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A Thought Experiment

06/01/2015

One thing I’ve done a lot of in the last couple of years is listen to podcasts, specifically podcasts about gaming. There are a heap of them out here, and I’ve mentioned a few in the past. They tend to vary in quality and frequency, so I’ve found following a dozen or so means you get a fairly constant stream of new audio content.

Things slowed down considerably over Xmas, but that just gave me an excuse to catch up with some older episodes. It was in one of these episodes, from the 6s To Hit Podcast, that I came across an interesting idea. A guest talked about how he’d put together a Warhammer 40,000 Necron army using cheap plastic Dalek models. On the surface, this seems like a rather limited concept, but with a little conversion and creative painting he’s managed to make it work.

Listening to this got me thinking. Would it be possible to do something similar? A lot of people complain about the cost of putting together a Games Workshop army using the official models, but would it really be cheaper to use models from another company? First, I had to pick an army that could be proxied in a suitable way. Fortunately, it didn’t take too long to figure it out. Sitting on my painting table are the newly painted Tweedy & WPC May from Crooked Dice. If they look familiar it’s because they’re inspired by a certain on-screen pairing of alien and Scot. Crooked Dice have a number of similar models – though not a piratical May, yet – so I decided that making a UNIT-inspired Imperial Guard list would be the way to go.

My first step was to put together a list that could be fulfilled by models from both Crooked Dice and Games Workshop. This meant I had to go easy on the vehicles, and pretty much anything else that was too sci-fi. With this in mind, I decided to limit myself to 1,000 points of infantry. After a little number crunching on Battlescribe, I came up with the following:

Lord Commissar – 110pts
Plasma Pistol, Power Maul, Camo Gear, Melta Bombs

Company Command Squad – 119pts
Commander: Laspistol, Power Maul
4 Veterans: Krak Grenades, Medi-pack, Vox-caster
Regimental Advisor: Master of Ordinance

3 Veteran Squads – 270pts
Veteran Sergeant: Laspistol, Close Combat Weapon
9 Veterans: Krak Grenades, Vox-caster, Missile Launcher Team

Militarum Tempestus Platoon
Command Squad – 150pts
Tempestor Prime: Plasma Pistol, Power Maul
4 Scions: Medi-pack, Vox-caster, Plasma Gun

2 Scion Squads – 350pts
Tempestor: Hot-shot Laspistol, Power Maul
9 Scions: Vox-caster, Hot-shot Volley Gun, Plasma Gun

Total – 999pts

It’s not the fanciest and most diverse list, but this is just an experiment. The theory behind the list is that the Lord Commissar represents the Doctor, with his companion taking the place of the Master of Ordinance in the Company Command Squad. The Veterans represent U.N.I.T. soldiers, while the more heavily armoured Scions are the Gallifreyan soldiers seen in The Day of the Doctor.

If you’re familiar with the Warhammer 40,000 universe it may seem like an odd choice to make the Doctor a Commissar, but it’s all about counts-as. The Commissar’s ability to execute a model to improve morale is really just removing a model from play. We could just say that the Doctor is taking pity on someone and using technological trickery to help them escape. As for arming him with weapons, those represent his sonic screwdriver. It’s not perfect, but it’s close enough.

And now the not-so-fun part: adding up the relative costs.

Let’s start with the ‘official’ models. I’m using the pounds sterling prices as those are the only ones used on Crooked Dice’s site.

Lord Commissar – Officio Prefectus Commissar£12.50
Sure, there’s a cheaper Commissar model available, but this one comes with a plasma pistol and the power sword can be swapped to a maul.

Company Command Squad – Cadian Command Squad£15.50
Of the two Command Squad boxes, the Cadians look more like U.N.I.T. troopers (unless there’s a U.N.I.T. section that fights exclusively in singlets).

Master of Ordinance – Regimental Advisors£10.75
Even though I only need the one model, I still need to buy the set.

Veteran Squads – Cadian Shock Troops£18 (£54 total)
Cadians have almost all the required weapons for the Veteran Squads. They only thing they’re missing are the Missile Launchers. Speaking of which…

Missile Launcher Teams – Cadian Heavy Weapon Squad£24
One box gets me enough teams to finish the Veteran squads.

Militarum Tempestus Platoon – Militarum Tempestus Scions£21 (£105 total)
The Platoon is relatively easy to put together as a single box of Scions is used to make both command and standard squads. I just need a couple of boxes for each of the 10 man squads.

This adds up to a total of £221.75. Not too painful, but still a bit much for 68 models. I could have saved some by dropping the command squad and kit-bashing one together from the excess Cadian Shock Troopers, but I’d prefer to keep that sort of thing to a minimum.

Now, for the comparison. Things are a little different with Crooked Dice as they allow you to buy miniatures individually as well as in discounted bundles. I’m also going to need to proxy a lot more due to lack of weapon options, but I’ll explain how that works where needed.

Lord Commissar – Tweedy Mattison£4
Sure, he doesn’t look like the military type, but looks can be deceiving.

Company Command Squad – General Gordon and Temporal Travellers 2£19
I got a little creative with this squad. I went for the newly-released Temporal Travellers led by General Gordon. Sure, you wouldn’t expect to see these five together, but things can get a little, say, wibbly wobbly in the far future.

Regimental Advisor – WPC May£4
How does a woman dressed as a cop and armed with a baton call in artillery strikes? Well, she does have a walkie-talkie and Hell hath no fury like a Scots woman scorned.

Veteran Squad – X Commandos 1, 2, and Advanced Weapon Team£30.50 (£91.50 total)
Much like the Games Workshop version of these squads, I had to combine a couple of sets to make these units. In this case, Crooked Dice only sell their X Commandos in sets of 4, and the weapons team is separate. I’d also need to signify which models are special in some way, but that’s easily achieved with creative painting.

Militarum Tempestus Platoon – Chronal Commandos£15 (£75 total)
Chronal Commandos come in squads of five, just like their Scion equivalents. They’re only new, so that might change in the future. The big problem here is that I’d need to mark the different special weapons in some way. Again this could be achieved with paint.

The total for Crooked Dice comes to £193.50. Not a huge difference with the Games Workshop price, but enough to pick up a bunch more models, or even a book or two. It’s possible to get this price even lower by buying Tweedy and WPC May as a bundle and using X Commandos instead of the Temporal Travellers.

What’s particularly interesting about this exercise is how the two lists stack up. It really comes down to one thing – how each company charges for their models. Crooked Dice are pretty consistent, charging £3.50 to £4 across the board. Games Workshop on the other hand, prefer to charge a premium for elite units and characters. You can see this by comparing the cost of the 10 man Cadian Shock Troop box and the 5 man Scion box. Sure, the Scions are bigger models with more options, but they’re still over twice the price for half the models. While the basic squads are cheaper from Games Workshop, the characters and elite units are considerably dearer.

So, if this is wasn’t just an exercise and I was actually building this list, which way would I go?

To be honest, I’d probably go with neither. I’d need to add a lot to make this a workable list, much of which I couldn’t get proxies of from Crooked Dice, nor would I want to pay the GW price. I’d probably be more likely to look into Crooked Dice’s own game, 7TV, instead. That way I could use their models (and need a lot less of them) and play games inspired by the TV shows I grew up with. As an added bonus, the game is getting a second edition later this year.

Who knows, maybe we’ll get Pirate May as well.

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