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Warhammer 40K’s next boxed set makes a statement with its $299 price tag

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Warhammer 40,000’s most exciting setting, the small unit skirmish game Necromunda, is getting a massive new boxed set. Independent retailers have confirmed to Polygon that Necromunda: Ash Wastes will retail for $299, and it goes up for pre-order online at the official Games Workshop website this weekend, where it’s expected to list at the same price. And yes, that’s an awful lot for a big box of unassembled plastic parts, a book, and some cardboard bits. It also represents a not-so-subtle change in the scale of the 40K hobby, and a show of force in the face of increased competition.

The original Necromunda system dates back to 1995, when it was introduced in the pages of White Dwarf magazine. In 2017, it was rebooted with a new ruleset and elaborate plastic miniatures. For example, a single 28-millimeter miniature could easily contain 12 or more tiny parts — including a wee little cigar the fraction of the size of a grain of rice that was a real pain to glue into place, thank you very much. That opened the door to modding and customization that the hobby had simply never seen before (outside of maybe the space ork armies, known for literally going to war in hacked-together hunks of trash built from the ground up from … well, trash).

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The full contents of the Necromunda: Ash Wastes boxed set.

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Image: Games Workshop

Now out of print, 2017’s Necromunda: Underhive goes for about $175 on eBay. A later revision of the starter set, Necromunda: Hive War, sells for around the same price, while Necromunda: Dark Uprising is a bit more desirable and higher priced among collectors. All of these sets include a smattering of plastic scenery, rulers, markers, dice, and a manual.

So why does Ash Wastes cost almost twice as much? An early preview of the components, published on Monday, reveals exactly how much stuff is inside that box. It includes two gangs of 10 miniatures, two four-wheeled vehicles, and four soldiers riding mounts. That’s far more fighters than any of the boxed sets that have come before. Ash Wastes also includes a new and comprehensive rulebook and a short-form narrative campaign, plus dice and other odds and ends.

Ash was nomads take aim, leaning outside a weathered “hab block” painted the color of wet clay.

A close up of a habitation block, part of the new modular scenery coming to Necromunda. It — along with the vehicles and mounted soldiers — will eventually be sold seperately.
Image: Games Workshop via YouTube

But the real cherry on top for fans of Necromunda are the bits of elaborate scenery on offer in the form of “habitation blocks.” In 40K fiction, they’re basically slum-like modular housing that can last for millennia with zero upkeep — but for hobbyists they may as well be catnip. Where previous sets of Necromunda terrain were, with some exceptions, fairly simple kits without much variation, these appear to allow for previously unheard of modification right out of the box. There’s very little reason that your terrain should look like anyone else’s, and that’s very exciting.

What’s more, the modularity of this terrain clearly displays a desire to expand the range of scenery available to fans of Necromunda. It should be easy to make sub-$300 sets of compatible terrain for Ash Wastes available to fans in the near future. But the design of these habitation blocks also appears to present a very simple and straightforward way to connect bits you might already own (or bits that you might want to model from scratch) to the bits included in the box. A close examination of a playthrough on the Warhammer Plus subscription service clearly shows there isn’t an Apple Lightning connector needed here, just gravity.

Simply put, the design of this Necromunda boxed set appears to lean into what makes this particular corner of the hobby special: unique, fan-created designs that blur the line between tabletop wargaming and works of art.

It is also expanding the lore for the game, adding a whole-new faction and setting, both of which were previously unexplored territory. In short, it’s a statement piece — a statement piece that costs $300.

So why make a power move like this right now? Over the last several years of the pandemic, even with many consumers unable to play together in public, Games Workshop’s sales have been through the roof. That growth in sales and earnings also comes against the backdrop of increased consumer adoption of 3D-printing technology. But instead of just rehashing the same old Space Marine factions with different details and paint schemes, Games Workshop is doing the work to expand its other franchises — Necromunda among them. The company is also committing lots of time and effort to old favorites like Blood Bowl and Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, and continuing to support new lines like Warhammer: Underworlds. Next on the horizon? A reboot of the Warhammer 30,000 line, better known as the Horus Heresy.

Horus Lupercal assaults Terra in a new trailer for The Horus Heresy.

Warmaster Horus, from a CGI trailer for a new Horus Heresy boxed set.
Image: Games Workshop via YouTube

There’s a reason why Necromunda: Ash Wastes costs as much as a new video game console. It’s because Games Workshop expects consumers to spend as much time putting it together, painting it, and playing with it as they do with their Nintendo Switch. From Monday’s reveal, that looks very possible. Most importantly, though, Games Workshop feels like it has a plan to expand and support these new product lines. It appears to be plowing its record earnings into supporting that expansion with more research and development, more and deeper lore, and more elaborate new models that fans of the hobby are clamoring for.

The increasing depth and complexity in their product offering — positioned alongside the beloved lore that underpins it all — will be hard for even 3D printers to compete with.

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