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Plastic Crack and Credit Card Debt: Why Warhammer is Pricey

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

Nobody’s claimed that being a nerd is cheap. Warhammer is probably the biggest price offender just on retail price alone: Larger figures- obviously excluding the warlord titan - can hover around 400-600 dollars and a starter kit for a single army ballparks $200. So what gives? Why does everyone call it plastic crack, and know you can’t afford real drugs if you’re into 40k? There are stacks of reasons for this, but it not might be what you think, so let’s talk about why exactly we're all broke.

Yeah, we’re just going to ignore you for this one my guy.

Psychology of collecting

Let’s start by talking about how capitalism takes advantage of our brains! Just kidding… kinda. Collection based games, be it minis, TCG, or anything where you gotta catch ‘em all tap into our human (or magpie, ooh shiny) nature to want to collect things and complete sets. Collecting provides pleasure and can communicate a sense of prestige and loyalty, or it can be just as simple as a habit. In the case of this game, collecting definitely imparts and exudes a sense of community between fellow gamers, those that play the same faction as you, and any other random connecting fact. You have a pink army, so do I!

Of course, in Warhammer we also contend with the points system. Some amount of collecting is required, because three lone figures does not a playable army make.

No :(

It’s not Kirkland Signature

The Warhammer brand is like that of Q-tip, in that someone might default to calling for the brand name when they might not mean it. However, like with the cursed ear cleaning sticks, there’s key differences that make you understand that you get what you pay for.

Not the least of the differences is the quality of the minis themselves. You don’t have a game that dominates the industry like this without them knowing what they’re doing in production, and their huge scale use of injection mold printing sets them apart from other similar looking games. There’s also even metal figures which I’m personally terrified of based on price alone.

Warhammer is, by no small margin, the most common minis game played in the world and, with few exceptions aside, you aren’t going to be able to swap in a proxy figure like you can with magic cards. Warhammer is also flexible in an official capacity as far as bits and bases and other forms of customization, which can lead to impressive armies with totally unique combinations and- oh no, here we are with more things to collect and work on.

Sexy, sexy custom work (and lower image) by

As dice breaker explains,

First of all, all wargaming figures are expensive. It’s a pretty niche hobby. And while the cost of manufacturing a miniature is pretty low, the cost of designing one isn’t. With a small audience to absorb that cost, miniatures are considerably more expensive than they look.

But many Warhammer miniatures are around twice as expensive as similar historical minis. This is because Warhammer bills itself as the premium brand. Warhammer miniatures, especially the newer ones, are considerably more detailed than most wargaming miniatures. They also frequently have either dynamic sculpts, or a sprue full of alternate head and weapons options.

Another factor that leads to a higher cost is Warhammer's birthplace of England. Importing anything from anywhere isn’t exactly cost effective between shipping itself and taxes, plus the UK in general has higher wages and employee protections than America which feeds a small amount into product costs.

God save Alarielle (too soon?)

Time is money, baybee

The last point we’ll touch on here isn’t even specific to Warhammer or Games Workshop itself, and that’s the time and skill involved in building and customization. Painting as a commissioner is a lucrative hustle, and looking at the details that are included there’s no question as to why that is. Larger pieces can run hundreds of dollars for a detailed paint job, and that cost isn’t nonexistent if you paint your own - it’s just spent in time instead.

Probably around $500 including the cost of the mini itself.

All this is not to say, however, that Warhammer is dollar to hour more expensive than so many of the other big “spendy” geek hobbies. As dice breaker says, every hobby has an on ramp (unless you’re into… like… barefoot running? That’s all I got.) and this hobby even offers the opportunity to make some money back via tournaments, contests, painting, etc. And of course there’s ways to minimize some costs, like secondhand sellers and small businesses that don’t always charge sticker price (wow that sounds like Noe’s Attic on Ebay what a good idea guys so glad you thought of it). So after your bills are paid, food on the table and lights are on, enjoy your game; happiness, community, creativity, and mental health are worth the money you can invest!


As an aside, we'd like to take a second to send massive props to our friend Tim over at Paint Station Minis, who is an incredible custom painter and is cool enough to let me post his work as examples in this and future articles. Check him out on all your socials of choice

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