Warhammer 40,000’s most exciting setting, small unit skirmish game Necromunda, gets a massive new box set. Independent retailers have confirmed to Polygon that Necromunda: Ash Deserts will retail for $299, and it will be pre-ordered online from the official Games Workshop website this weekend, where it should drop for the same price. And yes, that’s a lot for a big box of unassembled plastic parts, a book, and a few pieces of cardboard. It also represents a not-so-subtle shift in the scale of the 40K hobby and a show of strength in the face of increased competition.
The original Necromunda system dates back to 1995, when it was introduced to the pages of White Dwarf magazine. In 2017, it was rebooted with a new set of rules and elaborate plastic miniatures. For example, a single 28 millimeter miniature could easily hold 12 or more small parts – including a very small cigar the fraction of the size of a grain of rice which was very painful to stick together, thank you very much. This opened the door to modification and customization that the hobby had simply never seen before (apart from perhaps the armies of space orks, known to literally go to war in pile of pirated junk built from scratch from … well, trash).
Now out of print, 2017 Necromunda: Subhive goes for around $175 on eBay. A later revision of the starter kit, Necromunda: The Hive Warsells for about the same price, while Necromunda: Insurrection of Darkness is somewhat more desirable and more expensive among collectors. All of these sets include a handful of plastic sets, rulers, markers, dice and a manual.
So why Ash waste cost almost double? A taste of the components, published monday, reveals exactly how many things are inside that box. It includes two 10-figure gangs, two four-wheeled vehicles and four troopers mounted on mounts. That’s way more fighters than any of the previous box sets. Ash waste also includes a complete new rulebook and an abbreviated narrative campaign, as well as dice and other odds and ends.
But the real icing on the cake for Necromunda fans are the elaborate set pieces offered in the form of “dwelling blocks”. In 40K fiction, it’s basically slum-like modular housing that can last for millennia without any upkeep – but for hobbyists, it might as well be catnip. Where previous Necromunda terrain sets were, with a few exceptions, fairly straightforward kits without much variation, these seem to allow for never-before-seen modifications right out of the box. There’s very little reason for your terrain to look like anyone else’s, and that’s very exciting.
What’s more, the modularity of this land clearly shows a desire to broaden the range of settings offered to Necromunda fans. It should be easy to create compatible terrain sets under $300 for Ash waste available to fans in the near future. But the design of these housing blocks also seems to present a very simple and straightforward way to connect bits you may already own (or bits you may want to model from scratch) to the bits included in the box. Close examination of a read on the Warhammer Plus subscription service clearly shows that there’s no need for an Apple Lightning connector here, just gravity.
Simply put, the design of this Necromunda box set seems to draw on what makes this particular corner of the hobby special: unique fan-made designs that blur the line between tabletop wargaming and artwork. art.
It also expands the game’s lore, adding an all-new faction and setting, both of which were previously uncharted territory. In short, it’s a statement piece – a statement piece that costs $300.
So why make a power move like this right now? In the final years of the pandemic, even with many consumers unable to play together in public, Games Workshop’s sales skyrocketed. This sales and profit growth 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, including Necromunda. The company also spends a lot of time and effort on old favorites like bowl of blood and Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, and continues to support new lines like Warhammer: Underworlds. The next one on the horizon? A reboot of the Warhammer 30,000 line, better known as Horus Heresy.
There’s a reason why Necromunda: Ash Deserts costs as much as a new video game console. That’s because Games Workshop expects consumers to spend as much time building, painting, and playing with it as they do with their Nintendo Switch. Based on Monday’s reveal, it seems very possible. More importantly, however, Games Workshop feels like it has a plan to develop and support these new product lines. He seems to be plowing his record income to support this expansion with more research and development, ever-deeper knowledge, and new, more elaborate designs that fans of the hobby have been crying out for.
The growing depth and complexity of their product offering – positioned alongside the beloved tradition that underpins everything – will be hard to compete with, even for 3D printers.