White Dwarf Reborn – Part 2

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As I said in the previous post, I wanted to start by looking at the last of the monthly versions of WD to see what that was like. A benchmark, if you will.

WD Nid

Here we are: January 2014, Tyranid issue. Like most issues of WD this is heavily themed with the major release of the period it covers. But what is there that I can take away from this if I’m not a Nid player? What if I don’t play anything from GW? Are there any interesting tactical ideas, thoughts on campaigns, painting or modelling tips?

Well I’ve now read as much as I can cope with. I looked at lots of pictures and admired the rather nice printing. Spot varnish on the cover and good fit throughout on the printing, so technically pretty enough.

Not So Good

Inside it’s a big shopping list till page 50. Nothing in there for me. 40K players can bask in the Hive Mind’s wonders, but there’s no tips, just a showcase of new toys to buy. That’s fine. This is, after all, what WD is mainly for.

Eight pages of Army of the Month tells me nothing useful or non-obvious. Armies on Parade were no different from those I’ve seen hundreds of times before (I’ve judged painting comps at several GW tourneys and looked at a great many armies in my time).

The battle report was very disappointing. It doesn’t seem to have changed format since before I worked on the mag, and this wasn’t a desperately engaging account either. I used to read battle reports even when I didn’t play the game in question because they were often just good reads (and I’m a geek). They have a nice idea of mini objectives and rewards, etc, but overall it’s just a bit flat.

Eleven pages of shop listings, plus many other pages of “what’s on” adverts are the absolute nadir of this issue. I’ve long thought these a waste of space.

So no real surprises so far. Lots of stuff that is of no real interest to me.

Not So Bad

I’m stretching here.

Jeremy Vetock’s ramble about hobbies was amusing for 5 minutes. It reads very much like a blog post. OK for a tea break.

Paint Spatter had some useful pics of what each layer of paint does to change the model. I don’t want to paint those specific models, but this reference could, potentially save me a test model. The techniques themselves are all standard stuff.

The highlights for me were Jerv’s article and Blanchitsu. I am, however, of a similar vintage to Jerv and have had plenty of similar conversations with him over the years. This, therefore, is amusing, but nothing I don’t know already. It does seem to be the only thing for Warhammer players though. 

Blanchitsu was far, far better than the Kit Bash article with loads more of interest in half the pages. It showcased the only different painting in the whole issue, which was possibly why I found it so interesting. Variety being the spice of life and whatnot. A moment’s Google and you find that the featured chap is a professional illustrator, so it’s not surprising that he’s a bit useful with a brush. 

All Told

Not worth it for me.

To be honest, if I was a Warhammer player (as I mainly was) then I don’t think it would have been worth it either. In fact, if I wasn’t a Tyranid player I’d have struggled to find much to get excited about in this issue. As it stands, there is zero of interest in terms of tactical thoughts, and the only moderately interesting painting bits are neither new nor telling me anything I can’t find done just as well (or better) for free, in more detail and better explained on the net: Romain’s painting videos on BOW, the massive gallery at CMON, WAMP painting forums, and so on. There is a massive amount online.

Actually, thinking about it, there is nothing in this issue that I can imagine opening the covers for again. This in stark contrast to many other gaming and modelling mags.

Am I surprised or dismayed? No, not really. I’m nowhere near their core audience. Still, I doubt I’m the core audience for AFV modeller either, but…

So, if this is the benchmark, then different can only be better. Right?

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26 Responses to White Dwarf Reborn – Part 2

  1. Compel says:

    It must be a bit shocking to think you worked on that monthly magazine for, – what was it 5 years? (Just saw part 1 of your BOW video and already forgotten) and, disappointing as that issue was, it’s pretty much the last one. – Heck, my mates and I are feeling a bit sentimental about that, and we didn’t even work there!

    Onto cheerier thoughts though… Deadzone survey just arrived at my inbox and things are looking great.

  2. cashwiley says:

    Chiming in again as a non-GW, non-gamer who reads WD. I think the last issue was one of the more disappointing ones, because it’s so niche. At least with painted space armor or green skin, I can get some ideas for other things to paint. The undead stuff was pretty inspiring, the elves and crazy wyverns or whatever they were, the huge demons…there have been some pretty cool issues where I felt my money wasn’t swirling down a sewer grate.

    I agree with Jervis and kitbashing being the high points of this one. But it was a quick flip ‘on the loo’ as you looneys say over there. Hmm…’loo’ney. Indeed.

  3. When they changed the WD to this new lifestyle-format it stopped being of interest to me. I hope the new one will rekidnle my interest…

  4. tinfish says:

    It’s “new” again? Last time it was “new” it stank.

    White Dwarf needs to be OLD! Most of you won’t have ever seen an old white dwarf, but those of you who did will remember an exciting and interesting hobby magazine.

    I am out of GW now, tho I will revisit Necromunda and BFG from time to time and still have my wfb/40k stuff stuffed in boxes, I would still read WD if it was like it used to be, 15-20 years ago..

    • berger15 says:

      I agree. I remember reading WD when I was in my early teens, and loved it. However, GW is now (it appears) only interested in the next sale, not the hobby. Shame really, but that’s what being a massive corporate entity, with lots of investors and lots of bean counters / accountants does for you. 😦

      • Baragash says:

        I wish I had £1 for every time I read this on a wargame forum or blog, I’d have retired by now. It has nothing to do with being a corporate entity, having investors, or bean counters, or accountants and entirely to do with having employees who don’t understand the market in decision-making positions.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Perhaps. I suspect the issue is really in who they regard as their market rather than not understanding it.

        • berger15 says:

          The magazine is a marketing tool. If the mag were run by gamers and hobby enthusiasts do you think it would have wall to wall pictures and lots of pages of ads for the latest models, with a lack of article depth and few explainations of techniques? My personal view is that as a marketing tool, to bring in money from kids and their parents – it’s great, an accountants wet-dream.
          As a read for a gamer, or hobby (not just GW) enthusiast, it’s comes across as poorly designed and lacking depth.
          If you “know” something I don’t, then fine, enlighten me. But if your view is as much your opinion as mine is, then we’ll just have to agree to settle this like true men, and have a game of Deadzone. 😉

        • Baragash says:

          @Jake: those two things aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, given that market segmentation is meant to be a tool to increase profit, not reduce the active customer base.

          @Berger15: what I “know” is that I’ve spent the last 11 years as a management accountant specifically business partnering decision-makers who determine what product goes out to customers, for UK retailers of varying size and in the UK media industry. There’s nothing about a product that fails so badly it’s been rebranded twice in 6 months that would come close to giving me a semi, nevermind a wet dream. Nor does it change the fact that WD being a terrible product has nothing to do with the corporate status and structure of GW.

        • berger15 says:

          Way too serious, dude.

  5. Hoodling says:

    You can’t help but wonder whether the extremely narrow focus of White Dwarf in recent times (generally obsessed with the big new release) has contributed to what is presumably a decline in sales. I still play Warhammer, but I can’t remember the last time I looked at White Dwarf and thought it would be interesting enough for the money. Why would anyone subscribe to something when most of the issues will have nothing to do with the things they collect? The magazine used to have a broader focus, but I guess that was when it contained more hobby articles and was not so completely sales-oriented.

    The shift to a weekly magazine seems unsustainable to me. Is it possible that they’re ultimately looking to make the whole thing digital and do away with the paper version? That would at least make weekly distribution more feasible and allow the price to be more reasonable…

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Keeping enough of a mix to be of interest to as many people as possible was a constant challenge for me when I was Editor and it’s no different now. At least in principle. Whether they are concerned about this or not is another matter.

  6. Keith Mullumby says:

    Rumble at the Tin Inn! One of my favourite Runequest adventures was taken from the White Dwarf. So too an article on healing plants in fantasy role playing as we’ll as how to give sprained ankles etc to players. In short when I was young the WD covered a bunch of games from a bunch of companies (I think RQ was Chaosium, and their were Travelor scenarios as well). Coming back to gaming recently I bought a WD and WTF it was ONLY GW material. Perhaps if it ranged more widely again?

    • Ben says:

      GW produced Runequest in the UK under license from Chaosium. The vast majority of the rpg material in WD that looked like it was for other companies, if not all of it, was actually being produced by GW.

      • Ben says:

        Just had a quick google to remind myself. GW did their own version of 2nd ed in 1980, and 3rd ed in 1987. In the latter case, they split the US version into three different books: Runequest, Advanced Runequest, and Runequest Monsters.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        Some, certainly, was GW under license. I don’t think they ever produced Traveller though, and that was a common feature. It does rather depend on exactly which era you mean though as it obviously varied.

  7. Ted says:

    I think it’s very interesting to hear what you have say about White Dwarf since you worked on the mag way back when!:)

    “The battle report was very disappointing. It doesn’t seem to have changed format since before I worked on the mag, and this wasn’t a desperately engaging account either.”

    I think you are a bit unfair on the old dwarf here!:) The battle reports during your time as editor were vastly (vastly!) superior to the reports of today. The format has changed a lot since then I’d say. Back then there were background material, interesting dicussions on army selection, tactics and post-battle talk. And there were maps and proper descriptions of the player turns. And also the players ususally talked about what they did in the battle and why, not just “then the Hive Tyranant stomped over there and killed three Orks, and then the Warboss tore apart a Genestealer here”.

    I still read my old White Dwarf magazines (I think the best period were around 1995-2004) from time to time, and I enjoy them a lot more than the stale and boring mag GW puts out today. Needless to say, I’m not looking forward to Warhammer Visions.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Thank you Ted. We did try to put quite a lot into the battle reports as they were always the most popular features whenever we asked readers in polls, questionnaires or in person.

  8. Henry says:

    I had an interview to work for White Dwarf in late 2005. The magazine had been in decline for a little while at that stage, with the word count shrinking and the glossy picture count rising, but it was the interview day that really opened my eyes to how much the attitude there had changed…

    I carried on buying it for a little while longer, but it rapidly became more and more of a chore rather than the treat it used to be…

    It’s a shame to see the magazine the way it is now, but I’ll be interested to see what they do with this new version…

  9. mattadlard says:

    Jerv’s article and Blanchitsu were interesting, but that’s about it, and it’s rare these days that it gets interesting. One does have a read through in the newsagents, but it has been for a while a Miniature porn catalogue. i can google miniature images.
    Battle reports tend to be insipid and bland, its like the players are going through the motions not enjoying a fun game, ‘Though there may be something in that!!!!!’.

    Cover the latest release fine, but in other months it would be good to get back to the old days with articles and ‘how to’s’ that get your interest.

    7-8 pages o store locations are not needed, would be better to have community info, what gamers are up-to, involve those who buy your product to buy into the social aspect.

  10. Sami Mahmoud says:

    I think Jake, it would have been quite interesting if you’d had a sample issue for, say, every 3-5 years as a point of interest to affirm or challenge whether the views of “old” Dwarf are nostalgia or realistic.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      A sort of White Dwarf through the ages?

      I may yet get round to something like that. I’ll have to borrow a few, but I’m sure some of the local GW crowd must have all the more recent issues than I do. The real challenge is finding a representative one for each period. In any group there will be more and less inspired individual issues.

      Whenever one personally started as a gamer will have a rosy glow of nostalgia because that’s nostalgia’s job. That aside, I am pretty sure that there are real differences in tone and content over the years. After all, it’s been going a long time and it would be more amazing if there wasn’t.

      • Brian Sherry says:

        I read WD from ’89 through about 2009 though not every issue. And I think it might surprise folks to see even in 2009 there were a lot of great features on campaigning, scenarios, and escalation leagues like the “Tale
        Of Four Gamers.” It seems to me the drop off in quality was rather precipitous given that was only 5 years ago!

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I think Sami’s suggestion is a good one and I’ll add it to the list for when I’ve gone through the rest of the new WD stuff and the other magazines.

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