If you tell someone you’re into Games Workshop games, most people would naturally assume you play either Warhammer 40,000 or Age of Sigmar. And, most of the time, they’d be right, as the vast majority of GW fans play those two massive miniatures games. (Yes, the Middle-earth Strategy Battle Game has a small, dedicated community and some players prefer the old-school rules of Warhammer 30k, but it’s safe to say they are in the minority.)
However, Games Workshop has produced some frankly brilliant boxed games - standalone board games that require no prior knowledge of either Warhammer's rules systems and no vast collections from their wide range of miniatures. While recreating huge battles using the major systems is undeniably fun, these boxed games don’t need any rulebooks, terrain or models that aren’t contained within their cardboard walls. What’s more, they often provide shorter, cheaper and more streamlined experiences.
If looking through the countless boxes seems overwhelming or you’d just like some advice on where to start, here are our top picks of the best Games Workshop games that aren’t Warhammer.
Best Games Workshop games
- Blood Bowl: Putting the fantasy into fantasy football. And the murder.
- Adeptus Titanicus: Tiny titans!
- HeroQuest: You can’t beat the classics.
- Warhammer Underworlds: Close-quarters tactics, deckbuilding and stunning miniatures.
- Space Hulk: Aliens: The Board Game: 40k edition.
- Lost Patrol: Predator: The Board Game: 40k edition.
- Forbidden Stars: Interplanetary warfare on a massive scale.
- Aeronautica Imperialis: Nnneeaoowww! Pew-pew!
- Necromunda: Fight for domination in the underbelly of the Imperium.
- Gorkamorka: Mad Max, but with Orks.
1. Blood Bowl
Putting the fantasy into fantasy football - and the murder
Anything goes in Blood Bowl. Trolls bash anything they lay their eyes upon. Halflings poison the mid-match feast. The crowd literally dismembers a member of the opposition team. A Goblin yeets a chainsaw twice its size at Griff Oberwald - the Old World’s equivalent of Tom Brady. Oh, and there’s some football, too.
The game itself is pretty simple - manoeuvre your players by running, passing, and blocking (lots of blocking) to forge a gap in your opponent’s defence that you can exploit to score a touchdown. As with all Games Workshop games, dice play an integral role (pun intended) and more often than not lead to your downfall.
League play ups the stakes as reckless play can leave a team ravaged by injuries or a winning streak can allow you to hire hulking trolls or glamorous star players. This is the best way to play, both hilarious and brutal in equal measure.
2. Adeptus Titanicus
Hulking machine behemoths slug it out as the Imperium falls apart around them. 10 millennia before the events of Warhammer 40,000, Adeptus Titanicus pits brother against brother, Space Marine against (Chaos) Space Marine - and you have a front-row seat to watch the treachery of the Horus Heresy play out in your own home.
Ideal for Warhammer players who would love to buy a Warlord Titan but don’t have a spare grand to splash on Forge World, the designers pack an incredible amount of detail onto the tiny titan models. But the game itself is even tighter than the miniatures.
The rules are deep enough to allow for advanced tactical play, but simple enough that you’ll be able to play with nothing more than a reference sheet after a couple of games. It’s never been more exciting to dive straight into epic city-levelling warfare on the smallest scale.
You can’t beat the classics
In recent years, HeroQuest has been rebooted under the guise of Warhammer Quest titles Silver Tower and Shadows Over Hammerhal (of which the latter is probably better), but there’s nothing in the current Games Workshop roster that compares to the original.
Mighty heroes battling through dungeons and overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds felt more original in the ‘80s than it does now, but either way HeroQuest delivers this tried-and-tested story in one of the best packages. Up to four players test their mettle against a GM, who takes the form of the evil wizard Morcar and tries to stop them at every opportunity.
The game involves less roleplaying than something like D&D, but the opportunity to tell great stories across 10 different missions is great fun. Many players treasure their old original editions of the game, and copies that pop up online sell for extraordinary prices - a testament to the game’s quality, if nothing else.
HeroQuest is harder to come by these days, but you can find copies on sites such as eBay.
4. Warhammer Underworlds
Close-quarters tactics, deckbuilding and stunning miniatures
Warhammer Underworlds combines deckbuilding with Games Workshop’s usual dicey fare to make a truly unique game in their roster.
The different races have satisfyingly varied tactics, so you can try to tailor your deck of objectives to suit your force - be that a horde of six skeletons or a couple of superhuman Stormcast - and your playstyle.
This is another specialist game that the company is continuing to support with beautiful new miniatures; if you struggle to paint whole armies, it will be a welcome change to paint just a couple and have a playing force.
5. Space Hulk
Aliens: The Board Game: 40k edition
A team of veteran Blood Angels Terminators are sweeping the decks of an apparently-abandoned spaceship when their scanners begin beeping ominously. If you’ve seen Aliens, you’ll know how terrifying this is.
Through clever manipulation of line of sight, the Blood Angels player won’t know how many Genestealers are about to ambush them until the last moment, cranking up the tension of every turn, move, and decision. It’s a game of split-second decisions when an assault rifle unexpectedly jams or your Captain unexpectedly cleaves a gap through the writhing mass of alien limbs blocking your path.
Space Hulk is out of production at the moment, but you can occasionally find reasonably-priced options on eBay if you keep your eyes peeled and notifications on.
6. Lost Patrol
Predator: The Board Game: 40k edition
If Space Hulk is Games Workshop’s homage to Alien, Lost Patrol is its attempt at Predator: The Board Game.
This criminally overlooked skirmish game sees a squad of Space Marine Scouts take on the Genestealers. The jungles of Catachan give off huge Predator vibes, and the short games make for incredibly exciting sequences.
It’s very difficult to win while playing as the Scouts, but that only makes it so much sweeter when you do. Swapping teams and replaying each mission means it’s less a case of trying to win, and more who can lose less badly.
7. Forbidden Stars
Interplanetary warfare on a massive scale
Forbidden Stars is a huge board game of space warfare on an interplanetary scale. Fantasy Flight Games borrowed the Games Workshop IP for this effort and created something unlike any other Warhammer board game. Part bluffing and part long-term tactics, players take control of the Space Marines, Eldar, Orks or Chaos in an attempt to reign supreme over the Herakon Cluster.
Each turn involves placing tokens face down to either dominate, strategise, deploy or advance through the galaxy in order to wrest control from the opposing factions. After a period of bluffing, guessing and changing carefully-laid plans on the fly, the tokens are revealed to see who enjoys the spoils of war and whose plans for the turn backfired.
One of the most in-depth and large-scale Warhammer 40,000 board games there is, Forbidden Stars is out of production and highly sought-after, so you won’t find it cheap. But, if you’ve got a spare weekend and a thick wad of cash, it’s a game like no other.
8. Aeronautica Imperialis
Games Workshop’s best space battle-simulator, the new edition of Aeronautica Imperialis is considerably better than the previous Forge World edition - and far better supported by the company, too.
If you’re already a fan of tabletop dogfighting, the rules will be familiar from games such as X-Wing, but if you’ve never flown a tiny plane across a board squealing “meowwwmmm”, it’s the perfect place to start. The addition of hex tiles makes movement unique compared to other flight-based board games, and the variety of manoeuvres available to your tiny planes leads to a wide range of strategic options each turn.
Flying at different altitudes and having a mix of short- and long-ranged weapons makes battles feel excitingly three-dimensional, and the recent addition of Tau gunships has shifted the meta - and proves Games Workshop’s commitment to supporting the game.
Fight for domination in the underbelly of the Imperium
While Warhammer 40,000 sees the armies of the Imperium battle for honour against the forces of Chaos, Necromunda shows what’s happening in the civilian Hive Worlds are being defended. A wretched hive of scum and villainy if you ever saw one, players take control of one of the many gangs vying to be the top dog in the criminal underworld of Necromunda.
You’ll be sucked in by the brilliant worldbuilding and some of Games Workshop’s most inventive models, but the skirmish rules are a definite improvement on the original game. Perhaps the best changes are that models are activated alternately rather than a whole gang at a time and the removal of Overwatch, which led to gangs bunkering down with heavy weapons, intent on interrupting the opponent’s turn at every opportunity - an inherently boring tactic.
Both changes lead to more exciting games, although selling the campaign rules separately is a cynical move, especially as they could use a little improvement to really tell the stories of the Underhive.
Mad Max, but with Orks
You can’t write about Games Workshop boxed games without including the Orkiest, killiest, speediest game there is. Think Mad Max but with Orks instead of Max.
If you were put off by recent underbaked spiritual sequel Speed Freeks, don’t panic - Gorkamorka pits Orks against themselves in fast, frantic gameplay. Watch out for silly rules that involve stacking models on top of one another clown-car-style to determine a vehicle’s carry capacity or painting your vehicles red to get a movement bonus.
Best played as a part of a campaign and without taking things too seriously, Gorkamorka is a delicious snapshot of the best of ‘90s Games Workshop. The models are a little dated 20 years on, but what’s the point of playing Orks if you aren’t converting and kitbashing as much as you can?
While not as widely available as some of the games above, copies of Gorkamorka can occasionally be found on sites such as eBay.