Streaming services are all over the place these days. What started out as a revolutionary new model of distribution being pushed by a few fringe companies has become a booming industry. There are so many streaming services, that it can be difficult to figure out which ones you should even buy. Now, Games Workshop has thrown its hat into the ring with Warhammer+, a subscription service based on the company’s popular Warhammer tabletop gaming franchises, from 40K to Age of Sigmar, and beyond. So, with the new service having just arrived, how does it actually stack up compared to others? Well, we spent a week or two with the service and checked out everything that it has to offer.
What is Warhammer+?
First up, it would be helpful to discuss exactly what it is. Although the main thrust of Warhammer+ seems to be the streaming content, that’s not the whole story. When you buy a subscription, you’re getting access to a few different things. First and foremost is the exclusive video content on the Warhammer TV app. This is, so far, a mixture of animated shows and some tabletop gaming content, both in the form of battle reports and ‘how to play guides’.
As well as the video content, you also gain access to ‘The Vault’, a collection of reading material that includes back issues of White Dwarf, lore information for various factions across the Warhammer universe, even issues of the slightly-less-popular Warhammer: Visions magazine that features a showcase of different citadel miniatures.
The other main feature, apart from the aforementioned streaming content, is the inclusion of a free, exclusive miniature if you remain subscribed for an entire year in one go. You can choose from either a Vindicare Assassin, or an Orruk Megaboss, and if you don’t go for the second of those two your mental.
All-in-all it sounds like a relatively decent package, and it pretty much is. For less than the cost of buying White Dwarf each month, you get access to a decent amount of reading material, as well as some video material, and if you like it enough to go for a full year, you’ll also get a pretty solid-looking miniature out of the deal as well. Having said that, the variety of content is no good if the content itself isn’t up-to-scratch.
Warhammer+ Streaming Content
So, the streaming content is the real star of the show here, but what exactly is it that they’re offering? Well, it’s early days so far, but there are a couple of different exclusive shows over at Warhammer TV. We took a look at all the exclusive content that the service currently has to offer.
Hammer and Bolter
Hammer and Bolter is an anthology series that tells different stories from the Warhammer 40K universe. So far, there are three episodes, Death’s Hand, Bound for Greatness, and Old Bale Eye. The animation style of these three is actually pretty good, it’s stylistic enough that it doesn’t feel too generic, but not so out there that it’s hard to watch.
The stories are a bit of a rollercoaster in terms of quality. The first story is vaguely interesting, but not exactly a strong starter. It deals with an Inquisitor who has gone rogue after his death was predicted, turning to heresy to avoid his fate. It’s not a bad story but definitely doesn’t measure up to the two episodes that follow, both of which feel more epic and punchy in comparison.
Bounds for Greatness is a story about an adept of the imperium, tasked with counting the endless books in his particular section of an imperial library. Despite being a loyal subject of the Emperor, Adept Neath finds himself questioning what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. This story has a bit more of a twist, and just feels more interesting, even as someone who doesn’t enjoy the Imperial faction all that much.
The final story, Old Bale Eye, is bar far the most fun. It’s the story of an Imperial hero Sebastian Yarrick from the perspective of his sworn enemies, the Orks. Not only does the character telling the story to add a lot of personality to the episode, but on top of that, it really feels like an epic adventure. Seeing Yarrick become more and more revered and feared by the Orks as the tale goes on, as well as seeing their conflict stretch across the stars, is what Warhammer 40k is all about.
Angels of Death
If you can’t tell by the name alone, this series focuses on a very specific faction, the Blood Angels chapter of the Space Marines. Consequently, if you’re interested in the Blood Angels, then you’ll already be into this one. Having said that, it’s not like the story doesn’t have something to offer to an outside observer as well.
Firstly, it does a very good job of conveying a lot of the background lore of the Blood Angels chapter if you’re not already familiar with them. On top of that, because it’s a series that can tell a story across several episodes, it does a better job than Hammer and Bolt of drawing you into the storyline. It’s about a group of Blood Angels trapped by a storm who are faced with an impossible decision, follow their orders and leave the area when they can, or ignore orders to save their captain trapped on the planet’s surface.
On top of that, the art style here is unique and really suits the Blood Angels. It’s 3D-rendered and completely in black and white, except for shades of red. Yes, it’s a trick that has been done by a whole bunch of different movies and shows at this point, but for the Blood Angels, highlighting the color red just makes a lot of sense. It makes the characters stand out in their characteristic red armor. This one definitely gets a recommendation whether you like Space Marines, or the BLood Angels specifically, or not.
As well as the stories set in the 40k universe, there’s a bunch of different non-narrative content. There’s a couple of battle reports, one for 40K and one for Age of Sigmar, and a painting masterclass. The battle reports are incredibly well-produced, with in-depth analysis of both armies involved, as well as discussions about the tactics being used by both sides.
The other piece of non-narrative content, the painting master class is absolutely amazing if you’re more into painting than playing, like me. It’s not just like the painting videos you’ll find on the YouTube channel, this is an in-depth painting discussion and tutorial. It covers the color theory involved, as well as the actual techniques of painting specific parts of a figurine. Each of the 3 episodes covers a different technique, from painting pale faces and black armor to the wet blending techniques.
The Reading Content
When it comes to reading content there’s just too much for us to cover everything. Honestly, this feels like where you’ll be getting most of your money’s worth. New issues of White Dwarf are added a few months after they’re released (for example the January 2021 issue was added in August) but they’ve been added in batches. So if you enjoy reading the magazine but don’t mind waiting for a while then it’s a great option for you.
The rest of the content will be interesting depending on your personal preferences. There are some Lore books included that’ll cover specific events or factions, but unless you’re into those factions then you’ll probably not find them too enthralling. The inclusion of Warhammer: Visions is a nice touch, making the less popular magazine a bit more accessible for those of us who really get into the painting side of things.
So, after our time spent with the service, how do we feel? Honestly, it’s fine. The content that is there is pretty interesting, but there is almost nothing here right now, at least in terms of actual streaming content. There are 2 narrative shows available, both of which are only 3 episodes long. With each episode running only 20 minutes, you can be done with all of the story content within only a few hours.
Moving over to the written content, there’s plenty here, but if you’re already subscribed to iWhite Dwarf or if you just read the magazine regularly then you’re probably not going to find it all that useful. The lore stuff is interesting to a certain extent, but it feels baffling that the written service doesn’t feature any of the rule books for the game. While there is an app that will give you the core rules out there, this would have been a great way to make the full versions of the core rulebooks and army books more accessible.
It feels so strange to me that two of the biggest strings to the written side of Games Workshop are missing. Army books are typically filled with flavor to expand the world and factions, and on top of that, there’s no real Black Library content here. I legitimately can’t see a reason not to throw in a few of the older novels that aren’t selling as well anymore. It might have promoted some of that content. Also, there’s no app for the written stuff, so you just stuck with using the browser, and there’s no way to search for content or organize it by categories either.
In short, there’s not enough streamable content yet to make the package attractive on its own, and the written content feels like it isn’t really that appealing to anyone. Newbies won’t have any reason to read an old magazine or check out lore for events they don’t understand, and hardcore fans already read White Dwarf and know the stories of the faction they like inside out. That’s not to say that someone somewhere won’t find it useful or interesting, but when there’s so much great written content for Games Workshop to pull from, why are we stuck with this?
Our Final Thoughts on Warhammer+
At the end of the day, there are still reasons to get Warhammer+. Firstly, the whos on offer are good, and even if you’re done with them in a few hours, the price is cheap enough that getting the service may be worth it. Then there’s the promise of that sweet exclusive miniature that will keep folks interesting. Also, the written content is there.
Of course, how well it works out for Games Workshop will very heavily depend on how quickly they can get new content out there. We've got a new show called Loremaster that's just dropped, but it probably won't save the streaming content on its own. Realistically, Games Workshop needs more on this service if they want people to subscribe to it.
It probably would have been better for them to wait until they had more content available before launching Warhammer+, but let’s all keep our fingers crossed that they can pull off an impressive content turnaround before everyone even forgets that this service exists. While we’re hoping, let’s also hope they add some relevant and useful written content, and develop an app to make it halfway usable.