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 notes the advice for retailers from a survey of Warhammer 40k players.

Earlier this spring, Jamie Isfeld, an illustrator from Winnipeg, Canada and owner of the To Tell Stories website, conducted an online survey of over 1,000 Warhammer 40,000 players and posted the results on his website.  Said results, to say the least, are interesting.

1027 Warhammer 40K players from North America, Europe and Australia responded, with a slight majority (54%) over 30 years of age.  Surprisingly, with  Games Workshop's model at one time of focusing on players under the age of 14, with the assumption being that the game would capture players at about age 10 or 11 and keep them playing until they moved into high school and discovered other activities like sports, only about 10% of the respondents identified as under age 21.  Given the premium pricing model that Games Workshop has adopted over the years, it appears that younger players may no longer be able to afford entry into the game.  Most players are introduced to the game through playing with friends or family, while about 40% learned it through their local gaming store.  A surprising number learned about it through playing the 40K video games.

Most players play more than one time a month with the preferred location, selected by 60%, their or a friend's home, with the second most popular location a game (non-GW) store. Just fewer than 10% don't play at all, preferring to paint the figures only.  About a third play more than one game per month while just under 25% play one game a month. Incidentally, an overwhelming 97% prefer to keep the points system currently used by Warhammer 40,000 rather than moving to Age of Sigmar's wound system.

The most popular army?  Space Marines, with 1 in 3 players saying it is their most popular army, while Tyranids are played by 1 in 4.  The least popular army is Sisters of Battle, with only 1 in 9 players citing it as their most played army.  Younger players are more likely to play Space Marines or Astra Militarum, known to those who have played the game longer than the past couple of years as Imperial Guard, while older players play a much wider range of armies.  Eldar are viewed as the most powerful army by 55% while Sisters of Battle and Chaos Space Marines were viewed as the weakest.

Getting to the figures that will most interest stores, the average player spends between $250 to $500 on Warhammer 40,000 per year, with 55% purchasing one box or package at a time while 24% purchase multiple boxes or items.  Just under 75% of respondents spend over 50% of their gaming budget on 40K purchases with just over 10% spending their entire gaming budget on the hobby.  Older players, over 30%, drop between $500 to $1000 a year on the game while players under 21 spend $100 to $200.

Surprisingly from an independent store owner's perspective, a plurality of respondents (44%) say they purchase their 40K products from a local game store with online 3rd party stores far behind at 21%.  Even more players say they would prefer to purchase their 40K products from a local game store, with 51% saying they would choose that option, while online purchases drop to only 14%.  If a Games Workshop store were available, about 25% say they would prefer to purchase there, still far less than say they would purchase from the local non-GW store.  That bodes well for the future of those stores selling Warhammer 40,000.

Many thanks to Jamie Isfeld for doing this survey and publishing the results.  You can check out the rest of the survey, and Isfeld's website, at the links at the top of the column.

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