It has been quite some time since I last wrote a proper article under the 'Smurf like Musings' banner so I thought I would dust off the old thinking cap and have another stab.
So are GW's plastic kits really that useful?
As usual, this article starts with a question and a hypothesis. I propose that the GW plastic kits are not as useful as they first appear to be and in support of that I present to you the following arguments.
1) The Plastic Kits are Expensive
Ahh yes, as usual, a key point focuses on the monetary value of the models. Plastic kits have become seriously expensive recently, starting with the Empire Greatswords setting a worrying trend. However, this has not always been the case. Originally the plastic kits were a beacon of hope for the longevity of the wallet and represented serious value for money! With limitless construction possibilities and many including heavy and support weapons, the plastic kit finally made it possible to field a full unit without buying expensive blisters. But sure enough, over the years, the price of the plastic kit has increased to the point where they are just as expensive as their previous metal equivalents.
I return to my original example, the Greatswords. This 'landmark' plastic kit set the benchmark for warhammer elite unit pricing and finally laid rest to any doubt that GW was basing their prices on some sort of 'unit power level.' They even felt they needed to justify the £25 (for 10 models) price tag in white dwarf by saying something along the lines of 'this kit is slightly cheaper than the metal models and comes with 12 heads!' I mean wow, the ability to field 12 guys before head duplication occurs is definitely worth the extra £'s!
Seriously, the policy of pricing up units based on their impact in the game is completely unfair. They know that you are going to want to take at least a core unit of 20 Greatswords just to make it a viable option in the game! Therefore they know that they will get at least £50 out of you. Is that really value for money? It isn't just elite infantry either. It is now £18 for 10 Orc Boys! £18 for 10! Need I say more?
This is a point I covered in a previous article where I discussed the advantages and disadvantages of metal over plastic so I don't want to discuss it at length again. However, I feel that it is important to state that metal models are just better quality in most cases. Not only do they 'feel' like better value because of their weight (and other conceptual and often insignificant nuances), but they are often more thoughtfully posed and ooze character.
With plastic kits we have to make them. That sounds good doesn't it because every guy can be different? Well I don't always think so. First of all building them takes time. Second of all, the majority of us arn't artists and therefore end up posing our guys in rather dubious poses?! You know you have seen it and I know I have done it!
Finally, plastic guys just don't click like metal ones do. There is always a cape not flowing properly, or every guy actually does end up looking the same (a particular problem in warhammer) because you need to rank them up. Metal models have been designed in detail from the start to look and feel a certain way. Thats why plastic characters always look worse than metal ones.
3) Details, Details, Details!
It is my opinion that the GW plastic kits are going way over the top in terms of details. The quality of the kits and the casting process is now so advanced that the plastic models you receive are festooned with extra nonsense. GW are happy to market this as a good thing. After all, an abundance of heads does justify the price tag now doesn't it?!
Well I argue that the extra details are both unnecessary and off putting. The example I will use is the ork storm boyz box. In my previous post, I showed you a few pictures of my work in progress ork stormboyz. Now that plastic kit is wonderful! Loads of character, plenty of extras, not that expensive. Did I just deface all my previous arguments?
Well no. They are so characterful and so packed with details that I have now spent 3 afternoons painting the bloody things and they still aren't finished! Now I'm no expert painter, but I am fussy about the details. And oh how there are details! They have bullets and teeth hanging everywhere. Glyphs, rockets and wires litter up the flat surfaces and make the whole package just look too busy! Imagine that level of detail on warhammer regiments. I would never complete an army.
And that is exactly my point. I love painting, but I am sick to the back teeth with these models. It just keeps going on and on and on. I don't think I am the only one feeling this way either. I have even heard people decline buying models because they are intimidated by the prospect of either 'never finishing the army' or 'not doing the models justice.' I think Ron made this very point at From the Warp (yay your back!) when the dark eldar where released. Those models are so nice and so detailed that they become almost impossible to paint well and quickly!
Now lets get real here. The advantages of plastic kits are massive and my arguments are actually fairly minor in comparison. But I am beginning to feel that the plastic direction is going too far. The detail and choice appears to be masking the fact that they are pricing their models based on some sort of fuzzy 'unit power' criteria. 'Don't worry about the price, you get more heads!' On top of the deception, the extra details are complicating the joy of painting and making it an almost impossibly long process to complete a unit.
I truly feel that the equilibrium between model quality and practicality has tipped too far to the former and it leaves me wondering if this is what we will have to endure from now on? I mean, they would never lower both the prices and the level of detail would they?