White Dwarf Reborn – Part 1

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I’m sure that most of you will have seen, heard or otherwise assimilated the news that Games Workshop’s famous White Dwarf magazine is undergoing some drastic changes, starting tomorrow.

Let us assume for a moment that this change in format presages Global Calamity, the fabled End Time, Ragnarok, Armageddon and so on. Go on, wail, gnash your teeth, cry out and rail at the skies with impotent fury (always a favourite). When you’ve got that out of your system I’ll carry on.

No need to rush. Vent that spleen (just not in the comments, please). I’ll wait.

Intermission

Now that everyone has calmed down, let me explain why I’m interested. I don’t play any GW games and haven’t for a while. And no, I’m not going to count Dreadfleet. I do, however, have an interest in gaming in a wider sense and still play many figure games. This means that I’m interested in painting and modelling as well as tactics articles and what-have-you. Every month I buy a few magazines on similar topics (which I really should review as there are some excellent ones). Would the new WD/Visions be something worth adding to that mix?

I also spent five years working on the White Dwarf itself, back in the day, so I have a sort of professional curiosity to see what they’re up to with the old chap. Are they helping the old duffer across the road, or pushing him under a bus?

These interests leave me with a slightly different outlook on the whole change to many bloggers. To start with, I’m not reading WD these days anyway and haven’t for years. This means that I’m not losing anything if it is rubbish. Instead I’m thinking of this change as  an opportunity for GW to do something cool and interesting. They have a chance here to produce something that will appeal to a wider audience than their own limited fan base. Large as it is, there is more to the world of gaming, painting and modelling with toy soldiers than GW, and there is no reason why they couldn’t appeal to that audience as well – even if the products and models they use will invariably be their own. Because let’s face it, GW make some perfectly acceptable models, paints and so on. They may or may not be the best, and they are certainly not the cheapest, but they do have a range that covers most of the bases in terms of tools. They also have a large number of extremely talented sculptors, artists, painters and so on working for them. Why not leverage that into a wider audience? Who knows, you might even spread the GW brand wider, win some converts, and sell a few pots of paint?

So, where do we begin?

In case you’ve missed out, this change is quite simple to explain in principle. To start with, White Dwarf goes weekly and drops from its current size to a slender 36 pages. Quite the diet. In addition, a new magazine appears called Warhammer Visions. This is a 230+ page monthly (though some of the page area is lost by going to a smaller format – see the picture below from GW’s site).

WD splitsI thought that I’d look at these new magazines one at a time when they were released (officially tomorrow). But to start with it seemed worth writing this intro to try and defuse a little of the inevitable fury that appears whenever anything GW is discussed online. I also thought that it made sense to look properly at White Dwarf before this change as a reference point – something I haven’t done in some years.

The plan, then, is this:

  • Intro (you’re reading it).
  • Review of the last monthly WD
  • Review of new WD
  • Review of the new Warhammer Visions
  • Conclusion

I want to break this up in order to focus on each bit separately. Some articles will doubtless be longer than others. There will certainly be digressions along the way. However, my main interest here is not whether it is a better or worse magazine for fans of GW games (I don’t really care), or whether it is more expensive (which it will be if you buy them all), but whether it was/is a worthwhile magazine for a non-GW figure gamer.

We shall see.

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36 Responses to White Dwarf Reborn – Part 1

  1. Gary says:

    Being a war-gamer for some 30+years and remembering and buying White Dwarf 6 ( yes WD6 ) , ilike you I do not read them any more. My interests at the time I loved WD was for Dungeon & Dragons, the scenarios etc etc…………….but it faded out. Gradualy the Nurgle and science scene evolved and that finished it for me. BUT…..(yes, ok …never start a sentence with a but…BUT..gaming has to go on…for whomever likes it and for what they like….times change. Nearly gone are the days of ACW,ECW etc etc so for the new wargamers here is the new time of wargaming…………….lets just wait and see.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I don’t think that ACW, ECW, etc are gone. Certainly the interest in the subjects has not disappeared because we still see books, films and so on about them. Perhaps they’re just waiting for a large enough company to come along and promote them.

  2. Andrew says:

    Just by looking at the cover, it looks like they’ve taken a page out of White Dwarf issues of yore…
    “Full rules for the Dwarven King”
    That’s good to see – especially considering the new Dwarf minis are coming out in advance of the new army book. This is something Privateer Press has done with their No Quarter magazine for some time now, and it seems to work well for them.

  3. chibipaul says:

    Old White Dwarf is dead -Meh
    Long live the new White Dwarf- Meh

    Ok I’m just being cheeky 😛
    But good luck finding something worth splashing out £7.50 + or whatever is for non GW gamer content. lol

  4. Brian Sherry says:

    It’s a very odd premise for a piece you have here Jake. GW have no interest in appealing to non-GW hobbyists. And this bizarre splitting of White Dwarf cannot possibly create greater value for non-GW gamers. It appears to me to be nothing more than the latest in GW’s “gouge our existing customers” strategy. By the way, I would recommend looking at the Dwarf from 2009 or so, there was actually a phase in there where the Dwarf was chock full of really good modelling, painting and gaming articles. The campaign and scenario rules for LOTR/WOTR were especially good. But the Dwarf has not been for non-GW gamers since the mid-eighties when coverage of other companies’ products was expunged. The Dwarf has been a pure vehicle for GW going on 30 years now and I cannot imagine that changing at this point.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I’m not expecting GW to explicitly cater for non-GW gamers, but it it entirely possible that they could produce articles on tactics, painting and modelling that were of broader appeal. When I read an article in one of the historical modelling magazines I don’t expect to make that particular model – instead I read it for the approach and the techniques that are explained, and even if that specific subject is irrelevant to me I very often find excellent and helpful hints and tips. Which is why I keep buying them. There is no reason why GW could not do the same thing.

      Do I expect it? No I don’t.

      Is it possible? Yes it is.

      • chibipaul says:

        There is a slight difference with modelling mags (FWIW I stopped buying any a few years ago)
        My experience has been that while the subject at the time of publication may have held no interest, it may be useful at a later date when I now find the subject appealing
        Also they have come in handy as reference to friends who are modelling that subject.

        I take your point however, though even if there are general modelling articles, £7.50 is a heck of a lump to pay for it. imho. Especially when there are plenty of videos and discussions online to inspire and advise.

        GW used to have some really helpful pages on their website for modelling terrain, but selling their kits is now more important than general hobby crafting skills. TBH I would be delighted if you prove me wrong and such articles do reappear..

        • Quirkworthy says:

          You’re right about the value of keeping an archive of old modelling mags for when your interest changes. I do the same thing, and can happily re-read many of them with different eyes later. However, all that applies to techniques just as much as it does to specific kits/subjects.

  5. Claudio says:

    Seems like always the same pictures showing off their models in colour. nothing more. nearly no text. Doesn’t seem appealing 😀
    Here a link of Warhammer Vision: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cqFbTa5qOI

    • mattmcd31 says:

      FYI this video is a terrible review. The reviewer says I don’t like a 1000 times and offer no real commentary

      • chibipaul says:

        To be fair there isn’t a lot to comment on,
        The problem is that he had to show all of the magazine, which was a lot of pretty pics of a GW display and a few more pretty pics of other GW stuff.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Why did he have to show all the magazine? He chose to do that. He could have showed us half a dozen spreads and said “the rest is the same sort of thing”.

        • chibipaul says:

          ‘Why did he have to show all the magazine? He chose to do that. He could have showed us half a dozen spreads and said “the rest is the same sort of thing”.’

          I also considered that tbh
          My view is that if I had been reviewing I would also be inclined to show all of the magazine so viewers didn’t have to take my word for it.
          Having said that I would have got bored and said, “The rest is the same sort of thing!” lol
          Probably a compromise would have been better by skipping through with several random samples, so yeah you are prolly right.

  6. mattmcd31 says:

    I have been following you and your games for several years, mostly with your efforts with Dreadball and Deadzone over the last few years. Also, I have been a huge fan of GW games for over a decade but my interest in WD gradually waned over the years to the point where I dropped my subscription, I really think GW in general needs to refresh itself but I am not sure exactly what that looks like, hopefully this is part of the beginning of that for GW. I look forward to seeing what you have to say given your vast game company experience and insider viewpoint.

  7. Pingback: Jake Thornton prepares to review the new White Dwarf | The Core Worlds

  8. I find it strange that they would come out with a weekly printed magazine since most printed media seems to be moving in the opposite direction with bi-weekly or online/e-reader editions. I think that if they choose this format, it should be with content that online readers would download and print out like preview rules, scenarios, faq – rules updates/additions, flags and banners for models and my favorite thing of WDs of yore: card terrain. It was one of the things that I liked about the old editions (besides a young Jake ;)). I still have the Gorka Morka tower, the SOB church & the Eldar Pyramid. These and the accompanying scenarios made the magazine more of a gamer resource and less of a catalog. The terrain could be paper patterns that could be glued to card or scanned if card inserts would be too expensive. It would justify the price because gamers could just buy the mag with the glossy, color paper instead of printing it out at home. Making the needs of gamers more important would go a long way to building the brand of a company that actually values its customers.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I suspect that the issue with that plan is that these days GW has a big range of scenery which they want you to buy. Why undercut their own sales by giving away alternatives?

      You’re right that in the current print climate the move to weekly does seem a bit odd though.

      • re: terrain – yeah, forgot about that!

        • Ben says:

          The change to weekly is all about release schedules and it’s in print to get people into the stores.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Monthly WD was synched with release schedules years ago, so I don’t see that as a major driver for any change.

          The GW site trumpets new stuff and you can get both new mags digitally so you never have to leave your house to see all this. How is a print version supposed to be a major incentive to go to the store? I mean, I’ll go tomorrow cos it’s new and I’m curious (and it gives me an excuse to go into town and pick up a different magazine). In 3 months, who’s going to be doing that in any numbers?

          I can see it being an easier add-on sale in the stores because it’s half the price.

        • Ben says:

          Release schedules are going from monthly to weekly, and WD is changing to support that. Rather than one large release a month, they’re being staggered over the course of the month. Week one (tomorrow) will see a few of the new Dwarf releases, WD will feature them and give the rules for one of them ahead of the army book release. Each feeds into the other. You buy WD and get the rules for the min and hence become interested in the mini. You buy the mini so get WD because you want to get the rules ahead of the army book.

          WD weekly has no newstand distribution. If you don’t purchase digitally, and many people don’t, then you’ll have to go to a games store to buy it, whether GW or an LGS. The job ad that went viral during the week shows that Tom Kirby still thinks the stores is where it’s all at. Get them in, give them a great experience to keep them coming back, sell them lots of stuff. This is his vision.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Is that his Warhammer Vision ;P

        • Ben says:

          My Warhammer Vision of Tom Kirby is of him bashing a computer with a walking stick whilst exclaiming this internet thing is a fad that will never catch on.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          New-fangled nonsense!

        • Actually they got rid of most of their basic scenery and only kept the real expensive ones (grass-mat and modular hills vs battleboard)

    • mattmcd31 says:

      It’s not clear to me why the didn’t move to an e-zine with a subscription when they have already moved a lot of their publications to e-books. e-pubs are much cheaper to produce (no paper or printing) and there is no shipping, Putting out a teaser and requiring a subscription for the full articles has worked for other gaming websites, as best I can tell, like Mini War Gaming and Beasts of War. Also the Visions thing seem more like a quarterly or as needed thing to me rather than a monthly. There just isn’t enough new stuff each month to fill a full catalog size magazine that I would be interested in looking at.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        “e-pubs are much cheaper to produce” is a common misconception (and an article for another day).

        Both new magazines are available as digital versions. Not making the weekly available through newsagents, Tescos and the like is a good way to drive people to the digital option (assuming that they’re keen enough to get it). On the other hand, how much is in it that isn’t already available for free?

        • mattmcd31 says:

          None of the new or prereleased models or books or review of them are available online. I don’t include the poor quality pirate stuff as available.

          Love to hear the difference in costs between tons of paper, full color high quality printing. and postage globally vs whatever extra prep work and licensing would have to be done for epubs. But that is a story for another day.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          These days, “tons of paper, full color high quality printing” are not a major part of the cost.

  9. cashwiley says:

    When I got back into painting, I put in a two-year subscription to WD, I remember it fondly when McVey was writing for it, even though GW more or less squeezed out the competition locally and sped the cessation of hobby painting for me. This is the second format change in that time.

    Disclaimer: I don’t play wargames nor do I collect GW stuff.

    I do like some of their sculpts and enjoy seeing some of the painteds. A lot of it is tabletop, but even so, some of the schemes are interesting. It’s a bit odd, as when I read WD as a 20-something back when, I was blown away by the amazing paint jobs and tutorials. Now as a 40-something with the Internet and 19 months of painting under my belt, I’m a bit let down by the lack of high quality painting, though I do understand the need for army-scale paint standards.

    So there are some nice pics of decent minis painted decently for their purpose. The instructional articles are squarely aimed at tabletop army painting, so they aren’t for me at all.

    As for the actual magazines, the quality is nice though the small format is a bit odd. I can’t slot it in with years of magazines on the shelf and it’s too large for my paperbacks shelf. Where does it go? And the weekly, I’m not sure anyone needs a weekly advertising pamphlet at a premium, but I’m not the target audience.

    Which is a nice segue into my final thought on the modern WD. I’m not the target audience. I won’t be renewing my subscription when it lapses in six months or so. I do wonder if I’ll see a third format change before then, though.

  10. Matt Price says:

    How big was White Dwarf before this “diet”? Was WD a monthly magazine before this change? Sorry, not too familiar with it, but am mildly curious to see how these changes pan out.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      The last (Jan 2014) issue of WD was a monthly magazine and was 152 pages plus covers.

      • nathan payne says:

        Vissions just pics of GW minis..
        Well the same pic from a different angle. Pics you can find for free on google. From what people have posted on our FB club page..
        The subscibers are saying its rubish. Another punch to the face from them selfs. Jake do you read Ravage ? And is it any good. I have my historical fix in wargames illustrated. But need my fantasy sci-fi fix too cheers.

  11. Matt Price says:

    I smell a Land Rover and a wet lawn. lol.

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