Games Workshop,

I have some terrible news. In approximately 2010, heroic scale died due to being old and out of date. It was arguably in a catatonic state for at least five years previous. Unfortunately, very few people will miss it.

Despite this tragic news for the gaming community, you, Games Workshop, should feel a relief because you are the foremost maker of miniatures in the world. You pride yourself on creating the best! Right?

Oh…

Wait. This all looks like cartoonish, Disney nonsense. How did your miniatures get caught so far behind your own story? You’ve created this really “gothic,” self coined “grim dark” world and yet your miniatures are garish caricatures of your own property. Do you even know what happened?

Let me see if I can pin this down for you.

Creative Apathy

Foremost, Games Workshop seems to be stuck in the 80s and 90s mentality about wargaming. From what I understand the key people in the company are the same hold overs from their earliest days and simply don’t know or don’t care about doing things differently. This mentality breeds creative apathy amongst any up and coming veterans or new blood the company brings in. This seems to be the biggest problem, whether that is self inflicted or a higher up, executive ordained, apathy, I’m not sure (if it was higher up, you would have to wonder why they don’t trust the people who helped create this field to do their jobs, which makes me think creative is the problem). Essentially, the system is tightly controlled by a few individuals creating the same old garbage.

Product Inconsistency

Rogue Trader Marines

The original Space Marines from Rogue Trader. Marines back then aren’t what they are today. The original story of the space marines is more akin to that of Starcraft. Violent prisoners put inside robotic suits to fight the big uglies of the universe rather than be incarcerated. Its fun to shoot stuff and life has no consequences. Lets head bang while loud music plays. Standard 80s mentality.

Accurate marine

Now we have the Adeptus Astartes. 7 – 8ft tall, genetically and technologically modified killing machines that are meant to be the foremost warriors of the galaxy. Named after a dead pagan goddess, the Astartes are ball stompers, legends, and “heroes.” Not everything is wonderful and original with this story, but it certainly has more depth and gravity than the old days.

Black Library and Forge World have all evolved past the old days in their stories. The gaming community have mostly accepted that the Adeptus Astartes is where the story is at now. The Horus Heresy story line (which has gone on longer than the actual F$&#ing heresy – another dumb issue to be addressed) has cemented them into the lore. The IP has largely, not entirely, grown past most of the old 80s sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll tropes. But there is still one lingering dingle-berry of that old mentality still hanging around: the models.

Forge World, in all models EXCEPT Adeptus Astartes, have an extremely detailed and incredible range of miniatures. But, in order to match Games Workshops lazy and outdated space marines they are forced to make midget astartes.

Games Workshop refreshed their tactical squads for the most recent 6th and 7th edition versions of their largely popular Warhammer 40000 table top game. Taking all the new story into account, all the wonderful new developments in mould making technology, and using their self proclaimed position as the foremost creator of gaming miniatures in the world, they created:

6th Edition Tactical Squad

The same damn marines from first edition with slightly more details!

The same diminutive stature. The same stubby legs, the same poorly proportioned bodies.

the. same. tired. garbage.

Any time Games Workshop is approached or asked about the marines scale they have a laundry list of excuses as to why things are the way they are:

  • Imperial Guard are actually the wrong scale (anatomy failure on all fronts, both guard and marine)
  • Heroic scale allows you to see the weapons better (If you true scaled the figures the guns would be the same size they are currently)
  • Game/ rules related “reasons” (I thought Games Workshop was a miniature company?)

Getting marines right isn’t difficult. The illustration above demonstrates the exact idea behind the marine/ human relationship in scale no less. Forge World could produce a simple leg and torso kit as a stop gap measure while GW gets its act together. The parts from the plastic kit could be used to fill in everything else. From Games Workshop’s perspective this is a temporary win win. Two products sold to create one and it also fulfills a community need with minimal effort.

Marines aren’t the only problem though. Every miniature in 40K is “broken.” Why can’t this be fixed? Why can’t the story and the product be consistent?

The Future

Even from the outside, fixing the issues within Games Workshop seems like a monumental task. Without being there and watching the process I can’t make a 100% accurate determination. If we go with the creative apathy situation my natural instinct is to simply fire everyone. I would include everyone in the licensing department is well.

Games Workshop needs to take ownership of their problems. Their corporate culture is too much. They need to open up and engage the community. They need to control the message and not let rumor mongers be the harbingers of their terrible actions. The community is left to their own devices and by not being decisive, not having a plan for the future, leaves the community fractured and argumentative.

GW needs to start from scratch with a few things:

  • Making money needs to be a by-product of producing quality. Not something the company feels it is owed simply for existing.
  • Acknowledging that the game is just as important as the miniatures.
  • There needs to be an official canon. The lore needs to build from the existing novels. All the product lines must be set straight. Everything that doesn’t fit needs to be rejected.
  • Licensing needs to look for quality outlets, not handing it out to every swinging dick that walks by. Not only with profit in mind, but understanding that this will be mass exposure of the IP to those who have never encountered Warhammer before.
  • Massive licensing expansion to other forms of media and collectibles.
  • Actively seek to develop new, unique IPs.

With these mission objectives in mind, the core of the company needs revision first and brought into line with those goals. The core, for now, is miniatures and gaming. The cornerstone of the business needs to be fixed before a house is to be built, to reestablish the credibility of the company in the eye of the fans, who, in turn, spread the word and excitement.

  • “8th Edition” will be a ground up reboot, across the entire IP. The basis of the game is that it has three modes of play: squad based, company (or “Army”) based, and Apocalypse. All modes of play are similar at the core, but the rules and model count build as you go up. The game feels like it “unlocks” as your collection grows. A box or two of figures should unlock the first mode of squad based gameplay.
  • Rules for all factions will be developed (not released), at the core, simultaneously to develop internal balance from the start. Not finished, just a framework developed throughout every stage.
  • All miniatures past and present are legal, but future miniatures will now focus on scaling and story accuracy to both complement the game and collecting.
  • All marine models will be standardized with chapter specific add ons produced separately.
  • Forge world creative principles adopted.
  • Limited releases greatly reduced, allocated to those that make sense.
  • All communication channels will be opened.

Retail Strategy

The retail arm of Games Workshop is probably their biggest detriment. These places, once ambassadors of the brand to the public, have become tiny and cramped, miserable excuses for gaming centers. Little more than a bath and body works stuffed to the brim with GW product. Most are smaller.

These stores have little to no space for playing games, so fans can’t really come in and form a local community to support each other. The stores are single man shops, so there is no time to sell, teach, and promote the brand, making the store almost 100% non-functional in its primary mission for being a branded store.

Retail needs to be left to those who want to be in retail. Make a product people want and it will sell itself, no propaganda needed. The money saved in retail could be put towards marketing, promotions, prize allotment, and tournament support for these third party run stores.

Third party stores also have the benefit of having other products, so the trickle over effect can aide GW products in the long run. Fantasy Flight role playing game? Buy some miniatures to enhance your experience. Buying a miniature magazine, pick up a white dwarf. Hobbyist? Check out this entire range of citadel paints and tools! Does the shop also sell comics? Warhammer might be something that they’ve never even heard of, and they don’t even know it exists yet. Recommendations can be made, and exposure to GWs worlds is happening everyday whether you want it too or not in that third party shop. A GW branded store people generally know what they are getting into and there is no chance for new growth. You just hope for organic growth, which is already being tapped to the maximum.

The Present

Where does that leave Games Workshop? Nowhere, really. They keep cutting tools for extremely detailed, but poorly thought out miniatures. There seems to be no chance for change on any front. The only path to change is for someone to grow a pair of brass balls in that company and shake up this industry.

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