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Op-ed: GW’s Done Great Work Improving Female Representation, 40K Less So

6 Minute Read
Dec 26
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With the year coming to an end, it’ s time to talk about where GW has succeeded and fallen short at better representation.

It’s not a secret that Games Workshop, or at least their products, have traditionally had a lack of female representation. Just over two years ago, GW made promises that they were going to address that issue. In a Facebook post, the company stated that the need for better female representation was noted and was a focus of theirs going forward (and also that it could take some time).

At the time, J.R. wrote a great piece on why this is important and matters to the player base, so I’m not going to rehash that here. Suffice it to say that for that many fans, both female and not, this is very important. GW’s post was made in October of 2017, more than two years ago, and implies that the changes had started to go into effect in 2016. As 2019 comes to close, I think it’s reasonable to take stock and see how GW has lived up to this promise – and what, if any, improvements have been made.

The Great – Age of Sigmar

I think it’s fair to say that with Age of Sigmar GW has done a great job at increased representation over the past two years. As Larry has pointed out, AoS has a large number of powerful female heroes you can field on the battlefield. These include both human(ish) Stormcast and followers of the Dark Gods, but also Elves and several undead miniatures as well. AoS, however, goes a lot deeper than merely giving us a few heroes to play with. Their basic units have shown increased options for both male and female representation. 

Take the Idoneth Deepkin, for instance. This is a brand new faction that has been introduced in the last two years, and their basic infantry units, among others, have what are clearly both male and female models. The newer Stormcast units also included female models and the revised Slaves to Darkness army has women in it, as well. Heck, we’ve even gotten female Ogres for Bloodbowl. In almost every army that’s come out with new models in the last couple years we’ve seen increased representation. The only real exceptions being some Undead units (which don’t really have a gender) and Daemons, which kind of count at times, but also don’t really have a gender. I’d say overall AoS is doing a great job, and it’s paying off as the game is more popular than ever.

The OK – The Side Games

GW puts out a decent number of side games, and their track record on better representations there is a more mixed bag than AoS, but still decent. At the top of the list would have to be Warcry. Each of the six Warbands appears to contain both male and female models (though in some cases it is hard to tell, what with all the mutations and mutilations). Their inclusion in AoS has only helped that game. Warhammer Underworlds doesn’t do quite as sterling a job – though still solid, several warbands do contain female fighters, they are a minority. Bloodbowl, as we mentioned, does now have female Ogres, and remains a very niche game with a slow-release schedule.

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The 40K side games fair worse than the AoS ones. Blackstone Fortress is the one big standout, with a very high number (for such a small game) of female models, including not just Chaos Cultists but Rogue Traders and Eldar Rangers. Necromunda has the all-female Escher Gang, but all the other gangs are all male. Outside of the Escher Gang, there are a couple of Forgeworld hired guns and that’s it; not a great showing. Neither Aeronautica or Titanicus have any female heroes, though both are very small games. Kill Team and Apocalypse don’t have any models separate from 40K as a whole, and so don’t really count.

Needs Help – Warhammer 40K

So that brings us to the core of GW and the big boy of wargaming, Warhammer 40,000. Sadly ‘boy’ is still the operative term here. Over the past two years, 40K has done relatively little to expand female representation. Over the past two years the new, and not just re-sculpted, females models made for 40K proper have been:

  • Severina Raine
  • GSC Magus
  • A GSC Atalan Jackal
  • GSC Jackal Alphus
  • GSC Achilles Ridgerunner optional Commander Head

So, over two years what we have is: one limited edition model and four models for one army, for a grand total of five brand new models. Not an extensive range. The game does get a bit of help from Blackstone Fortress, which adds some new female models that you can include in 40K armies; but those can be hard to find. Also, three totally new female models have been announced: Junith Eruita, the Triumph of Saint Katherine, and the Sister of Battle Mortifiers. All of these are for Sisters of Battle and have not been released yet.

The one thing we have gotten, mostly in the past couple of months is a large number of resculpts of existing models. This includes the Howling Banshees and Jain Zar, as well as the entire Sisters of Battle line. These resculpts replace older models and can’t really be said to be adding to the representation in the game, as they are a net zero gain in the number of female models. Still, they shouldn’t be totally disregarded. Updating the models makes them both more accessible and more visible to players, and does show a commitment on GW’s part to giving female models a fair shake. While it’s a good thing, it’s not brand new units, and it’s not adding to the female range.

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Lastly, I will note that 40K got several new Daemon and Slaneesh models in the past two years. Again, these are in something of a grey area. Daemons tend not to have a binary gender and are fluid in how they present, so I’m not sure I would count them as more female representation. On the other hand, if they do it for you and are the kind of representation you want, I won’t knock that. They certainly stand apart from the standard male models.

Final Thoughts

As we can see, it seems clear that GW is trying to make good on its promise of more representation. Age of Sigmar, in particular, is an excellent example of that with a ton of female models. It’s growing success over the last couple of years also shows how that commitment is paying off. 40K, on the other hand, clearly needs a lot of work. It’s the largest game in the industry, and as such it’s the most important, it’s a game with a ton of opportunity for better representation if the will is there.

Change takes time, however. As GW’s original post stated, the studio tends to work about three years in advance, with Sisters apparently being something of a rush job. Even by generous estimates, that means they committed to this course just about three years ago (possibly only two) – meaning we should just now really be seeing the changes come into effect and fruits of those labors. It’s really going to be this next year, 2020, that will showcase how committed GW is to better representation and what they can give us.

Let us know what you think, down in the comments, which I am sure will be just great. 

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