The current streaming landscape is full of Marvel movie stars, sweeping, blockbuster adaptations, and more content than you can shake a Batarang at. It can feel like the future of streaming services is Hollywood’s mightiest attempts to cast the widest net possible. But one of the latest services—and another “plus” to keep track of—shines in knowing who exactly it’s for.
Launched in late August this year, Warhammer+ is tabletop miniatures maker Games Workshop’s foray into the world of streaming. After a few years testing the waters trying to pull the worlds of its beloved Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy (now rebooted as Warhammer: Age of Sigmar) beyond the books and models of its gaming world, it’s the company’s biggest step into leveraging its characters as being worthy of the same transmedia ascendancy already being employed by pop culture icons like Star Wars (and Trek), Lord of the Rings, Marvel, and others to make genre stories into the future of big studio content. And yet, for its big steps, and its big swings, the nascent service feels distinctly small in scope.
Part of this is in the dearth of content in the early weeks of the service’s availability. A year’s subscription to the streamer will set you back $60—a good bit less than “rivals” in the space like Disney+ or HBO Max, but Warhammer+ also doesn’t have the freedom those platforms do to pull in content from massive megacorporations’ worth of partner studios and internal branches. What that money has gotten you over the past few weeks so far is not all that much, in terms of raw original content.
The Warhammer TV app—one of actually three elements of Warhammer+ as a subscription—hosts a plethora of videos that are also just on Games Workshop’s YouTube channel for free. For instance: painting tutorials or trailers for the latest editions of Age of Sigmar and 40K, as well as introductory how-to-play videos for the company’s products. The actual platform-exclusive content is on the smaller side for now. There are two ongoing animated series: the 3DCG Angels of Death, a limited-color-palette action series about the Blood Angels chapter of the Space Marines; and Hammer and Bolter, a weekly anthology series ostensibly meant to tell stories across the canon of both Warhammer settings, but so far has focused on the far future of 40K’s “grimdark” setting.
As far as original content goes, the two series are interesting. Angels of Death fully leans into its limited color palette, telling a dark and gory tale of Space Marine heroism and horror in equal measure, and arguably the most lavish offering the service has right now. Hammer and Bolter meanwhile, leverages its anthology status to pull itself beyond the “safe” space of typical Warhammer media—which is, essentially, just Space Marines over and over—to draw on the bounty of factions and characters across the games’ lore. It also actually explores their perspectives more, from the more human side of the Imperium of Man to the goofy, silly, and utterly charming mad “ladz” of the Space Orks. But in terms of fictional programming, that’s all Warhammer+ has right now, and there’s not a lot of it. As of this writing, no further episodes of Hammer and Bolter have been added to the service since it launched, while Angels of Death has had two more episodes since its debut, bring it also up to three. If you’re a Warhammer story fan, you’ll be done with both offerings within an afternoon easily. But it’s also not the bulk of Warhammer TV’s original content.
Other offerings are even more hyperspecific to fans of the company’s games, but for the most part don’t diminish their quality—so far that’s another three series exclusive to the app. Let’s talk about Age of Sigmar and 40k versions of Battle Report first, a game-by-game commentary series where Warhammer TV hosts play different armies against each other. There’s also Loremasters, a narrated series where each episode dives into a notable character, event, or faction and gives a rundown of their histories. Finally, and perhaps most interesting, is Citadel Color Painting Masterclass, a technique series by ‘Eavy Metal artist Louise Sugden that goes beyond basic tutorials found elsewhere on the service to show the best skills for painting that legion of grey plastic sitting in your hobby area.
These are all, of course, aimed squarely at people who are not necessarily into Warhammer for the fiction, but for playing the game itself. Loremasters provides enough context for some of the bigger figures you might bring to the table—and feels like a slightly more slickly presented riff on content that’s already out there from online Warhammer fans—but Battle Report and Painting Masterclass are strictly for the committed hobbyist already invested in the act of playing itself. Of the two, Painting Masterclass is easily the more interesting, and the one that may have a modicum of more intrigue for non-Warhammer fans. Even if your painting skills are nowhere near Sugden’s (who regularly shares jaw-dropping projects on social media), her concise and clear commentary over her painting work is a joy to listen to, almost bordering on ASMR if not for the oddly jaunty generic dad rock soundtrack interrupting in the background.
Sadly, Battle Report is not quite so artfully presented: edited run-throughs of pitched battles, with side commentary from the players interspersed, is interesting for fans of the tabletop games already looking to pick up strategies or considerations for their own matches. But its reliance on either wide shots of the game board and the players, or aerial shots of the playing surface, rob it of any cinematic presentation, making it all feel a bit dry in the process (especially for programs that, even edited, still run about an hour long). Like Loremaster, it feels like a riff on Warhammer content that’s readily available from creators outside of Games Workshop’s sphere, but unlike Loremaster, without the slick presentation. It’s also something that the people it’s aimed at might be less willing to watch if they could just, well, go play the games themselves.
Also included in the $60-a-year price tag is the Warhammer Vault, a rotating collection of back issues of the company’s monthly hobbyist magazines like White Dwarf, as well as novels from the Black Library branch of tie-in fiction, with a focus on more recent publications (the available issues of White Dwarf, for example, only cover the last two years). The final pillar, and arguably one of the most valuable to the already-committed, is carte blanche access to the Warhammer 40,000 app, a bespoke service. This was already available outside of Warhammer+—both free to download and also with a $6 a month premium version that gives you digital access to the latest editions of the game’s rules, build army lists for play, access to digital versions of faction and unit-specific rule sheets. Crucially, the app also allows you to unlock digital copies if you buy the physical books. With a similar app for Age of Sigmar about to enter beta testing that will no doubt also be bundled in, it’s a no-brainer addition for Warhammer gamers—even if it’s also available separately if you don’t want the other aspects of Warhammer+.
Games Workshop has teased plans for more animated series, but the current rollout of either those or even the series currently available in the app is in flux, and being revealed to audiences week-by-week. But that’s only one aspect of the service, with the others being even more strictly aimed at people already invested in this world.
The thing about Warhammer+, in general, is that Games Workshop already has its audience dead-on, and the company isn’t particularly interested in broadening its offerings as a way to bring new people into its games (the games themselves theoretically do that). Even when it is so laser-focused on die-hard, already committed fans, Warhammer+’s slight enough as an offering right now that fans don’t feel like signing up is mandatory to keep up with the hobby. What’s there is a good base for Games Workshop to build upon, but it’s not quite essential—especially when, as far as 40K and Age of Sigmar players will be concerned, the most essential aspects of the subscription will be available outside of the service.
In an age where streaming services are gushing with a sheer quantity of material—whether original shows or simple access to the vast archives of some of the biggest Hollywood companies around—there’s something oddly refreshing about Games Workshop going for spartan simplicity, as well as knowing that the people who care most about its games are exactly who this will appeal to. It helps that the company also chucks in an exclusive model for signing up. It really knows its audience.
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