What to expect from Games Workshop

For the newcomers

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The best experience I've had in wargaming so far has been with Games Workshop and Warhammer. I don't trust the company any more than I trust any company (which is not at all, due to the authoritarian power structure of corporations) but I do recognise that the '20s version of GW has been able to, so far at least, deliver a really great experience to a wargaming newcomer (that's me). There's probably something to be learnt from the way GW operates. This blog post reflects, as objectively as possible, on my Game Workshop experience as a new wargamer.


If you live in a big city or an area dense with lots of stores, then you might have lots of little hobby shops with model train supplies and wargame miniatures, or maybe big game stores selling wargames. If you're not in a big city, then you may well not have that luxury. I'm at the south end of the South Island of New Zealand, and the closest hobby shop to me is a Warhammer store, and it's an hour away. Obviously there's the Internet, but tabletop wargaming is a physical hobby, and it really helps to be able to go to a store, pick up and critique the miniatures you're thinking of buying, or to talk to somebody about the game you're thinking of playing.

Lesson: Be everywhere. Obviously this is easier said than done!


In a Warhammer store, your options are really clear. They're literally lined up on the shelves.

They're so clear, in fact, that they can be a little overwhelming, if those are two things that can co-exist. Me, I eventually got up the nerve to ask for some help. I told the store manager what I was looking to do, and he helped me choose what I needed to buy.

The basic entry points were either Age of Sigmar or Warhammer 40,000. At the time (it was just before the release of 10th edition), it boiled down to either buying a Combat Patrol box (to start playing the 10th edition of Warhammer 40,000) or a Warband (or Speartip or whatever it's called) for Age of Sigmar, or a boxed game like Blackstone Fortress (40k) or Cursed City (AoS). Two parallel tracks, one sci fi and one fantasy. In the end, I bought a boxed game, but of course I came back later for more.

As I've learned more about the hobby and about Games Workshop, I've come to realise that actually there were lots of other entry points that arguably would have served me better. A good skirmish option, like Kill Team is arguably the best option for newcomers, in both presentation and scope. But if I'd been give that option, I'd have had more choices to make. I think the apparent lack of choice in this context is invaluable, and it's leveraged in the 2023 product design. The entry point for 10th edition of 40k was Leviathan, a boxed set with the intuitive battle between big and powerful (and human-ish) space marines and weird-looking obviously-dangerous alien things. Newcomers only have to make one decision: to get started with Warhammer 40,000. Once you part with your cash, you're handed a box that contains everything you need to play. Come back later for the nuance.

Lesson: Help newcomers focus by presenting them with just a few choices. The more newcomers explore, the more choice you can reveal.


In a box of Warhammer miniatures, you get a plastic sprue full of body parts, and instructions on how to assemble the models. The significance of this can't be understated, because not all miniatures come with instructions. There are miniatures being sold for historical and fantasy, and even some sci fi, wargames with no instructions on what parts are meant to go together because, presumably the parts are all interchangeable. Of course, in practise not all parts are interchangeable. For example, this arm and that arm go together better than those third and fourth arm options because they're designed to hold a rifle, while the other two are obviously intended for somebody holding a pistol. You figure it out eventually, but it takes time and experimentation, and it can be pretty confusing.

Games Workshop models remove that blockade from your path. In the box, there's a manifest of parts, and a clear explanation of which numbered parts go together. When you have the option to choose from several parts, that's made clear in the instructions. The models themselves are often even designed to fit together in intuitive ways. You probably don't want to assemble it without looking at the instructions, but half the time you probably could.

Don't expect this from all other miniatures. Honest, this is a big part of why that price tag is what it is. For somebody like me, a lazy wargamer, I feel like it's well worth it.

Lesson: It's not possible to make too much guidance available.


Games Workshop miniatures, especially lately, are dynamic and exciting. Models look like they're in the middle of an exciting and epic action. A beastman in mid-stride, flailing swords out in front of him. A psyker in the middle of casting a powerful spell. A Sister of Battle running toward her foe, her gun pointed directly at your face.

Lesson: A miniature in a neutral pose are often relegated to rank and file because they're just not miniatures you want to spend time with. Dynamic poses make you inspired to paint a model, excited to admire the painted model, and confidence to send the model into pretend battle.


Games Workshop models are generally highly detailed. You can tell a leather strap from metal plating, a gun or sword handle from the hand holding it, and so on. There are exceptions here and there, of course. Sometimes a canteen or grenade blends in more than you'd like to the coat hanging over it, or a finger gets lost in the trigger of a gun, and so on. But generally, they tend to be highly detailed models, good for painting.

Because of the detail and precision, Games Workshop miniatures help your paint stay where it's meant to be. Indentation guides your paint along natural pathways. On cheaper miniatures, sometimes shapes flow into one another, and so too does your paint.

Lesson: Detail in a miniature makes for a pleasant painting experience. Because they're highly detailed and made with precision, Games Workshop miniatures are easy to paint. It's all plastic, but you can distinguish hair from cloth, leather straps from metal plates, and so on.


Games Workshop miniatures are often (but not always) designed such that mold lines ("flash") and seams (the gaps between parts you've glued together) fall on natural curvatures of the model. This disguises artifacts of the plastic molds as in-world seams or creases.

Lesson: Designing miniatures with knowledge of the molding process is optimal unless you're 3d printing. However, designing for molding probably required intimate knowledge of how the molds are made, and is probably a nuance responsible for a sizable portion of the price tag on Citadel miniatures.

Wargaming made predictable

Wargaming arguably isn't an exactly easy hobby, but I don't think it's supposed to be. In fact, the term "wargaming" is a poor description of what wargamers do, given that most wargamers spend equal parts of their time assembling models, building terrain, painting, constructing battlefields, and playing an actual wargame. I think there are ways to make wargaming easy, but I don't think there's a call for it, and I think I'd be disappointed with an easy version of the hobby. Fiddly tinkering is one of the reasons it's fun.

Happily, Games Workshop [currently] understands this, and it seems that their superpower is the ability to make the hobby consistent. There's no frustration when you buy a Games Workshop product, as long as you're expecting a wargame experience. To some people, the idea of paying two-hundred bucks for a board game is unthinkable. To other people, the idea of paying two-hundred bucks for a board game AND also having to assemble and paint the playing pieces is unfathomable. But that's what Games Workshop offers, and if you buy into it then you get a bunch of models to build and paint, you get instructions for each and every step, a bunch of fun fiction, an existing community of fellow players and fans, and a really great game. And you don't even have to invest in all of that. You can also just buy the miniatures and then use them in other wargames.

Games Workshop isn't perfect. They do a lot of things that annoy me. They don't include profiles in the boxes of miniatures, they release too much too often, they release games before they're ready and then flood players with updates and balance slates, they don't document game components (like which weapon is which) half as well as I'd like, and so on. But my point is that Games Workshop provides consistent quality with a consistent aesthetic, and a bunch of excellent support, and I do think there's a lot to learn from that.

Header photo by Seth Kenlon.

Creative Commons cc0.

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