The History of Games Workshop

Games Workshop is a FTSE 250 company and is about to break into the FTSE 100. It has come a long way from its beginnings in 1975 as a small mail order company run from a bedroom….

The Beginnings

Games Workshop was founded in 1975 by John Peake, Ian Livingstone CBE and Steve Jackson.

At the time they shared a flat in Shepherds Bush in London and wanted to go into business together manufacturing games. The name Games Workshop was chosen as it reflected their ideas for crafting the games by hand.

John Peake was a craftsman who began by making backgammon boards with inlaid Mahogany and Cherry Oak veneer.

Ian Livingstone was an author who started out by writing the hobby magazine Owl & Weasel which would eventually evolve into White Dwarf.

Steve Jackson began his career in 1974 as a freelance journalist with Games & Puzzles magazine. He worked alongside Livingstone on Owl & Weasel and was responsible for much of its content.

Owl & Weasel #1

Games Workshop in the 70’s

They sent their first copies of Owl & Weasel to subscribers of the Albion fanzine, Brian Blume who was the co-founder of American publisher TSR received one of these copies. Blume sent them a copy of TSR‘s new game Dungeons & Dragons in response.

Livingstone and Jackson were so impressed by this game that they worked out an exclusive deal with Blume to be the seller for Dungeons & Dragons in Europe.

Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition

Later that year Livingstone organised their first convention (the first Games Day). Because they were selling product out of their flat, people would turn turn up looking for a store that didn’t exist. As a result in 1976 they were evicted from their flat by their landlord. 1976 also saw John Peake leave Games Workshop as he had no interest in Roleplaying games and the direction the company was taking.

1975 Games Day Prgramme

Livingstone and Jackson opened their first store in 1978 in Hammersmith in London. White Dwarf was first published in the previous year to mainly promote their new shop opening. The name White Dwarf was chosen as it the name would tie to both Fantasy (a Dwarven Character) and Sci-Fi (a type of star).

White Dwarf #1

Livingstone would eventually step down as editor of White Dwarf in 1986 (issue #74).

In 1979 Games Workshop provided the funding to found Citadel miniatures in Newark-on-Trent. Citadel would go on to produce all the metal miniatures used in Games Workshops‘ roleplaying and tabletop wargames. There was a brief period at this time were TSR and Games Workshop considered merging until Livingstone and Jackson backed out of the idea.

During the late 70’s and early 80’s the company’s publishing arm also released UK reprints of American RPGs such as Call of Cthulhu, Runequest, Traveller and Middle Earth Role Playing, which were expensive to import.


Games Workshop grew though the 1980’s and saw 250 employees on its payroll by the end of the decade.

In 1982 Rick Preistley and Jervis Johnson both joined Games Workshop (Priestley joining Citadel Miniatures). Brian Ansell the manager of Citadel asked Rick Priestley to develop a medieval-fantasy wargame that would be given free to customers to encourage them to buy more miniatures. a year later and Warhammer Fantasy Battles was released in 1983 and was quickly followed by more of their own games such as Blood Bowl (1986) and Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1987).

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader

In 1984 Games Workshop stopped distribution of its products in the US through independent hobby game distributors and instead opened its Games Workshop (US) office.


1991 saw a management buyout for by Tom Kirby and Brian Ansell, when Livingstone and Jackson sold them their shares for £10 million.

Games Workshop went on to refocus their efforts on Warhammer Fantasy Battles and Warhammer 40,000, their most lucrative lines. They also targeted a younger audience which brought them great success but saw it lose some of its older fan base.

Games Workshop was now expanding across Europe, North America and Australia and the company was soon purchased by private equity firm ECI Partners and floated on the London Stock Exchange in October 1994.

In October 1997 all UK based operations were relocated to a new headquarters in Lenton, Nottingham.


  • 1975 – Founded by John Peake, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson.
  • 1975 – Deal with TSR to be the exclusive seller of Dungeons and Dragons on Europe.
  • 1976 – John Peake leaves Games Workshop
  • 1977 – the first White Dwarf is published
  • 1978 – Games Workshop open their first store in Hammersmith, London.
  • 1979 – Citadel Miniatures founded
  • 1982 – Rick Priestley and Jervis Johnson join Games Workshop.
  • 1983 – Warhammer Fantasy Battles of first published
  • 1986 – Blood Bowl is first published
  • 1987 – Warhammer 40,000 is first published.
  • 1991 – Management buyout by Brian Ansell and Tom Kirby who focus the company on their own in-house games.
  • 1994 – Company purchased by Private Equity firm ECI
  • 1994 – Floated on the London Stock Exchange
  • 1997 – Moves headquarters to Lenton, Nottingham.
  • 2001 – Games Workshop acquires the rights to produce Lord of the Rings tabletop games.
  • 2015 – Games Workshop switches their Fantasy wargame ruleset from Warhammer Fantasy Battles to Warhammer Age of Sigmar.
  • 2017 – Tom Kirby steps down

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