GW: Why The “Boxed Game” Works


Games Workshop’s Boxed Games approach is working – let’s talk about why.

With Gangs of Commorragh on the horizon, we got to thinking about all the boxed games and just how many Games Workshop has put out the last two years. I think this is a great move for the company and the players so lets talk about why it works!

Good For The Players

The first big reason I think that this move to these “Boxed Games” is that is lowers the barrier to entry significantly. There was a time not so long ago that if you wanted to play a Games Workshop Game you had to make quite the investment, even for a small “Kill Team” style game. You would have needed to buy a box (or two) of miniatures (not counting glue/painting either), the rulebook, a codex, accessories and maybe even a gaming mat to play on. You’d have to make due with some starter terrain (books, boxes and maybe a soda can or two).

Eventually, you’d be able to get in a “real” game but that was probably a few months and a couple hundred dollars down the line.

Deathwatch Overkill screen

With these boxed games, you don’t need to do that any more! You get a box of miniatures (that you still need to glue together most of the time) and you get everything you need to actually PLAY the game. That’s a really great move to put the GAME back in Games Workshop.

These boxed games also have the added benefit for veterans in that it makes collecting these models cheaper. Think about the boxed set for Imperial Knights: Renegade. While that game was an interesting game, let’s be honest – lots of players skipped the game play and went straight for the discounted Imperial Knights. And who could blame them! Now, it did fulfill my boyhood fantasy of getting to basically play Battletech at the 40k scale, but it didn’t exactly take off as a sub-game.


But the veteran players recognized the value of the box and scooped it up just to get a “cheap” knight in their existing army/collection. That’s a win in my book!


Another good reason for these boxed sets is the way it exposes players to new mechanics and game styles. Looking at Gorechosen, I really liked the way it brought back “hex” combat. I’m betting there were quite a few younger gamers that got it and had never had the pleasure of playing a “hex” based game before. Getting exposed to different mechanics is a good thing because it stretches you think in different ways. Those lessons can be taken back to other games and you might think about things in a new light. You’d be surprised at the connections that your brain can make.


Another example is Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower. I loved this one just because it was a new Warhammer Quest game. It’s a call back to those old school board games I grew up playing but it’s also a fantastic intro to RPG style mechanics. That’s a very different type of game than your typical game of 40k or AoS – and it’s a welcome change!

Speaking of change, the last big reason I like the move to these boxed games is that it helps keep things fresh! Playing the same game against the same players week after week gets old. Unless you’re constantly swapping armies or in a league of a couple dozen players it’s hard to keep those tabletop games feeling fun and fresh. That’s where these boxed games come in.


For a lot of them, like Lost Patrol, they are good distractions. I think of them like a palette cleanser. They are relatively cheap, easy to learn and they will keep you interested for a few sessions. Then you can pack them up and put them back on the shelf until you need another palette cleanse. You could easily fit in a game of Lost Patrol to setup a narrative to your game as well. Just another way to keep things fresh!

I don’t think any of these games are going to take the place of your standard 40k/AoS night – but everyone knows that. While they are entertaining by themselves, they can’t compete with the depth that a game of 40k or AoS offer in terms of armies, variety or even rules complexity. But having them as an option and playing them as palette cleansers will make you appreciate your other tabletop games that much more!

Good For The Company

This may shock some folks but did you know Games Workshop is a business?! I know, crazy right! In order for them to keep making things they have sell those products and make a profit. Looking at their Half Year financials they seem to be doing (better than) alright in that department. I think a bit part of that increase is the return to these boxed games.

THHBetrayalatCalthENG01Every time they release a new boxed game they get a bump in sales due to it’s release. People buy their games – sometimes its to play the games, most of the time is because they want the models. Either way, Games Workshop gets that fiscal bump.


Another big reason these boxed games are good for Games Workshop is that it helps them move stagnate inventory. Before Gangs of Commorragh I’m pretty sure you could have found Reavers and Helions in the discount bin at most stores. But now? Well folks will have a reason to actually buy those. Look at Blood Bowl – they are actively promoting conversions for teams they haven’t released models for. Do you think that’s a coincidence? I don’t – it’s smart marketing. Giving folks a reason to buy those kits will, shockingly, help sell those kits! #mindblown

60010101002_burningprosperoeng01If you’re a veteran, you’ve probably got all the models you need so the thought of buying one of these boxed games might not appeal to you – even for the cheap models. Guess what, you’re not the primary target of these sets – new players are. It’s a much easier sell to position one of these starting boxes to younger players and their parents than it is to sell them on an entire army.

“You get everything you need” and “it’s plenty to get started with” or “it’s a game for two players” are all things I’ve heard said to parents when talking about these games. Get the buy-in with a boxed game and you’ve got them. Those new players will want to try the bigger games eventually, and hey look at that – you’ve got a starter army on your hands. You just need a few more things…


Not all of the games have been hits – but that’s okay. Why? Because these boxed games allow the Design Team to experiment! I can’t imagine working on a tabletop game being all that pleasant after awhile. How many times can you re-write the same ruleset? The incremental changes are there but the heart of the games is done. That’s got to get old for them, too.

Messing around with these boxed sets stretches the Design team to try new things and test out new mechanics. If it works, great! You’ve got a hit on your hands. If it flops, well hopefully people buy it for the models and it’s slowly goes away.


Boxed Games are a win-win for both the Company and the Players. But what do you think? Are there negative impacts along the way? What’s the downside to these boxed games?

  • frankelee

    When they stopped making boxed games I would have thought it would cost them a lot of money, but instead they just seemed to get stronger. I guess the market’s changed though, competition is fierce, and there does seem to be a trend away from gigantically long playing times.

    • ZeeLobby

      Honestly it seems to be a way for them to sell miniatures at a reasonable price. It’s like the first hit of plastic crack, and soon you’re paying $100+ for a single model.

      • Aezeal

        Yeah, hope they re release mordheim. If it’s played in my stored probably join in. I’m not going to start other games next to aos… though the release of a woodelf team for bloodbowl might make me try that if it’s played in shop.

        • ZeeLobby

          Yeah, maybe it’s just years of playing sports, but i’m just not interested in any of the sports board games. Mordheim or Necromunda I could definitely get behind, for the persistence and depth.

      • benn grimm

        It reminds me of promotions in the restaurant trade, basically there to help ensure minimum spend. Clearly us vets buying a box of infantry every now n then is not enough when you have hedge managers demanding their dividends.

        • ZeeLobby


          • amaximus167

            With the prominence of ship to ship combat in the Horus Heresy, I am honestly surprised they haven’t re-release BFG yet. It would be fantastic tie in to the HH game.

          • Brian Griffith

            It’s in the works, for that exact reason.

          • ZeeLobby

            Really?! You got source material to share?

          • Brian Griffith

            The Forge World guys have been saying it’s next on their plate after Epic gets rebooted as a Horus Heresy era game. The three games will form the new structure of how they do Horus Heresy campaigns.

          • amaximus167

            That, would be amazing. I always wanted to do campaign style games using BFG, -]I[- and 40k. But never got around to it.

          • DeadlyYellow

            That branding would be the game’s biggest deterrent though. It would end up confined to a niche market rather than the widespread availability of the parent brand.

          • euansmith

            Maybe they could sell it as, “10,000 years of desperate space combat!”

            I guess one advantage of making the game Horus Heresy is that they would only need one sprue of models for both sides.

            Of course, if the return of the Primarchs in 40k leads to a new civil war, they could tie the game in to that too.

          • ZeeLobby


    • Maitre Lord Ironfist

      I bought Gorechoosen, since we play a lot of Munchkin, Dominion and stuff. Beating each other over the Head is allways fun. And Gorechoose feels good while playing.

      The point is not that the games are bargain (ok it is, but for me not the main one) but that they work well as board games.

      • ZeeLobby

        Yeah. It’s kind of like the hungry hippos of fantasy board games though, at least in my experience.

        • benn grimm

          Lol. What a classic…;)

          • ZeeLobby

            Hey. If you wanna drink beer, eat pretzels and slam your fists on a table screaming, it’s definitely a good option. 😀

          • amaximus167

            I LOVED THAT GAME! I NOW LOVE DRINKING BEER AS WELL! I will have to try Gorechosen! Kill! Maim! Burn!

          • benn grimm

            Nice to take a break from snap every once in a while…;)

          • Dennis J. Pechavar

            Snap is solid.

          • benn grimm

            And totally balanced…;)

          • Loki Nahat

            it gives the hyper boring WAAC players something to compete about, certainly a good addition to the local club

          • euansmith

            Buckaroo Servitor. How much wargear can you load on to the Servitor before collapses? Fun and games for the entire Inquisitorial Retinue!

  • benn grimm

    I think oversaturation is the downside, that and pretty poor quality control/consistency/style over substance balance. They (on the whole) seem more concerned with flogging models than creating a decent game.

    Blood bowl was awesome, probably because the current team didn’t write the rules for it. Overkill, both hh boxes, the eldar one, the plane one, the knight one, the bloody blood blood one, etc etc on the other hand are all pretty awful as standalone games but have nice models. Kind of the opposite to the early 90s which had pretty bad models and awesome rules. I hope they can either achieve some balance going forward, or just release old games with new models.

    • ZeeLobby

      Yeah. For me the newer games just offer very little interesting above what their core games offer, so why not just play their core games. Their older games, on the other hand, offered a different game experience that was as deep, or in most cases, was even more deep than their core systems.

      • benn grimm

        Yeah for sure, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there; Necromunda, Mordheim, Man o War, Hulk etc etc expanded a small piece of their respective settings and did it well, which is probably why they are still the best things gw has ever put out (imo anyway).

        • ZeeLobby

          Exactly. And they had to stand up well on their own because in many cases their models weren’t transferable to their core systems. The fact that all the newer games are provided them with a crutch that I personally think they lean too heavily on. Sure the game might be mediocre, but we’ll easily make up for it through customers buying it purely for use in 40K/AoS. Battlefield gothic is another good example of an amazing standalone line..

          • Randy Randalman

            Eh… I have all of those old games, and when friends and I bust them back out, I can tell you, they aren’t deep, full of replay value, or well designed. They seemed that way when we were kids, but that roller coaster seemed bigger then too.

            Same with the old White Dwarfs: people always refer to the “glory days” of the magazine with hobby articles, fluff, and added rules. I go back through them – because I literally own every issue – and they are AWFUL compared to the current ones. The fluff is more childish and simplified than it is today, there were more new rules in the last year of weekly editions than there were in the first 15 years combined, and the hobby articles are far easier to follow now because they don’t just skip steps by saying, “add details”.

            We complain about the new stuff seeming oversimplified, or aimed more at children, but then speak of memories from when…we were children. The games had no more depth, or creativity, or grown up themes and fluff than they do today. We often associate the good memories with the games and then romanticize them.

          • benn grimm

            Plenty of people started those games after they were adults and still play, you need to stop confusing your own view with other people’s reality. Blood bowl, epic, necromunda, mordheim, man o war all have thriving communities decades after they were abandoned by g dub, because they have precisely the qualities you fail to find in them. By their own admission their best sellers are all games designed years ago.

          • Hawt Dawg

            And vice versa.

          • ZeeLobby

            How many overwatch, etc. Forums are there, with custom rulesets and thriving communities just dedicated to those games? I mean there’s definitely AoS forums and 40K forums where occasionally someone will make a post about them, but I haven’t seen the equivalent for what exists in the older systems. The new games are really standalone boxes, the old ones were entire gaming systems. Actually I don’t even know if they’re comparable.

          • Hawt Dawg

            vice versa = other people’s realities

            NEVER YIELD!

          • benn grimm

            The continued success of these games is not opinion; it is what is, something real, something tangible. When these ‘modern’ box games have been played without support for twenty years, then they’ll be comparable

          • Dennis J. Pechavar

            When AoS killed our Fantasy community the only thing that kept us together for GW was Mordheim. Amazingly fun game.

          • benn grimm

            Didn’t discover Mordheim till quite late on, it sure is a very fun game 🙂

          • Dennis J. Pechavar

            As long as you house rule that Skaven can’t max out their warband with every model having a sling it is fun.

          • benn grimm

            Bit like Van Saars and plasma guns I guess.

          • Dennis J. Pechavar

            Pretty much. It’s the usual issue.

          • ZeeLobby

            Maybe some older games. Mordheim is still awesome. BFG as well, and there’s definitely groups still playing Necromunda. To the contrary I know no one personally or in store who play those games.

            As for white dwarf, the old ones are still more enjoyable to read IMO. To say the newer versions are no longer a glorified sales mag is stretching truth very heavily. Old ones used to be filled with lore, short stories, conversions, etc. All of which didn’t have to be centered around their latest products.

          • Dennis J. Pechavar

            I still miss Fat Bloke days.

          • Loki Nahat

            BFG still hasn’t had any competition, it’s the pefect table top game

    • Brian Griffith

      Blood Bowl’s rules were done by Forge World’s rules team in conjunction with the BBRC.

      So a current GW team wrote them.

      • benn grimm

        The rules were written years ago. Pretty much nothing has been added or changed. Which is a very good thing.

        • Randy Randalman

          Silver Tower was written by a new team, and it’s light years more interesting than even the original Quest.

          • benn grimm

            It’s alright, not as good as the original though and far less interesting (imho).

          • vlad78

            Nope, the only thing which is WAYYYY better is the aesthetic and quality of the baddies.

      • ZeeLobby

        Lol. Yeah. Sorry, but the rules are basically identical to the old ones.

      • vlad78

        The 2nd ed ruleset is barely changed at all.

    • wibbling

      Yes, because that’s their business model. End of story.

      • ZeeLobby

        Yes. We should never think about the companies we support. It’s how they want them to run so we should just buy their products! American capitalism at its best!

  • amaximus167

    The employee at the local GW store that I occasionally visit tried to up-sell me Gorechosen as a way for getting more models at a lower cost when I was looking at the Aspiring Deathbringer model. Now, I may have considered it, except i didn’t need the other models for my conversion project BUT I am interested in playing the game, so I didn’t want to be missing one of the key models due to a conversion. It did seem like a good strategy for upselling though.

    • Brian Griffith

      Well here’s the thing if you’re still considering:

      There’s rules to play Gorechosen with any Khorne character, most of which are right there in the box (you need a White Dwarf to do Valkia and Skarr).

      • amaximus167

        Right! I have that White Dwarf actually. But I also really like that Aspiring Deathbringer model and would end up buying it for the game anyway, so it wouldn’t have saved me any money in the long run.

      • amaximus167

        Also, I bought the model for a 40k conversion, so I am assuming that there are not rules for World Eaters with power axe and plasma pistol…

        • Brian Griffith

          Sadly, that seems a little unsporting for the arena!

          Be interesting to see a White Dwarf article that lets you run a match with all 40k Khorne guys, though.

          • amaximus167

            That would be fun! Several years ago I was contemplating doing a ‘house’ game with some friends for arena combat set in the pits of Commorragh (oddly enough) where you could chose to play captives or Dark Eldar.

          • vlad78

            That would be awesome.

  • TimW

    I bought Deathwatch Overkill and Blood Bowl. I like these games because a) there is no terrain to deal with. b) you get tons of awesome models and c)the games play a lot quicker.

    • Randy Randalman

      The rules for Deathwatch are good. The rules for Silver Tower are fantastic as well.

      • I play both with my son. Easy set up and game plays so we can do multiple missions (or quests) in a single session. I love both those games

  • Painjunky

    Your overthinking it man.

    Its all about the cheap minis. Case closed.

  • Shawn

    I didn’t think Death From the Skies a bad ruleset overall. The dogfight phase lame, reducing the phase to just a die comparison, when it could be played out as a mini game prior to the main event.

    I would actually like to get an overall head count of people who actually bought a GW game to play the game, instead of just getting the models. In my area it seems, everyone just got the boxed sets for the miniatures. Now the DftS boxed games didn’t do too well I think becuase it was only one model of differing factions..

    • Xodis

      Mark me down for Gorechosen and Silver Tower to play the game, and HH box sets (and possibly some Deathwatch box sets in my future) for just the models.

      • Shawn

        Thanks Xodis. And it would appear that both Gorechosen and Silver Tower were made more with a board game feel in mind when they were designed.

    • Death watch for the models, Renegade Knights for models, Silver Tower for the actual game.

    • luke snell

      I definitely appreciate the actual game of the boxed games over just the minis. Aside from enjoying painting the fantastic minis, I don’t play the core games enough, so the respective rules and be boxed games are attractive. Love Silvertower and DW Overkill. Really hope Silvertower gets an expansion set in the next year or so.

  • hashshashin

    I have to say that I love that GW is going back to making more boxed games for a variety of reasons (and getting overpriced models at a reasonable cost isn’t even the main reason). I think it is a great move by GW becuase of folks like me who grew up playing hero quest, space hulk, and etc love the GW fluff and model style but I just simply don’t have the time/energy to paint up a whole army anymore much play 40k. I haven’t played a single game of 40k in 2 editions but you bet I bought Gorechosen and play the heck out of it. It is super fun (if a bit unbalanced and super silly abrupt endings sometimes) as a game to play with people who like the style and humor of GW’s stuff but without the hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours required to create an army for one of their core systems. I love GW’s worlds but dont really have the time or income (or really the desire) to do the big games anymore.

    So basically by GW releasing these boxed games they are keeping me as a happy consumer who has spent more on a few boxed games recently then I have on either 40K or WFB in years!

  • blackbloodshaman

    Stealth price cuts are stealthy

  • Darren MacLennan

    — I think of them like a palette cleanser.–

    “Palate” cleanser, as in the sense of taste and flavor; wine is a palate cleanser because it washes out the taste of the food you were eating, so you can enjoy whatever you’re eating next.

    • Drathmere

      No, I think he means that he uses these games to clean the paint off of his palette. I use a wet palette so this wouldn’t work for me, but I imagine a large box would remove globs of paint quite nicely from a tile palette or something similar.

  • generic eric

    Meh. Lost Patrol should have been Catachan Jungle fighters. That is what I say.

    • It was essentially a remake of the original. So blood angel scouts.

  • Dennis J. Pechavar

    I never see Reavers for short money. Hellions I see all the time. If this is a cheap enough was for my DE to get jet bikes I will buy it. I might even try the game if it looks promising enough.