Warhammer 40,000 Spearhead – Or we aren’t selling enough tanks…

After waxing lyrical over the awesomeness that is War of the Ring recently it is high time to come crashing back down to earth with the kind of irreverent cynicism that we love here at 6 Inch Move.

It’s not that often that I pick up an issue of White Dwarf, I am one of those sad old farts that remembers grabbing every issue during the early 90’s which many of us veterans consider to be the magazine’s hey day.Yet it has been noted with sadness that over the intervening years the subsequent batch of editors have not done a great job with it. Recently however, I’d say over the past few years, I’ve picked up a few issues, I tend to have a good browse through them first to see if they have enough content for me to part with the cash (I remember it being put up to £1.75) and pick it up if I like what I scan-read.

Naturally this doesn’t lead me to buying many of the issues, the quality is that variable from issue to issue. However, this June sees the release of something almost interesting; Spearhead for 40k.

A whole expansion of 40k available from a magazine? Must be pretty good value right? Well, this is where we can open up our 6 Inch Move speciality, carefully considered intelligent points and logical arguments that will cause all the fanbois to spontaneously combust in a violent eruption of nerd rage. Let’s watch.

Where do I start with this? Anyone that gets the GW newsletter has been aware of this “expansion” for a while now, yet in the actual magazine itself the rules for the expansion cover maybe 8 pages of an article, many of those pages being covered with the obligatory pictures of stuff you may not be interested in. It even gives you one formation in there, where are the others? Well, if you REALLY want to check it out then you have to go online and find and download them, then you’ll have to print them out yourself to use them in games, I can’t imagine many opponents willing to let you say “well, my Spearhead does this and has this rule, but you’ll need to look online for the rules as I didn’t print them off.” If you are paying for a ruleset in print, may I humbly suggest you actually give your punters the whole thing? The next side of this is what does a Spearhead represent? The short answer is tanks! Shockingly there are even a couple new vehicles released this month to coincide with the release of the “rules” odd that eh? The magazine may be light on rules but certainly isn’t light on pictures of increasingly wallet-damaging formations of vehicles rolling across the beautifully painted landscapes we know GW are capable of producing.

This really is where I start to turn into a grumpy old man. From one point of view this comes across as nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to get the already spend happy customer base to buy more of the larger and more expensive kits. If I look at my Orks the most expensive thing I can buy for regular games is the Battlewagon, sure it’s a lovely kit but I don’t want to be forced into taking 3 or more of them to fight with these rules. Sure, they are in White Dwarf (or not) and I can still exercise my choice to play with these rules or not (definitely not) but surely the point of publishing a set of rules is for people to be able to use them? If 40k really is the province of the tweens these days then getting them to sell a kidney for the newest expansion seems like a poor business strategy to me, but then we are talking about GW, not the king of this arena it must be said. In the magazine you are presented with glorious pictures of Battlewagons, Predators, Land Raiders and Valkyrie’s also coincidentally among the most expensive standard army kits you can lay your hands on.

Then we come to the next thing that crossed my mind. Warhammer 8th edition is out next month. You want to try to entice people who don’t normally buy White Dwarf to pick it up? Release new rules for the game they play, just so happens that there is a piece about the latest rules for the other major rules system too. People pick it up for Spearhead and then maybe get excited about a new version of Warhammer they might like to try? I have to tip my hat to GW if this was their thinking, sinister though it may be putting a worm on the hook there was a clever move. Perhaps they just wanted to bolster sales of 40k stuff for this month? I imagine July is going to be a bumper month in terms of sales as people pick up the new rules (since I found War of the Ring I will not be rushing out to look at Warhammer, the more I hear of the rules changes the less enthusiastic I become).

So, no matter what their thinking I have found Spearhead to be a bit of a damp squib, certainly nothing to get excited about nor make me want to part with more cash in order to play it. I know where my focus is at the moment and it is decidedly more Tolkienesque.