Is the Hawk becoming a Turkey?

Resin scenery is finally available to pre-order on the Hawk Wargames website. Having seen the real deal when I was invited to Hawk HQ for playtesting I was excited for DzC gamers. Despite my misgivings about Hawk’s truly shameful pricing policy the models are ace, the game – once you’ve deciphered the rulebook – is good and the scenery did look superb.

Sadly however, all my misgivings immediately bubbled to the surface when I saw the prices. £7.50 for ten wall tiles. This may not seem that much but they’re only 36mm wide by 21mm high. Ten tiles will not make a building of note. And roof tiles and accessories are separate.

Anyone who plays Games Workshop games is no stranger to high prices but I’m starting to wonder what Hawk Wargames are up to. Army deals that start at £68 with very little of the good stuff in them and the bigger better army deals are on available on the Hawk Wargames website and they are no better on the value for money stakes. The Metropolis pack was what we used for our playtest game. More or less anyway, some of the buildings didn’t have backs to them but in terms of board space that’s what we used. It covers a 4×4 board but it doesn’t fill a 4×4 board. To play the game as it was intended you’d need a Metropolis pack and, at least, a City Pack.

On the plus side the scenery does look gorgeous when it’s painted up but £740 for enough scenery for a 4×4 board? I mean are they fucking high? As they seem to thing they have the muscle of Games Workshop let’s use them as a comparison. Specifically Forge World. Specifically the Forge World Zone Mortalis board set. It costs £350 for a 4×4 board that’s modular. And that is an absolute shit load of resin. So for less than half the money for 15 buildings for DzC you can get a fully pimped 4×4 board. From Games Workshop. The most expensive wargaming company ever.

Or are they? I’m really concerned that Hawk Wargames have lost touch with reality a little bit. They’re in a full tilt blind rush to pay off their investor and simultaneously expand the business (plus pay off all the unplanned expense of increasing production) that they seem to think that gamers will blindly pay that kind of money. Now I’ve been in wargaming long enough to know that there are some people who will happily part with £740 for scenery, and good for them, but for the vast majority of gamers scenery is an after thought and something they will but would rather not spend money on.

Personally I love a good bit of scenery. I’ve got enough 40k buildings to fill and 8×4 board and I’d happily get more. But it only costs me £70 for an Imperial Sector, which is crammed full of plastic, will fill a 4×4 board and I can build it how I like. And it’s not made of one of the most expensive resin blends going. I completely understand why Hawk Wargames felt the need to cast their models the way they did. The detail is stunning and they’re robust. But they need to be stunning and robust. Scenery just doesn’t. Again, a lovely bit of a scenery really sets off a board and there’s no denying that the photography in the DzC rulebook is stunning; however it seems crazy to cast scenery, that just sits there, out of the same stuff. I also suspect that Hawk are attempting to squeeze the same margin out of scenery as they are their models. Which, again, is mental.

The laughable thing is that because the tiles are so thin they have to be mounted on something like foam card anyway. Which makes me  think that perhaps a cheaper grade resin cast in blocks so it’s stackable may have been the smarter move. I also suspect it would have been cheaper too.

Between a shocking lack of planning leading up to launch, over priced models, over priced scenery, an iffy rulebook and a pervasive arrogant indifference since the game release I’m deeply concerned about Hawk Wargames. I can’t decide if it’s greed, over ambition or because they want to pay the bills. I have no idea but there’s already striking similarities between Hawk and Games Workshop both in attitude and pricing structure. And I’m not one to defend Games Workshop and how they do things but at least they have share holders cracking the whip and setting targets the business has to meet.

For a company that claimed to have had its roots in the community, that allegedly puts the community first they seem to be completely out of touch with what is reasonable and what is reasonable for the money. The one good thing that’s come out of this though is that it’s made me realise that GW isn’t all that bad and actually a realm of battle board for £175 isn’t comparatively bad. And I’d still have enough money to buy 2 Imperial Sectors (£140), the 40k rulebook (£45) a Codex Space Marines (£25) Mega Forces (£300) to play on it and I’d still have £55 to spend on some glue and paint.

Obviously you don’t have to spend that much. Obviously you can buy fewer buildings and obviously I’m taking the most expensive as an example. But only because I know that gamers are realistically going to need that many buildings to get the most out of the game because it was designed to be played, primarily, in dense cityscapes. With so many awesome games already in a very flooded market. With Spartan and even Games Workshop able to match the quality of design and (most of the time) casting but for a better price I don’t see where Hawk Wargames expects to go. But a tweet I saw earlier today summed it up rather well for me, which read;

‘so just seen the price of the @HawkWargames resin buildings. Think I will keep my paper buildings’


25 thoughts on “Is the Hawk becoming a Turkey?

  1. Hey Phil, I’ve been reading your DzC reviews and articles along the way, and have watched the Joeyberry interview as it’s a game that visually appeals to me. I’ve ummed and ahhed about getting started with it but I totally agree with you. I don’t mind paying GW prices because on balance I’ll get my moneys worth in terms of how much I play with it. I don’t feel I’d get the same return for my investment with Hawk sadly.

    The only way I can see me being able to buy into it is if it scales down to a very small level, like on a 2×2 for example. Do you know if that would be possible?

    1. If you get the smallest starter army yes, but you’ll be playing very samey games. And you’ll be missing out on the good stuff. But even I’m reluctant to get stuff for it and I come at it from the unique position of being sponsored.

  2. It’s pretty insane. Have you EVER looked at a GW price before and gone that’s reasonable…I’ll never convince anyone to play this game which is a real shame I love the concept and the models (rules I can take or leave or adapt)

    But at this price I would need to be committed.

  3. I must agree on the pricing but there is one simple solution. Don’t buy them! The paper buildings are more than enough to do which will give a very good battleground for an extreme small amount of money (cheapest ever, from a company?). The new buildings are not something I think “This is meant for every wargamer” but for those folks that have the will to spend some more money on just terrain. They are stunning and this will give a higher price, aimed at wargamers that can make something beautiful of them. I also think more people will realize that GW doesn’t really overprice that much (they are just stupid in other areas) when they look at these models and the cost for making them in a high quality.

    That said I’m not going to buy the buildings because of the price. I look more at the gaming value I get when I purchase models so for me DZC models are much cheaper than GW because I get more gaming time for the models so this should greatly affect my opinion but the paper buildings are more than enough for me.

    Anyhow, good post. Thanks.

    1. The sad thing is that although the buildings are cool, they’re nothing special. Not in terms of detail or variety. You get more going on with a GW building which is bigger for a fraction of the price.

      But I certainly see your point. I just think they’re mental.

      1. Agreed on mental. I’m not going to buy them. But it will be very interesting to see if their “either cheap, cheap or ‘right’ but expensive” will work.

  4. When we talked to Dave at the demo about the buildings he did say they weren’t going to be cheap. I don’t think any of us expected £70 for a building though, I can buy an entire Mercs faction plus the rules and cards for less than that. However, as has already been said you don’t have to buy their buildings. I always saw the resin terrain stuff as the “best of the best” if you wanted to build that high-end photogenic gaming board and this stuff definitely fits into that.

    I can also see potential in these tiles that they are re-couping what they must have spent on the stuff to put it on the display tables. I’ll be interested in watching Salute this year and what, if anything, new is on show. The sad thing is that we’ve not been able to even play this other than one game yet due to RL time constraints. I also don’t necessarily see anyone other than myself and Carabus as going to play it. I still like the game and the models are very nice. Glad that my initial investment doesn’t need expanding for a long time.

  5. My feeling is that they’re simply struggling to run the company at the level they’ve chosen with the resources they have at their disposal. I don’t think it’s arrogance I think it’s simple economies of scale. They’re trying to produce a model range with claims of extremely high levels of quality, produce full colour rule books at a low cost and run an entire distribution effort off the back of a guy with good ideas (and I believe good intentions) but a limited number of hours in the day. Then on top of that they go and launch the resin scenery range all the while (presumably) thinking about what needs to come next in the game itself.

    Something is bound to give in that situation, it looks like it’s the comms and ‘PR’ side of things (as well as the obvious issues with production, rule book writing quality and so forth), which creates the impression of a company operating with the indifference of GW, without either the customer-base or, if I’m honest, the product range.

    My view is that something (possibly the resin buildings) should’ve been shelved post-launch to give the company a chance to catch up with itself, look at its market and think through possible product combinations that would tackle the high start-up costs for gamers and align the product line better with other companies operating in the same space (*cough* Spartan *cough*). This would also have allowed them to plan the buildings release better and not end up with a purchasing option that allowed the kinds of crazy numbers you’ve rightly identified. That on its own smacks of lack of business context insight.

    I suspect that gamer-enthusiasm has overtaken business sense in this regard, which is a real shame. Paper buildings for me, for sure.

    Just conjecture at play here btw, no insider knowledge in here at all.

    – rob

    1. I’ve been trying to phrase this response right but I give up and just put it like this; yes they are arrogant. To charge the prices they charge for so few models. To make claims about quality control that are blatantly untrue. To feed blogs like mine promises and assurances and renege on all of them. To drop the community like a hot potato as soon as the game is out and their own forum is live. To cram that much margin into scenery. To impose pricing restrictions so retailers can’t charge what they like. To make retailers wait 8 weeks for stock whilst they continued to fulfil new orders of their own. And to presume that they can conquer the world whilst simultaneously fucking over the people you need to survive. Yes they are arrogant. Hawk has profoundly disappointed me. I like the game and I love the models but I will never trust the company.

      1. I think that’s a bit harsh. Imposing pricing restrictions is something that is very standard in most business. Having a more equal price for the items overall will help retailers much more than allowing the few big ones to have much lower prices and thus killing the competition. No one wants a retailer that supply the end customer much lower so that other retailers, who would increase total sale, will not bother with the product.

        I’m more of an opinion that it is a noob-mistake. As you say, having the same marginal on all items is not good in the end. But I don’t know their margins so I can’t really say.

      2. I disagree. I’ve seen the memo. I’ve seen the wording. It’s about imposing restrictions whilst allowing Hawk to do what they like. At the end of the day when a retailer buys stock they have the right to charge out what they like. It’s free trade.

      3. Honestly I’m in two minds about it all. I can see where you’re coming from, but I haven’t been the one let down in the way you clearly have so can’t really speak to that side of things.

        There are a couple of things in there that I think are harsh judgments when taken against the backdrop of the industry as a whole (pricing restrictions are common, just not often honestly owned up to; order delays to retailers are common, especially where you’re dealing with brand new companies who are naive when it comes to prioritising such things; margins are their choice, ours is whether to buy the product or not), but there also things that are clearly justifiable criticisms as well (quality control; not fulfilling promises, though that in itself is indicative of a one-man-band not knowing how to say ‘no’; lack of clear communication with the community, a fairly cardinal sin these days imho).

        So as I say, I’m in two minds, and as we know we’re not dealing with a company with 200 staff a Customer Services department and dedicated comms folk, so I’m more inclined to give them a little more slack as a brand new entity trying to find it’s position and approach. I’d absolutely agree that there’s a lot of naivety at play here and they have clearly overextended themselves on several fronts (trying to break UK and US together was ‘a bridge too far’ perhaps), but personally I don’t see any of that as arrogance.

        Like I say though, I haven’t been on the receiving end of any of the broken promises and I haven’t been trying to engage with them at all in the way that you have, so I completely understand you have a very different view of things. I guess all I’m saying is that most people, like me, won’t have the view of things that you have, given that they aren’t all trying to have that level of engagement with them, which makes your judgment appear a little on the harsh side.

        Not trying to be an apologist for them, or antagonise you here by the way. Just furthering the discussion, because discussion is good 🙂

      4. Pricing restrictions aren’t as common as you think. Trade agreements, credit terms, minimum orders etc, but the whole point of free trade is that you’re allowed to charge what you like. Restricting retailers to 10% under retail means they can’t compete with Hawk if they do a free shipping day or 15% off.
        And I can stomach delays if they weren’t skimming stock off the top to fulfil their own orders. They managed to capitalise on the shortage by making themselves the only place to go.
        They are naive but neither are they stupid.

      5. Yeah that’s all fair comment. Amusingly (to me at least) a night’s sleep has seen me shift my position a bit.

        I don’t know whether it’s just head in clouds or cynical business practice but the more I think about their overall position the less and less sense it makes. Bordering on the plain odd tbh.

        I’m still a little ambivalent to the ‘arrogance’ issue, maybe they are, maybe they aren’t (the more I think about it the less certain I am about it); the thing that concerns me most is that their current approach only serves to undermine themselves and their ability to make money, which pisses me off because I want to be able to justify buying more from them because, as you’ve said, the models are still gorgeous even if the company is behaving sub-optimally.

        At the moment their ‘gamer credibility rating’ is rapidly approaching junk bond status…

      6. Interestingly I received some information today that solidifies my view. The cost of the resin Hawk is using is actually quite low. It’s not the wonder stuff we’ve been led to believe. Which means the pricing is not a volume issue.

        This also suggests that the pricing for scenery is the same as for the models. Which either shows a staggering level of greed or a staggering level of stupidity. If things don’t change Hawk will be gone within 18 months.

      7. Interesting info, my view is that their margins are their own business. People rarely know the raw costs of things they buy (the markup on a loaf of bread for example, considering the cost of the base ingredients) and whilst, obviously, no-one likes to feel they’re being ‘ripped off’, either the product cost is sustainable in the market, or it isn’t. That’s the bottom line that concerns me, that the approach they take to pricing seems to be simply at odds with what the market they are addressing will sustain. The buildings being a significant case in point. It’s a general truth of economics that a business will charge as much as it can, rather than what is reasonable given costs, but at some point your pricing strategy does have to align with what customers are prepared to consider a reasonable cost for their product. More and more it appears that Hawk are neglecting this aspect and not reality-checking their approach at all.

        Sadly I suspect that your prediction may come true, without some pretty radical shift in approach the community will turn away from the shiny models.

  6. @Phil: I have found pricing restrictions in the furniture and computer/games business. If an retailer sells at a to low price which is not sustainable for their competitors increasing the price to that supplier or restricting the allowed price is very common, in my opinion. Allowed to charge what you want goes two ways, I mean. All you have to do is increasing the price for one customer and they won’t be able to stay on the low side of the prices. There are so many ways of restricting a retailers possibility to determine price, outside of the purchase price so it is very common for that.

    Regarding capitalizing the shortage, I would agree.

  7. Pricing restrictions are no different from other companies. GW does it to premium stores, I know because I talk to the owner of my FLGS regularly. If you want to make sure you get the stock you want you are forced to charge RRP, otherwise GW will not guarantee getting you stock for stuff people want.

    Not defending Hawk on what is clearly an emotive issue amongst their customers, but just saying they’re not the only one. However, I’m not sure they’d necessarily enjoy a comparison with that company considering the reputation that GW has for gouging customers.

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