Next week, the moment Warhammer fans have been waiting for arrives: the brand new edition of Warhammer 40K officially kicks off with pre-orders for its fancy new starter set, Leviathan. But there’s one big question at the back of players’ minds, and it’s not about rule changes or new miniatures. It’s whether or not they’ll actually be able to buy the damn thing.
Games Workshop largely managed to avoid the sell-outs and pre-order troubles relating to speculative scalping that other tabletop game fandoms (like Pokémon) faced at the height of the covid-19 pandemic—even as Warhammer went through something of a renaissance during mandated lockdowns, when people had the time to build and paint legions of aliens and fantastical warriors. But in recent months, the company has had to deal with a growing level of discontent among fans that it’s simply not doing enough with its weekly pre-order drops to combat broken websites and rapid sellouts of everything from new model releases to special edition fiction books.
Games Workshop’s release system is a relatively simple process: every Sunday it releases a list of products that will go up for pre-order; those products go live for pre-order at Games Workshop and other third party retailers at 10:00 am local time the next Saturday; and then they’re typically officially released in stores and online the Saturday after (some major releases, like the upcoming Leviathan, have two week pre-order windows). When it works, it’s fine, but more and more recently it hasn’t, much to the ire of players. As Warhammer has become more popular in recent years and major releases have become more regular, Games Workshop has found itself struggling to keep up with demands, not just from a voraciously engaged playerbase but also from scalpers.
Everything from usually benign standard releases, such as the Arks of Omen books—a series of supplementary and narrative rules addendums that tell the tales of the last conflicts of 40K’s current story—to expectedly hyped releases, such as the long-awaited model update for beloved Dark Angels Space Marine primarch, Lion El’Jonson, have seen Games Workshop’s store immediately buckle under demand. When the site goes down just minutes after new pre-orders are live, it leaves many players in the lurch while the products they wanted go up on eBay for several times over the already high prices GW asks for its miniatures and box sets. The company has, at best, ignored these frustrations and carried on with high-profile product releases over recent months regardless, but with the arrival of Leviathan and 10th edition next week, the tabletop developer is now stressing to its audience that there are plans in place that—hopefully—everyone who wants in on Warhammer 40K’s new launch will be able to get the new box.
The first change is part of the increased accessibility to the 10th edition itself. Instead of expecting players to race out and buy a new core rulebook or the Leviathan starter box (which includes a version of the core book with extra material) in order to be able to play with their current armies day one, last week Games Workshop released the core rules for 10th edition digitally for free in multiple languages. It’s also starting to roll out the new rules sheets for every faction in the game in a similar manner, creating less need for players who just want to see how their current armies work to go out and order Leviathan. There’s also a change to the pre-order system itself: in announcing Leviathan’s impending release yesterday, Games Workshop confirmed that the company’s official web store will enable a queuing system when preorders open on June 10, and that it will also restrict quantities per order in an attempt to further dissuade scalpers, while also stressing that there will be a significant amount of Leviathan on hand for pre-orders. The company has also encouraged buyers to perhaps look elsewhere for their copy of the box too to relieve demand on their own site—offering pre-order bonuses if players purchase Leviathan from either licensed third-party retailers or directly from their local Warhammer store.
A queue system has been implemented before by the company, but after a string of high-profile sellouts where there wasn’t one, it’s telling that Games Workshop is bringing it back while trying to assuage concerns of players that there’s enough miniatures to go around. The whole point of the new edition of 40K is to make the game more accessible than it ever has been to gamers old and new—but Games Workshop can’t do that if it’s struggling to get the game into the hands of players rather than people looking to turn a buck on eBay.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.