Ian Livingstone interviewed about setting up Games Workshop (audio format).

If you’re reading this as a SFcrowsnest fan, chances are you’ve heard of Games Workshop. But do you know the real story? The tale of how a small London-based hobby shop transformed into a global juggernaut, selling everything from plastic miniatures to keyrings with logos that would make a dictator blush? Let’s dive in with interviewer David Barr Kirtley.

Imagine, if you will, a time when Games Workshop was just a twinkle in the eyes of its founders, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson. A time when the very idea of a global empire built on tiny plastic soldiers would have been met with incredulous laughter. But as they say, from humble beginnings come great things.

In the 1970s, if you’d told a Games Workshop fan that the company would one day be a behemoth, they’d probably have choked on their paintbrush. Even the founders, including the often overlooked John Peake, would have been taken aback.

Fast forward to 2022, and Games Workshop is a titan. But how did it get here? Enter “Dice Men: The Origin Story of Games Workshop”. This is Livingstone’s tale, with a sprinkle of input from Jackson. It’s a journey from a crowdfunded boutique publishing venture to a glossy art-book style tome that chronicles the rise of a gaming empire.

The book is a treasure trove for fans. From the early days of hand-crafted traditional games in a London flat to the seismic impact of Dungeons & Dragons on the company’s trajectory. The narrative is rich, detailing the company’s evolution, the challenges faced, and the personalities that shaped its destiny.

Yet, for all its depth, there’s a story within the story. A tale not told, but hinted at. The rise of Citadel Miniatures and the vision of Bryan Ansell. While Livingstone and Jackson were the heart of Games Workshop, Ansell was its ambitious soul. His drive and determination to see the company succeed, even if it meant playing hardball, is evident throughout the narrative.

The book paints a picture of a company in flux, with Livingstone and Jackson at times seemingly overwhelmed by the rapid growth and changing landscape of the gaming industry. Ansell’s vision, on the other hand, was clear: miniatures, Warhammer, and a relentless focus on the core business.

As the narrative unfolds, it becomes clear that the Games Workshop of today is very much Ansell’s creation. The shift from a generalist retailer to a focused miniatures powerhouse is evident. The company’s move to Nottingham, the heart of Citadel, further cements this transition.

Yet, for all its insights, “Dice Men” leaves some questions unanswered. The book touches on the company’s early forays into video games and other ventures but doesn’t delve deep into the strategic decisions behind these moves. Similarly, the rise of Warhammer 40,000, a cornerstone of the company’s success, is touched upon but not explored in depth.

In conclusion, “Dice Men: The Origin Story of Games Workshop” is a must-read for fans and business enthusiasts alike. It offers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of a company that has become synonymous with tabletop gaming. Yet, like any good story, it leaves you wanting more. Perhaps, in the future, we’ll get a sequel that delves deeper into the world of Warhammer and the strategic decisions that have shaped Games Workshop’s destiny. Until then, happy painting!


Colonel Frog is a long time science fiction and fantasy fan. He loves reading novels in the field, and he also enjoys watching movies (as well as reading lots of other genre books).

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