Games-Workshop is not the God Emperor and it’s not Heresy to Question Him.

Hi! PT, here, to dive in and discuss an uncomfortable issue within the 40k community and hopefully bring us closer to fixing it!

So, Reece threw out a Bat-signal earlier this week for a hero to step in and write a weekly OpEd column for FLG, but I happened to turn up before him. Perhaps not the hero you needed nor deserved, but here we are all the same.

Introductions out of the way, onward.

Having been playing Games-Workshop games for the past 18 years, give or take, I’ve had the pleasure (ahem, mostly) of meeting and playing games with an extremely wide variety of people that I likely never would have otherwise met, many with whom I’ve formed lasting friendships over the years. That’s because the vast majority of people within our humble community are fairly excellent folks. However, there will always be that slim percentage of the community who, for whatever reason, just can’t seem to get into the same groove as everyone else and sort of exude war-gaming headache to everyone around them.

Now, I’m not here to pick on anyone, nor call anyone out, but we’ve all met these folks over the years. And if you haven’t…well…

But anyway, like I said, I’m not in the business of making anyone feel bad, and that isn’t my intent here, either. No, I’m actually working toward the opposite goal, by opening up a discourse on a subject that’s been sort of bugging me for a while. And as the title of this piece may have alluded, it’s about the people who tend to idolize The Holy Creator of our favorite games/hobby and unnecessarily attack anyone who doesn’t quite step into line with the same sort of unhealthy zeal.

So firstly, I love Games-Workshop. I do. I love Warhammer 40k. I love its universe, the storyline – for the most part – and the characters who struggle through the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium. This game is near and dear to my heart and I applaud the creative minds who imagined, developed, and brought this world to life in such a fantastic and provocative way. From the oppressive authoritarianism of the Empire of Man, to the tragedy of the Eldar, to the looming shadow of the Tyranid hive fleets, the whole thing is so elegant and wonderful. I like a bunch of the other things that GW has done over the years, too, but 40k will always be top shelf for me.

That said, the blokes at GW are not infallible. Their company is not infallible. The creative choices and game developments they make regarding the thing that we all love so much are not infallible. In fact, as the chief consumers of their products and stories, the task of criticizing them and the products they manufacture falls squarely onto our, occasionally, heretical shoulders. Note that my use of the term “criticize” should be taken in the most literal way possible, meaning simply the act of evaluating or judging in a fair and objective way. It is only through a healthy and open critical thought process that we are able to improve upon anything and blind fanaticism is the enemy of critical thought, enlightenment, and ultimately progress.

Now, some of you are probably thinking, “that doesn’t happen.” Well, it kind of does, and pretty often, too. You might recall in 7th Edition when GW let slip the absurdly out of touch (and mandatory) Death from the Skies supplement that disrupted the game in a number of intrinsic ways. Lots of folks were duly annoyed – myself included – at the unnecessary rules complications being dumped into an already overcomplicated game. You might also recall some of the reactions to the dissenters was spectacularly over the top and unwarranted. There was an equal reaction and counter-reaction when GW blessed the meta (and their favorite faction!) with the newly retconned space marine psychic powers.

Like I said, I refuse to call anyone out and perpetuate any sort of negativity against anyone, so I won’t be posting screenshots of interactions, trusting that you all are intelligent enough to garner a context and perhaps even recall incidents that you’ve personally encountered regarding this issue. I’ve also seen a pretty common incidence of administrators on popular message boards and Facebook groups outright banning people who dissent with the popular (i.e. their) opinion. I find that to be a sort of disgusting behavior. It’s one thing if the person is actually violating some established code of conduct, but often enough that just isn’t the case. I’ve personally posted comments several times, fully expecting to be banned, purely for the apostasy of disagreeing with canonical mandates. I adamantly hold that tyrannical Facebook administrators are one of the lowest forms of life, wielding their “banhammers” with the swagger and nonchalance of an arrogant Comcast employee.

This is no way to have a discourse on anything. It’s not a way to produce a better community, nor a better world for our children to inherit and play army men. Simply shutting down anyone who disagrees with you is morally wrong and it doesn’t help you or them or any of us in the long run. By picking up the ball and going home, all you’ve accomplished is stopping anyone from playing the game.

As it happens, GW actually strikes out pretty often, so these release incidents are fairly common. A buddy of mine expressed it best: “GW is the Babe Ruth of gaming, 20,000 strikeouts but nobody remembers them because of the home runs.” Hard to argue with such a statement. For every Warhammer 40k or Age of Sigmar General’s Handbook, we get about five or six Death from the Skies or 7th Edition Ork Codexes. I’m not saying it’s a bad or a good thing, just that it’s a thing we should acknowledge, if want a better game and community. Babe Ruth is an icon in our culture for a reason and so is GW, and both are overwhelmingly positive forces in that role. But at the end of the day, they are both fallible and human and worthy of our criticism.



And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



23 Responses to “Games-Workshop is not the God Emperor and it’s not Heresy to Question Him.”

  1. mike March 11, 2018 12:36 am #

    Wait…You’ve run into people that think GW gets everything right? O.O

    Even the whitest of knights I’ve met eventually utter a qualifier statement admitting that they could’ve done (place game mechanic here) better.

  2. Rob Butcher March 11, 2018 1:15 am #

    Comparing GW to Baseball … a game not played nor watched outside the USA ? Maybe comparing it to a popular sport like tiddlywinks might be better ?

    GW have always made errors and sometimes I’ve chosen not to play (ie 7th edition was too complicated to enjoy); but they are still primarily in my eyes a toy soldier manufacturer that bowed to our requests in the late 1980s for a games system. (Yes, I’m old and my first visit to a GW store was in January 1985!!) But things do get put right and I’m really pleased with the quick turn-around of FAQs and Chapter Approved which are balancing out many issues of “that player”.

    But the biggest dangers to our game is not GW – but a certain class of players that have to win at all costs. This seems to be especially prevalent across the pond in “baseball land”. Slow play, flyer spam, conscript spam, dark reaper spam, deep-striking primarchs … all of these are more off-putting to competitive play.

    • Laurence March 11, 2018 1:35 am #

      You think those things are more prevalent in the US? You’ve not played a tournament over here in a while have you?

      • Rob Butcher March 11, 2018 6:05 am #

        I have, but carefully choose which ones I compete at. For me this is a hobby NOT a competitive sport which some seem to want it to become for monetary reasons. I’ve got my medals from sailing, running, football, cricket etc. I don’t need any from this as well.

        GW has always led to serious cheese at tournaments BUT the amount of money/prizes/players has grown over the past five years and seems to be attracting folks who don’t realise this is a fun game with toy soldiers.

        • Ryan March 12, 2018 3:42 pm #

          Conscripts and conscript spam have been gutted into the ground as of 3 months ago, u should update your anti tournament bias rant.

    • 241 March 11, 2018 6:34 pm #

      There’s this tournament called the World Baseball Classic. “World” being the keyword.

  3. Laurence March 11, 2018 1:29 am #

    Yeah, the overwhelmingly common default position for pretty much everyone you meet in the community (until about a year ago) was GW is the devil and hates their customers. I can count on the fingers of one hand the amount of people that defended GW during 7th

    • AngryPanda March 11, 2018 7:01 am #

      Games Workshop has always caused let’s say mixed reactions. But honestly, during 7th edition, they had just trashed their oldest game (I don’t care how great or not great AOS is, you don’t do it like that) and made 7th into such an unplayable mess that they had to reboot from scratch.
      That they had a ton of criticism at that time seems pretty appropriate.
      But it is a testament to the pure loyalty they have in many people that they get celebrated right now for having invalidated a ton of expensive books, are selling those books AGAIN and get cut all the slack as if this edition was a new game with all the problems of one instead of the 8th iteration that should be sleek, streamlined and built on 20 years of experience. Kid’s gloves go “hey that’s a bit of a whimpy touch” compared to what GW gets away with.

  4. Wayniac March 11, 2018 4:19 am #

    I usually find fault with GW, but that’s because I have also seen outside the box. I find far too often the people who feel GW can do no wrong have never looked at other companies. They’ve never seen well-written rules that don’t require interpreting the designer’s intent, they’ve never seen a company that passed cost savings onto their customers when switching materials, they’ve never seen a company that doesn’t try to handwave poor designs away.

    I have been involved in the hobby since late 1995, so because of that I can remember when GW was much better than they are now (it is telling that all of their designers from that time period, including the “father of Warhammer” Rick Priestly himself, now work for/own GW’s competition), and I can remember the decline to the “dark age” when GW really did treat their customers like clueless rubes.

    I have been banned from the Eldar facebook group for saying that third party models were not illegal (not recasts, I mean a third party company’s model) because the admin “has mates who work at GW” and “GW legal told him they were illegal”. I’ve been banned from competitive 40k groups for pointing out that 40k is not really suited as a competitive game (this one will get a lot of blowback, but the fact remains you’re trying to shoehorn 40k into being an e-sport type of game when it’s not and never was meant to be one). I constantly argue with people who think that criticism means “go play something else” and not a desire to see the game be the best it can be. There is no excuse for some of the blunders GW does, with rules, with proofreading (I once had somebody flame me for saying GW needed to proofread by saying “They aren’t a publishing company, typos shouldn’t matter”), with clarity. There should’t need to be an FAQ to clarify that not moving counts as moving less than 10″ (see: Grinding Advance). There should not be as many RAI vs. RAW debates or even straight common sense houseruling just to make the basic game work (technically, by RAW, you can never fire an assault weapon after Advancing because the wording says you need to select the unit, while Advance says you may not select the unit). Yet for some reason these are excused with GW all the time, while other smaller companies not only can get them done correctly without copious FAQs and arguments, and if they had the same level of mistakes that GW does they would be raked over the coals.

    • AngryPanda March 11, 2018 8:30 am #

      So much to agree with and so little time.
      -First, it is so painfully obvious that you just have to ignore the work of other companies to defend GW. What fans declare as unreasonable demands or flat out impossible is stuff other companies not 1/10th the size of GW does all the time. More importantly, everyone else who works a job does it. Basics like proofreading, a coherent design line, etc. are just that, basics. That you would need a guide on how to even make an army list right now while Infinity just lets you click your army together in their webtool and app is beyond a joke.

      -Been around for about the same time and it is painfully obvious on how they somehow managed to take off and not even know what planet they were on anymore for years, which led to us now having to treat the 8th iteration of 40k like some new game instead of the experienced product it should be. That the people who actually designed the game are all working for the competition now is one of those weird things that should crash the blindly loyal workdview but it somehow doesn’t. If GW designers are above criticism, then obviously Kings of War, Dropfleet, etc. must also be perfect because they made them.

      -The sort of insane loyalty that makes people think using other models etc. is “illegal” is mostly bred through people who never saw any other aspect of the hobby. The most extreme example of this I ever saw was a friend in an scale model shop for the first time in his life asking me, honestly surprsied how they did not have anything from GW and I had to explain that GW is a minor blip that modellers never heard of instead of some sort of institution that owns the hobby.

    • Dakkath March 11, 2018 1:23 pm #

      My ‘favorite’ are the people who say that because 40k isn’t designed as a tournament game then the poor rules writing doesn’t matter. Yet I played Magic: the Gathering for years and one thing I can tell you is that a clear, tight, and unambiguous ruleset works for everything from national tournaments down to home game.

    • WestRider March 11, 2018 3:44 pm #

      Some of the nastiest arguments I’ve ever got into (on any topic) were with people who insisted that strict RAW 7th Ed 40K was a perfectly suitable Tournament system, and any deviation whatsoever from GW’s RAW would make it less competitive.

      • AngryPanda March 11, 2018 4:03 pm #

        The only reason for this that I can even imagine is that 7th had already broken their minds by just how utterly unplayable it was and they wanted to escape the idea of having to fix it, which would have been impossible anyway.

        • Bubba Pearson March 11, 2018 11:48 pm #

          I’ve been wargaming since the mid 70’s. Back then, it was predominantly about the hex and cardboard counter boxed or bagged games, but miniatures and tabletop way of gaming snagged me, and I was hooked. I still play both of these (and other games, like Military Madness on my TG16) often. I do it because it’s great fun. After playing for a few years, I developed a state of mind regarding tabletop games and the miniatures in them (shared by my gaming friends) and what it was all about: Buy the miniatures you love, then find a set of rules allowing you to game them. ‘Seems so simple to me, and I still game using that mindset to this day. When I first discovered, in the early to mid eighties, a bagged set at my local Waldenbooks store containing a flat box of 20 ‘Space Marine’ models (Models! Now, of course, I know from the box art that it was the immortal first box with the Crimson Fists cover), a set of rules (the initial Rogue Trader manual only then just released in the ‘States), and lots of How to Build and How to Paint and other similar pamphlets and booklets, from some company called Citadel. So much! So cool! All in a plastic bag with a twisty tie that was priced at just about $30 bucks. I have to admit that while shopping (there was a Games section right next to the sci-fi and fantasy books area I was shopping in at the time), I was drawn to something new and different — after looking it over, I undid the tie, dumped out and carefully examined the contents on the floor, then with great excitement, put it all back together, gathered up the paperbacks I’d decided I wanted, and hurried to the cashier to pay. 🙂 That was the beginning of my long relationship with Games Workshop. I was totally taken by the boxed sets of Space Marine, Space Ork, Space Dwarf (the first Squats) and other boxed models, as well as their incredibly well-done metal minis available at the time. I didn’t know it then, but it was soon to turn into what has become a very strong Love/Hate thing with them that continues to this day.

          The Rogue Trader rules were just what I wanted at the time — decent and flexible set of rules that not only allowed ‘home rules,’ but encouraged them! The same was true with the modeling. It so supported my ‘buy the minis you like, then find rules to game them’ philosophy (even to the point of scratchbuilding, as in the groovy Landspeeder model pictured in RT, made from a deoderant container). I don’t want to get into all the hate parts of my relationship with GW over the years, but I still keep that early philosophy, immortalized in Rogue Trader, of gaming with the miniatures I love (and letting others do the same). GW makes some awesome minis and models, back when about the best available! When I like ’em, I buy ’em (I have a completed and still-boxed collection of at least 1500 Citadel and GW models and minis). When I find other great miniatures (before so many early, great companies were somehow forced out of business, although now there are many), I bought them! ALL the finished minis ended up in game play. What other reason to buy them? I can almost hear the angry shouts and catcalls of “Heretic!” and “Apostate!” now. 🙂 I don’t mind. As long as some war band of self-styled Inquisitors doesn’t come after me in the real world, no problem. It saddens me though, and I really can’t understand why anyone would want to game with exactly the same minis as everyone else! GW certainly doesn’t feel the same way about wargaming now as they did then (ah, but now there’s genuine, serious competition), and I decided long ago to be through with spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on new ‘rules’ when profit margins became the driving force instead of just having fun…. Almost went off to the great hates, but no. I won’t do it. I have a whole basement full of wargaming: GW boxed games and minis (still primarily Space Marines, but lots more too), AND boxed games and squads of minis from lots of other companies too. It keeps me busy, along with my other hobbies as I head in to early old age, and that same philosophy still applies, because, most of all, it keeps it fun. Why else bother?

          • 241 March 12, 2018 5:59 pm

            I’m with you Bubba. It’s always been the rule of cool for me. I play with what I like, for me that’s troops and terminators. I know its not “optimal” but I love deep striking onto the table and going for it!

  5. Cavalier March 11, 2018 6:09 am #

    I’m not sure what FB pages you are referencing… but IMO this community has never been shy about blasting GW with all the vitriol they can muster. The comments on the Warhammer Community FB can be a real horror show.

    As for FB group moderators… I have only limited experience in that department. I usually just post hobby progress stuff. But you gotta remember the people who create those groups usually do so to have a variety of conversations, and the endless ranting and raving can quickly dominate these FB groups and usually for no real reason. I remember when the Eldar dex was released and Y’nnari FAQ was released around the same time… and eveyone declared Eldar and Y’nnari dead for all time. Fast forward 5 months and they are ruling the world (or so people believe) and people are demanding nerfs and even banning Y’nnari from events.

    My point being you dont want to spend all this time and energy creating a forum for all aspects of the hobby, just to have it dominated by hyperbolic knee jerk reactions.

    That being said people should definitley voice their opinions and let GW know specifically what they have a problem with or what they want. Both competitive and narrative players. I just wish people could have some restraint and civility in doing so… and actually test out the new stuff that comes out with jumping to conclusions like they did with Eldar and Y’nnari

  6. GeekmasterK March 11, 2018 7:56 am #

    Yeah, I’ve been critical of GW in the past, especially during their “dark age.” I’m glad I stuck it out, though, because 8th Edition 40k has been wonderful so far. The thing is, I did still enjoy their product on some level, even during 7th. In my experience, I actually ran into the opposite situation during this timeframe.

    Instead of people saying that GW could do no wrong, it was considered heresy to think they could do anything right. I was constantly running into people saying they wanted GW to go bankrupt, because they were allegedly a “detriment to the entire miniature game industry.” I actually found myself defending not GW, but myself for liking their product. And while I wasn’t the only person playing 40k in my area, there was a strong enough contingent of people who hated GW passionately. It got bad enough, that it actually turned me off from their game of choice, Warmahordes.

    And this is why I love 8th Edition, and the new direction of GW. While there are still things I could criticize about 8th, there’s no denying its impact. People who left the game years ago are getting back in, and there’s something to be said for that. The hate for GW does seem to be dying down as a result, and I love it!

    • AngryPanda March 11, 2018 8:01 am #

      While I personally think 8th merely upgraded 7th from a garbage fire to just garbage I have noticed this pattern of behaviour in our gaming group that has mostly moved on from GW and we are trying to at least shape it so it isn’t. No one should get any grief for whatever game they play. This is a surprisingly hard thing to do though, especially with ex-GW players. It’s a bit like former smokers, they get super militant about anyone who doesn’t do it too. I think the sort of brand loyalty GW inspires in some people translates into a massive sense of betrayal and spite once people get burned.

      • GeekmasterK March 11, 2018 2:14 pm #

        I might also add that I have played miniature games outside of GW’s library. I do think it’s important to branch out to other systems at some point during a person’s hobby experience. In my case, it’s given me a more well-rounded perspective on the hobby as a whole. I don’t dislike Warmahordes as a system, but like I said, it was that game’s community in my area that turned me off from the game.

        You’re right, no one should get grief for liking a system. For that matter, no one should get grief for preferring a different edition of the same game as someone else. That’s a whole other topic, though. “Edition wars” in any game community really piss me off. And while 8th Edition 40k might not be your thing, there is something to be said for it bringing people back into 40k who quit playing GW games years ago. For it to have that effect, it must be doing something right. Hell, there’s a guy in my area who quit playing years ago, around the time 6th Edition dropped, if I remember right. 8th Edition was what brought him back in.

        The great thing about this hobby to me is that there’s something for everyone. Different game systems, different miniature ranges, building, painting, casual play, competitive play, fluff, etc. Not everyone has to like the same things, and people are so diverse that even in this hobby, that’s pretty much impossible. If only there weren’t so many people who get caught in the “stop liking what I don’t like” mindset…

  7. James W Griffith March 11, 2018 8:35 am #

    Heresy! Heresy, I dare say!!! The mighty gods of all that is emperor based will be virus-bombing this article any second now. Just you wait!!!!

  8. AngryPanda March 11, 2018 8:53 am #

    In the simplest terms, it is the same thing as company loyalty for other products people spend too much time on. The Sony vs Microsoft console wars, sports fans, etc.
    It just takes confusing the product you spend time on with the company that makes it and tying your identity to your hobbies. Both things we seem wired to do.

  9. Don Tomaso March 11, 2018 7:35 pm #

    “Wait…You’ve run into people that think GW gets everything right? O.O”


    Yeah, they are far closer then you think. 😛

    My own view on geedubs 40k?
    Of course everything is perfect, nothing to see, move along and by god dont even dare mention that something needs fixing!


  10. Anggul March 12, 2018 1:56 am #

    I think the issue is that on the internet, for every reasoned, well-explained, and supportive criticism of something GW does in the spirit of getting them to improve, there are ten neckbeards bitching senselessly without even putting proper thought and logic into it.

    It’s inevitably going to exasperate people and they’ll just stop listening.

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