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.
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.
Every 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
If 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?