GW’s announcement of the new range of Warhammer 40k starter sets for 10th edition shows me that the firm has, finally, got its head around products for beginners. I’ll be harsh here – the upcoming Introductory Set will be the first, ever, Warhammer 40k product that fulfils all the requirements to be a true ‘starter set’.
I’m judging GW’s products using Ash Barker’s ‘Christmas morning’ test: here’s a video from his channel Guerillia Miniature games reviewing a GW game that passes the test.
When a kid unwraps a new game on Christmas morning, whether it’s a Warhammer 40k starter set or a dungeon crawler board game or whatever else, can they play a game before the turkey reaches the table? With Battletech or DnD Onslaught or your choice of board game, they need to read the rules and round up enough relatives to meet the minimum player count.
For most of the history of Warhammer 40k and Warhammer Fantasy Battle, they’d be lucky to be playing before the new year. Never mind the daunting, 300 page rulebook: they’d have to build the models first.
That has gotten somewhat easier since I unboxed my 2nd edition box. The introduction of push-fit minis with the launch of the first edition of Age of Sigmar removed the need for glue; the color-coded plastic that debuted with Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire and used since then in most starter products makes models visually distinct even when unpainted.
But you still need to have clippers! GW has sold hobby starter kits, usually with a few paints and a mini or two, sometimes with glue and GW branded clippers. But the upcoming Warhammer 40k Introductory Set is the first set ever to combine both a hobby starter set and a game starter set into a true starter product.
Even the name change from the ninth edition “Recruit Edition” starter set to the 10th ed “Introductory Set” shows an understanding that people outside the hobby may not have the same tools and understanding as the people already part of it.
I’m not advocating that the entry-level product for every GW game should be as simple as possible, or contain everything conceivably necessary to get started. There’s a degree of proportionality, based on what the audience for the game will be.
At the far end of that scale we have the big box sets for Age of Darkness, Adeptus Titanicus, and Legions Imperialis. These boxes have no “how to play” booklet, no easy-to-build minis, just a beast of a rulebook and enough models for a satisfying two-player game or a full sized army for one player.
Games Workshop doesn’t even classify this type of product as a “starter set”, because they can’t get someone started in the hobby. They’re still the starting point for playing those games – a terminological distinction that caused some confusion when Eddie Eccles stated there will be no Warhammer: The Old World starter set.
While I suspect GW could market these games to total beginners who need maximum support, they’ve decided to put their resources elsewhere, and double-down on creating a product that really sings to grognards like me. That’s the right starter set for the right audience.
The most recent smart move from GW is the upcoming Warcry: Crypt of Blood starter set, announced on Tuesday. Warcry is a low complexity game with a short run time and lots of fun dice rolling. It’s absolutely perfect for beginners, but it has previously offered big box starter sets packed with traditional miniatures and terrain.
Those minis are often small and fiddly, not beginner friendly at all, and in some instances they’re so small that they demand painting so they can be easily interpreted from across the tabletop.
Crypt of Blood uses colored push-fit models from older Warhammer Underworlds sets, and even comes with terrain that – by the looks of it – should be push fit or even single piece. Without clippers this isn’t quite an absolute beginners product, but I’ll give it a pass since it’s not trying to be the ambassador for the hobby as a whole.
The hobby relies on new blood to grow and thrive; a good starter set can make the fun of the hobby clear, while a bad starter set will be an expensive brick wall. Here’s to more starter products that just make sense.
If you’re reading this because you’re a parent, guardian, or educator keen to get younglings involved in the hobby, check out our article on NonCombat Tabletop, the pacifist “wargaming” community. If all this talk of building and painting miniatures has you exhausted, may I recommend our guide to war board games? All the strategy, none of the construction.