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Warhammer co-creator Bryan Ansell has died

The Games Workshop leader passed away on the eve of the reboot of his biggest game

Brian Ansell, co-creator of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, shown in a cut-off t-shirt with a fabulous blonde mullet. Image: the_ansells_attic on Instagram
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Bryan Ansell, co-creator of Warhammer Fantasy Battle and the leader of Games Workshop through the late 1980s, passed away at home on the morning of Dec. 30. He was 68. The announcement was made on the Instagram account he shared with his wife, Diane.

Ansell, an experienced sculptor, partnered with Games Workshop in 1978 to create Citadel Miniatures, a brand under which the company still produces its British-made products to this day. Later, he would become the managing director of Games Workshop itself. During his tenure, the company fully transitioned from being an importer and distributor of tabletop games such as Dungeons & Dragons to a manufacturer, eventually exporting its own science fiction and fantasy products all around the world.

Aside from shepherding the company itself through its early growing pains, Ansell’s biggest contribution to Games Workshop was in bringing the Warhammer Fantasy Battle tabletop wargame to life. The game, which he co-created with Rick Priestley and Richard Halliwell, would go on to become one of the company’s marquee products alongside Warhammer 40,000.

Ironically, news of Ansell’s passing comes during a period of renewed interest in The Old World, the original setting for his Warhammer Fantasy Battle game. The Old World was sunset in 2015 following an in-fiction apocalypse, languishing for the better part of a decade with only Creative Assembly’s excellent Total War: Warhammer series left to carry on. Then, late last year, Games Workshop finally revealed the launch line-up for the game’s long expected reboot. Now titled Warhammer: The Old World, the lavish miniatures wargame — now cast in plastic instead of white metal — is expected to arrive on store shelves later this month.

Games Workshop has not made a public statement about Ansell’s death. Polygon has reached out for comment.

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