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Editorial: Cost and Effect

7 Minute Read
Dec 13 2011
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Is it a sign of advancing age to look backward?  Lately, I’ve been thinking about wargaming, from where it was to where it might be going.  After stewing over it for a few months, I’ve decided to bore you write about it.

I’ll do so in a series of loosely linked articles, the first tackling the ever-increasing cost of the hobby.  Today we’ll review three different armies built using today’s approach to list design…

…and yea, that means spamming some, but it’s secondary to the point.  After each is a breakdown by unit and cost, looking for a total.

There’s a lot here, so let me pimp Strictly Average briefly… done.  You didn’t feel a thing, did you?  Now let’s jump in.

Chaos Daemons

Ah, an army after my own heart!  Because, you know, it’s mine…

Daemons were my primary competitive army for almost two years, and certainly the army I’m best known for on the tournament scene.  Still, my Daemons were boxed after Adepticon earlier this year.  It wasn’t from a poor showing (they made it to the Championship Rounds) nor due to the release of the Grey Knights (that would have been a fun challenge) but rather…

…it was time.  They’d become my easy button, my crutch.  So – how much would this crutch cost at today’s prices?

Heralds of Tzeentch:  152.00
Fiends of Slaanesh:  405.00
Pink Horrors:  29.00
Plague Bearers:  44.00
Daemon Princes:  99.00

Doh!

Deep breath… what the hell is that big number?  Oh, yea.

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Metal models.  The individual Fiends are stupid-expensive, so this is a pretty good time to point out how wonderful plastics are.  For all the griping of increased costs, maybe this is what we could have expected to see if GW hadn’t made the transition to plastics and Finecast.

So thanks to them!  But… it’s why I used plastics from the Fantasy line!

Here’s the total:  $729.00

Not bad, all things considered – but there is a problem here.  The Heralds are the new model GW produced.  Technically, the model is on a disk, and that’s an option in the book so you’d run the risk of WYSIWYG problems.  If you were actually collecting this army there would be the additional expensive of this conversion.  I think the cheapest fix would be buying two boxes of Screamers for a total of $70.00 and mounting two on a chariot base in addition to the Herald and his uber-disk.

Revised Cost:  $799.00

Dark Eldar Wyches

Let me say up front what some of you are probably thinking… I’m hardly expert with Dark Eldar.  Never played them – so I really don’t know how well this list would perform as an all-comers army.  My first thought is wondering if it has enough anti-mech.  Currently two of the Ravagers are dedicated anti-infantry with Disintegrators instead of Dark Lances…

…is one Dark Lance Ravager platform enough?  It’s supported by the four Raiders, but being paper-thin transports we can’t really count on them.  Maybe all three should mount Dark Lances – but I ain’t changing the PDF now!  Those of you with experience in Dark Eldar will no doubt set me straight in the comments section.

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All that aside, it’s not important for the purpose of this article; it’s a themed list built using modern principles.  It may not be optimized but let’s take a gander at how much it would cost.

Succubus x2:  30.50
Venom:  90.00
Raider:  132.00
Ravagers:  148.50
Wyches:  174.00
Hellions:  25.00

Total Cost:  $600.00

Space Wolves
Last in our trio of offerings is the ever-popular Space Wolves army list.  Let’s take a look.

The ideas here are obvious; Njal joins the 9-strong Grey Hunters, leading almost 40 Hunters across the board, supported by firepower provided by 4 Razorbacks and 2 units of Long Fangs.  The Scouts provide backfield disruption… or alternatively you can stick them in the empty Razorbacks the Long Fangs aren’t using, safely shepherding another Melta Gun to the enemy.  Lastly, there are two Speeders, and while Tornados are popular these days, it’s hard to argue the utility of a Heavy Flamer or Multi-Melta.

Now let’s count the cost!

Classic Njal: 16.50
Scouts: 50.00
Hunters:  149.00
Long Fangs:  70.00
Speeders:  60.00
Rhinos:  140.00
Razorbacks:  140.00

For a total of… (drumroll please)$625.50

Hidden Costs

We’re gamers.  We like modifiers.  Let’s modify that cost with a bit of ‘real world,’ in no particular order.

Taxes:  Yea.  I ain’t doing that math.  Maybe Darkwynn will be nice and put it into a spreadsheet nobody will read.  For the sake of argument, assume you’ll pay a tax on your little plastic toys.  In Texas, the sales tax is 8.25%, adding about 40 bucks to the Space Wolves’ army. 

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Store Markups:  Somebody help me out here, are stores supposed to charge the same pricing as GW does online?  Do they?  My own FLGS does (having just checked his honesty!) but it wouldn’t surprise me if stores out there added a bit of extra here and there.  Times are tough. 

Online Discounts:  Here we have the one area where you save some money!  The standard discount through online vendors is 20%, subtracting about 125 bucks from the Space Wolves army.  (I would be remiss if I didn’t point out these stores are killing the local vendors, who due to overhead can’t afford to offer that kind of discount… but that’s another article.) 

Boxed Sets:  GW’s varios boxed sets provide some savings if you’re buying in bulk.  Depending on the army, you can save through purchasing these with an eye toward your final build.  For example, the Space Marine boxed set has fifteen Marines and five Scouts, plus a Rhino.  With the use of extra bits from the various Space Wolves kits, these could easily become Hunters and Space Wolf Scouts.  The problem here is you sometimes pay for extras you won’t use.  That can add up.

Ebay:  Ah, Ebay!  I’ve used this option a time or three myself, and the savings can be substantial.  Still, the major savings come from purchasing used models, so prepare to give them a bath of that purple stuff and a good scrubbing with a used toothbrush.  Buyer beware.  (And again… you may be taking these models to use in games at your local store, adding insult to injury.  But I digress!)

And here’s the big one!

US Pricing:  Bell of Lost Souls reaches an audience in countries around the world.  I have no frame of reference for what prices mean in comparison to staples in your country of origin… though I have heard my Aussie friends pay a substantial markup.  Any comments on the subject involving something other than the dollar is very welcome.

So What’s All This Mean?

The first observation I’d like to make is… it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
Granted, these are only three lists from the many options available, but it appears – at least from my informal study – that a decent, competitive army can be built from scratch starting at six hundred bucks.  Cheaper if you buy it online, say at (shameless and probably slightly disgusting plug) Spikey Bits or something.  
But that doesn’t mean the cost of living increases in the standard salary kept up with the ever inflating price of wargaming.
We need more models to play a standard sized game, the models we need are more expensive, and with the recession there are many of us who don’t have the entertainment budgets we used to.
All of this has combined to change the way gamers collect armies.
Pictured are (a baby-faced!) Big Red and Mkerr, sitting among their collection of models.  You can read the original article and spend time ogling the models the way I did, long before knowing these dudes personally.
But you probably won’t see new collectors going this route.  It’s simply too expensive.
So that was the thought, anyway; I emailed Red and asked directly:

Thats a good one, and you are correct, there is no way I would have my collection if I just started at today’s prices.  

I think the days of the uber collections are past now. Even the well to do folks now tend to have a handful of armies and add on a few units when the codex comes out.

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I can’t say it any better than that.  There it is, the trend in today’s purchasing.

Still…

…in a way, it’s a more mature approach.  The industry is better and stronger than ever and the models are simply awesome!  I can’t say it isn’t worth the price increases; the value is there.

We just have to be smarter consumers.  Make a budget and stick to it.  Choose your favorite armies and collect them exclusively, avoiding unnecessary expansions into models you can’t use or won’t paint.

Darn it, we’re growing up!

I’d have an army for each Codex and Army Book if I could, but it simply isn’t practical anymore!  What do you think?

Veterans, have your buying habits changed over the years?

Are you new to the hobby?  What are your thoughts about collecting armies?  Do some of the older locals have a different approach?

And if none of those talking points appeal, you can always have a go at the army lists!

So, thoughts?  Comments?  Hugs and gropings?

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