Warlord Games turns 15 this month, and for this momentous occasion I sat down with the company’s two illustrious founders – John Stallard and Paul Sawyer – to discuss the challenges, highlights, and history of Warlord so far, from its founding in the dim and distant past of 2007, to the present and beyond!

October 2007 saw the birth of Warlord Games, with John and Paul as the proud fathers – but who kicked it all off? Where did the name come from?

John – The idea for Warlord Games came from myself, at the time when Paul and I were let go from Games Workshop. As neither of us were finding the kind of work we wanted to do, I said to Paul “we could do some 28mm plastic Romans”, which I’d been keen to do previously but hadn’t been allowed to – I even had a sprue design sketched out! We decided to go for it, and geared up to produce the first plastic 28mm historical miniatures – but the Perry twins just beat us by a month with their American Civil War plastics. Paul came up with the ‘Warlord’ name, which is reminiscent of 1970s British military comics, and really just ‘does what it says on the tin’. One of my ideas was ‘Dauntless’ – how different it could have been!

Paul – The name of the company was something I came up with. We’d thrown a few ideas around but Warlord Games grabbed us both – it was the name of a comic we both grew up reading avidly and the word ‘Warlord’ gave the feeling of a leader, a big character. The logo design had a very retro look and purposely so – it resonates soundly with those fantastic old comics of our childhood.

The first Warlord Games plastic 28mm sprue – Roman Legionaries.

With the wheels in motion and the plastic Romans out into the world, the future was looking bright for Warlord Games, but there were definitely challenges along the way!

John  – The biggest challenge was definitely working with Paul! No, I’m joking! But really, it was dealing with the tension of going through the six-month process of designing and producing a set of plastic miniatures (which neither of us had any experience with!) and holding our nerve throughout that period.

Paul – Not having a cast of thousands behind us was definitely a challenge. Games Workshop was a big beast (and still is) whereas Warlord Games was just the two of us – we’d have to do everything ourselves which came as something of a culture shock. If it were not for the many friends and family members who helped us out in those early days it would have been even tougher. A massive thanks to all those who gave us a hand in those formative months!

The first rulebook Warlord produced was Black Powder, now in its second incarnation.
Hail Caesar soon followed. As recently announced, a new edition is just around the corner! Both books were written by the legendary Rick Priestley.

In late 2008, Warlord acquired Bolt Action, entering the world of WW2 wargaming. Things would never be the same again…

Paul – I knew Paul Hicks and Simon Bargery prior to starting Warlord Games as World War II is my great passion and Paul’s sculpts were some of the best on the market at the time. When Warlord started to make a name for itself Paul and Simon mentioned they might be open to selling the business (nothing to do with pressure for their other halves to get rid of all the boxes, castings, etc cluttering up every room in their respective homes!). Although we’d started out with Plastic Romans and Celts along with their accompanying metal ranges we knew World War II was the most popular wargaming period and that 28mm was, as John would say, ‘God’s own scale’.

The first edition of Bolt Action.

That gave us a good range of miniatures but we knew that wasn’t enough and a great game was needed to make it really sell. Another former Games Workshop inmate, Alessio Cavatore was the one person we wanted to write the game for us – he’d not done too badly with Warhammer after all! John had a few ideas for how he wanted the game to play, all of which I heartily agreed with. The only criteria I really wanted to have was a move away from “I-go-you-go” and a more random activation. I’m not sure if it was John or Alessio who came up with the dice idea but it was genius nonetheless and gives the unpredictability I wanted in the game and a move away from one player twiddling their thumbs while the other moved.

With the launch of Bolt Action, the company went from strength to strength and it was all starting to get a bit serious.

John – I realised Warlord was really taking off and getting serious when Bolt Action came along. Previously we had Black Powder and Hail Caesar, written by the wonderful Rick Priestley, which are both fantastic books and are now in their second editions, but we didn’t really have the same ‘presence’ in the marketplace until Bolt Action came out.

Paul – The sea change in the business was when the Bolt Action game and books were released with our mates at Osprey Publishing. A great World War II game with lovely 28mm miniatures is really the ‘Holy Grail’ of wargaming, as Alessio described it when we first started to discuss it. World War II is so ingrained in popular culture that you didn’t need to be a massive history buff to be able to get into it and you ‘need’ fewer figures than you would for massed battle games which again makes it easier to start out with. Oh, and tanks – it has tanks! I say ‘need’ because we all want to keep adding more and more to our favourite armies, don’t we – an army is never really ‘finished’ as John often says!

Now in its second edition, Bolt Action has grown exponentially via a huge range of miniatures, theatre books, campaign books and more. The game even has a vast and vibrant competitive scene worldwide!

In those 15 long years, there must have been one single moment that stands out as the most significant:

John – The most significant single moment in Warlord’s history… I suppose for me it’d have to be the first set, the Romans, getting them out and selling them around the world. It proved there was an appetite for plastic 28mm historical figures – to that point it’d all been metal, and people had told us that people wouldn’t buy plastic historical models. I’d been told the same thing at Games Workshop, that people wouldn’t buy plastic fantasy models, nobody likes plastic, and Games Workshop obviously proved them wrong there as well! Just having the discipline and bravery to stick to our guns with the plastics I think was ‘the’ significant moment.

Our inaugural release, the plastic Roman Legionaries, have put in sterling service these past fifteen years,

Last but not least… what do the next 15 years hold?

John– More of the same for the next 15 years – getting Warlord products into loads more stores worldwide, supporting even more tournaments, going to as many shows as possible, that sort of thing. Additionally, we’ll look at covering more ‘obscure’ armies for Bolt Action, as well as developing Konflikt ’47 which we’ve just acquired, and no doubt a continuing expansion of the Epic Battles range, given how successful it’s been!

Black Powder Epic Battles: The Waterloo Campaign launched with much fanfare in early 2022. We look forward to exploring other periods in the scale!

Paul – Building on our success, learning from our experiences and getting our games and miniatures into more gamers’ hands is the dull answer. New versions of our games as well as adding more great games and ranges to our portfolio is highly likely – our recent acquisition of Konflikt ’47 is certainly something we’re very excited about. The success of John’s Epic system brainwave is certainly going to see us doing more periods of history in that scale and style – we’re already well advanced on the next one (although that’s hush-hush for now)! As with Bolt Action, who knows what other ranges or companies we might be able to pick up? We’re always interested in looking at new investments…

Following the recent acquisition of the IP, big plans are afoot for the Weird War game, Konflikt ’47!

And there you have it, from the Big Bosses themselves! Thank you to all of our customers and friends for being part of the Warlord Games story – here’s to the next 15 years!

Paul Sawyer cuts the cake at Warlord’s very first birthday bash.
  1. Hey cool
    I got into Warlord Games via the Terminator Genisys miniatures game made in partnership with River Horse.
    I got the Project Z range as those models go perfectly with the whole ‘survivors’ aspect of 28mm gaming I’m interested in. Plus, there are some Warlord Games kits that work well (I’m looking at you Ghillie Snipers & Celtic War Dogs), so I’m looking forward to new releases that I can bend to a post Judgement Day game.

    Hope you have a good 15 years!

  2. I really appreciate what Warlord Games have done, which is make great miniatures and wargaming fun again! I am looking forward to the new Hail Caesar and all this talk of other lines for Epic is very exciting. Thank you.

  3. Thank you for this fascinating read! I wish I had discovered Warlord Games all those years ago. I love that you cover a variety of miniature ranges, from historical to fantasy, SciFi and obscure.

    Most of all, I’m grateful that you work hard to keep the spirit of fun and comradery alive in the wargames hobby. I came from two different miniatures companies over the past 16 years, and I had mostly bad experiences with both. I really appreciate the work everyone at Warlord does. Even your customer service representatives are exceptional!

    Hoping to see Warlord in more stores here in Canada someday. Please keep up the good work, and thank you all!

  4. Congratulation, Warlord Games! My favourite wargame company. My first game form WG was Bolt Action, and I think it is a truly gem. I own several games from WG like Hail Caesar, Black Powder, Beyond the Gates of Antares and Blood Red Skies

    My only claim is the lack of support of Beyond the Gates of Antares —in my opinion, the best wargame in the market right now and another masterpiece from Rick Priestley. We are in love with the game and collecting all the Antarean armies and factions -and play great narrative scenarios with them!

  5. I just want to say Congrats on a great first 15. I hope that you have another great 15 to follow the first. Warlord Games is my go to gaming store now. I am so mad at GW that once I have all i need for Necromunda, I will not bay another kit from GW. So now I just need to prioritize Which Warlord Game to concentrate on Too many to choose from. I love Project Z, and also Three forces for Gates of Antares, I have Three Armies for Bolt Action, of course two from Epic ACW, two Fleets from Victory at Sea and Two from Cruel Seas. I started with 28mm ACW from here, that the Perry twins designed. I stilll work with that force set as well, And I have Terminator Genisys. So you have bit me pretty hard. I look forward to what else you guys are going to come up with. Keep up the great work guys and thanks for getting me away from the terrible demon cash sucker.

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