As you may remember from my rant about Games Workshop’s late coming Thunderwolf Cavalry, I find myself needing to re-base my counts as TWC on 60mm bases. I could probably get by with the bases I have since most of the people at the FLGS are very understanding when it comes to issues of base size, WYSIWYG, proxies, etc. But that’s beside the point, my neurosis requires me to re-base them. I have a friend who for similar reasons has decided to re-base his Tervigon conversion on large oval bases. So we decided to go in together on a bits order from Games Workshop Direct as they carry these bases for less than they can be purchased on eBay. I’d also been eyeing the Space Wolf Accessories Sprue so I threw that into the order to bump us into free shipping.
When the order arrives I eagerly open everything up to make sure it’s all there and separate the stuff my friend ordered. I pull out the Space Wolf sprue and find that one of the pieces is missing! I’m immediately annoyed at Games Workshop’s lack of quality control because this is not the first time it’s happened to me. A lot of my stuff comes from eBay so I don’t actually receive that many directly from GW or kits that are sealed. In the past six such items this is the second time I’ve been missing a part. Those are not particularly good odds!
On the opposite end of the spectrum is GW customer support. I call them up and after a three minute conversation with what seems like a very pleasant person I have a replacement sprue on the way free of charge. The last time this happened to me was a box of Ork Bikers that was missing the torso that allows you to upgrade one to a nob. I call Games Workshop’s customer support to tell them of my issue and after I provide my information the guy tells me they’ll send a new box. I ask if I should send in the defective one as evidence or something and he says “no, you can keep that one to use as conversions.” I say “cool, thanks” but I’m thinking “Conversions my ass! I’ve still got the three bikes with regular riders!” So I put that kit together and when the replacement kit came I had six bikers (including a nob) for the price of three. All said, a broken kit from GW is actually a win because they’re so willing to replace it free of charge with very little hassle on my part.
I’ve read enough rants about Finecast to know that it’s often tricky to get a kit that’s in good shape but GW always seems to send people free replacements. One guy complained that he had to combine parts from three or four kits to get a finished model, but from the sounds of it he only paid for one of them. This attitude of replacement vs. quality first, the seeming inability to offer a full model range that doesn’t exclude at least one fan favorite option (in 40k anyway) until years after a codex release, and various other issues you read about in this or that rant makes it easy to wonder how the hell they run their business. Then I read this article about 40k turning 25:
Part way through you can find a mention that GW is reporting a 40% rise in their latest half-year pre-tax profits! Obviously they’re doing something right. Yes, charging a premium for their models helps. But are they really overcharging? Maybe. I don’t know how high their markup is. I know you can get cheaper plastic models elsewhere, but I also know Tamiya charges $50-$70 for their better tank kits. GW is also offering a unique product. You’re not paying for scale replicas, you’re paying for a piece of a unique universe and while you can find proxies elsewhere they’re rarely as good and never quite the same. And as far a hobbies go it’s really not that bad. You’re in $200-$500 to build a decent army then you’re playing for free. Try dropping $200-$3000 on a set of golf clubs then paying $25-$100 per round in greens fees. Or $100-$2000 on paintball gear then a $10 field fee and $24-$100 in paint every time you play. I’ve got a $75 bolt in my paintball gun that eliminates chopping paintballs in the breach. It’s a great addition but doesn’t impact my playing experience as much as a $50 box of terminators. It also doesn’t give me hours of hobby enjoyment in addition to the gaming experience.
The bottom line is, 40k isn’t cheap but it’s not all that expensive for a luxury pastime. We love the game, we love the models, we love the ridiculous background story. The quality control may be less than ideal, but the quality is excellent. The game support is confusing, but the customer support is fantastic. As baffling as GW is they’ve got us hooked and we love them as much as we hate them. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’ll take it silently. Ranting is a much a part of the game we love as the dice and little men.