Founded in 1975 by John Peake, Ian Livingstone, and Steve Jackson, Games Workshop was originally a manufacturer of wooden boards for games including backgammon, mancala, nine men's morris, and Go. It later became an importer of the U.S. role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, and then a publisher of wargames and role-playing games in its own right, expanding from a bedroom mail-order company in the process. It expanded into Europe, the US, Canada, and Australia in the early 1990s. All U.K.-based operations were relocated to the current headquarters in Lenton, Nottingham in 1997.
In order to promote their business and postal games, create a games club, and provide an alternative source for games news, the newsletter Owl and Weasel was founded in February 1975. This was superseded in June 1977 by White Dwarf.
From the outset, there was a clear, stated interest in print regarding "progressive games", including computer gaming, which led to the departure of John Peake in early 1976, who preferred "traditional games" (such as backgammon). The loss of Peake also meant the loss of the fledgling company's main source of income. However, having successfully obtained official distribution rights to Dungeons & Dragons and other TSR products in the UK, and maintaining a high profile by running games conventions, the business grew rapidly. It opened its first retail shop in April 1978.
In early 1979 Games Workshop provided the funding to found Citadel Miniatures in Newark-on-Trent. Citadel would produce the metal miniatures used in its role-playing games and tabletop wargames. The "Citadel" name became synonymous with Games Workshop Miniatures, and continues to be a trademarked brand name used in association with them long after the Citadel company was absorbed into Games Workshop. For a time Gary Gygax promoted the idea of TSR, Inc. merging with Games Workshop, until Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone backed out.
In 1984 Games Workshop ceased distributing its products in the U.S.A. through hobby games distributors and opened its Games Workshop (U.S.) office. Games Workshop (U.S.), and Games Workshop in general, grew significantly in the late 1980s, with over 250 employees on the payroll by 1990.
Tom Kirby became General Manager in 1986.
Following a management buyout by him and Bryan Ansell in December 1991, when Livingstone and Jackson sold their shares for £10 million, Games Workshop refocused on their miniature wargamesWarhammer Fantasy Battle (WFB) and Warhammer 40,000 (WH40k), their most lucrative lines. The retail chain refocused on a younger, more family-oriented market. The change of direction was a great success and the company enjoyed growing profits, but the more commercial direction of the company made it lose some of its old fan base. A breakaway group of two company employees published Fantasy Warlord in competition with Games Workshop, but the new company met with little success and closed in 1993. Games Workshop expanded in Europe, the US, Canada, and Australia, opening new branches and organising events in each new commercial territory. Having been acquired by private equity firm ECI Partners the company was floated on the London Stock Exchange in October 1994. In October 1997 all U.K.-based operations were relocated to the current headquarters in Lenton, Nottingham.
The company diversified by acquiring Sabretooth Games (card games), creating the Black Library (literature), and working with THQ (computer games).
On 16 May 2011, Maelstrom Games announced that Games Workshop had revised the terms and conditions of their trade agreement with independent stockists in the UK. The new terms and conditions restricted the sale of all Games Workshop products to within the European Economic Area.
On 16 June 2013, WarGameStore, a UK-based retailer of Games Workshop products since 2003, announced further changes to Games Workshop's trade agreement with UK-based independent stockists.
In July 2021, Games Workshop made changes to their IP guidelines, adopting a "zero tolerance" stance towards fan-made games, videos and animations, drawing criticism from fans.
The presence of Games Workshop in the East Midlands has led the region to become the centre of the wargames industry in Britain, known as the lead belt with numerous other
companies founded by former employees.
In conjunction with the promotion of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy in 2001, Games Workshop acquired the rights to produce a skirmish wargame and miniatures, using the movies' production and publicity art, and information provided by the original novels by J.R.R. Tolkien. A 25mm scale was used. The rights to produce a role-playing game using the films' art and both the book and the movies' plots and characters were sold to another firm, Decipher, Inc. Games Workshop also produced a Battle of Five Armies game based on a culminating episode in The Hobbit, using 10 mm scale.
On 10 February 2011 Warner Bros. Consumer Products announced that it had extended its six-year agreement with Games Workshop, continuing its exclusive, worldwide rights to produce tabletop games based on "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings." Games Workshop announced plans to expand their offerings of battle-games and model soldiers, and to continue to develop and increase offerings based on J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy books.
Games Workshop has expanded into several divisions/companies producing products related to the Warhammer universe.
Forge World makes specialist resin miniatures and conversion kits for Games Workshop's titles as well as its Specialist Games range. Forge World was also responsible for the Warhammer Historical line of historical wargames rules, including Warhammer Ancient Battles, all of which were previously published by as a component of Black Library. In August 2018, Forge World announced substantial changes to its U.S. pricing model in exchange for faster and less costly shipping services to the United States.
BL Publishing was the fiction, board game and roleplaying game publishing arm of Games Workshop. They comprised several separate imprints; Black Library, Black Flame and Solaris Books. Warp Artefacts used to produce merchandise based on Games Workshop's intellectual property; they are now folded into BLP as BL Merchandise.
The company has hard-to-reproduce, unique intellectual property, and a good export record. Sales slowed around 1999-2000 due to supply chain issues, but quickly rebounded a few years later.
Games Workshop previously produced miniature figures via an associated, originally independent, company called Citadel Miniatures while the main company concentrated on retail. The distinction between the two blurred after Games Workshop stores ceased to sell retail products by other manufacturers, and Citadel was effectively merged back into Games Workshop.
Current core games
The following games were in production as of 2021[update]:
Blood Bowl - an American football style game using fantasy creatures. Originally released in 1986, it was revived in 2016 with a "Second Season Edition" in 2020.
Necromunda - a skirmish game set on a hive world which pits gangs of humans against each other, using modified 2nd edition Warhammer 40,000 rules, which are more detailed than newer editions and more suitable for skirmish games. Originally printed in 1995, it was revived at the end of 2017.
Warcry - A skirmish game set in the Age of Sigmar universe (released 2019).
Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team - A skirmish version of Warhammer 40,000, using the same factions and units (new edition released 2021).
Warhammer: Underworlds - A game set in the Age of Sigmar setting combining miniature gaming and deck-building (released 2017).
Out of print
Warhammer Age of Sigmar universe
Warhammer Quest: Shadows over Hammerhal (released 2017) - dungeon crawl game in the Warhammer: Age of Sigmar universe. Despite sharing the Warhammer Quest brand, rules and setting are completely different from the original game.
Warhammer Quest - a game of dungeon exploration and questing, effectively an updated version of Advanced HeroQuest
Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower (released 2016) - dungeon crawl game in the Warhammer Age of Sigmar universe. Despite sharing the Warhammer Quest brand, rules and settings are completely different from the original game.
Warhammer 40,000 universe
Adeptus Titanicus (The original game in the Epic series, which dealt solely with combat between Titans.)
Codex Titanicus (Expanded rules for the above, adding rules for Ork and Eldar titans along with expanded rules for Eldar, Orks, Imperial Guard infantry and vehicles.)
Gorkamorka (A vehicle skirmish game set on a desert world, revolving principally around rival Ork factions.)
Digganob (An expansion for Gorkamorka, adding rebel gretchin and feral human factions.)
Shadow War: Armageddon - an updated version of the Necromunda skirmish ruleset, using the current Warhammer 40,000 factions in place of Necromunda's human gangs (released 2017).
Space Fleet (A simple spaceship combat game, later greatly expanded via White Dwarf magazine with material intended for the aborted 'Battleship Gothic', itself later relaunched as Battlefleet Gothic.)
Space Hulk (Four editions were published; expansions are listed below.)
Deathwing (An expansion boxed set adding new Terminator weapons and a new campaign.)
Genestealer (An expansion boxed set adding rules for Genestealer hybrids and psychic powers.)
Space Hulk Campaigns (An expansion book released in both soft and hard-cover collecting reprinted four campaigns previously printed in White Dwarf.)
Space Marine (The original Epic-scale game concerning troops and infantry, 1st edition was compatible with Adeptus Titanicus, 2nd with Titan Legions)
Titan Legions (An update of Adeptus Titanicus, effectively an expansion of Space Marine 2nd edition.)
Tyranid Attack (An introductory game reusing the boards from Advanced Space Crusade.)
Ultra Marines (An introductory game reusing the boards from Space Hulk.)
These games are aimed at the "veteran" gamers. These are gamers who are more experienced in the core games produced by Games Workshop. This is because the rules and the complexity of tactics inherent in the systems are often more in-depth than the core games. This also includes games that aren't necessarily more complex, but have a smaller more specialised target audience.
Warhammer Fantasy universe
Dreadfleet - a naval combat style board game (limited stock) released on 1 October 2011
The Strategy Battle Game was expanded with new supplements. In 2009 an expansion for the game entitled 'War of the Ring' was released, allowing players to recreate large scale battles in Middle-Earth. In December 2012 Games Workshop released the first wave of models based on the movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Games Workshop produces a line of acrylic paints for painting miniatures, under the Citadel name. At the end of March 2012 the company announced a new range of over 145 colours made in the UK, which has since been expanded and reorganised. These paints are broken down into different types, each with a different intended purpose. This allows painters to follow painting guides produced by Games Workshop and create custom paint schemes more easily as each step in Games Workshop's 'Eavy Metal painting style has a paint type designed to assist in application. The 'Eavy Metal style is named after the 'Eavy Metal Team, Games Workshop's studio painting team, and is characterised by simple highlights and shadows with strong edge-highlights on all edges, creating a look that is clean, easily and quickly reproducible across many models, and defines details well on a gaming table.
Base: Pigment dense for high opacity. Intended to offer good coverage over a primer layer for a strong foundation of colour.
Layer: Thinner and less pigment dense than Base paints for slight translucency. Intended to be built up over multiple layers to create smooth transitions of colour or value.
Shade: Acrylic ink based "paints" that are thin and flow easily into recessed details. Intended to be applied as a wash to add depth and shadow.
Dry: Thick, paste-consistency paints with maximum pigment concentration. Intended to aid in drybrushing to achieve easy highlighting of models.
Air: A selection of colours from the Base and Layer lines that are thinned down, as well as some "Clear" paints. Intended to be used through an airbrush.
Technical: A range of non-standard "paints" to achieve additional effects. These include gloss paints for slime or wet blood, semi-transparent glossy paints for gemstone effects, weathering effect paints, spectral effect paints, textured pastes for gaming bases, acrylic mediums, and acrylic varnishes. Intended for adding finishing details to models.
Spray: Spray-can paints that come in black, white, and a small selection of colours from the Base line. Intended as a primer layer and to add a foundation coat of colour quickly.
Contrast: Thinned paint and medium mixtures that flow into recesses similar to Shade paints, but also stain the raised details creating a blended fade from highlight to shadow. Intended to be applied over specialised Spray paints to give an effect similar to using a Base, then Layer, then Shade, but in one coat of paint to speed up the painting process.
The line includes both metallic and non-metallic paints in the Base, Layer, Edge, Dry, and Air lines, with non-metallic paints having a matte/light-satin finish.
Contrast paints were added to the Games Workshop paint range in 2019, promoted as speeding up the painting process for players who don't enjoy or want to spend the time painting their Games Workshop models. The existing range of paints was also expanded and reorganised when Contrast was released, and branding changed from Citadel to Citadel Colour. The previously available Glaze line of paints was discontinued, replaced with the introduction of the Air Clear paints, the previously available Edge line of paints were combined into the Layer line, with some colours also being renamed, and the previously separate Texture line of paints was combined into the Technical line.
The Citadel line also includes various other hobby supplies, including basing materials such as static grass and tufts, as well as modelling tools, such as paint brushes, glues, and hobby clippers.
Several of the miniatures games (e.g. Inquisitor) involve a role-playing element; however, Games Workshop has, in the past, published role-playing games set within the Warhammer universe. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay was first published in 1986; a second edition appeared in 2005 published by Black Industries, part of GW's fiction imprint BL Publishing. In 2018 a 4th edition was published by Cubicle 7 who will also re-publish the iconic Enemy Within campaign in 2020, adapted for the new edition by the original writers.
Fantasy Flight Games subsequently published four other roleplaying games; Rogue Trader, Deathwatch, Black Crusade, and Only War, set in the same Warhammer 40,000 universe and employing similar mechanics. In 2009 Fantasy Flight also released a new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.
Out of print
Golden Heroes - a superhero roleplaying game, published in 1984 after initially being published on an amateur basis.
The following games are technically out of print in their original editions, but have had new versions (in some cases heavily revised and in some cases with additional game expansions) published by Fantasy Flight Games.
Dark Heresy - an RPG based in the WH40k Universe where players control one member of an Inquisitor's retinue.
Games Workshop had a strong history in boardgames development, alongside the miniatures and RPGs. Several may have had roleplaying elements, or had miniatures included or produced. Spacefarers released in 1981 was one of these board games with a set of miniature rules especially designed for use with Citadel Miniatures' figures.: 139
Licensing for an undisclosed proportion of Games Workshop's back catalogue of board games was transferred to Fantasy Flight Games as part of the same transaction which included Black Library's Role Playing Games. Fantasy Flight has republished revised editions of a number of these games. At the time of the announcement, Black Library had only one boardgame in print, the 4th Edition of "Talisman". Fantasy Flight subsequently released revised editions of Talisman and of other former Games Workshop boardgames. On September 9, 2016, Fantasy Flight Games announced the termination of its licensing agreement with Games Workshop.
Games Workshop currently has several standalone board games in production. Being standalone games, they do not depend on the rules or components of the current core game systems of Warhammer Age of Sigmar or Warhammer 40,000. All of these include miniatures that require some assembly, and those miniatures can be used with the core game systems.
The following games are technically out of print in their original editions, but have had new versions (in all cases heavily revised and in some cases with additional game expansions) published by Fantasy Flight Games.
Many video games have been produced by third parties based on the Warhammer universes owned by the firm. These include (miniature game they are based on is included in parentheses after the game name):
Total War: Warhammer II is a turn-based strategy and real-time tactics video game developed by Creative Assembly and published by Sega. It is part of the Total War series and the sequel to 2016's Total War: Warhammer. (Warhammer Fantasy - High Elves, Skaven, Dark Elves, Lizardmen playable in the core game. All factions from the first game and the second are playable in a combined super-map for free if one bought the first game and any of the DLC races and content bought from either game is added as well.
Space Hulk: Deathwing, a First-Person Shooter game, developed by Streum On Studio and published by Focus Home Interactive.
Games Workshop released a Trading Card Game in 2017 based on the Age of Sigmar universe, Age of Sigmar: Champions. Champions featured several unique features, such as a companion online version of the game with collections being synced across both paper and digital versions. Compared to other, more traditional TCGs (Such as Magic: The Gathering) Champions also included a rotation system as a resource management and lanes for play - similar to MOBA style games such as League of Legends.
There were yearly Games Day events held by Games Workshop which included the Golden Demon painting competition, news stands, sales stands, and tables to play on. In 2014 it was replaced by 'Warhammer Fest', similar but with additions such as demonstration pods and seminars.
Games Workshop has run numerous Worldwide Campaigns for its three core game systems. In each campaign, players are invited to submit the results of games played within a certain time period. The collation of these results provides a result to the campaign's scenario, and sometime leads to modifications in the games.
Each Warhammer campaign has had a new codex published with the rules for special characters or "incomplete" army lists. Below are listed the Games Workshop Worldwide Campaigns (with the campaign's fictional universe setting in parentheses):
1995 - The Battle of Ichar IV (Warhammer 40,000)
2000 - Third War for Armageddon (Warhammer 40,000)
These Campaigns were run to promote its miniature wargames, and attracted interest in the hobby, particularly at gaming clubs, Hobby Centres and independent stockists. Forums for the community were created for each campaign (in addition to those on the main site), as a place to "swap tactics, plan where to post your results, or just chat about how the campaign is going." In some cases special miniatures were released to coincide with the campaigns; the promotional "Gimli on Dead Uruk-hai" miniature, for example, was available only through the campaign roadshows or ordering online. As a whole these events have been successful; one, for example, was deemed "a fantastic rollercoaster", with thousands of registered participants.
Games Workshop's has published the White Dwarf magazine since 1977 and has over 400 issues. Games Workshop also published Fanatic Magazine in support of their Specialist Games range. After the cancellation of Fanatic Magazine, an electronic version, known as "Fanatic Online" was published from Games Workshop's Specialist Games website.
For a brief period in the mid-1980s GW took over publication of the Fighting Fantasy magazine Warlock from Puffin Books who had produced the first 5 issues. The magazine turned into a general introductory gaming magazine but was discontinued after issue 13.
Games Workshop issued a trademark complaint against retailer Amazon, specifically relating to the novel Spots the Space Marine, claiming it violated their European 'space marine' trademark. Commentators such as Cory Doctorow and digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, questioned the right of Games Workshop to trademark the term. On 8 February 2013, Spots the Space Marine reappeared on Amazon. Games Workshop has issued no further legal action.
From 1997 to 2005 Black Library published INFERNO!, a magazine of short stories, artwork, and other features set in the various fictional universes of Games Workshop, and regularly featuring that of Warhammer 40,000. Since 2010 Black Library has produced a monthly eBook called "Hammer and Bolter" with the focus on short stories set in the different Games Workshop universes.
In November 1987 the English thrash metal band Sabbat released "Blood for the Blood God" as a free flexi-disc with the issue #95 of White Dwarf, Games Workshop's in-house publication.
In the late 1980s the death metal band Bolt Thrower wrote lyrics dedicated to the Warhammer 40,000 universe and used 40k artwork on the cover of their second album, Realm of Chaos.
In the early 1990s Games Workshop created its own short-lived record company, Warhammer Records. The only band under this label was D-Rok (who published one album, Oblivion, in 1991). A fragment of D-Rok's song "Get Out of My Way" was used in the computer game "Space Hulk", published by Electronic Arts in 1992.
In the early 2000s the German label Art of Perception produced a 12 part soundtrack vinyl series followed by three CD compilations. The task for the artists involved in this project was to conduct a theme for a species from the Warhammer 40.000 universe.
In 2009 the Singaporean death metal band, Deus Ex Machina released I, Human, which makes numerous references to the Warhammer 40,000 universe, particularly the Adeptus Mechanicus faction.
In 2007 and 2015 the German death metal band Debauchery released several songs about the Chaos God Khorne, "Praise the Blood God", "True To The Skull Throne (And Bound To Kill)", and "Blood For The Blood God".
Games Workshop announced that Exile Studios would produce a CGI movie based upon the Bloodquest graphic novel; a trailer was released, but the project was discontinued and Exile Studios disbanded.
For the 25th Anniversary Games Day, Games Workshop released in 1996 (for limited sale) a short movie entitled Inquisitor, using clips and footage that was created as a pitch to G.W. for a movie deal. There were also trailers for two other films, "Hive Infestation" and "Blood for the Blood God". "Hive Infestation" pitted Space Wolf terminators against a genestealer cult infestation of a hive world. "Blood for the Blood God" was the second trailer released, and portrayed orks and Dark Angel marines fighting along with an inquisitor, much in the style of the Epic 40,000 video game cut scenes, but little information was given on this short film aside from a shot of a berserker of Khorne (available in YouTube but flagged by Games Workshop, removing the movie).
Another one was Damnatus, a German fan film developed over four years. Games Workshop announced in July 2007 that they would not give permission for the movie to be released because of issues between Anglo-American copyright and Continental European Droit d'auteur.
On 5 August 2021, Games Workshop launched Warhammer Plus, a subscription service that provides access to exclusive Warhammer-themed shows and animations, as well as other content such as classic issues of the White Dwarf magazine and exclusive miniatures.