Monday, 18 February 2013

Daily musings, standards, design and value

Value for money in our hobby

Hi all, there’s seemingly been a lot written recently about how much our hobby costs, and the standards we should expect from GW in the products they make. Having commented on a couple of others blogs about the subject, I thought I’d post up my own take on things.

Standards:

The main thrust of comments on this topic seem to involve the recent release of the Dark Angels codex and the subsequent issue of an FAQ to address errors contained within.
Let’s make this clear first and foremost. It’s not acceptable to be producing a codex containing so many errors that costs the hobbyist/collector a not insignificant amount of money to buy. My personal view is that GW should not only have issued the errata in the FAQ but offered to replace any incorrect copies once they’ve corrected the mistake in the next print run.

That being said, an errata is hardly an unheard-of occurrence (after all, it has its own name and a page on Wikipedia!) and the demonisation of the company for making a mistake of that nature is, to my way of thinking at least, a gross overreaction. Speaking of wikipedia, it describes an erratum as a correction of a book or article, most commonly issued shortly after its original text is published. It also notes that they are usually referred to as errata when it relates to a production error, rather than an author error (which is a corrigendum for those who want to know). They should only be issued where errors severe enough to cause misunderstanding are detected too late to correct in the normal way, although they should usually be provided with the book itself (I once had a black library novel where two pages had been transposed, and an errata note was included in this manner).

We hobbyists expect the highest standards of production from Games Workshop, and in general I believe they deliver, the quality of the production of the latest rulebook is far beyond anything I’ve bought from them before, and as a white dwarf subscriber, I’ve been very impressed at the quality of the new format.

As a final thought on this topic then, I can certainly forgive GW the odd mistake, I certainly don’t believe that no internal action will have been taken to prevent this happening again, but we’re all human, and these mistakes will occasionally happen, and the pressure of a busy release schedule is not likely to make them any less common.

Design:

The second topic then is the design of miniatures, and was something I was very surprised to see brought up by someone apparently involved in the hobby. The word ‘Ugly’ was used, particularly in relation to the Stormraven, the Chaos Marine Mutilators and the Heldrake.

I can’t let this one rest I’m afraid. Speaking as someone to whom the terms are used incorrectly on a daily basis, design and appearance are two very different beasts. I’d be the first to admit that the mutilators don’t have a particularly nice appearance. That goes double for plague marines or any one of many options in the Games Workshop range. That doesn’t mean that they’re poorly designed however. Quite the contrary to my mind in fact, they are supposed to appear repellent and in that regard, their design is of the highest quality.

If you’re talking about appearance, I defy anyone to say that the Dark Eldar range isn’t one of the most attractive miniatures ranges out there.

With regard to the Stormraven, I can see where people are coming from with regard to its appearance, it’s blunt and functional and not very graceful at all, but then marines are like that, and having read the designer’s notes when it first came out I can completely see where the design key came from (look at it side-on and think of a clenched fist).

Beauty after all is in the eye of the beholder, and if it’s just blown a hole in your opponent’s army, the Stormraven is a thing of extraordinary beauty!

Costs:

My final pondering of the day then relates of the matter of cost, and the suggestion that our hobby is expensive.

The basic minimum any gamer needs to get playing therefore is the following (between two players)
1 rulebook
2 codices
2 hq choices
4 troops choices
Inevitably, the cheapest way to do this is through Dark Vengeance, which gives you all this for £61.50 total, or £30.75 between those two players.

Ok if you want to go further you’re then looking at a full codex each (continuing the dark vengeance theme we’re talking £30 for the new-style codices) and around £20-£30 for each new unit (transports, tanks etc being more than this). The numbers soon add up, and when you add in paints, brushes, glue etc I’ll agree you’re looking at a figure in the hundreds to get a reasonably large collection.

So where does the value come in? Time and enjoyment. Value can only be calculated when we look at the return in relation to the financial outlay, and it’s in this respect that Warhammer 40k (I can’t speak for other game systems as I don’t play them) really delivers bang for your buck. Think about your other hobbies, I love going to the cinema, which for a 3D film costs me over £10 for usually about 2 hours of film. I also enjoy the odd night out for a drink with friends, which is never cheaper than about £4 a pint, which rarely lasts an entire hour. It gets even worse if you think about going for a meal, when for something you’ve usually eaten in 10-15 minutes you can easily pay over £20, more once you add in the cost of a bottle of wine to go with it!

Set against these, the £20 (ish) that I pay for a tactical squad that I’ll spend hours assembling and painting, not to mention using in games that last a whole evening is amazingly good value, and probably works out at about 50 pence an hour before they even get to the table top.

Obviously, if you play with unpainted miniatures then you’re not getting the same kind of value from the hobby that I do, but then that’s your loss, and a topic for another day.