The Marriages of Games Workshop

The game world was shocked by the announcement of Games Workshop signing a multiyear deal with Wizkids Games. The news was shocking because it was only a year ago when Games Workshop cut ties with Fantasy Flight Games. The gaming world assumed Games Workshop was bringing game development in-house. But now we know that wasn’t the case. We will look at the partnerships Games Workshop has had historically. Then we will look at this new marriage with Wizkids and what we might expect from such a partnership.

The Marriages of Games Workshop

TSR proposes to Games Workshop

TSR logo
TSR logo

The first partnership was with Tactical Studies Rules (TSR). TSR made many games in the 70’s and 80’s. But they were known for one game franchise above all others: Dungeons & Dragons. Founder Gary Gygax was getting orders for his popular D&D games in Europe. Opening up a shop there was costly. And distributors of games in the 70’s were hard to come by. Gygax approached Games Workshop about a partnership.

Games Workshop was founded in 1975 as a manufacturer of games like Mancala and checkers. Gygax thought a UK company with some gaming chops would be a good collaborator for its European endeavors. Games Workshop was happy to add D&D to its line up. Due to shipping prices, Games Workshop acutally did some printing and publishing of D&D instead of just importing it.

TSR Games Workshop minis
TSR Games Workshop minis

TSR cut its teeth on making, as you could guess from its name, tactical rules for combat. TSR would publish miniatures to go with these rules. Some of these miniatures would be made at Games Workshop’s Citadel Miniatures. This would give GW some street cred in the world of miniature wargaming.

Gary Gygax filed for divorce from Games Workshop in the 80’s. Gygax tried to buy Games Workshop. Games Workshop declined. Gygax responded by opening up a TSR branch in the UK. With a new branch in Europe, D&D didn’t need Games Workshop.

 

Games Workshop and Tolkien live happily ever after (2001 – present)

Warg Riders from GW's LotR's Miniatures game
Warg Riders from GW’s LotR’s Miniatures game

Getting the rights to do a game in Middle Earth is difficult these days. The Tolkien estate is weary of doling out its heritage to just any company. Sure, in the 70’s and 80’s there were a slew of Lord of the Rings games. But now the estate of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien won’t give the typical publisher the time of day.

But then Games Workshop isn’t the typical publisher.

"You shall NOT PASS!"
“You shall NOT PASS!”

GW got the rights to make a full line of Lord of the Rings miniatures to accompany the release of Peter Jackson’s movies. Games Workshop had a strong reputation as a miniatures gaming company. They managed to survive for decades. This is probably why GW got the rights to make this game.

This marriage between Tolkien and Games Workshop is still ongoing. The game is still supported by GW even thought they will not be making any more movies (at least I hope they won’t).

 

Games Workshop’s messy divorce from Fantasy Flight (2008-2016)

Fantasy Flight Games logo
Fantasy Flight Games logo

The marriage between Fantasy Flight and Games Workshop seemed like the perfect arrangement. Games Workshop had lots of IP which needed to be put into board games; Fantasy Flight had lots of in-house design talent to make board games. Games Workshop’s pricing is opulent; Fantasy Flight makes high quality components, necessitating high prices.

Chaos in the Old World
Chaos in the Old World

Fantasy Flight made several new games with the blessing of GW. Chaos in the Old World, Horus Heresy and Blood Bowl Team Manager being a few of them. Fantasy Flight reimplemented several old titles of Games Workshop’s. This included Relic (an updated Talisman) and Fury of Dracula.

Mina Harker from Fury of Dracula
Mina Harker from Fury of Dracula

Games Workshop’s petition for divorce felt very sudden. I covered this in detail about a year ago. But here is an executive summary. Fantasy Flight got the rights to several Star Wars games. Fantasy Flight is making its own miniatures games in the Star Wars universe and the Runebound universe. Asmodee bought Fantasy Flight. Taken together, this was too much for even Games Workshop to handle.

The news took FFG by surprise. That’s how we know GW was the plaintiff in this divorce. What we didn’t know was some other publisher had caught the eye of Games Workshop.

 

Games Workshop Elopes with Wizkids: 2017

Wizkids Logo
Wizkids Logo

The news was shocking. Games Workshop decided to give Wizkids a multiyear deal to publish games in the Warhammer universe.

This dispelled the notion Games Workshop wanted to bring board game development in-house. When the news of FFG hit the board gaming world, that was among the most speculated conclusions people reached. We now know this is not true.

Marvel X-Men Dice Masters
Marvel X-Men Dice Masters

Wizkids is the publisher of one of my favorite miniatures games, Mage Knight. The game is now defunct but Wizkids still makes Heroclix which is derivative of Mage Knight. My favorite Star Trek game, Star Trek Fleet Captains, is published by Wizkids. And Wizkids is responsible for the Dice Master series, probably their biggest seller right now.

The press release from Wizkids says Games Workshop is interested in a Dice Masters-like game. The Dice Masters series is collectible and has lots of expansions. Both of these facts drive up sales if the game is supported by local stores.

Fury of Dracula 3rd Edition
Fury of Dracula 3rd Edition

The press release also says Wizkids will be republishing games like Fury of Dracula and Relic. Additionally, the press release says WK will be publishing “two new board games”.

BGG, Dice Tower and other sites are in a bit of a furor about the news. But little else is available on the subject outside the press release. So here we will speculate about what the fruit this marriage will bear.

Wizkids will publish all the strong sellers

Fury of Dracula and Relic were specifically mentioned because these were strong sellers. But Wizkids will publish any GW game that will make money. A reskin of Warhammer Conquest or Forbidden Stars is not out of the question.

Wizkids will publish a Warhammer Dice Masters

This was noted in the press release. The price point is low enough to get people hooked. The game play can easily be supported by stores. This will give GW an in-road for their Warhammer miniatures games.

Wizkids will probably reskin their existing games

Wizkids’ most critically acclaimed game is Mage Knight the board game (different from the miniatures game I mentioned earlier). Wizkids reskinned this a year ago in the form of a Star Trek game, Star Trek Frontiers. What’s to stop Wizkids from doing the same again? Remove the Star Trek figures and replace them with Space Marines.

Wizkids will probably not be able to support its Star Trek line of games

Star Trek Heroclix, Star Trek Attack Wing and Star Trek Fleet Captains may not get any more love from Wizkids. When FFG gave Star Wars too much love, Games Workshop noticed. Will GW do the same if Wizkids develops Star Trek games instead of Space Marine games? Probably.

Wizkids may not be able to support its Dungeons & Dragons games

Star Trek has always been a hit-or-miss IP when it comes to tabletop gaming. But not so with Dungeons & Dragons. And Wizkids makes some D&D games. And these are some big box games like Assault of the Giants and Temple of Elemental Evil. Will Games Workshop allow Wizkids to develop more D&D games when the Warhammer Fantasy universe could be further developed? We will see. I suspect not.

Wizkids will be making brand new games

This is the best news in the whole press release. What is it that Wizkids and Games Workshop wanted to do so darn bad? The games must be in early development. But there is no further news about them. When I know something, I’ll blog about it here.

 

Epilogue

Why Games Workshop sucks
Space Marine Terminator Squad

Only time will tell if my speculations are proven correct. I hope I am incorrect in some cases, especially about Star Trek Fleet Captains, a game that needs a Borg expansion desperately.

And of course, we never know if Asmodee will simply buy Wizkids. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

-Chris, on behalf of the Muskegon Area Gamers