Sunday long read: The Forge World myth.

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A few days ago, I got a text from one of my regular gaming buddies. It simply asked, “Do you think they’ll make a Sigmar figure now?” I thought about it for a few seconds, before I answered (somewhat sarcastically) “I bet Forge World will make it. Age of Sigmar Character Series.” A lengthy discussion followed, where he suggested Games Workshop themselves would release it, as they had Nagash, and I pointed out that we have no actual clue if there are plans to expand the Age of Sigmar into Forge World’s tudios.

It’s a part of the story that my friend is a gung ho pre-heresy fan. He’s on his second heresy era marine army, he owns a primarch and and a Macharian tank. I once showed him a poorly painted army (and by poorly, I mean as if it had been basecoated with Tipp-Ex and coloured with felt pen) containing a Warhound Titan and a Xiphon flyer, and he got genuinely sad about Forge World models being treated that way.

These two things got me thinking; what is the reason that people will go out on a limb to accept, defend and sometimes even worship literally everything Forge World do? I’ll gladly admit to owning and using Forge World products myself, don’t get me wrong – but to me, they are just a means to an end. A cool model to help me pull off that conversion, or an awesome centerpiece I can build a unit around. To me, Forge World is no different from Games Workshop themselves.

Yet, whenever a rumour pops up about Games Workshop producing something currently in the Forge World range (the Space Marine Command Tanks being the lastest example), people will go haywire on forums and discussions will rage about how “GW treading on FW territory” – the rumour that a plastic Horus Heresy core set was being produced literally spawned thousands upon thousands of angry comments and posts about “money-grabbing GW wanting to steal FW’s thunder”.

Which is interesting to me, for two reasons.

First and foremost, because (and I can’t stress this enough), Forge World is Games Workshop. They are literally across the parking lot from Warhammer World. They share designers, artists and writers. And more importantly, in a legal sense, they are the same company (just like Citadel and Black Library are in fact also Games Workshop). Games Workshop isn’t treading on anyone’s toes, or stealing anyone’s thunder – they are simply managing assets within the company structure. Kind of like a bank employee switches from the loans and morgages division, to the accounting department.

The second point is the accusation that Games Workshop, if they would be re-releasing Forge World products in plastic, would be a “cash grab”. I’m sorry, I must have missed something. Have you not seen the prices on Forge World’s website lately? Sigismund – £45. Roboute Guilliman – £65. A pack of five Legion Mk IV Despoilers – THIRTY-THREE POUNDS STERLING. The recently released Space Marine Assault Squad was labelled expensive at £25, and that even comes with multiple options. If the exact same products with the exact same quality were to be released with the label “Finecast” at those prices, can to begin to imagine the uproar? An even more recent example is the plastic Dark Angels Interrogator Chaplain at £18 – unacceptably expensive, according to a lot of players, yet had he been resin and labeled “Horus Heresy”, would they have accepted a £31 price tag, no questions asked? The level of detail on the model certainly doesn’t stand back compared to models such as Alexis Polux or Kharn the Bloody. And don’t tell me the scenic base is worth the £13 price difference – we both know that’s reaching.

The fact of the matter is that resin is a cheaper material than plastic, and that casting moulds from sculpted models is significantly easier than creating multi-part plastic frames – even you can do it without too large an equipment investment. The entire Horus Heresy range could be recreated in plastic with prices comparable to the regular Space Marine range, and you as a gamer wouldn’t notice any difference (apart from not having to work with resin). The same goes for the Chaos Dwarves, and releases such as Nagash, the Imperial Knights and the Glottkin proves that even the largest of vehicles and monsters can be recreated in plastic at a reasonable price – “reasonable” in the context of comparison to Forge World, that is. The Cerastus Knights are significantly more expensive than the regular ones, and it’s fair to assume that the Glottkin would be priced similarly to the Great Unclean One.

So why do people have this fascination with Forge World? Why do people jump to the defence of a company that is far more expensive in their model range than the parent company they can’t speak a single positive word of? It’s easy to think “tradition”, but are most of the Forge World faithful really people that have been around that long? Is it really that simple? I have an Iron Warriors Dreadnought bought back around 2003, when Dreadnoughts were an ugly lump of pewter, and Helbrutes were something you’d likely find on black metal albums, yet here I am, writing this article. Is it the design? Quite possibly, yet to say Forge World is creating so much higher quality than Games Workshop themselves is simply not true. Look at a model like Fulgrim, whose face looks like it’s more or less melting off, and compare him to say, the new Harlequins. Forge World’s range is as much hit and miss as anything else, be it Games Workshop, Privateer Press or Raging Heroes.

I don’t think there is a single answer. But it is certainly a paradox on the same weekend Games Workshop is taking a lot of flak for their new game system, Forge World sells out an event at £12 per person to basically come to their store and look at their models, and get to buy a few new ones a few weeks before they hit the web store (if you’re lucky before they sell out). It is a paradox that the amount of negative publicity Games Workshop receive for rebranding their intellectual property to something they can copyright is labeled as greed, while the trademark of Forge World is stronger than ever.

What’s definite, is that the next time you want to criticize any single model Games Workshop release for its price, heading on over to the Forge World website and finding a comparable size and detail model should add some perspective. Odds are, you’ll be surprised at who it is that is actually “grabbing your cash”.

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