A Messy Breakup Letter to GW

By Jack Stover | August 20th, 2013 | Categories: Editorial, jstove, Warhammer 40k

Dear GW,  It’s me, JStove, and we need to talk. About us.

We’re having some problems lately, well actually, I’m having some problems lately. Yea, I guess its all me.

You see, there’s not a lot I don’t like about you lately. I actually think you’re doing pretty good. When the Joneses down the street are playing warmachine or xwing, I’m not jealous. I’m content with 40k. I’m content because 6th edition is the best 40k I’ve played in ten years.

I like getting new content and updated army books every month, I like that they’re hardcover and full color. I like that they actually look like something I could put on a coffee table, and I don’t even mind paying 50 bucks for it. I think that book actually looks like its worth 50 bucks…

The limited editions though, with a hundred percent markup? Well… Let’s leave that for another day. I like that armies are getting huge, complete miniature waves, and I like that more and more models are becoming plastic, even though I’ll love my vintage pewter models forever.

I like seeing the dual-role kits that build different units, I like all the assault guns and power weapons that come on all the frames now, I like 70-90 dollar giant monster kits like dinobots, gundams, and space elf giant robots. I even like supplement books! I can’t wait to see more of them, and when one of them comes around for my Emperor’s Children, I’m buying it.

Up in Nottingham, in the design studio, we’re still having the honeymoon, even though I wish you didn’t invite Cruddace to the wedding.

But down here in the little brick and mortar retail stores, you’re not the hobby I married, and if you want to come by and get all your things, they’ll be waiting for you on the curb.

Like a lot of hobbyists, I believe wholeheartedly that you should pay where you play. There’s an unspoken law of chivalry among gamers, real gamers, not just people who play League of Legends and go to anime conventions, gamers that need tiny trees and dice and big books full of kobolds and 6×4 tables to line up their tiny plastic men or their magic cards on. I need those sacred places where I can go to push my tiny plastic men across the table, and those places need me. Its a symbiotic relationship and its one I’m happy to encourage and be apart of.

I might even need those places enough to rationalize paying full retail price for my models in a GW store instead of ordering them from my friendly neighborhood Spikey Bits, because I believe its worth swallowing the discount to have the model right there in your hand when you buy it, and to support your store.

At least, I wanted to believe that. I wanted to believe that until you trained your staff to be hobby cancer.

GW, your entire bible of retail training is in violation, and furthermore, I’ve never met a blackshirt (we used to call them redshirts back in the day) that didn’t do his job better by throwing out half of it.

The brick and mortar retail hobby shop lives and dies on the strength of its hobby community, but apparently, that’s a memo you didn’t get. Your retail staff isn’t trained to cultivate and foster their shop community, and if they have any capability to community build at all, it wasn’t something you did, it was something they brought in from their own hobby knowledge before they put on the blackshirt. In the worst case scenario, your corporate line for your retailers is destructive. In the best case scenario, your staff is apathetic and doesn’t bother trying to force an entry.

An apathetic veteran blackshirt who has given up on the company is a better salesman and manager of a brick and mortar GW store than a loyal and dedicated new hire who embraces the hobby from a blank slate. He has had his well poisoned by his training.

To make this into a list of your flaws, these are the reasons I buy models online from indy vendors, instead of doing business inside your store. I’m not on Spikey Bits for the discount, I’m on it for spite, because I’m a jilted lover.


This is literally the first thing and the worst thing that a GW new hire does to poison his community. This is what he is taught to do, and to succeed in his business, its the first thing he should stop doing, the sooner the better.

I can understand the concept that a company has a playbook, and that they have protocols, and that a certain kind of action must be taken to toe the line and keep the ship afloat. However, this isn’t one of them. This is an aspect of your corporate playbook that is divisive, destructive, and for a lot of us who have been hobbying for a decade or more, its often patronizing, demeaning, and an insult to our intelligence.

Some of us have been playing the game so long that you can’t actually tell us anything. We’ve been here forever, we already have 3 copies of every model in the range since the time of lead and pewter, and if you think this used car salesmen act is going to breed anything short of resentment, you’re out of your god damn mind. This plan of attack on a veteran hobbyist will kill your brain cells, and you’ll lose a tiny piece of your soul every time you ask someone who’s been playing warhammer for 15 or 20 years the same infantile questions while he stares down his nose at you.

Now, if the kid is new, and he honestly needs advice, that’s another thing entirely. But if a guy walks in with three cases full of fully painted 2nd edition starter box orks and grots with cardboard templates that have been sitting on a shelf longer than its been legal for you to drink alcohol, exercise some discretion, you probably can’t tell that guy anything.

Its not like I’m trying to say I’m better than you. I’m not. I’m just another guy pushing plastic men across the table on a saturday afternoon. But if I’ve been doing it 2, 3, 5, or 10 times as long as you… Please, change your tactics, you’re not helping your case.


This is one I’m hearing a lot lately, and in multiple shops. A lot of your new guys come in, and they get the call from their higher ups not to push Forgeworld, because Forgeworld doesn’t push their numbers. When someone buys FW, it doesn’t count for the poor guy behind the register, he doesn’t get credit.

So naturally, the leap in logic that the poor disenfranchised new blood blackshirt makes is that he doesn’t want Forgeworld in his shop, because he doesn’t want there to be an alternative to his sales monopoly.

On the surface, this is sound logic. In a monopoly, Uncle Pennybags always wins, all the money goes through one agency. It makes sense.

As a hobby community though, its destructive, and its poisoning the well. If you’re a blackshirt that outlaws Forgeworld models and rules in your store events, you are crapping the bed.

Not everyone has Forgeworld to begin with, its a luxury niche inside of a hobby, which is by virtue of being a hobby, a luxury itself. Forgeworld and main line GW is the difference between Lamborghini models- The Aventador and the Gallardo. One is nicer than the other, but they’re both Italian supercars.

The problem here is that when you tell someone who is willing to spend money on the NICER Italian supercar that he can’t drive it here, you’re alienating him and his lucrative investment. If he can afford to drive that Lamborghini, he can probably afford a lot more, but now your decision to put a boot on his lambo has poisoned his opinion of you and blackballed you from ever seeing his credit card again.

This is a real thing that blackshirts have done that has robbed them of business, I’ve seen it happen. I knew a guy who wanted to bring all his forgeworld stuff to an Apoc game, (an apoc game of all things, when all bets are off and you’re supposed to bring everything) the blackshirt told him to leave his Forgeworld at home, so to spite him, the guy ordered $800 worth of product off the GW main site on his ipad instead of through the store kiosk and had it shipped to the store so the blackshirt in violation would have to unbox the product and weep at all the sales that he had robbed himself of by pushing a restrictive policy.

When you turn down a Forgeworld buyer, you’re usually alienating one of your better customers.


This is another one of the company lines that needs to go the way of the dodo. A lot of times, when players are in the process of objectively critiquing the merits and flaws of a specific unit, the new blackshirt interrupts with a canned line about how different people want to play different games, and that  each individual unit has its own purpose, and a bunch of other weak deflections and half-baked rebuttals as to why two hobbyists should not compare and contrast the value of the troops under their command.

The fact of the matter is, the game is in a constant state of evolution, and there’s a revolving door of units, even entire armies, that are out in the cold. Its an unspoken law, everyone knows it, the 5 Beastmen players left on Earth go and cry in the corner because they’re stuck in a lousy book, the 12 sisters of battle players console them, and every game store in existence has a dust covered and sun-damaged box of vespids on the shelf that are doomed to spend their entire lives on the island of misfit toys. (And the mutilators will follow them there.)

Building theme lists is one thing, but either at the start or by the end of their gaming experience, every hobbyist eventually arrives at the conclusion that they want to invest in units that consistently return on their investment. Going down the “happy family everything works” line of logic, when there are clear winners and losers in the list building environment, does not produce a fulfilled hobbyist. Not all of us are here to win, and that’s fine, but if you keep showing up everyday just to get your face punched, you’ll either run out of teeth or stop showing up. There’s nothing wrong with recommending winners over losers.

When a hobbyist wants an objectively critical, capable unit, the happy family credo is out the window. Don’t lose credibility in your community by recommending vespids and mutilators.


More and more, the brick and mortar GW retailer is being shoehorned into tiny storefronts, cutting out as much extraneous square footage as possible to keep the overhead low.

Now personally, I admittedly don’t have a problem with Nottingham trying to squeeze on the rent, and I can live with them putting their stores in shoebox retail outlets. I’ve lived in Asian apartments, I’ve put up with worse.

What’s important though is that as the square footage goes down, the table count goes down with it, and the community comes for the tables. The managing blackshirt needs to make sure that his community is practicing good table etiquette and everyone is getting equal chance to play and get on the table.

The corporate creed for GW is again “happy family” With everyone being allowed to come in and play different kinds of games, doing whatever they want with whomever they want, as long as everyone gets along. There generally are no table rules in the GW playbook, and etiquette is not enforced.

Again, “happy family” is cute on paper, but it doesn’t take into account the makeup of individual communities and their needs. Everyone should get equal chance to get on the table, but there needs to be a fluid traffic. Its rude to monopolize a table for an extended period of time, and its the blackshirt’s job to make sure that his table traffic doesn’t back up, because the community won’t want to show up if the tables are unpoliced and the chances of getting to play are a crapshoot. If table etiquette isn’t enforced, the community won’t show up to play. If they don’t show up to play, they certainly aren’t showing up to buy.

These and more are the things that either aren’t taught to the blackshirts, or more likely, need to be forgotten.

When I run from GW into the waiting arms of other vendors for my gaming fix, its seldom because of money. It’s usually because of community- The operating blackshirt in the brick and mortar decides with his sales strategy whether or not I spend money in his store.

Shaving a couple bucks off the top of the product doesn’t have a lot to do with it. The company man either knows how to handle the community or he doesn’t, and if he doesn’t, he won’t take my money.

That’s it guys, i’m outta here, BUT checkout my other fun and exciting articles by clicking this link right HERE-Jstove

About the Author: Jack Stover

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