Saturday, 13 August 2011

Paying The Price Without Thinking Twice

Is WM actually cheaper than WH 40k?

Let’s face it. The wargaming hobby in general is expensive both in monetary terms and time. Customers want quality products (model and rule-wise) at an affordable price. Although it is interesting to note that most players would pay for good looking miniatures, there is simply a limit to how much one can spend.

As of last year, there is an increasing amount of Warhammer 40k (WH40k) players converting to Warmachine (WM). Among the few reasons behind the shift is, apparently, Warmachine is cheaper in both monetary terms and time compared to Warhammer 40k. However, it’s been argued that if you tally up the total cost of an army, both cost the same! In order to investigate this claim, let’s take a look at the following points before we dive into the cost comparisons.

*Unless stated otherwise, all prices are based from Maelstrom Games.

- Starter Sets

Warhammer 40k: Battleforce = USD$ 89.64
Contains: 500pts

Warmachine: Battlegroup = USD$ 49.22
Contains: 11pts

The WH40k Battleforce and WM Battlegroup was taken as a comparison and oh my, what a difference in price it is! Both forms a basis of an army for a player and enough to get a player familiarised with the rules.

It is interesting to note, however, that WH 40k’s Assault on Black Reach is cheaper than WM’s 2-player battlebox.

- Game Size Comparisons

In order to compare army costs, we would need to first compare game point sizes. Even though comparing the 2 systems is like comparing an apple to an orange, we can pretty much estimate how similar the game sizes are by looking at the gaming community’s most played points level and general perceptions of game size comparisons. After all, a player would need to build an Xpt army that matches his opponent’s Xpt army if he were to start an army. From some surveys that I did recently, this is what I came up with.

The table above basically means that there is almost an equal amount of 35pt WM game compared to a 1750pt WH40k game. Therefore if you want to get into a game of WM, you’d eventually need to build a 35pt army whereas for WH40k, you’d eventually build a 1750pt game at the very least. Hence how I got the game size points comparison.

Before we proceed any further, I would like to point out that yes, army builds are mostly dependant on the individual. The army lists displayed in this article are army lists I have taken from competitive gamers and, perhaps, one that includes models that a player would definitely have played before in his specific WH40k/WM army lifetime.

Cost Comparison

Let’s take a look at the following 1750pt WH40k army lists.

Prices were taken from Maelstrom Games. Weapon outfits were not considered in the above (note: exotic weapon options would require more investment for bits) and prices highlighted in yellow are taken from e-bay (for some reason, I can’t find the actual price of these).

Among the lot, the most expensive army tallies at USD$625.61 while the cheapest at USD$ 334.70. It surprises me that the one I’d think to be the most expensive (28 terminators!) turns out to be the cheapest.

What about the other races? Surely they should be cheaper than a Space Marine (GW’s pet race) and a Blood Angel (was recently the army flavour of the month) army? I randomly took some 1750pt lists found online and got the following.

Check out the Tyranids! Topping off at USD$510.20, that surely is one heck of an investment! Surprisingly, the Tau are also equally impressive at USD$378.43! Note that I took the price of a Carnifex for the Tyrannofex and Tervigon. Further modifications need to be made to convert a carnifex to a Tervigon/Tyrannofex, hence requiring more money.

How about the Warmachine side of things? In this exercise, Khador  and Cryx (notorious for having some of the most expensive models $$-wise in the game) will be evaluated.

Note that for the sake of argument, I have included Warmachine’s most expensive model in the above armylists (the Gun Carriage at a whopping USD$90!).  

The Warmachine list shown above include an infantry heavy army and a warjack heavy army, hoping to mimic WH40k’s horde-based armies and tank-based armies.

Comparing the 2 game systems, it seems that the average cost for a 35pt warmachine army is USD$200-USD$300 whereas the average cost for a 1750pt WH40k army is at the very least USD$300!

What about 1500pts WH40k armies compared to 25pts WM armies?

The above is the Sample Spearhead list (tank-heavy list, although I must admit that I've seen a heavier tank-heavy list!) that I took from the Games Workshop (GW) website. The reason why I actually evaluated the above is because tanks WILL be played in WH40k, whether a lot or only a little! GW has been indirectly pushing players to play vehicles over the recent years and we have already seen tank-heavy army lists appearing in major tournaments (i.e. the Imperial Guard’s Steamblower list). I can understand if you find this “unrealistic” for the purpose of comparison, so let’s consider the below instead.

Prices highlighted in yellow are taken from e-bay as I somehow could not find their actual prices. However, it is safe to say that e-bay has some of the most competitive prices in the market compared to major online retailers out there.

From what I understand, the above army list is one of the few expensive ($$-wise) configurations you can get in WM 25pts. It is surprisingly cheaper than the WH40k list above by approximately USD$10.


It seems like at smaller point levels, WM and WH40k cost somewhat similar. However once you expand your armies to the generally played points level, Warmachine is the cheaper game.

I believe this is partly due to the game design itself. In Warmachine, changing from one army list to another isn’t as $$-consuming because most of the units will be re-used. Even though your unit is the same, each warcaster yields a different gaming experience. Therefore, the player would be forced to play his unit differently, hence getting a difference experience out of it. In Warhammer 40k, changing from one army list to another (for a different game experience) would require new weapon outfits, different unit combinations, etc and this means investing more money in bits, models, etc.

On paper, I actually like the way WH 40k was designed. The game design itself helps generate revenue because players are required to spend more and more for different weapon load outs, new essential units, new tanks, etc. However if I am on the receiving end of it all, I actually get pretty uncomfortable with this whole idea only for the army to “phase out” when the next army of the month comes out. GW also has a habit of phasing out units or weapon options, hence making your heavily invest squad (in money and, most importantly, time) obsolete. I’m not blaming them though. It is just the way forward due to the way the game is designed.

Warmachine might seem rosy at this point, but take my word for it. Prices for Warmachine will increase. It is known amongst many tabletop gamers out there that Privateer Press (PP) is currently having supply issues. The demand for the game is ever increasing (and rightfully so). It would be only a matter of time till the directors decide that they can do better and over-achieve their revenue plan compared to their previous year. It is simply human nature to do so. There are families to be fed and if we were in their shoes, we’d probably do the same too.

There could not be a clearer winner here. Warmachine IS the cheaper game system compared to Warhammer 40k. However, would you still continue investing in Warmachine should the price of PP miniatures increase?


  1. Might have been intresting to include competative player`s armies as well as that is a big part of both 40k and wm/h's gaming scene.

    Top group Nova 40K lists from last year come in more expensive because of the transport spam. but by the same token Warmachine tournement rarely run mono list, most often you bring two lists or suffer bad match ups.

    Even in the armies you do compare you still neglect to look an important aspect. There are way more models in the Warhammer lists then the Warmachine ones. There`s more then 4 dollars per model difference between GW and PP. How much importance one places on absolute versus relative cost is up to each person though.

    Further, it`s easy to jump from Space Marine book to Space Marine book to Space Marine book while only requiring a small number of "this model is only for this codex" model count which also saves money.

  2. Good points. Most major tournaments in WM/H require 2 army lists, hence requiring that extra moolah to support the two. Fortunately, most competitive list I see in WM/H have overlapped units. Therefore, it's not like you need to spend a whole new army list. Some, if not most, models can be re-used in your 2nd army backup army. I would have likely concluded both systems cost the same if there's a USD$10-USD$30 difference, but USD$50-USD$100 difference is alot.

    I tried as much as I can to compare competitive lists becuase, eventually, that's the final evolution that your army would become (for most players at the very least). Hence why it should be the benchmark.

  3. Oddly, I was surprised you didn't throw Warhammer Fantasy Battles vs Warmachine/Hordes as they're both fantasy (or steampunk, depending on strictly you want to classify it) more or less. Even more odd is that it seems that its mainly 40K players who are getting into Warmachine instead of WFB players (or so it seems from the folks I've talked to). In any case, could you do a WFB vs WM comparison?

  4. Just a heads up on the last list comparison, you have two listings of 10x Assault squads at $30. Assault squads are 5 marines per box at $30. So that final list is around $60 less than it should be.


  5. For a real world perspective, two armies I actually own and actively play:
    1500 Blood Angels.
    Librarian in power armor
    6x 5 man Assault squad with Razorback
    2x Baal Predators
    3x 5 man Devastators
    1 attack bike
    $550.00 Priced on Amazon today.

    25 Cryx
    2x Nightwretch
    2x 6 man Machanithrall
    Necrosugeon & Stitch
    2x Pistol Wraiths.
    $134.00 Priced on Amazon today.

    All prices look to be around 20% off retail.

    While I play and love 40k and Warmachine, it was much cheaper to build my Warmachine army. I am sure it is possible to spend a lot more money on both game systems, but these lists are pretty run of the mill in today's semi-competitive environments.


  6. @Mugu: I never considered WFB in price comparisons because as far as I know, the debate has always been 40k vs WM. This is simply because in terms of tabletop wargames, I believe 40k has the most player-base out there. WM players are increasing rapidly and it will soon, if not already, become the 2nd most played tabletop wargame presently. There are also more 40k games played locally at where I am at compared to WFB.

    Nevertheless, a WFB/WM comparison is interesting. It needs to be studied further and I will write up on it if I can. However, do take note. I am no WFB player, so my views may be skewed.

  7. As a note, PP did raise their prices a few years back. Many models use to cost between $1-$3 less if theyw ere originally from Primal or Evolution than if they currently do now. (For instnace, a Gnarlhorn Satyr use to cost $38 when released, now costs $40).

    As an example that, if you do keep buying, the game gets expesnive anyhow, my current Circle army has litereally everything available in it currently save some Minion options. According to the costs on PP's site, this retails for about $1514.31. But a lot of factors means this is only the retail cost:
    - This is built-up since about 2006, so even assuming about $2.00 less per model/unit on average to then, the sheer volume of things may actually be about $68 just there. Add in things like eBay deals, buying some bigger stuff (cavalry, Skinwalkers) from websits, and my choice to double-up on a few units and warbeasts, and I bet that, sans redundent and discounts, it is more like $1200.

    This still seems like a lot, but keep in mind that with 9 warlocks currently, and the swath of units, it's actually a lot of flexibility adn room to experiment. So the lot of it is a lot, but how much each "list" costs on itself may mean that if theyw ere boguth separately, the cost would be pretty high, I suspect.

  8. You also need two books to play Warhammer 40K, I believe. The core rulebook and also the Codex for the army you want to play. In Warmachine, only the Prime (or Primal) is necessary. The army book is optional (but a nice addition). I guess Warmachine also has the interim books but they usually don't have much added rule content.

  9. your points comparison is way off, 25 points is a tiny game of warmachine which in time comparison is about the same as a 1k point game of 40k, also All major UK tournaments now use 50pts lists, with the new rules requiring 3 lists with no reuse of characters. means your going to have 3 quite varied 50pt lists. i play both but am in no doubt warmachine is more expensive