Games Workshop Gets Smart With the Battle For Vedros Warhammer 40,000 Starter Set

Games Reviews Warhammer 40,000
Games Workshop Gets Smart With the Battle For Vedros Warhammer 40,000 Starter Set

For all their missteps as the lumbering, stumbling, boutique-priced behemoth of tabletop gaming, it’s worth commenting when Games Workshop does something right. Slowly, quietly, that’s been happening more often in the wake of Kevin Rountree taking over as CEO from Tom Kirby. There’s been a small but noticeable shift in pricing and release schedules for their miniatures over the past year, a welcome change from the prior decade’s tactic of limitless price increases and 120 dollar basic games.

The best example of this is out only recently, in the form of Battle for Vedros, Games Workshop’s new introductory Warhammer 40,000 experience. Out this past June, it’s different from anything the company’s done with its product line, at least in the modern era, and it’s a good thing for both Games Workshop and prospective players.

The gist is this: Games Workshop, through ludicrous prices and the slow decline of brick and mortar gaming stores, hasn’t had a way to get new and/or young players into the hobby for a long time. There’s no way a kid on allowance can go snatch up one of the starting armies or game sets. Battle for Vedros aims to change the calculus of how newbies get into the game by offering a stripped down version of the rules and cheaper entry cost.

The box contains a handful of Orks and Space Marines, bread and butter stuff to any old Warhammer 40,000 fan, and uses older, but not outdated, miniatures to both clear stock and keep the price low. The rules are, as stated, stripped down; they’re meant for preteens just getting into games of this type. Since Games Workshop games all use the same basic mechanics, it’s a simple thing to scale up and the easing into the water is a good approach. All told, the set runs 50 bucks and contains a pretty impressive collection of miniatures for the cost, all of them snapping together so kids don’t have to worry about glue.

Most importantly—and very against type, given Games Workshop’s ambivalence toward independent retailers—the set is specifically meant for non-gaming stores. It’s meant to be sold at places like model train stores, general hobby outlets, and the odd book store. This is vitally important to Games Workshop’s future success: the old rules are out, boardgames dominate shelf space at gaming stores, and the mere whisper of Games Workshop’s name is now synonymous with hyper-inflated prices for the old wargaming hands. Battle for Vedros also has a slick website meant for the novice, a nice change from Games Workshop’s labyrinthine main site.

It would be easy to be cynical about this, given Games Workshop’s past history and their naked ruthlessness. But this seems like a legitimately good thing, offering an easy vector for kids to get into things. It’s hard to find anything bad about it at all; it can even be used to plug holes in a more scaled up, traditional Space Marine or Ork army.

But more than just the specifics around this, it’s part of a piece with the aforementioned shift in policy. It’s slow going and subtle, but it might just be that Games Workshop is pulling its head out of the mire. To survive, the company was going to have to do two things: tap into videogames as a way of getting people into its wargames, and rein in its prices by going cheaper and more accessible. Against all expectations from the last decade and a half, Games Workshop is doing precisely those two things, and the future suddenly looks brighter.

Ian Williams has written for Vice, Salon, The Guardian and more.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin