Well, this is a bit of a turn up for the books. A post which has absolutely nothing to do with Mordheim, but everything to do with my love (addiction) to starter boxes. There's a rumor going round that 40K is about to release 6th Edition, which means a new starter box. That's good for me. The rumor is that there will actually be two different starters, regular Space Marines and Traitor Marines (not Chaos marines, but Traitor marines). Interesting.
The thing is that I think that GW has been doing starter boxes all wrong. Really wrong. Completely missed the boat or whatnot. So I would like to share my thoughts on the matter, in as orderly fashion as I can. So don't be surprised if this reads like an english paper, cause here comes the thesis. The problem with the GW starters is numerous, first being that the models included and the business decision thereof, the next problem is that the starter box is not really a starter box, and the third being a lack of support. There are several solutions to these problems that I will address afterward (or at a later time).
So the first issue is that the models that are in the starter boxes. These cause a problem. From a consumer standpoint, its a great deal...in a way. We old vets look at a starter box and say 'Awesome, some reinforcements for cheap! And I can sell off the other side to someone else, and recoup some money!'. This is NOT how GW looks at the starter boxes. GW has to look at a starter box as a 'loss leader', but putting in a great value for the price, you get people to come in. The phrase 'loss leader' is borrowed from big box retailers, like Wal-Mart and Target. They get you to come in the store because you are buying one particular item for much cheaper then the compitition, but you then end up buying other things while you are there that make up the difference in price. This is how GW looks at a starter box. You are getting a bunch of stuff for MUCH cheaper then buying the indivual models, you are more likely to expand your army. That being said let me break it down for you. I will use the current 40K starter box Assault on Black Reach and the indivual price for each in USD, cause I'm lazy and you can look up your own countries prices.
Item in Box Cost
SM Captain 15 for metal armed in the same manner (SM Master of the Recruits)
Tactical Squad 37.25
Item in Box Cost
Ork Warboss 20 (no equivilant model)
Ork Boys (20) 29 x2 = 58
Ork Nobs (5) 25
3 Deffkoptas 33 x 3 = 99
Grand total of all the models in the Assault on Black Reach, when purchased seperatly is...$349! Wow. Just wow. So basically from GW's perspective, with each Black Reach they are GIVING AWAY $250 dollars worth of models for the low, low, price of $99! Now I hear people in the back saying that you aren't getting options with the models. However from GW's perspective, the options for different weapons and poses is an extra benefit of the kit, NOT something mandatory. A nob is a nob, and Bob's your uncle. So the way that GW looks at it is for every Black Reach they sell, that's a lot of OTHER models that they aren't selling. So getting back to the original point, they believe that by giving away that much it will be more incentive for people to get more items. However, we all know that isn't how they work. The overall cost of 40K to get a reasonably sized army is MUCH more then what is in Black Reach. For someone just getting into the hobby, its often not a great investment.
Which brings us to the second problem, the starter box is not a real starter box. You don't get everything you need. Technically, you ALMOST do. From the SM side, you only have 1 troop choice. However, that isn't the main problem. The main problem is that you don't get the right rules. The full rule book in a smaller format is nice, but it doesn't help. The quick start guide isn't good enough. Then the main problem is that you NEED TO BUY A CODEX. That doesn't help anyone. They should include better intro rules and a mini-codex that is one half SM and one half orcs. Go ahead and ignore the fluff pages, just include the rules for what's in the box. Those types of things should have been ironed out well before release. It shouldn't be an ordeal to put out simple codex and a simplified version of all the rules normally used in play. The work is already done, its all just editing.
Now the final problem is an odd one. They don't really support the starter box, and it mainly just refers back to the GW main website. That is not good enough. Not only that, but the paint guides in the Black Reach section are NOT for beginners. They are basically the 'easy 'eavy metal way'. Not something for beginners, and most of the other articles are about how to expand your collection. These things are not beginner friendly, heck, they aren't even veteran friendly. Its just stuff. Kinda like the commentary track on a DVD with the Folly Guy, the Sound Designer, and the Costume Designer. Nice if you like that type of thing, and its something to put on the back of the cover, but 99% of us ain't going to listen to it.
How can this be fixed? Actually very easily, but it involves a very different methodology. Allow me to explain more in depth, and this is going to take a while. Time for another thesis. The problems with the starter box can be fixed with different levels of starter boxes, a different tactic for the rules, and better web support.
Now, the best way to change the system is to change what a starter box is and how it works. A bit of history, almost everyone around my age (early 30's) who is playing 40K now started because of one of two games. Either Hero Quest or Space Hulk. For me it was Hero Quest. Now, both of those games were a collaborative between GW/Citadel with Milton Bradley. You could get them at any store that sold games. They were a tad expensive, but they were awesome. They weren't 40K or WHFB, but they had enough similarties that you could not only transfer the models from the games but you picked up the rules faster. That is what the true starter box should be. It should be a limited number of models in a stand alone board game that introduces some of the GW game concepts. Then there would be a second level more like the starter boxes we have now, but instead of a great value it should contain most of the common unit types, and be a LEGAL ARMY. You bridge from starter to basic set.
Now with the rules, in the starter it should be only vaguely 40K-ish. Use the same shooting rules, and the same close combat rules. Other then that, it should be more board game like. Roll to see how far you move, a couple of boards that can be arranged in different ways, and the like. Then the basic set should include almost everything. Still include the full rule mini rule book, but also do a quick start guide that is actually worth it, and a mini-dex. While I'm on it, the painting guide should come with a couple of different paint schemes that are easy to pull off should be included.
Then there's support. Nothing should refer immediatly to the GW website. The starters should have thier own websites. Each website should have more indepth articles and easy paint guides, and other things like that. However, each website should then work on a tier system. First the starter would refer to the basic set which would then in turn refer to the main site. Right now, the site is a huge mess to navigate if you aren't used to it.
So to put those together, I have a plan. First would be a new starter game. we'll call it Ultra Marine; Space Hulk. Now, first off the cost should only be about $50. How do we get that cheap? First off, use the old Battle for Maccragge' molds. GW is always bragging about how much plastic molds cost, so lets reuse them. Now, going back to the original point of GW giving away models, there's much less there. Especially if you leave out the silly crashed thunderhawk. Throw in some boards that can be arranged in multiple ways, a pair of dice, and some simple rules. Include a one or two page painting guide, but make it seem more like an after thought then an integral part of the game. The website would have more missions, a bit more painting guide, and a link that says 'For more about the Space Marines Check out www.basicgamename.com'. Then the basic set should be SM vs. Nids. They should come with legal armies for both, and some of the most common unit types. One very important thing to include would be a vehicle of some type. Some people would scoff, but it could be done simply, for instance do you remember the old army guy tanks? Basically a two part shell with no bottom, you could do that for a rhino easy. Yes it would stand out against the regular rhinos, but it is good enough and probably use less plastic then the dread. Then my big suggestion would be to include two of the same unit, but with different upgrades. So no matter how you added up everything the points would be the same, but the minidexs would include the different options so that you could include choosing different options from a codex. Then its website would include different set point builds, and more detailed paint techniques, and eventually a link to the regular GW website.
THAT is how you make a something that will actually spark interest in your game. Not something that is inherently frustrating.