“Truth suffers from too much analysis”.

Ancient Fremen Proverb

A beginning… is a delicate time

The Horus Heresy is an amazing gaming system, able to tell stories through dice rolls that not even the books it’s based on can stand a chance against. Tough victories, brutal losses, savage battles with immense attrition rates that tell us only of the true horrors of the Heresy.

But the beginning is a delicate time. The potential cost of building an army can often scare new players from the system entirely, unlikely to return.

The cost of each army varies too, due to the huge amount of different approaches to the game there are. There’s no relative stagnancy and meta chasing in Heresy like there is in Warhammer 40,000 – but the fact you are able to craft such a wide gamut of army types can be a double edged sword for new players; choice suddenly becomes paralysing and combined with high costs for some model ranges, the problems begin.

There’s been no plastic starter set for Horus Heresy since The Burning Of Prospero and The Betrayal of Calth sets were discontinued. These sets occasionally come up on sites such as eBay and on groups such as Heresy Trading on Facebook. Sets from eBay tend to be of an overinflated price and recently there have been some deceptively named “Box sets” that actually only have the rule book and accessories in them; with no sprues. In short, be very careful on eBay.

Previously, you could purchase Legion starter sets from Forgeworld, but these were effectively just The Betrayal Of Calth box set, paired with some Legion Torsos and other bits. Nice, but once the box sets went out of production, the torsos soon followed suit.

Credit: Forgeworld

There is the Mark III Starter Set on Forgeworld for £155 (at the time of writing). This set comes with two 10 man MkIII armoured Space Marines, the Forgeworld Praetors and a Leviathan Siege Dreadnought with a Cyclonic Melta Lance and Siege Drill. So let’s break that down and look at the value of the set:

Leviathan Dreadnought, plus Siege Drill and Cyclonic Melta Lance – £74.

Legion Praetors – £37.

2x MkIII Space Marines – £60.

Total cost if purchased separately from Games Workshop and Forgeworld – £167.

So, you save £12 by purchasing the MkIII Starter Set from Forgeworld. It’s not a huge amount, but it’s a start, providing you with the compulsory HQ, Troops and a popular Heavy Support choice. Here’s the thing though, most Friendly Local Gaming Stores (FLGS) have around 10% reduced prices than mainstream Games Workshop stores. Whilst most of the MkIII Starter Set is resin and therefore cannot be purchased from FLGS; the MkIII Marines are plastic, and available for around £24, such as these from 4TK Gaming. In this regard, you don’t save any money from buying the MkIII Starter Set; and you’re locked into buying those weapons that come with the set for the Leviathan. Frankly, it isn’t good enough.

Something more like the Titan Builder would be better. Seeing that a lot of Legion Praetor-Class Characters are circa £38, it would make sense to offer the ability to purchase that character instead of the generic praetors as a swap in option. Removing the Leviathan Siege Dreadnought from the bundle and offering a choice between plastic Legion Tartaros or Cataphractii Terminators would make the starter set appeal to wider audiences. Similarly, offering the choice between MkIII and MkIV Marines effectively makes this a quick win Starter Set for both Games Workshop/Forgeworld and for new and existing players alike.

Regardless, £155 for the core of a Horus Heresy army and a popular Heavy Support Dreadnought is roughly on par with a basic Battalion of 1x Primaris Lieutenant, 1x Librarian and 3x Intercessor Squads (£145). However, much like the Warhammer 40,000 core…. it won’t suit everyone.

The average game size is around 2,500-3,000 points. Most commonly I see 3,000 points games – as Heresy really truly comes alive with the chaos and carnage at that size and above.

Escalation Leagues are a good way to get into Heresy. Credit: the30kchannel

The 52nd Company

Those who follow the blog know my primary army is the 52nd Company “Legio Traitoris”, Night Lords. This is predominantly an air assault themed army that focuses on highly manoeuvrable drop pods and flyers to deposit squads loaded with Volkite weapons around the battlefield.

It’s an effective and thematic 3,000 point army; but what does it cost?

Sevatar – £38.

4x MkIII/IV Marines – £120.

4x Volkite Charger Kits – £52.

4x Anvillus Dreadclaw Drop Pod – £272.

1x Storm Eagle Gunship – £110.

1x Leviathan Dreadnought – £50.

1x Leviathan Cyclonic Melta Lance – £14.

1x Leviathan Siege Claw – £14.

1x Dreadnought Drop Pod – £68.

2x Contekar Terminator Elite – £126.

This brings the 52nd Company 3,000 points army to a total cost of £864. There’s a way to reduce the cost of it, which is to swap the Dreadclaw Drop Pods for normal Legion Drop Pods, saving you £162 and bringing the total cost to £702.

The 54th Company

With the 52nd having a core complement of plastic troops and still costing £864, where does that leave the all-resin 54th “Blood Reavers” Company?

This army has a bit of conversion work applied to it, but the base costs are:

2x Night Lords Jump Pack Praetor – £44.

8x Night Raptor Squads – £336.

8x Nostraman Chainglaive Packs – £128.

2x Destroyer Squad with Jump Packs – £78.

1x Apothecaries – £25.

2x Primaris-Lightning Strike Fighter – £178.

3x Javelin Attack Landspeeder with Lascannons – £186

1x Fire Raptor – £116.

This brings the total cost of the 54th Company 3,000 points army to £1091.

The Toll of a Legion

Now when you consider just two companies of the three I have built and fielded over 3 years have cost £1,955, you can see that the main “barrier to entry” is the cost of the models, tempered by only two intrinsically linked things:

  • Your scope.
  • Your timescale.

So what do I mean by these things? Well, as I’ve mentioned, I have 3 Companies with the Night Lords; my primary Legion. In total, that’s £2,666 in the VIII Legion alone.

That doesn’t factor in the £836 of Dark Mechanicum Legio Cybernetica, the £1,397 of Death Guard, £1,362 of Acastus and Cerastus Knights….. and £1,913 of Titans.

That’s a total of £8,174 over 3 years of hobby. So scope and timescale are serious considerations.

If your scope is to have a large legion, with multiple companies or if you want multiple forces able to mix and match or ally in; then consider the timescale you want to achieve this in.

Big centrepiece models can devastate the wallet as much as they do the tabletop.

Slow Grow

For those starting the Horus Heresy in a group afresh, a way to tackle the cost for the system is to play in a slow grow campaign. It’s also good for existing players to expand their collection whilst encouraging new players in those campaigns. These campaigns are also great because they genuinely show the scope the gaming system really has to portray and create amazing stories, all at a low points level, with a more achievable growth rate (normally 250-500pts a month) than approaching the game in a “Big Bang” methodology and dropping anywhere from £700-1100 on an army.

It’s also great for avoiding incidents of “buyers remorse”. The seasoned players will all know well this feeling. This is the act of buying a model that looked amazing or you thought would work really well or synergise with your army and in fact it….. doesn’t. So it either sits on the shelf as a reminder to not just go out and buy stuff on a whim or it gets an army built around it out of sheer bloody-mindedness. Or it gets sold, normally for less than was paid for in the first place.

Recasting

I’m going to touch on this. It’s an awkward topic for some because the basic facts are thus:

  • Games Workshop created The Horus Heresy system and continue to support and evolve it. Heresy isn’t dead contrary to common shit chat by various individuals.
  • Forgeworld is an advanced (resin isn’t a basic modelling material by any means) modelling company with a gaming system attached in premise.
  • Recasting by its nature cannot have “better quality than Forgeworld”. They’re not building a mould from high detail renders; they’re taking casts of already produced items and turning those into reverse engineered moulds for mass-production. A small percentage of recaster do refining work that “fixes” issues with Forgeworld casts. Most do not as it eats into their profits.
  • Recaster are not limited to using non-toxic release agents or other chemicals, which are more expensive in their nature than the ones Forgeworld are bound to by law.
  • Profit from recasting doesn’t ever go to the system developers to try new things and develop new ideas.
  • Games Workshop is exceptionally thrifty with their development of new games, ideas and systems. It’s fairly well known they provide bare minimum financial support to these “good ideas clubs” until they gain traction – then finance is put into them properly. In short, if you’re not supporting the system; new ideas that could revolutionise new iterations of the system may never mature.

Personally, there’s one area that recasting is acceptable – Out Of Production items – especially those that people now scalp the living daylights out of.

There have been plenty of times in the past (pre-COVID) that product lines have been decimated out of the blue. This has left players in an awkward position; potentially hundreds of Pounds worth of now unavailable models in a collection that will never be completed. The lack of communication with the player base is one of the greatest failures of Games Workshop in this regard.

Again, personally, I cannot abide it when a new player is immediately bombarded by individuals to use a recaster instead of Forgeworld.

Without Forgeworld financially resourced, the game we love is dead – and no amount of Chinese or Russian recaster supplying you cheap resin will change that.

Summary

If it feels like this post went a bit “off piste” then you’re damn right it did. I’ve gone about my business in the hobby purchasing little bits here and there from Forgeworld. Normally a squad or two a month, with the occasional larger splurge scattered here and there. The Warlord Titan was the expenditure from getting a bonus and a bit of saving.

Even so, actually adding up the values of the armies and larger items into totals gave a total figure somewhat higher than I’d estimated I’ve spent in the last 3 years. That doesn’t include adhesives, solvents, tools and paints either.

No one will argue that this hobby has a large barrier to entry in the form of its price. But there are ways to get going in an affordable manner, continuing to evolve and develop armies and still support the system by supporting Forgeworld and not supporting recasters. This includes the use of Warhammer 40,000 plastic kits and converting the more ostentatious stuff that exists in that line into something of a more palatable aesthetic.

Even now, with life in flux and a significant situational change to my existence; I purchase from Forgeworld in sparing amounts, what I can afford and save for what I can’t. Sokar Stormbird, I’m looking at you.