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 shares his observations on the new game Games Workshop is launching out of Warhammer Fantasy Battle.

In case you missed it, and Games Workshop certainly hopes you didn't, the rules for Warhammer Age of Sigmar released this past weekend on the GW website and physical copies of the game hit store shelves July 11.  Warhammer Age of Sigmar replaces the company's flagship fantasy miniatures title, Warhammer Fantasy Battle, with what the company says is a completely new rules system, one focused more on single figures than on the unit to unit combat.

Long a mainstay of WFB and still common in historical miniature rules, the new movement rules mark a movement (so to speak) away from WFB and closer to the company's much more popular Warhammer 40,000 rules.  The addition of "War Scrolls," specific rules for each box set included with the figure or printable from the GW website, and the replacement of points balancing each army with "objectives," also long a staple of historic miniature combat, are also major changes to the system.  The last major change of which I know is the elimination of army lists.  Instead of choosing figures from a set list limiting the figures in a player's army, a player will now have the ability to mix and match any figures they wish, making a force of Empire, Lizardmen and Tomb Kings possible.

Why the change?  Two possible reasons come to mind:

First, Warhammer Fantasy Battle has never reached the sales level in the US that it has in the UK.  Warhammer 40,000 sales have always (White) Dwarfed Warhammer Fantasy Battle sales in the US.  In our store Warhammer 40,000 outsells Warhammer Fantasy Battle by a factor of over 10 to 1 and this is not atypical throughout the US.  Despite multiple rules changes and upgrades, Warhammer Fantasy Battle shows no signs of ever attaining anything close to Warhammer 40,000 sales in the huge U.S. market.

So, Games Workshop could either launch a 9th edition of the game and see a slight sales increase, based on past trends, until the newness wore off; or it could launch what it perceives as a brand new game, using the company's vast collection of already-produced figures but giving players a new and easier way to use them, and look for the larger sales increases that accompany a "new" product.

Second, Games Workshop is a miniatures company.  It produces games in order to give people a reason to buy its miniatures.  Games Workshop has produced wonderful board games in the past (Talisman and DungeonQuest come to mind), but turned them over to other companies to produce because they did not fit the business model GW had adopted.  Similarly, GW stopped supporting miniatures games it produced, such as Man o' War, Blood Bowl and Mordheim, because the number of miniatures the company could sell for each game did not hit the levels of a Warhammer 40,000 or even a Warhammer Fantasy Battle.

New or upgraded rules  mean more miniatures for players in the Games Workshop hobby (at one time, and it may still for all I know, GW viewed itself as its own "hobby," distinct from miniatures games) to buy.  And as GW encourages WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) in its game play and a new army list calls for miniatures somewhat different from miniatures from the previous army list, new rules and army lists mean a steady stream of miniatures purchases from its avid player base.  (I always tell customers looking to get into playing miniatures that, while it is less expensive to get into games such as Warmachine or Infinity, GW has the advantage in that it is played EVERYWHERE).

Will Age of Sigmar succeed?  As someone selling the game, I hope so, as a successful AoS launch would certainly kickstart (in the original use of the term, not the modern capitalized use) sales of existing WFB figures.  Reports from stores that received demo copies of the game early have been favorable, with customers showing lots of interest and asking about a release date: July 11.  So, farewell to the End Times and welcome to the Age of Sigmar!

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