Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Horus Heresy Plastic Kits: Positive or Negative?

So, it finally happened, the rumoured Horus Heresy plastic kit is on its way from Games Workshop. There are a few opinions floating around at the moment about it, and I want to delve into the subject in more depth.

First, some things to keep in mind about me,

-I have been in the Warhammer hobby since 1993
-I run my own engineering/manufacturing business
-I cast my own resin miniatures/bases just as a hobby
-I understand economics from a business stand point
-I have a naturally cynical mind, and it means I am very cautious and like to think very long and hard before I venture an opinion. I don't like being wrong, so if I give an opinion, there is a 99% chance that if you disagree we are going to end up in a long fruitless debate....

Ok, enough of that, onto the topic at hand!

The Positives:

-Games Workshop will provide a boost to the hobby by introducing new and cheap plastic kits, even if it's just a starter set.
-A plastic HH starter set will allow players who are curious about the game, yet daunted by the cost of Forge World, a chance to try out the game and see if its for them.
-Plastic kits are easier to work with and will be easier for less skilled hobbyists to pick up and use. They won't deal with the horror of building a Storm Eagle until later on....
-A plastic kit can also provide a cheap set of rules that would likely be useful to most heresy players, who have to cart a metric ton of books around wherever we play.

The Negatives:

Ok, here is where it isn't dot-point easy anymore... you see, the negatives are 'what ifs' and they mostly have to do with GW's continually flawed business model, poor ethics, and their seeming contempt for the very people they make miniatures for.

So, I will try and answer via a set of questions either directed at me personally or that I keep seeing floating around on forums. Think of it kinda like an FAQ/Errata.

Q: Is this just Games Workshop trying to jump in on Forge World's 'cash cow'?

A: Yes. Quite simply, Games Workshop is going through some changes at the moment, trying out the Age of Sigmar (please don't bring that cluster up in the comments) and this choice has upset the boat. I know this is a 30k blog, however it directly affects the hobby overall. Fantasy was dying a slow death, no matter what GW did, they weren't generating sales, so they made a choice: they knowingly infuriated the old guard aka the players who have been with it for a while but who rarely purchase as they have full forces by destroying their world, and their fluff. They did this not out of contempt or spite (no matter how one might feel) but because a new and simple setting was viewed as a way to bring in fresh blood. This tactic has been surprisingly successful, and apparently has generated renewed interest in the Fantasy hobby. Games Workshop however has had some bad times financially, and even the experimental Age of Sigmar isn't enough to dredge them out of the sludge. So, where do they look?

The Horus Heresy.

Q: Does Games Workshop know what to do with the Heresy?

A: No. Games Workshop has maintained an uncanny ability to miss the point since the late 90's. They understand that people like their models. They understand that people like their fluff. The problem is that GW doesn't understand WHAT it is that people like about the setting. This is what has led to an ever increasing range of derptacular miniatures and equally poor fluff. Forge World's design staff are incredibly invested in the hobby, they engage with the community, they are on Facebook pages, they attend events, and they make an incredible effort in the area of writing both rules and fluff, two things that Games Workshop doesn't do. Call me cynical (I am) but Games Workshop reeks of committee thinking whenever a codex or rulebook is written. Forge World seems to be mostly written by fans, for fans. There's no violent fluff violation going on, they also leave it open to a player's interpretation rather than say black and white 'here is what happened' unlike, say, Matt Ward's works.

Q: Will Games Workshop make other sets for the Horus Heresy, not just the sprue of MK IV power armour and a command sprue?

A: Probably. The kit would likely sell quite well in the Americas and Europe, where plastic kits from GW are much cheaper when compared to resin, whilst the kits will conversely sell more poorly in the Pacific region, where Games Workshop likes to double costs because... well, they can.

Q: What will Games Workshop's models for the Heresy be like?

A: You've already seen them. Snap-fit characters that are a pain to convert, and multi-part complicated infantry. If you ask me, this should be the other way around, a command set should have at least detachable arms with multiple weapon options, whilst the infantry really only need to be simple line troops, where snap-fit construction would be most useful. This is because GW is intent on making horribly hard to convert snap-fit characters, who often wear cloaks (which they did yet again on this sprue) and who are practically set in stone. Worse yet, if they move towards making units which are their own invention, not Forge World, they will probably derpy. I will now cite my favourite examples of GW derp:

-Storm Raven
-Storm Talon
-Space Marine Centurions
-Chaos Mutilators
-Logan Grimnar's sleigh

Eeeerrrrmerrrgerd! Mutilator!

It is notable that Games Workshop's new MK IV armour sprue comes with all the options for a tactical squad as per 40k, not 30k. I'm not sure what this means. Also, a plastic MK I Rhino won't happen. A plastic MK I Land Raider won't happen. They DID happen 20 years ago, but the current MK III Land Raider and MK II Rhino are good kits, in good condition. I can foresee more variants of these vehicles, but I highly doubt a true heresy tank kit will be produced. I would be more willing to put money on Games Workshop trying to shoe-horn in some of their 40k range into the heresy instead, such as the Stalker/Hunter rhino, the Razorback, and probably Centurions, even if they don't aesthetically fit.

Q: Will Games Workshop take over the Heresy from Forge World?

A: No. I highly doubt that they will. The quality changes to the product would kill the cash cow. Games Workshop is trying to ride on the hype of the Horus Heresy, and they can simply produce their own kits and basic rules, all whilst Forge World does the heavy lifting.

Q: Will Games Workshop change any rules?

A: I honestly don't know. I don't want to think they will, however, they brought out 7th Ed with clearly no warning to Forge World (from memory it came out like a week or two after Book III: Extermination, and it messed up a lot of entries in that book) so I wouldn't put it past them. As I noted earlier, Games Workshop doesn't quite understand what it is that people enjoy about the fluff, or the rules for their game, and they seem to flail around trying to hit at an idea. Now I'm all for changing rules and experimenting... just you have to actually playtest them and get active feedback (aka the Mantic approach) otherwise you just end up with something that the developers love but the fans scratch their heads over.

Q: Will Games Workshop release Primarchs?
A: No. They wouldn't sell enough for it to be financially viable in plastic. You'd be lucky to sell one per army, and only a few die-hard collectors like me would buy the whole range. The fact that Forge World produces incredibly high-quality versions of these models already means that Games Workshop already has it covered. Further to this, the price difference would be negligible, unless GW suddenly decides they've stopped loving money. Why do I say this? Their decade old Nurgle Daemon Prince model is $62Aus, whilst Forge World's Lorgar is ~$110, comes on a 40mm base, has a 60mm display base, and is as large as and far more detailed than even said Daemon Prince as well as not being finecast. For Games Workshop to release a plastic snap-fit Primarch, I wouldn't foresee it being any less than just $20 cheaper than a Forge World one.

Q: How much will it cost to buy the box set?

A: Similar to any other similar starter-type set from Games Workshop, but far more expensive than it should be. Cynical? Yep. Games Workshop neglects that fact that you have to make your hobby seem like a bargain in order for people to be attracted to it, and this starts with the starter set. You only have to look at Fantasy Flight games business model to understand how to do it right, cheap starter set, enough minis to play a game, endless variety of cheap kits with EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED in them.

(Here I will go on a slight rant. Be warned)

GW: Lets make kits with extra bits, but, we'll never give the gamer all the bits they need. You want 2 grav guns in your squad? The squad only comes with 1, buy another box just for that one weapon. We'll justify it as saying they now have a whole squad of 10 men worth of spare bits that they can sell on if they like. Bargain right?

Fantasy Flight Games: Lets offer them a B-wing. You want 2 aces and a rookie pilot? Done. You want markers as well for that vehicle? Done. It's all in the box with the pre-painted cheap miniature.

All hail your new plastic Heresy armour producer: Games Workshop.

The Fallout:

I am sharing my opinions, based on having viewed how GW has operated for 20 years, not just as a hobbyist, but as a businessman. I don't have any 'facts' to back my claims, and I don't want to present them as facts either. Wait. Yes I do. Why? I'm really confident that this is how it's going to play out. The history of Games Workshop speaks for itself, the positives are there, but the negatives are too. If you want to know why I focused more on the negatives than the positives, it's because the positives work, they are simple and don't need extra clarification. They just are what they are.

If you agree/disagree, I really REALLY want to hear from you, so please, comment below, or on our Facebook page, or via a Facebook PM if you are shy.



  1. I really really hope you're right.

    1. Could go either way, but I haven't been too wrong in the last few years when it comes to their business habits.

  2. Good and feasible sounding analysis, if very depressing. I've always felt that there should be a "Gamers buy a majority share of GW" kickstarter where the community chips in and we buy enough stock in the company to have a say in these stupid, wastefully shortsighted decisions.

    1. A lot of movements have been hinted at but nobody wants to put the money where their mouth is. The fact is, their former acting CEO Kirby said, and I quote "We recruit for attitude, not for skill" (a statement he reiterated in his Chairman's preamble prior to the release of their massive profit loss).

      Doesn't that tell you all you need to know right there? "Skilled, knowledgeable, caring? Pfft, that's nice, I'm just gonna hire Joe-shmo over there because he seems like a happy-go-lucky guy."

    2. I have had a look at their Job adds you write them a letter saying what you can do for them in regard to salary you have to tell them what you are worth only a certain type of person can do that

    3. It's all good and well to look for people who can talk the talk, but you really want to employ skilled workers, who know their subject. Otherwise you end up with a salesman trying to change the product they are selling and then trying to sell it to customers who don't want it.

  3. GW from what i have seen have made Horus Hersey their primary cash cow now my prediction with plastic MK IV plastic marines is on the gloomy side. Worst Case GW deicide to do a 40k end times Abbadons final victory and replace 40k with the age of the Scourging That way they don't step on FW toes

    1. Here I was thinking I was cynical! You've got me beat there Colin. I think that an Age of Sigmar 40k would burn too much if it was done in that way, and I think even GW isn't that stupid... 40K still makes them money, why change, unless over the next year or so there is a marked improvement to the sales of Fantasy to justify such a drastic change in 40k.

    2. I am thinking such a change would be over the next 12 - 18 months two years. The trouble is aside from PR issues GW see it self as a model manufacture they don't think about the games its the models. So instead of fixing the game they think producing better models are the answer like our 40k sales are falling lets make better models in an new era sigh

    3. As I said above, they miss the point... Every. Damn. Time.

  4. I think you’ve hit it pretty much on the head. Unfortunately.

    I really, truly hope that GW can restrain itself from meddling too much (its unlikely though). I don’t want to see Centurions and Stormtalons etc in 30k (although granted there are some good uses for the Centurions, I’m using them to make Squat Exo-Armour), their aesthetic doesn’t fit at all with Heresy setting, they’re just a bit too cartoonish. I could live with the Hunter/Stalker making the jump, I think design wise it could be explained as a development on the Rhino chassis to bridge the gap when an Expeditionary force didn’t have enough Sicarans. Or something like that anyway.

    Nor do I want to see the sillier aspects of AoS creeping in, the “Ride your imaginary horse for a reroll” sort of stuff, for the most part society shuns us enough as it is without making us look a bit batshit to boot.

    In all honesty I could have lived without GW doing plastic Heresy stuff. Forgeworld may be expensive but it comes with the caveat that you know you’re getting quality, not just in the model but in the rules as well.

    With any luck GW’s set will be a different set of rules to the FW ones, if for no other reason than it means you can draw a line in the sand and say “you keep your Centurions(or whatever) on that side of the line and stay out of my Heresy”.

    /Disengage Grumpy Cynicism

    1. I know there are a lot of negatives there, but they have their positives as well, for some people, a cheap HQ and some plastic marines will be a nice core or expansion to some Resin Breachers or some Cataphractii. If GW was wise enough to keep it simple in the starter set, that would be fantastic, just a simple move-shoot-assault-morale beer and pretzel game could be great for the hobby, with the tactics and advanced rules creeping in as they learn the game.

      As for Age of Sigmar rules... I doubt it, but, a small part of me worries....

      Thanks for commenting Amy, and I hope your blog is going well. (I believe it is yours, I occasionally see it)

    2. Totally agree, I seem to recall seeing it touted somewhere else as the "gateway dug to Heresy" which could be good, the Heresy scene is a little quiet in my area, so getting more players into it is definitely no bad thing!

      Its going ok thank you! Updates have been slow the last couple of weeks due to real life stuff but hoping to get back on track over the weekend. Feel free to comment on anything, I'd be happy to hear you opinion on any of the things I'm working on!

    3. Haha a gateway drug to Heresy. Reminds me of the fake anti-drug memes "I once injected the Marijuanas, now I'm a quadruple amputee hillbilly". I once brought some plastic marines, next thing I knew, I had collected 5 Primarchs and sold a kidney to fund my Thousand Sons.

      Once I get back from Inferno (Tuesday next week I should be home) I will definitely check in on your blog mate. Don't be worried about being a bit lax on the updates, this blog has 8 contributors and we can still take weeks to update!

  5. Everything you said sounds quite possible, and I mostly agree. However, there are a couple of things that I hope won't happen (emphasis on hope, not that I have any idea of what will actually happen).
    About GW making new units for the heresy, I pray they just stick to generic models such as the basic mks, assault or heavy weapons units, leaving the special or legion specific units to FW. About vehicles, it's true that the present models are fine, but the tactical squad is even more recent and it might lose sales in favour of the new heresy tactical kits, so I cross my fingers for heresy rhinos and predators, at least.
    On the shoe-horning subject, I have faith in FW team preventing GW to fuck up things, specially when the fluff has always said that razorbacks are post-heresy (just to talk about one of the examples you said, and yeah, I know the GW politics on fluff that prevents more sales). If the Horus Heresy rulebooks stay in FW hands, I want to think GW will leave them alone and won't start pressing to include such units, and if rumours are true and GW makes its own standalone game, then they can do whatever they want, while "fluffers" stay with FW game.
    Lastly, about the released kits, I'd almost prefer everything as multipart to maximize customization, but I see your point about snap-fit infantry, as I admit that having to deal with +10 ten-parts grunts for every unit isn't a great perspective.

    To make it clear, all I've said are just the hopes of a stupidly optmistic heresy fan that dreams about not having to sell his kidney to get a decent size army :P

    1. Hey, they're all valid hopes you have there! I do doubt any other early MK's due to the complicated nature of MK II and III armour, I think the mold upkeep would be too high to justify mass production of those kits in plastic. Which I will add is really disappointing as I love those armour MKs the most :(

      GW has messed with their own fluff so much in the last few years (we aren't talking changing Rogue Trader era stuff, we are talking the Newcrons, Draigo etc) that I have a very real fear that they will shoehorn in some newer units. It's like how they used to add things in the old days, once upon a time they would say "this is a newly rediscovered STC" now however, they don't even bother, they just pretend said units were always there (centurions, hunter, stalker, mutilators, helldrakes etc)

      If it's stand alone, fine, all good, they can treat it like space hulk, a 30k game with useful minis, or, they can go for a true 30k starter set and leave it at that. Either of those and I'll be pretty happy, but stray too far and I think there might be some nerd rage. I simply don't know.

    2. I must say that I haven't read the two last Space Marine codexes nor the CSM ones, so I'm not familiar with the fluff of the new units, but according to Lexicanum the name of the "space marines inside space marines" comes from the legions Centurions, so it would be hard to justify its presence in that era. The razorback, as I've said, has been always stated as a post-heresy creation, and including it would mean they would have to include it also with the CSM codex. If GW wanted to sell more razorbacks, they could have retconned its fluff way before to let chaos players buy it, so I want to think they will keep it as it is now. Hunters and stalkers fluff is completely foreign to me, so I can't say much, but I don't think much different from Amy Clark, although maybe I should read more about them to have a proper opinion.

      As for mutilators, obliterators, heldrakes and other chaotic vehicles and monsters, it is entirely possible that they end up included in the final stages of the heresy, as the traitor legions would have already embraced chaos, and therefore warped units (pun intended) might start to appear in its ranks. I would like to see how the legions turn progressively to chaos troughout the heresy, so demonic and warp related units being added would be fine to me, always trying to not screw previous fluff without a good reason outside of selling more, and trying to keep the game balanced (although this also depends on players, but now it's not the time to talk about it).

      In the end, the best we can hope for is that GW doesn't interfere too much with the Heresy and leaves it in FW hands, for the sake of the Heresy,the fluff, our sanity and our health (some players might get an aneurysm from pure nerd rage).

    3. Pretty much echoing my feelings mate. Let's just hope they don't cock it.

  6. Fantastic. I live in a little country down south in Africa. Yup, and we have 40K fanatics. It has come to a stage where a lot of the guys started playing xwing (I collected and then sold mine) time issues :).

    A lot of the table top gamers have been interested in other gaming systems as GW is just getting to expensive. The young blood cannot afford it and plenty just sell 2nd hand. Our currency is 15:1 (Euro), 13:1 (Dollar) and 21:1 (Pound). You do the maths. Thus a knight will cost me around R2000.00. The minimum wage for a gardener in South Africa is R2607.00 (Basic)

    I collected most of the Horus Legacy books and I am ecstatic that the new box set has been created (R2250.00). I'm not that good playing the game, but I enjoy the painting and kit bashing. I certainly hope GW wakes up and continues with the Horus Heresy, but they need to realize that not all fans can afford their prices.

    Oh, and I hope Dorn returns in the 50K series 10 years from now :)