box. I played a little Underworlds when it first came out, but like many players lost interest after the second season when I felt the constant releases needed to keep up to date got out of hand. I really like the new Nemesis format though, so I picked up the Gnarlwood box to get my hands on the new rules, tokens, and cards. While I’m looking forward to painting the models from this box, the primary goal here was to be able to play in the new format.
Next up lets take a look at some of the ways GW sell their products to us.
When you go to GW’s website, you’ll see this amazing miniature for Lion El Johnson. Okay, currently this is sold out, but at one point there was a link that let you buy this. At least that’s what GW what us to think. Their entire business is based on the idea of selling us a dream. It’s called Image Marketing If you were lucky enough to get a copy of the Lion, you got a box of plastic sprues and not this fantastic miniature which has been painted by the best of GW’s painters.
This might seem obvious. We all know this, and yet it has been an incredibly successful marketing tool. GW sell to us the model on the left and they give us the sprues on the right.
Now, if you’re up for the challenge, the painting side of the hobby can be very rewarding, but it takes time and dedication. While GW sell the brushes and paints you need to get going, they’re also selling the life style. Maybe you can’t buy the Lion, but you can paint him yourself right?
On the left we have a model painted by Neil Hollis who a Golden Demon award very recently. According to the WarCom article, Neil started this model pre-Covid. Although there was a break, he does talk about spending 200 to 500 hours on just one miniature to get it to this amazing standard.
Next to it, I’ve got a model that Pat from the Painting Phase posted as a piss take. Pat’s relatively new to the hobby, and this wasn’t a serious effort. In fact, the more you look at it the more details you see specifically intended to wind people up.
I think it serves a pretty good point though. You’ve got to start somewhere. It is absolutely possible to produce eavy metal style miniatures yourself, but it will require time and dedication.
So if what you love is painting, then be patient with yourself, take time on your minis to get them where you’re happy, and maybe consider picking up projects where you can learn new skills or that will challenge you.
So I’ve just talked about painting, but there’s another side to this. In lots of images on the Warhammer Community site we get to see fully painted armies fighting it out on some fantastic terrain. Again, it’s in Games Workshops interest to sell us the idea that we can have these amazing looking tables. Unless you’re paying a commission painter though, you cannot buy what GW are selling.
It’s definitely something you can do, although for most of us that means focusing on army painting style rather than eavy metal quality. The Painting Phase and Mediocre Hobbies have some great videos showing how to get models looking good and on the table fast.
That does still require a lot of work. Now there is an alternative, you don’t actually have to play with painted models and epic scenery. You can assemble your models and get them on the table straight away. Warhammer Underworlds on the right is a great example of this, the models are all in different coloured plastics so you can easily tell the warbands apart. Obviously that does detract from the overall experience and it might make it harder to actually get some games as some tournaments have painting requirements and people love playing against a painted army.
And that leads us onto the next thing GW are selling. So we’ve had the models, we’ve had the painting, we’ve had the armies assembled. GW also sell the game and along with that the experience. This picture on the left is from the GW website, I’m not entirely sure why everyone is so happy as this 4 player game of 40k looks like a complete disaster. Nonetheless, to enjoy the gaming side of things you need people to play against.
Hopefully you have friends to play against, but that isn’t guaranteed. Even if you do, they might not be interested in the game you’re interested in. You might have to look for like minded individuals in your local store, or maybe travel to a tournament at a convention.
The key part here, is if you’re picking up a box of, for example, Necromunda and you’re expecting to get a game out of it you need to give some thought to who you’re going to play with.
The last thing I’d like to mention here is a general commentary on GW games. They make some great games, but they often rush out content. Back in the day, it was suspected GW intentionally over-powered new products to sell them. I honestly don’t think that’s the case anymore, but they do try to make the new releases competitive. There is a natural trend for the power level to increase, so often the next rules for the next release gets hyped up a bit.
This was the case with the Leagues of Votann codex which released with some controversy. If you were a Squats fan and you picked up this Army, you’ll still be happy today. Those models look awesome. If you picked this army up because it was top of the meta, then you were going to be disappointed. To GW’s credit, an FAQ came out pretty quickly, but the take away here is the games aren’t always balanced, they often have problems, and things do change.
As a side note – In my personal opinion, the best way to play GW games is to take the time to understand the competitive scene. This way you have a good idea whether two factions make for a good game and or would be very one sided. You can chase the meta if that’s something you’re interested in, but you need to go with eyes open knowing that things change.
In this last part, we’re going to talk about how to keep the hype machine under control.
If we know what we want to get out of the hobby, we can start making plans with that in mind. This is pretty easy to say but incredibly hard to do.
GW’s marketing strategy is to sell us the starting point of something. You can have this great experience with these wonderful models, just start by buying this model kit. Often we caught up in this and we’re constantly buying into this idea with new kits. What we should be doing, is looking at the end, the goal, and finding the parts to complete that.
So if we’re looking to own something pretty, we should be thinking about how we’re going to feel about it in a few months time. If it’s something we’re going to put on a shelf, do we have the space? Will we have to take something else down? Sometimes rather than just impulse buys, it can be nice to focus on a certain set. The Necromunda books are a good example, they’re gorgeous books full of as much lore as they are rules that look great together.
If our goal is to make great models, then we need to acknowledge that we’re starting at the start and it will take time and practise to get great results. There are some fantastic guides and youtube channels out there that will help you get your standard up super fast, but it’s absolutely crucial that you take that journey by yourself and celebrate each and every success rather than comparing yourself to the masters. It also takes time. I’m not saying you need to complete your backlog, but you probably should pace your purchases to match your painting speed.
And last, if you’re looking to Play a Game, then work out the steps between now and getting that experience on the table. You’re going to need an accomplice to play with, you’re probably going to want painted models and scenery. There’s always a temptation to get extra factions and options, but initially if you can focus on just getting one basic game going then you’ll be able to maximise your fun. There is a wealth of things that can be said about how best to play, the key part is to make sure everyone has fun. Depending on your opponent, that might mean playing a fluffy list and trying to get the best out of it, or it might mean playing a super competitive list and going as hard as you can.
The GW hype machine is strong though, so lets say you’ve got the next big release sitting in your cart and you’ve got a few seconds to decide whether to hit that green checkout button or not.
- Is this the right purchase? Once I open up that box whats inside and will that match the image of what I think I’m getting. Will I need to do more work? If I’m keeping in budget, what else could I be getting instead?
- Do I want to paint this? What level of paint job will I need to do to be happy with this purchase?
- Will I get to play this? Is that a realistic goal? Am I willing to take the steps needed to get it on the table? Is this helping me get a game on the table or is it just another option?
- And finally, Do I have the time? Painting and playing are big commitments when it comes to time and each project we add to the list is likely to pushing something already there into our backlog.
If after asking these questions you’re still not scared off, then go for it. You’ll still end up making some reckless purchases that you probably shouldn’t, but at least you’ll have gone in with eyes open.
The Warhammer hobby is incredibly rewarding, but Games Workshop is still a business looking to make money. So each week we get hyped up on the upcoming releases and we have this image in our heads of how great it could be. Where people end up disappointed I think is when the dream and the reality never quite match. Usually this is because people can’t see the effort you need to invest to get from a pile of sprues to an epic narrative experience on the table. It is possible, it’s totally doable. I’ve posted a few battle reports with my own collection and I’m not entering Golden Demons, but I am slogging away slowly at my collection to get games on the table.
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