Nothing lasts forever. Let’s talk about how long you should be able to keep using a given miniature.
Earlier this week I wrote about about some Space Marine units we wouldn’t miss too much if they were removed from the Space Marine codex. One of the complaints raised against getting rid of these units, and anytime someone suggests getting rid of a unit, is that “I bought these models, I should be able to use them.” It’s this kind of thinking that has kept a lot of the Index-only rules around, even when they’ve been out of print for over a decade. And it’s an easily understandable argument. You paid money for a model, you expect to be able to use it. But realistically, how long should you be able to keep using a model for? How much use should you get out of any given purchase? Lets take a look at some of the things surrounding this topic.
Models Get Invalidated All The Time
As much as we don’t want to admit it, models do get invalidated. Ask old Squat players, or more recently Bretonnian and Tomb Kings players. Even when whole armies don’t die, sometimes individual units get shelved. Our BoLS Imperial Guard army remembers the days of Imperial Beastman and Cadet-Commissar squads. My personal Guard army has a ton of Sergeants with Stormbolters I can’t use. Forgeworld has also killed off a fair number of units over the years. So models DO get invalidated.
Companies Want To Sell You Models
Wargaming is kind of strange beast. Companies want & need to sell you the player new models. If they don’t they go out of business. Yet many games, 40K, especially, seem to bend over backwards to allow players to keep playing models they purchased 20+ years ago. For a pure business perspective the Index only units are kind of odd, why support things you can’t make money off of? Not angering players is of course important to any company, and a main reason for letting old models be legal. However the new Primaris range is a pretty clear attempt to update the old Space Marine line and sell new models. Once their are Primaris versions of everything, I wonder if GW has a good reason to keep putting a high level of effort into the old Marine model rules, from a game balance perspective.
Clutter Is Bad For A Game
There comes a point that, from a pure game perspective, when too many units becomes a bad thing. Having a ton of units, especially in the same faction, makes them very hard to balance. Moreover it can dilute the purpose of any one unit, when several units fill the same role, you have to ask whats the real point. Now if you only care about cool models, the model alone can be reason enough. But from a game perspective and a balance one you don’t want too many units. As you add units, you should be looking at also getting rid of units. I’m not saying GW should ever stop manufacturing older models – becasue hey hobbyists! But giving them perfectly balanced rules is another matter.
We Keep A lot Of Useless Units Around
From both a profit making perspective and a game perspective it actually makes sense to periodically get rid of slow selling units. Not only does it encourage players to buy new models, but you help keep the game balanced and fresh. Units that are redundant or bad and that have old models don’t have a good game related reason to stick around. Of course this doesn’t mean that is true for hobbyist or best for every player. Modelers and painters don’t care about the rules, they just want a cool model to paint (of course in that case it shouldn’t matter if the model has rules or is the game). And players don’t want to feel like they wasted money on models.
So What The Life Expectancy of a Model?
Some players will say that once you buy a model you should be able to use it forever. And for some models that has proven fairly true, a Space Marine purchased in Rogue Trader can still be played today. However I don’t feel like that’s a good standard. Keeping every model legal forever isn’t good for the game at all, or the game company. It can also create a barrier to entry for new players, who have no accesses to ancient models (which might have very good rules), while older players do. At the same time, models do need to be good for a certain amount of time. We would not want a model to be released, and then removed from play too quickly. Not only would it be unfair to people, but would it would be bad business as it would discourage people from buying new models in the fear that they will be wasting money.
While it’s hard to put a solid number on it, I would think that a model should be good for at least 10 years after its release date. After that as it ages, I think its not ridiculous to reevaluate support for the model. Thats not to say models should be invalidated every 10 years, just that I don’t think we should feel like models should be able to be played forever. I feel like, I spent $20 on this model 10 years ago is simply by itself not a great justification for keeping a unit in the game. And I say that as a person who has spent a lot of money on models, and seen entire collections lose any use when a game dies or an edition changes. Again, I don’t have a solid answer, but I think its something worth thinking about.
Let us know how long you think a unit should “be good for” down in the comments!