Warhammer World Events: Looking back at two decades of play.

Picture this; It's a crisp Saturday morning in the outskirts of exotic Nottingham. Scores of gamers of all ages; some younger dropped off by their parents, some grizzled veterans of game systems past, and everyone in-between, are waiting in anticipation of the doors to Warhammer World to swing open, partake in a warming bacon roll from the fine staff at Bugman's bar, and then participate in a weekend of games, quizzes and sometimes a little silly merriment. It's tournament season at Games Workshop and it's open for everybody.

Nostalgia aside, having just bought a ticket to Warhammer World's Age of Sigmar Path to Glory event in October, and having been to a couple of Kill Team events over the last 6 months or so; what has really struck me is the decline in both representation and value in these events along with the nearly doubling in cost since I started going to events nearly 20 years ago. At every event we go to there is a feedback form to fill so this can be counted as my feedback from two decades worth of events.

Games Workshop's business model is no secret; they are out to sell miniatures and everything else is secondary to that model. I personally don't have any issues with this as its something I've made peace with years ago; it's how they have always worked afterall and who can excuse a company for wanting to make a healthy profit? Besides, the improvements that they have made in the miniatures department are undeniable with the increases in sculpting quality and detail. On the events side of things however I feel like the story is a bit different, especially in a post-covid and current cost of living crisis world.

Warhammer World back in 2010 when phone cameras were little better then potatoes with a flash. You will notice alot more space in the gaming hall; This was before a chunk of it was cannibalised for extra store floorspace and Games Workshop leaned much harder into the castle courtyard asthetic.

Let's rewind a few years back to when I was most active in the tournament scene; 3rd - 5th editions of Warhammer 40,000 and the Warhammer Fantasy Grand Tournament events. Your typical two day event would consist of 6 or 7 games over the two days, 3 hot meals (lunch and dinner on the Saturday and lunch on the Sunday) and a pub quiz on the Saturday evening for around about £35 plus travel and accommodation for the Friday and Saturday nights (and in the case of Grand Tournaments, free entry into the finals if you finished in the top third). All in all you could have a good weekend out for around £150 which was totally achievable in those times.

Fast forward to today and we are looking at £70 per ticket for 5 games, 2 meals and no after-event activities for their tournaments. This pushes the total spend to around £500 per person for the weekend when you take the additional increased cost of food, travel and accommodation into account. Going back to my earlier comments about representation; I think this decrease in value, along with the massive hike in price is a contributing factor in what's essentially pushing Games Workshop's in house events more towards the domain of middle aged men and a largely local scene (for whom the travel costs are far less), and away from the more diverse crowd that it used to have in terms of age and where in the UK people were from; women in the hobby has always been a challenge that Games Workshop is trying to figure out but it leads me to wonder where the rest of the players have actually gone.

My close gaming group circa 2012. We all still play in one form or another but time was that we would all go down to events together and have a great time whilst doing it. The most we brought up from London one year was 16 players. Unfortunately it's almost impossible for all of us to get tickets to events nowadays considering they all sell out within minutes of going online.

As a recent father who would love to bring his daughter into the hobby, such a high financial barrier to entry is really making me think twice about that trip to Warhammer World in a future where I realistically see event ticket prices hitting the £100+ mark. Combine all of this with ever increasing pressures elsewhere and I'm not entirely sure that the current model will continue to work. Don't get me wrong; the Games Workshop hobby always has been a luxury product but for those gamers who have seen their local stores and gaming spaces closing in recent years, that trip to Warhammer World served as a great way to meet with other people in all walks of life to participate in the hobby we all enjoy; more a social event then anything else but at the price of an actual weekend holiday and with similar, much cheaper events elsewhere I'm not so sure that it's a price worth paying anymore. That being said, outside of niche games such as Warhammer: Underworlds, Warhammer World events do still sell out very quickly but I feel like a portion of this can be attributed to an actual reduced number of tickets being sold. There used to be 60 gaming tables, or 120 players participating in events past, but nowadays those numbers are far lower. Taking my recent Path to Glory purchase as an example; The 80 tickets sold out in less than 12 minutes leaving a good chunk of my local playerbase unable to go. Of course some of this is down to their rearranging of the gaming space in recent years and expanding the shop which physically reduces the amount of tables available to actually play games but I do think that this scarcity of tickets might be another contributing factor.

One of the big highlights for me was the Saturday evening Pub Quiz. Run by the events team you would sometimes even get the odd games designer pop in for questions after a day's work. The prize was a certificate and more importantly a round of drinks at Bugman's bar which I am happy to say that our gaming group won on more than one occasion. It's little things like this that really made the events special.

It's not all doom and gloom though; back to my example of the narrative Path to Glory event; there is a mini-tournament for players who happen to turn up early on the Friday evening with points contributing to the overall standings (something that they totally didn't have to do) and a couple of other fun things going on after the games. It's these kinds of things that I really appreciate in giving more value to the players. Granted, this is supposed to be a more relaxed event when compared to the main tournaments but the tickets sold out faster then the major competitive ones which I think might be an indicator on what the players prefer. At the 'old' Throne of Skulls tournaments there were additional awards for things like being best in faction where even if you didn't have 'the best' army there was still the possibility of walking away with something for your efforts (I will never forget the year that we helped our friend who must have been 14 at the time win best Black Templars from another thoroughly unpleasant and unsportsmanlike player who looked VERY annoyed at the awards ceremony - he even stood up expecting his name to be called). It's these kinds of small things that help give value to an event and encourage different types of players to go.

Warhammer World should be the premier destination for Games Workshop events and I think that there is a lot to be liked about the venue and the events team themselves, who this article is in no way a critique of; a good amount of variables are outside their control like the opening and closing times of the stores, layout of the gaming space, etc. and I actually think that they do a really good job within those constraints. That being said, over the years there have been things that is well within their control to change; a reduced amount of games can be resolved by playing less points for example and clever scheduling (which is another thing that has slowly been creeping up over the years), and other participation prizes are well within their remit. I think that overall they would want to try and attract back that varied player-base at their premier events which they used to be known for as it only enriches the hobby as a whole and allows the most people possible to partake in something truly special.

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