The Rules are now Costing us more than the Models

by | Jun 7, 2021

It isn’t new, Games Workshop charging an army a leg for its products, and your average hobbyist has gotten use to this fact. What though has changed is Games Workshop’s multi-stream approach to squeezing every possible last dollar out of us. No place is this more acute than in the play to pay space of new rules. It is something more and more people are noticing and the reasons for the noticing isn’t all together Games Workshop fault. 

It really got going, with Warhammer 40k 8th edition when Games Workshop announced an ambitious release schedule of getting out all the codexes within one year. Now Games Workshop didn’t succeed in that goal, but they did get pretty darn close. What they learned in that time period was that books do actually still sell. They also learned that a digital PDF or Epub didn’t sell enough to justify their continued release, as we came to learn with Warhammer 40k 9th edition; more importantly Games Workshop learned that pirate copies of digital rules cut into all rule sales. 

This Warhammer 40k 8th edition accelerated rules release had a consequences that us as consumers helped enabled. Games Workshop historically had been terrible about releasing rules, with lots of armies going editions without a new codex, but slowly starting in 6th edition with profits growing Games Workshop was able to increase the output of rule releases. Like a frog in boiling water, we didn’t notice until it was too late, as the majority of us were excited to see our armies getting new rules on an almost regular basis, and for Space Marines almost an annual basis. We didn’t notice that we got addicted to new rules, with many of us complaining anytime our preferred army was skipped by another one. When we did get rules for our army, we grabbed them right away, which primed Games Workshop to throw us campaigns, supplements, and White Dwarfs with additional rules and updates. 

While folks complained, it often rang hollow, because even if you didn’t want to give Games Workshop a dime of money one could always found an illegal copy instead. This all changed though with 9th edition and the Warhammer 40k mobile app which is terrible, but it did accomplish one thing for Games Workshop, by getting rid of all those pirated PDFs. Beyond the ridiculous paywall (which you don’t have to pay for); you need a physical copy of the rules to get access to the same rules on the app.

People are paying more and more attention to the costs of playing Warhammer 40k, but thanks partly to our largess and enabling, Games Workshop is now addicted to providing us rules upon upon rules. At this point Games Workshop margins for these books must be magnitudes higher than we can imagine. With costs being kept down, from art to lore, often copy and pasted from pervious sources. 

Now, Games Workshop has fully activated it’s greed machine to keep us buying. To put this in perspective let us break down exactly what you have to pay for the complete rules for the three following factions in Warhammer 40k 9th edition. 

Dark Angels

  • Space Marine Codex: $50
  • Dark Angels Supplement: $40
  • Warhammer 40k Core Rule Book: $65
  • Chapter Approved 2021: $40
    • Total: $195

Imperial Knights

  • Imperial Knights Codex: $50
  • Engine War: $40
  • The Book of Rust: $60
  • Warhammer 40k Core Rule Book: $65
  • Chapter Approved 2021: $40
    • $255

Dark Eldar

  • Drukhari Codex: $50
  • The Book of Rust: $60
  • Warhammer 40k Core Rule Book: $65
  • Chapter Approved 2021: $40
    • Total: $215

As you can see for each one you are spending $200 or more just to play your army. If you really want to get your blood flowing take the Imperial Knights and Drukhari player and breaking down the per page cost for the rules? I will grant you, most folks have ways around the $65 core rule book, thanks to the majority of rules you need to play found in Chapter Approved or other sources. Still, you are paying around $150 to $200 bucks no matter what. Oddly, narrative players have it even worse, as they must also buy Crusade books as well.

Now, when you combo cost bloat with rules bloat, you get the current toxic situation players are witnessing. Let’s take again the Dark Eldar Codex, which was released last month, and already we have had two FAQ updates which invalid the rules found in the codex. Then what about all the FAQs for the core game rules? Combined it has created the now palpable disgust against Games Workshop current rule and FAQs releases. With illegal digital copies (mostly) off the market, we are actually forced to come to grips with the cost of the rules for this game. As well, our aggressive push to make Games Workshop update the same rules constantly has created a stream of FAQs that make our hard copies less valuable. 

I say at least 80% of the blame ultimate falls on Games Workshop for not just releasing rules for free and leaving the collector editions as the means to make money printing paper. Hell, I am sure a monthly paid subscription to an app that actually worked would be enough for most of us, if Games Workshop is determined to make money. We the players though have to take some responsibility for what we helped to create, and find some sort of way to stop this hungry money beast, otherwise this will only get worse and worse. 

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