Games Workshop – A retrospective

When I was 11 at Middle School we used to end the term with a games afternoon when we could bring in board games in to play. I remember a friend bringing a copy of Heroquest. I was captivated by this game, the plastic models and adventure. This was my first experience of a Games Workshop product and I was well and truly hooked.

So began a hobby that I stuck with into the 2000’s and one in which I still dabble. I started my own quest by getting my own copy of Heroquest and all its expansion packs and started to get White Dwarf, the companies magazine.

I was always a Warhammer Fantasy Battles player at heart and I played Empire although in time I was able to field Orcs, Chaos and Wood Elves. As new games became available I branched out playing Man O’War (Empire again) Epic (Eldar), Blood Bowl (Dark Elves and Dwarves, in fact my Barak Varr Barbarians one or local tournament and finally Necromunda (Van Saar).

All of these games were gripping pieces of escapism and the only way to control vast armies prior to the release of the Total War computer series. However like many of my childish things I grew out on them in my 20’s before returning to them on and off in the 30’s and now 40’s. At present I have been reading the Black Library 40K books and have been inspired to do a little modelling of Inquisitor characters.

Knowing things had changed I decided to take another look at the state of Games Workshop again. The company, for a long time, has been a money pit. The models are expensive and they are very adept at squeezing every penny out of you. Take for instance the creative changes they have made recently. The latest edition of Warhammer Fantasy , Age of Sigmar, has destroyed the old world I loved so much to transport the various forces to a celestial realm where ideally you need whole new models in which to play.

Likewise Warhammer 40K has had the Space Marine armour be updated to Primaris ones that now ‘dwarf’ the old ones necessitating new models. Now I don’t blame Games Workshop for wanting to make money, they have been very successful at it and its longevity is a testament to the way in which they change to reflect changes in the market, but I do find their pricing policy and the major changes somewhat cynical.

I loved Fantasy Battle, I have a great fondness for the range of Citadel model, that started in lead and then migrated to hard plastic. The models had a feeling of uniqueness and character with an ethos like that in Lord of the Rings or Legend. Speaking of Lord of the Rings, getting the licence for the rights to the models was outstanding. They have produced a movie faithful range that are of excellent quality.

Age of Sigmar as some outstanding models of its own and an intriguing story line but I miss the arcane mystery of the old world. The new one is too ethereal and more like 40K in scope and feel. Age of Sigmar, feels like a blockbuster movies, its big, its brash, it has high action but little meat. The earlier editions are more like a good book, slower, less flash but with greater depth. One is for the modern masses and the other is for… well nostalgic fools like me.

Whilst I mourn what is lost I delight in my old models, the old feelings they evoke and the plethora of games that hark back to that some tablet games of others like Mordheim, boardgames and PC games.

So I wish Games Workshop luck, long may they continue. A copy of the latest White Dwarf reveals Blackstone Fortress which whilst it is set in the 40k universe has the feel of the old Rogue Trader and the earliest days of Citadel miniatures. I do not recognise any of the staff anymore, although there was a nice retrospective on Jervis Johnson, a gamer of my generation, but I can recognise that they may hold the candle now but that it will be passed to yet others who will continue to mould it in their own image for good or ill.

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