Why do people complain about Games Workshop?

For context, I started writing a reply to ImperialRebelOrk’s post “Games Workshop vs Everyone Else“, but then when I realised that I’d written close to a thousand words in his comments box…. well, I figured I may as well make it into its own post and link back to IRO. It’s like a response video on YouTube. Only possibly less fun. :p

So why do people complain about GW? People tend to complain when there’s something they don’t like, and remain quiet when there is something that they do like. That much is just human nature.  GW has also built up quite a collection of people who love their products, but hate the company. This was common WAY back in the 1990’s and shows no sign of declining anytime soon or probably ever.

This is because:

Andy Chambers, Jake Thornton,

1) There’s obviously a large disconnect between the people in the studio and the suits who run the place. This isn’t any surprise to anyone, but there are a lot of “Workshop fans” who enjoy the product and background, and appreciate the creative people behind them – yet they dislike the company as it exists today.

What morphed from a somewhat relatable (sort-of) hobbyist-run business – especially if we skip the very early days under Livingstone and Jackson, which was a time when GW was completely unrecognisable to use today and move up to when Ansell (of Asgard Miniatures) took over Citadel in the first management buy-out (there’s a lot written about Bryan Ansell – I recommend Realm of Chaos 80’s) to a corporate business that was still sort-of consumer oriented to a much more aggressively corporate and anti-consumer attitude under Kirby (following the second management buy-out). The face has started to turn in the last couple of years with Rountree taking over from Kirby, but there are still serious problems…

2) off the back of 1), It’s become part of the “culture” of “GW fans”. Internet being internet, it becomes a self-renewing attitude when new players come in and discover places like Facebook, Dakka, many other forums and the social norms within. it’s the “cool” thing. Sorta.

Let’s face it – you’ll find this in pretty much any kind of fandom. Star Wars? Marvel? GW particularly has a LOT of “bitter ex” type gamers who just can’t move on and let go. Especially when you mention Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Age of Sigmar in the same sentence.

Not a stealth affiliate link. Just a normal link. Relax.

3) GW hasn’t exactly helped this attitude with various anti-consumer business practices over the decades. See things like their hostile and arrogant attitude towards consumers, bullshit regional pricing (AU, NZ, Japan, etc) with even more bullshit justifications and and endless stream of white knights who appear incapable of critical or even thought –  who simply defend their deity’s every action. The same bullshit you get from Playstation/Microsoft fanbois, nee Nintendo and Sega Fanboys back in the ’90s. The more things change…

Even outside of the non-US/European pricing bubble, the way that they reduced the content/number of figures in boxes while increasing the prices (the LotR range being one of the most egregious examples) is nothing but cynical and eventually led to losses that they very much deserved as fans and player abandoned them. This actually helped the industry as many gamers went elsewhere looking for their games and models, often from companies that had a “friendlier” perception. Note the rise of Warlord games, SAGA, Malifaux, Infinity and many more during this time.

GW also got a bit too aggressive when defending what they felt was their IP. Now, companies do face a “defend it or lose it” situation with intellectual property, but GW took it a few steps beyond by claiming a whole lot of names and concepts that fall very much into the public domain. Roman Numerals? Piles of Skulls? Arrows? The term “Space Marine”? Look up the Chapterhouse lawsuit – or even worse – the Spots the Space Marine case for a lot of detail and information on various things that GW attempted to claim that they “owned.” (links to both below). Failure in the Chapterhouse case is what led to protectable names and terms like “Aelf”, “Aeldari”, “Astra Militarium” and so forth. (did you know that “Eldar” is a term used by JRR Tolkien long before Games Workshop existed? Or that Napoleon had an Imperial Guard long before White Dwarf 110 or so changed 40k’s Imperial Army to the Imperial Guard?)

This ties into the “it’s a business” argument/defence – yes, they’re there to make money – most all businesses are – but there are plenty of ways to make money that do not unnecessarily antagonise your actual customers and fanbase. In retrospect, Tom Kirby’s reign was not a good one. Even the “new GW” is far from perfect, but the bar was honestly set so low by Kirby’s eventual attitude and the damage that it did to the company management and their attitude to their consumers that they currently seem super nice. Over the years (decades, actually) of this mentality becoming increasingly pervasive, 1) and 2) got far, far worse.

They are indeed a lot better now, but they’re still far from perfect or beyond reproach.

Amazingly, NOT perfect in every way to every person.

4) The other side now – You can’t please everyone. This ties into what is called “entitlement mentality”. Look at Kill Team – see how many people in the lead-up  indicated on various forums and discussion groups that because this newly-announced-but-at-the-time-not-yet-played-by-any-one-of-us game contains a specific thing, or doesn’t contain a specific thing that they wanted that “they’re out!” or worse. From “6 exclusive cards” that would be trivial at worst to get hold of – to not having any of a few factions (Assassins and Custodes for example would be worse than Spyrers in OldNecro – and it would make no sense to release rules for Sisters – which you can barely purchase – only to change them entirely to match the new, upcoming range in 6-12 months), lack of new troop models, lack of hero models, potential use of E2B vs lack of new E2B sculpts.. it goes on and on.

It can be hard to match the expectation of perfection that someone creates in their head. Especially since perfection is impossible.


5) Culture of outrage. This is again, all over the internet and not exclusive to GW, but people these days online actively look for things to be outraged by as a form of entertainment and social acceptance. Ties heavily into #3 above. Find something you don’t like, then be fucking outraged that a think you don’t like it totally agree with dares to exist. Enjoy your moral superiority until you get bored, then repeat.

OMFG! The Horror!

6) All of that is without getting into people with actual issues – though this often ties directly into 5) above. Like the people (including one specific otherwise-intelligent and prominent YouTuber, rather disappointingly) who got bent out of shape because of those kids’ books being set in the 41st Millennium – because it’s not a nice place as things like Servitors and Black Ships are part of their society and won’t somebody think of the children?


Ever heard of this place called Earth? Pick any year and I’ll show you some fucking horrific atrocities taking place – also – it’s all real

Oh, the only “resource” being used there is money, and GW has plenty of that right now. Books are written by freelancers, not the design studio. Nothing important is being diverted from that thing that you want them to make so they can write some books for kids. I was a kid when I got into Warhammer as well. You think this is all serious adult content for mature adults? Think again. It’s just toy soldiers with a quality aesthetic and an interesting backstory.

Even worse are the MRA types getting upset because not everyone who doesn’t have green skin isn’t a gruff white male anymore and we can’t have any goddamned fucking GIRLS or NONWHITES shitting up our special (white) boys-only treehouse anymore. The exact same thing is happening with Star Wars, videogames, and presumably comics and other “geek culture” as it goes more mainstream.

This very last group is probably the easiest to ignore, because just fuck those guys.

Here’s the thing, though. Of course, not everyone needs to like everything, and people should feel allowed to express a dislike of something just as much as a like. I have a lot of criticisms of Workshop, and I hardly expect them to be sending me a free copy of Adeptus Titanicus as an “influencer”, but honestly GW do get more than their fair share of criticism in many ways. Much of it is well deserved, but much of it is also just #2/3/4/6 as described above.

Mommy, where did Chaos come from? What about Dark Elves? (not Drow!)

As an aside – someone in IRO’s comments made a point of other companies like Vic Minis etc “ripping off GW’s IP”. he wasn’t the first, and this does need to be addressed here.

Doing the very same is what GW was originally built on and continues to be built on. You know. Tolkien, firstly and obviously. In SO MANY WAYS. Star Wars. Moorcock.  Giger. Aliens. TerminatorHeinlein, Herbert. Judge Dredd and more broadly 2000AD. Anime & Mecha. Battletech. Dungeons and Dragons. RuneQuest. Anything and everything from history from the Holy Roman Empire to Prussians to WWII to Cruella de fucking Vil and Rambo. Now I’m all for little in-jokes and bits of fan service, but that shit can’t only go one way.

Valhallan Ice Warrior. Yesterday. (Copyright Games Workshop)

The accusation towards Vic is particularly laughable, as she primarily deals in not-Imperial Guard, and the regiments that she’s “ripped off” from GW were ripped directly from history by GW themselves…

Mordian Iron Guard officer uniforms, 1902-1907 (Copyright Games Workshop)

Have some links. Edumacate yourselves. If you like.

Chapterhouse @1D4chan

Chapterhouse Pt1 @Dakka

Chapterhouse Lawsuit thread @Dakka (243 pages, have some spare time!)

Spots the Space Marine @EFF