Warhammer 40,000 is something I played a lot as a teen, and have kept an eye on ever since.
There’s something about the universe which is very appealing, and in recent years the models have become outstanding.
But something wasn’t quite right. I’m an avid game player, and enjoy good miniatures - but none of my money was going Games Workshop’s way.
The tabletop market was ascendant, but Games Workshop were issuing profit warnings. What was up with that?
They decided to focus on selling models, and it became more of a collector’s hobby. The game side of things became secondary, and their flagship titles (like Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40k) were starting to show their age.
Furthermore, companies like Fantasy Flight had honed the perfect model for getting people into their games. They lure people in with affordable starter sets (around £25 for an X-Wing starter), which are easy to learn. They then offer expansions that people can buy if they enjoyed the starter set.
People wandering into a game store had a pretty simple choice. Spend £50+ on a Games Workshop starter set. Or buy a Fantasy Flight one for £25.
Sure, the Fantasy Flight ones had far less in them, but if you’re just curious about a game, then £25 is the right price point. By having this high barrier to entry for new players, Games Workshop had a serious problem on their hands. The majority of their revenue came from veteran players, and if they dropped out of the hobby, Games Workshop’s fortunes would depart with them.
It was sad to see this great company becoming stagnant. But something happened - they got new leadership. And things changed. A LOT.
Every few years Games Workshop releases a new edition of Warhammer 40,000 with updated rules and miniatures.
In the past, there would have been a single starter box, which contained the rules and some starter miniatures (~ £50+).
This time they released three starter sets:
It’s the First Strike starter set that really grabbed my intention. Partly for the price, but for other reasons too.
A foldable mat comes in the box, which provides a nice surface to play the game on. The scenery piece is actually the inner tray of the packaging!
The miniatures come in coloured plastic - which means they’re easily distinguishable, without having to paint them first.
A rulebook comes with the game. The rules have been streamlined from previous editions, which makes them less intimidating for new players.
There are also 4 missions you can play. They’re fun in their own right, and each one introduces a new aspect of the game. After playing them you’ll have a grasp of all of the rules.
I think this is the perfect starter set. They’ve removed all of the friction from getting into the game.
I’d have a hard time picking any competing products at this price point.
You might see a pattern here, but these are the games I bought most recently.
That’s right - they’re all Games Workshop products.
This recent article shows how much these changes have impacted the bottom line. Their renewed focus on making compelling games, which are appealing to new players, seems to be paying off.
I hope Games Workshop continues on this upwards trajectory.