Annie Norman: 'I’ve definitely had an impact'.

“I’m slowly and stealthily changing what the tabletop looks like”

Wargaming is often seen as a male hobby. Fewer than 2% of players are women according to “The Great Wargaming Survey” by Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy. But 29-year-old Annie Norman is here to change the game, literally.

Over the last five years Annie has built her company from scratch, and now Bad Squiddo Games sells the largest collection of realistic female miniatures in the world.

“I didn’t expect the company to last the year,” she says, “which is why I have a strange company name which is really hard to spell on the phone.”

For those who don’t know, wargaming is a tabletop strategy game where you play through battles using model soldiers, or miniatures. There are two parts to the hobby: the painting of the miniatures and the playing itself.

The most popular game is Warhammer, sold by Games Workshop, though there are many others in the fantasy and sci-fi genres, as well as historical games where players re-enact actual battles from the past.

Bad Squiddo Games primarily focuses on women in history, with collections including Viking shieldmaidens, Amazons and WW2 “lumber-jills”.

She decided to make her figures “because I got really angry about it.”

Looking online for a female Viking, it blew her mind that “they were either topless or in metal bikinis – and that was the only choice.”

Starting off as a curator and vendor of other brands of female minis, last year she took the plunge and began to focus solely on designing and producing her own range through her online store.

Annie got in to wargaming when she was 10, after her mum bought her some old Games Workshop magazines from a car boot sale. She pored over the pages to decide what she would buy, until she went to a shop and realised the magazines were so old that none of the sets she wanted were still in production.

Nevertheless, she started to paint and play Warhammer before getting into more niche history games.

Annie crocheted herself a bag for her game dice while at university, making some for her friends too. Before she knew it she became “The Dice Bag Lady” as crafting turned into a full-time job.

Unfortunately, after several years of intense crocheting her bag shop had to close in 2015 after a series of wrist injuries left her unable to craft.

In her final trade show with the bags, she took a few female figures to sell. The response she received was so overwhelmingly positive that she continued, and decided to set up Bad Squiddo Games.

The reaction to the company has been astounding, as the business continues to grow and expand on ranges and miniatures it sells.

She has a large online community built up around the business, with more than 10,000 followers across social media.

Affectionately referring to it as her “cult”, Annie likes to engage with her customers online as an extension of the shopping experience and to see her figures in action.

She has had some adverse reactions too. When she first started out some people assumed that it was run by her partner at the time and that she was just the face as a marketing ploy.

“I’ve had to prove that it’s definitely just me and it’s not going anywhere. That’s what kept me going – spite!”

She has received negative comments at shows and online. Someone once shouted “Get a job!” at her. But Annie doesn’t let that negativity affect her as it comes from people she simply “doesn’t care about”.

“A female miniature wearing clothes should be a normal thing”

Describing her interests as “guinea pigs and feminism”, at the start of Bad Squiddo, Annie found there was an element of people buying for the cause. They recognised what she was trying to do and wanted to support her in it.

As great as this was, she didn’t want to be just the feminist wargamer.

“I want people to look at it without the gender hat, and to buy them because they’re cool figures. A female miniature wearing clothes should be a normal thing anyway.”

As far as she’s aware she is the only company doing what she does.

“I’m slowly and stealthily changing what the tabletop looks like,” she says proudly. “I’ve even got other companies to sort their females out.”

Emily Ridding, who works at Warhammer Nottingham, has noticed a recent shift in women joining in the hobby: “It’s not 50/50, as much as we’d want it, but we do get a lot more women in the shop than we would have a year ago.”

“It’s so much more acceptable,” she says. “It’s not seen to be a men’s hobby because it’s just a hobby for everyone.”

Over the past five years, Games Workshop has released more female-orientated models and story-lines to their games, as well as making their sets generally gender neutral.

Whether this is because of Bad Squiddo Games or a happy coincidence, Annie’s not sure.

“I’ve definitely had an impact,” she says, “but I don’t know how much of that would have happened anyway.”

Either way, industry giants are now working to encourage women and change the attitudes of players, which makes her ecstatic.

“Seeing them do that is good as it gets more people thinking about it, and hopefully they buy my stuff too!”