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 how Games Workshop’s marketing model makes it especially difficult for retailers to handle major June releases from GW, Atomic Mass, and Wizards of the Coast.

Games Workshop’s biggest release of the year, Warhammer 40,000 10E, titled Leviathan releases this month (sometime).  When?  Officially we have no idea, though GW did shut down their offices this past Wednesday to train all their staff.  Of course, after that, the staff were still unable to tell us anything about the rules, price, or release date (see "9E We Hardly Knew You").

Some of the websites that focus on Warhammer 40,000 and other games produced by GW have posted they see indications that GW will start taking preorders for Leviathan on June 10 with a release date of June 24.  Their reasoning is these dates avoid the release of Atomic Mass’ Star Wars: Shatterpoint miniatures game this past weekend as well as the release of Magic the Gathering - Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth the weekend of June 17.  All these releases are going to force game stores to invest quite a bit of available capital in purchasing stock.

However, unlike the previous two releases, GW has not told us when to expect Leviathan.  WotC and Asmodee have both trumpeted for months the release dates of their respective releases.  Why?  Both companies realize these are the major product releases for their respective companies and they expect their customers to spend significant amounts of money on them.

GW, meanwhile, has a business model which, for the life of me, I do not understand.  Most new releases get announced the week before the release date, which has been on Saturday for most of the past decade.  Especially on highly anticipated releases, there are often caps on the quantity a store can order.  The recent Kill Team Ashes of Faith set had a cap of two units on it.  While we had to turn away a few customers that wanted one, I shudder at thinking about how stores with much larger Warhammer 40,000 customer bases dealt with the customers they had to turn away.

The problem here is another supply chain snafu; this one is self-created by GW.  By not announcing releases with a reasonable amount of lead time, stores do not have enough time to determine how much interest there is in the new release with customers only having about a week to find out about it.  More lead time would allow us and GW to better judge product demand (I'm still sitting on copies of Dominion).  With Leviathan, we have no idea what is in it or what it will cost, making budgeting funds to purchase copies pretty difficult, especially after just having paid for Pokemon: Paldea Evolved, Shatterpoint and Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth.  Retailers knew about those and could allocate funds.  With Leviathan, stores are flying blind.

March of the Machine Commander Clash took place at stores this past weekend.  Much like Acorns in April, the prizes for the event were Strixhaven Commander Decks; I think WotC is using these events as a method of clearing out dead stock.  The five decks we received as prize support were packaged in brown cardboard shipping boxes, rather than in the Commander Deck display boxes for in store sale.  From what I understand, this is the packaging used for some Commander Decks sold through Amazon, so I imagine sales on Strixhaven Commander decks have dropped so low that it is cheaper for WotC to write them off as prize support than to keep paying Amazon for storage and fulfillment.  I would not be surprised to see more one-off events like this with older product provided as free prize support.

Comments?  Is there any chance Games Workshop will start giving stores and their player base more advance notice of new releases?  Send them to

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