I visited a Games Workshop in June this year, for the first time in well over 25 years. I used to really like model-making as a kid (was never into playing the games, I just liked making dioramas and that).
I knew my son (now 10) would be totally into Warhammer when the time was right, but was holding off taking him, cos I knew it would likely be expensive and time-consuming. The most complex game we've played is my old HeroQuest, which I luckily still have (and is still awesome – it's an outrage they can't resolve how to re-release it).
However, when on a recent holiday, we walked past a (closed) independent model shop, with a 40K poster in the window. My son's eyes widened and he said WHAT'S THAT.
Cut to the next day, we wander into Warhammer in Norwich. I thought we could pick up a space marine or two, to get him into painting. BLOODY HELL HOW EXPENSIVE IS EVERYTHING NOW. I remember being able to buy little blister packs of 2 or 3 orcs for Not That Much, but they've clearly changed things a lot. However, some observations:
– I was impressed by how welcoming it was as a shop. Staff were friendly, and the music was parent-friendly, inoffensive stuff. No Bolt Thrower.
– Holy crap, they've got their packaging and branding down to a tee. Very impressive. You can see why they can charge so much now, as everything looks really enticing.
– Giving kids a free model and a free painting lesson is a nice touch. Both my kids liked doing this (daughter, 8, painted a cool golden warrior dude).
– However, it felt a liiiiitle bit like being inducted into an (expensive) cult, when you get told about the starter system, and all that jazz. I just wanted my sone to spend his holiday pocket money on a couple of space marines, but we ended up forking out 45 sheets for an 'early birthday present' so we got the starter paint pack, and a box of marines and pox-walkers
– Then you get given a wallet with space for cards you 'earn' – basically real-life 'achievements' (go into a store on your birthday and get a card, etc). Crack for kids, felt a bit cynical.
– Young bloke who was overseeing our painting session was very enthusiastic, but not an overbearing, wise-cracking geeknerd, thankfully. Did go on a bit about all the different tribes or whatever (banging on about some reincarnated marines that slowly lose their humanity and would think nothing of torching a village for the greater good). Alright lad, my daughter's only 8, keep the morality tales for later, eh?
– WTF is going on with their 'painting system' – base colours, highlight sets, blending whatevers? <Yorkshire voice> When I were a lad, you just had some paint, and did some drybrushing if you were feeling adventurous.
Anyways, learning how to play 40K doesn't seem too hard, but still benefits from a YouTube video for a dunce like me, with an impatient child who just wants to start battling.
However, no sooner had we got off that holiday and started painting some figures (man, I'm rusty, and my eyes and hands aren't what they were when I was 13), that the heatwave started, and we've just been in the garden, etc. This, however, is potentially a good thing, as since then Kill Team has come out, and looks PERFECT for what me and my son would be after (I was worrying that 40K would be too time-and-space-consuming). Tighter, quick games with a resolution, a proper board, that amazing scenery, and the possibility of using the models we've already bought (a week later, I accidentally fell into Warhammer Leeds, and fell back out with some cool Eldar figures with big feathered wings). So I've been not-so-subtly dropping hints that Kill Team looks really cool, and he should definitely ask for it for his birthday in December.
tl;dr – Games Workshop seems to have changed for the better in many ways, but is super-expensive, however Kill Team is great value, and a way to play Warhammer as a casual person, rather than having to be inducted into a Way of Life™.