Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne looks at Warhammer: Age of Sigmar - Skaventide and Free RPG Day.

Less than five years after the release of Age of Sigmar: Dominion (see "Review: ‘Age of Sigmar Dominion’"), Games Workshop has announced the release of Age of Sigmar: Skaventide, arriving mid-July (see "‘Warhammer Age of Sigmar’4E Release Date") with a whole lot of rats and Stormcast Eternals, as well as the 4E rules, at a healthy price point of $265 MSRP (Disclosure: I own stock in Games Workshop).

The store received a courteous email from Games Workshop last week recommending that, based upon our store’s sales record, we should bring in 16 copies of Skaventide.  At our store, Warhammer 40,000 product is outselling Age of Sigmar by a factor of 10 to 1, and one of our two preorders of Skaventide was already cancelled by the customer, presumably so they could order the set through Games Workshop’s website and get the limited edition metal tokens offered with purchases through the site.

According to my sales representative, official Games Workshop stores have a different item to give away with the purchase of a copy of Skaventide, and independent stockists, like us, are supposed to get a "journal" to give away with the copies we get. Unfortunately, as of Friday, our sales rep had no more information on what the "journal" actually is.

Orders for Skaventide were due this past Sunday.  However, given the lackluster sale performance of Age of Sigmar: Dominion (copies can be found readily discounted 40% off online and a number of stores still have copies remaining from their initial orders), most of the comments I've read from stores regarding Games Workshop’s suggested orders and the order the store plans to put in describe a difference of 90% or so.  Games Workshop’s recommended order of 16 copies for us is going to get cut to two, maybe four copies.

With Games Workshop offering bonuses to customers ordering directly from them and with what appears to be a much less desirable bonus offered to Independent stockists as an incentive for customers, and with the evidence that customers have cut orders from stores in order to purchase directly from Games Workshop, I will risk leaving money on the table in order to avoid another Dominion debacle (I think we gave away four to six copies of the set as part of various promotions over the years since my customers had no interest in purchasing them and we wanted to get them out of inventory).

Free RPG Day took place this past Saturday and, as usual, proved pretty successful for us with half a dozen people waiting to get in when we opened and foot traffic about 40% higher than a typical Saturday (see "Free RPG Day 2024").  A few reflections after the event:

  1. D&D 5E still rules.  There were half a dozen items using or compatible with Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition and those, with the exception of Sink, a pirate themed RPG from Crimson Herald and Samurai Rusk, were the first items to go.
  2. Big beats small.  Customers preferred the "full-sized" offerings over the smaller trade paperback-sized books.
  3. Fantasy is still number one.  Although there were a number of books with systems and adventures set in non-fantasy genres, participants overwhelmingly selected fantasy-themed books.  For example, we gave out three times as many of the Pathfinder RPG adventure as we did the Starfinder.

These observations are for my store, of course.  I know a lot of stores run games featuring the Free RPG Day offerings.  We did so for several years but after years with empty tables, we discontinued them.

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The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of