The Tiger Roars
More About How You Gotta Pay (and Pay and Pay and Pay) to Play
So lately, I’ve been ruminating on how expensive 40K is. I know, I know, don’t tell me: miniatures are a luxury item; no one forces you to buy them; everything costs more than it did 20 years ago; if you don’t like high prices, don’t pay; etc, etc, etc. Yeah, but still, it’s a pretty damned expensive hobby, and it only seems to get more expensive every year.
Last time I discussed this topic, I estimated how much it costs to play a moderately-sized game, at a mere 1750 points per player. I don’t know about you, but it’s been a loooooong time since I owned a single army that small—like a lot of you (I imagine), I have several armies, and each of them is at least 3000 points. Figuring out how much cash it took for a single game made me wonder how much the entire army, not just the part I had used in the game, cost. And then, I started to wonder about how much I had spent on my other armies.
Calculating how much I actually spent to collect each army I currently own would be nigh-impossible: except for my Necrons, which I bought all at once off my friend Pat, I’ve accumulated my armies bit by bit over years (many years, in the case of my Space Marines). However, to get at least a rough estimate, I can calculate how much it would cost to replace my figures if something tragic—fire, theft, spousal wrath—happened to them. The point of this article is to get you wondering, if you haven’t already, about how much you would have to spend on your own armies.
Some models in my armies are not actually Games Workshop products—shameful and heretical, I know, but true. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume that all replacement figures and vehicles would be GW merchandise. Costs listed are from the Games Workshop US site as of June 2011, and don’t include shipping/handling or taxes. Also, these costs do not include paint, and assume that time spent assembling and painting figures has no monetary value. Army lists are as of June 2011, but may change in the future (if you’re reading this from the future, e-mail my friend Pat and let him know if the Washington Redskins ever make it back to the Super Bowl. Give him some hope).
Fighting Tigers of Veda (Space Marines)
Let’s start with the biggest army I have, the Fighting Tigers. I began collecting them in 1987, when 40K first hit American shores. Back then, I started with several RTB01 boxes, the original plastic Space Marines, which I used to build Tactical-, Devastator-, and Assault Marines. I added a few of the original Rhinos and Dreadnoughts and continued on from there, amassing a vast collection—some of this, some of that—which currently weighs in at about 11,000 points.
A mix of Space Marine figures from different eras of the 40K game
Eleven grand is big, but it could have been bigger. I used to have a few of the original Land Speeders (which were ridiculously dinky) and Imperial jetbikes: yes, Space Marines could have jetbikes in 1st Edition (“Rogue Trader”) 40K. I also had some of the original metal SM Bikes and another old-school Land Raider ($30 for two back in the late 1980’s—and I thought that was expensive). My Fighting Tigers were joined by a number of Allies: Guardsman, Eldar, and Squats. Most of those models were traded or given away or cannibalized for conversions of other figures and vehicles.
So, assuming that my wife finally smashes each of my “Space Mice” (as she calls them) with a hammer shortly after I make one too many snide remarks about her side of the family, how much would I have to spend to replace my army?
Actually, not as much as I thought.
As I noted in the previous article, Tactical Marines are a good deal at $37.25 for 10, or $3.73 each. Individually, Rhinos aren’t bad at $33 a pop, but the unit itself is so cheap (35 points base) and useful that any Marine player is bound to have several (I have six), and they add up quickly.
Some units are, in my not-so-humble opinion, out-and-out rip-offs. First off, while I understand that a Chaplain figure is supposed to be a bit more imposing than a common Tactical Marine, does it need to be four times as expensive ($15 compared to $3.73)? I think not. Why is it that a Scout, which is clearly not a Tac Marine’s equal on the table, nevertheless costs more ($5 each)? Assault Marines at over $6 each, Terminators at $10 each, Attack Bikes $25 a pop, almost $50 for a Pred, and $66 for a Land Raider—really? Really?
I can take my family out to dinner at a nice place for less than what I’d spend to replace this model
Fearful Symmetry (Chaos Space Marines)
Driven by the high price of GW miniatures, and by some fluff I’ve written for them, and, to be honest, because I’m really lazy when it comes to painting, I borrow many figures from my Fighting Tigers army when I play the Fearful Symmetry, with, for example, regular Tactical Marine minis standing in for Chaos Space Marines.
For this thought experiment, though, let’s suppose I lost all my Marine figures and wanted to rebuild the Fearful Symmetry but not the Fighting Tigers; hence, no more figures doing double duty. How much would 3000 points worth of Renegades come to, dollarwise?
Not surprisingly, there are a lot of similarities between costs for this army and costs for the Fighting Tigers. A single Terminator figure, albeit a Chaos Lord, costs more than double a regular Terminator: $22.25 vis-à-vis $10.00—and as I’ve stated, I think $10 a Termie is a ripoff, anyway. It’s much the same story with Possessed Marines or Havoc Marines ($6.60 each) vis-à-vis plain old Chaos Marines ($3.73 each).
In game terms, a Defiler and a Land Raider are much, much different, but when it comes to your wallet, both cost the same at $66 each. Huh? One nice surprise is that—for now—a Chaos Sorcerer (albeit an older model) can be had for $13.25, which seems like a bargain.
When it came to buying Lesser Daemons as I was building this army, 40 out of 50 of them were tigermen dudes from Black Orc Games: as of June 2011, those were on a special sale for $1.50 each, compared with $2.90 a pop for GW daemon figs. I’m okay with $2.90 each, all things considered, and anyways, the premise of this article is that I’d be using only Games Workshop products.
For the 10 remaining daemons, I’m going again deviate from what I did before and just go with standard GW daemons instead of what I had purchased. The reason why is because in the case of those last 10 figures, I would absolutely bone myself, cost-wise, by re-purchasing Sabretusks (from the Warhammer Ogre Kingdoms line) for them. Sabres are almost $15 each, so a pack of 10 would set me back almost $150. Yeeow! I’m glad I didn’t pay that when I first bought this army.
The Fearful Symmetry. Those big tiger-robot thingies “count as” Defilers but only cost me $10 each
Kabal of the Ozone Scorpions (Dark Eldar)
When the new codex came out, someone asked me if I was going to get rid of all my old Kabalite Warrior figures and replace them with new ones. The new ones look great, but there’s no way on Earth I would poopcan all the time I spent painting the old figures, not to mention eat the additional cost.
There are (currently) some relative bargains to be had in the Death Twinkie line. The old Haemonculus figures (dating back to the 3rd Edition days, when Bill Clinton was President of the United States) can still be had for $10.75 each. Frankly, I think they look better than the new Haem minis, but what do I know? Wyches and Kabalite Warriors are mere $2.90 a pop: cheaper than Tactical Space Marines, but not nearly as tough, so you will probably want to buy lots.
Other costs are the same as what you’d pay for their Space Marine equivalents. The ubiquitous Raider is $33, same as the ubiquitous Rhino. The Talos and the Cronos—the Death Twinkie versions of the Dreadnought—are exactly the same price: $44.50. Why, it’s almost as if Games Workshop planned it that way.
$11.58 for a single Reaver biker? Seems a bit steep until you consider that it’s $15 for a single SM bike. But $20.75 for a single Grotesque? Are you [fornicating] kidding me? It makes me completely disregard the fact that Mandrakes are $6.60 a pop. It also makes me feel bad for new DE players who are trying to stuff their armies with Elite units.
Even if they are bad guys, they’re not a bad deal:
one old-school Haemonculus can lead your army for about what you’d spend on a movie ticket
Yblis’ Bzrkx (Necrons)
You know, for how the 5th Edition rules totally bent over and violated Necrons, GW ought to be giving away Toaster figures rather than charging for them. Obviously, that’s not going to happen, but what is interesting is that the only recent price increase I found for ‘bot costs was that Monolith had gone up $4. All the other prices had stayed the same.
Necrons are a surprisingly good deal: for my army, $700 buys me over 3500 points worth of stuff. Warriors are $2.92 each, cheaper than Tac Marines. Pariahs and Immortals are $3.50 a pop, and for Elite units, those are not bad prices (they sure as hell beat $20.75 for one Grotesque). Destroyers (at $20 each) and Heavy Destroyers (at $25 each) either cost less or the same as their Space Marine equivalent, the Attack Bike. Sure, the Monolith is just the same price as a Land Raider, but at least it’s a much better value for your money than a comparatively weedy Defiler.
So price-wise, Necrons are all good. Game-wise? Not fit for anything but target practice for another 40K army.
Necrons battle Space Marines and the 5e rules that made them the Cincinnati Bengals of 40K
Kurindans (proxied Tyranids)
Here’s where we start to get really wonky, because for most of this army, I use Warhammer Fantasy figures in place of proper Tyranid minis. If I tried to replace my army as it currently is, using Lizardmen and associated monsters, this estimate wouldn’t be nearly as informative for you as if I went on the assumption that I would buy regular Nid figures for this heretofore-proxied Nid army. So how much would that run me?
Jesus Marimba, what do the money people at GW smoke? Almost $60 for a Hive Tyrant? Almost $25 for a Broodlord (who can’t even lead your army anymore—under the new codex, he’s a squad upgrade)? Sure, Genestealers are only $3.75 each and Termagants are $1.65 each, but the Hive Mind help you if you want some Zoanthropes ($24.75 each), Pyrovores ($35.50 each!) or Shrikes (each at $14 base + $9.90 for Dragon Wings).
Speaking of conversions, I hope you have a hefty wallet and lots of patience if you decide you want to make a Carnifex ($49.50) into a Tervigon (currently unavailable) or a Tyrant Guard (at $24.75, the cheapest Nid figure I could find that might be applicable) into a Mycetic Spore.
The problem with a Nid army is that if you go for a lot of Monstrous Creatures, you will pay through the nose and all your other body openings: $57.75 for a Trygon is steep, but at least it’s cheaper than a Land Raider. If you go for a “swarm” army with a lot of little guys, well, Gargoyles are $2.90 each, so a full-sized brood is $87. As for Termagants, $16.50 for a brood doesn’t seem like much, but there’s only 10 of them, at T 3 and wishful thoughts for armor. Just about any enemy unit can take down 10 Termagants by merely farting in their general direction, so you’ll need lots of ‘gants…which will add up dollarwise tout de suite.
By the way, I’m not even counting the $362.46 (as of currency exchange rates on June 22, 2011) that Forge World wants for a Hierophant Bio-Titan. Back in 2004, I paid $70 for the Godzilla model I use for a Hiero, and I thought that was expensive. What did I know?
I used this plastic toy dinosaur for a Tervigon. Total price: $0.00
Good luck with your own conversions…
Dvergar Steeljacks (proxied Orks)
Like the Kurindans, this is a proxied army that uses a lot of Warhammer Fantasy figures. It also uses more non-GW figures than my Kurindans do, so calculating a straight replacement of the current figures I have would be interesting to me, but not terribly helpful for you to see how much a sample Ork army of this size (3100 points) costs.
This army is expensive, too, but it’s mostly because of all the Battlewagons I’ve jammed into it: five of them, at $66 each. Trukks are much cheaper, but to use them, I’d need to cut down on some mob sizes (which would, of course, save more money).
Regular Boyz are a decent bargain at $2.90 each, while Burna Boyz are not too bad, all things considered, at $5 per dude. Meganobz are not that good on the table, and they’re even worse on your wallet, at nearly $20 a pop, twice the price of a Terminator while not being nearly as awesome. And $18.25 for a nigh-obligatory Painboy for your nigh-obligatory Nobz Mob is, of course, bonkers (but not as bad as $25 for a Broodlord, another kick-ass squad upgrade).
I paid $25 each for these tanks, which “count as” Battlewagons. You’ll pay much more for the official version
It’s tempting to look at the point totals and dollar costs of the lists I’ve given and try to determine which army is the best value, but that’s comparing apples to oranges to bananas to pears to strawberries. I’m comfortable with making one-to-one cost comparisons of similar units in different armies: a Space Marine Attack Bike with a Necron Destroyer, or a Talos Pain Engine with a Dreadnought. But I’m not cool with doing that for whole armies. Sure, you could say that 3500 points of Tyranids costs almost $1200 while 3500 points of Necrons costs $700, but Nids aren’t necessarily more expensive, money-wise, than Necrons. The dollar totals could change depending on what units you put in each army.
So what have we learned/confirmed?
· Plastic Troops are the least expensive part of your army (duh);
· Transports are not horribly priced per se, but be mindful of how many you include in your collection. Apparently, when it comes to Transport models, GW makes it money through volume of sales;
· HQ units are really frickin-frackin expensive (usually $15+) for what they are (a single miniature);
· Loading up on Elite and Fast Attack units (a favorite army-building strategy of many competitive players) will munch your wallet faster than Nids attacking an Eat-n-Park;
· To Games Workshop, a Land Raider = a Monolith = a Battlewagon = a Defiler, even if they have massively different point values or uses. It doesn’t matter to them: you’re going to cough up big bucks. Within a Space Marine army, a Predator = a Vindicator = a Whirlwind, even though most players I know vastly prefer the Pred.
Well, yes, but other than that?
· If you are new to 40K, I am sad to say that the window to get a bunch of minis cheaply closed a long time ago. If I were starting 40K now, there is no way I would collect an army larger than, say, 2000 points, and I wouldn’t collect multiple armies. Replacing all my armies would cost me about $8000, but obviously, I didn’t spend nearly that much to collect them in the first place. I don’t know how new players afford this hobby.
· Do not, under any circumstances, lose your army/armies, have them stolen, or so anger your significant other or spousal unit so that they destroy them. When fleeing a natural disaster, make sure you put your armies in the car before you put in food, clothing, important documents, the kids, the pets, or the aforementioned s/o or spousal unit. You do NOT want to have to buy all those minis again.
· If your armies are lost/stolen/destroyed, give up 40K and pick up a new, less expensive game. Like Beer Pong. Your wallet will thank you.
Posted June 2011