The folks who do Figure Painter magazine are branching out into gaming with their upcoming title Initiative Magazine.
I rather like Figure Painter (even when I’m not daubing myself), and have found a number of great models and companies in there over the years. I’ll be interested to see how they pitch their gaming version. Personally, I’m hoping for coverage of the smaller games – in terms of publicity – because there’s a load of col stuff out there which deserves more attention and fails to get it because of marketing rather than game quality. I suspect that they’ll have to include some GW games, Warmachine, etc to get people looking though.
What would you like to see?
I don’t envy them the challenge. It’s tough doing magazines these days (on any subject) because the internet is already full of so much stuff. What they need is a unique voice, so we’ll see if they can find it.
Here’s hoping they can 🙂
i remember the times when i used to play rpgs (paper version oc).
there was casus belli and the key to the appeal was not in the news but rather in the contents in the form of gaming aids, scenarios and such where they could leverage on talented writers and drawers to supply exclusive contents.
i think that is the way to it.
bring in some campaigns for existing game ranges, provide added material, add new layers to existing games and such.
with internet news, a paper mag cannot compete with the speed
One other thing that is only poorly served online is battle reports. They are very time-consuming and difficult to do well, and I understand entirely why we see so few good ones. However, a print magazine could take that as a speciality to focus on.
As you say, news (without some other linked article and commentary) is fairly pointless in print as it’s always behind the curve.
The old WD battle reports where good as they had maps and showed movement and tactical thinking of the players. It was also interesting following the story arc on campaign games where you could also play that scenario.
That’s the sort of thing I’m thinking of. A lot of work though.
Never heard of Figure Painter (is it a physical magazine?) but do wonder if now is a good time, what with “Tabletop Gamer” magazine really getting into stride (#4 out today!).
If paper mags struggle due to the internet will 2 covering a small niche manage to kill each other off?
It’s a PDF magazine
So it’s less costly than a print edition, and that allows it a bit more of a competitive edge.
Whether they will kill each other off is another matter. I remember when Wargames Illustrated and Miniature Wargames started off very close together. I thought one of them would die off quickly, but they didn’t.
Ah, that will be why I’ve not heard of it then – I’ve no interest in pdf magazines, I don’t read them nor subscribe to them (I had a free subscription to a football mag and I let that lapse).
For me if it’s not a printed mag then I avoid it.
I would love an wargaming magazine like the old Harbinger or Games Master (International) that covered all wargames. I flick from mags like WI etc but usually find I’m only interested in a couple of pages, so don’t pick them up. For example, one of them has a 2-page scenario for Frostgrave (a current favourite of mine) but nothing else in the mag interests me so I’ve passed on it.
Personally, I prefer a magazine I can hold, so I understand your viewpoint. However, these days I’m increasingly using a tablet to read stuff, so I’m slowly adapting. And if it’s only available digitally, it’s either that or miss out – so it depends on what you’re missing out on 🙂
The one concerning thing to me about the little we know so far about Initiative is that it aims to cover so wide an area. They say: “Our focus will be on all types of Miniature Gaming, board games, RPG’s skirmish and war games.” I can see them losing many sales for exactly the reason you suggest – some great stuff, but not enough of interest in a single issue. Then, of course, if they focus too tightly then their audience is diminishingly small. It’s a hard balance to strike.
I’m at the point now where pretty much all my novel and comic book reading are done by ereader and table respectively. I can’t do academic books electronically, and I can only do rulebooks if they have links from a contents page in the toolbar. The last few magazine subscriptions I’ve had were all electronic. It was before I had a tablet, though, and reading them on the laptop was awkward. As long as the page format is fitted to a tablet-sized screen then I’d happily get them in that format too.
I’m not clear from their remit what exactly they’re covering. Do they mean any type of gaming which uses miniatures, or all tabletop gaming? If it’s the former then miniatures boardgames are a natural fit, but RPGs much less so.
I can see RPGs working too, if done right. It’s a very broad remit though.
I buy Warhammer Visions for Blanchitsu & the pretty pictures, but other than that it has been years since I bought any wargaming magazines. Occasionally I flip through Wargames Illustrated or Miniature Wargames, but there’s never enough in there for me to buy them (one genuinely interesting article would suffice). Maybe because they’re historically oriented. Maybe because when it comes to content adaptable to other genres, there’s hardly anything really original.
It’s hard to be entirely original when it comes to writing articles, and not just in gaming. People who run mother and baby magazines have it easy because nobody buys them for more than a year. They can just re-run the whole thing when they get to the end, and as long as they’ve got a year’s content then they’re covered 🙂
But for everyone else, how many ways are there to tell people tactics, painting, historical accounts, unit histories, and so on? Not as many as you might think. However, you can always write better and worse versions of the same thing, so it’s not only about subject.
Talking about MW and WI, they generally do themes for each issue, which means that perhaps a third of the pages are devoted to one topic. It’s great if you’re into whatever it is, but if not then you’re left with very little. As I said before though, I think that well-written articles transcend their period, and so it’s more about getting quality writing than always getting the right subject.
If it’s not possible to produce enough original content on a regular basis to entice people to pay for it, then perhaps people shouldn’t produce a magazine. Or do so less often. Make it bi-annual instead of monthly. Internet made self-publishing easy and cheap, and as a result traditional media will have to up their game. There’s no way around it. MW & WI are well-written, yet I wouldn’t buy them every time even if they were packed with stuff about themes/games/miniatures I like. Not if it’s just average run-of-the-mill stuff.
A lot of zines start off less frequently than monthly, partly for this reason. The balance here is that when you launch you need to hold someone’s attention, and if you leave it for 3 months to follow up on that then you have to almost start from scratch again every time, building your audience.
As a question for you,Thomas, what sort of content would encourage you to buy an issue. And I mean specifically, not just “something new”. Is it painting articles like this, or battle reports that include that?
Much as mentioned already, I find little in newsstand gaming magazines that interests. The news is out of date and the content is nothing I can’t find online to a similar standard. I would like to read a magazine that really went into depth with its articles. I hate reading two page ‘features’ on games which are nothing more than a superficial introduction. Break the game down, tell me what works and what doesn’t, tell me about the meta. On top of that, give me industry business news (and analyse it too), in-depth interviews that aren’t just trying to sell me the interviewee’s latest game, insightful columns, delve into the history of gaming. I suspect this would be a) quite a bit of work to put together, and b) of interest to just me lol.
Well it would be of interest to me too 🙂 But I don’t see it happening, even though it’s one of the only two ways for a reader-paid magazine to survive. The other is to be a really pretty physical object. Lovely paper, top notch graphic design, gorgeous visuals… in short nothing current wargaming mags are known for :-p.
If I had the time to put something together like this myself, I’d do it as a PDF magazine rather than in print. I don’t think it’d be suited to a newsstand audience.
I’m not sure. It’s a different kind of reporting, and that may be the way forward. After all, if the internet is good at the immediate and the shallow, then isn’t in-depth the best place to compete?
As has been said, the internet is very good at news, and print (or PDF) really isn’t going to be anything other than stale if they just tell you what’s out. But if they did a decent analysis it may have value.
The internet is also replete with cursory examinations of the latest thing, reviews which consist of nothing more than a few photos, and a million videos on how to do basic painting. There’s very little in the way of well-written and in-depth analysis of games (and most of what’s about is on BGG). Again, that’s where it would seem wisest to compete.
I would guess that the gaming audience who may have previously been tempted to buy a zine will increasingly refuse to pay for anything they think they can find for free on the net. And that trend is unlikely to reverse itself. If that’s right, then it’s an interesting time for people that can write good articles. Does fly a bit in the face of the TL:DR (Too Lazy: Didn’t Read) brigade though. But then, would you ever have sold them an issue in the first place? I suspect you wouldn’t.
I do wish them well, and look forward to seeing what they come up with.
Oh, and as an aside, do you recall Continue magazine? https://quirkworthy.com/2013/02/11/a-different-kind-of-magazine/
I very vaguely remember the Continue campaign. Wasn’t something that grabbed my attention.
Although there are content-heavy newsstand magazines, particularly in areas like news and politics, I’m not sure if tabletop gaming is a big enough market to sustain one. Most hobbies go down the lifestyle route, and I’d include TTG in that. You buy the magazines as much as to associate your personal brand with that hobby as to actually read the stuff that’s in them. The Wrestling Observer is a good example of niche content-heavy journalism in a niche industry. That sells via online subscription and access, and has a fanbase whose interest in the niche product is sufficient that they want to read in-depth about all aspects of it.
It’s one of those things that’s not easy to tell without trying it. Are there enough people? Who knows? Market research can only take you so far.
It could do well on a subscription or mail order basis though, even in print.
Online subscription would definitely be viable. Print subscription is extra cost and work and I don’t think it would add anything above an online subscription. To begin with you’d probably want to make the first issue free, then sell single issues as they get released, and then look to build a fanbase to migrate over to a subscription service using recurring PayPal payments (and other such electronic payment methods).
Gaming magazines are an interesting subject and one that could be analysed in a number of different ways.
The fractious nature of the hobby with ‘some’ Historical gamers not always seeing other styles of games as being proper and vies-versa, it creates a situation that seems to encourage apartheid attitudes, and as such is a shame as there are a lot of games that slip through and fail as you said previously, ‘there’s a load of col stuff out there which deserves more attention and fails to get it because of marketing rather than game quality.’
That is very true, and a game that covers all aspects of the hobby with a more encompassed approach to games would be great.
I appreciate the latest thing is interesting and often sells, but it’s often the case it comes across as the article becomes the new games sell sheet and not a critique of the whole system and what the players really thought. And yes the internet is full of stuff and interesting sites and Blogs that cover memes, but they are singular and a singular voice with many having one aspect or interest like Frost Grave and that is the only subject. Yes we can view multiple blogs but it is often the same singular approach and therefore all those micro hobby games are missed.
Yup. It’s striking the balance that’s difficult. They have to cover some popular stuff to get the readers, but the popular stuff is also what’s been done to death…
I’ve heard it argued that the problem with gaming magazines, at the core, is that there’s typically a very low return on investment on advertising things to gamers. Without advertising money to be made, it’s financially difficult to justify high-quality content like battle reports.
There might just be too little money in the industry to support a viable enthusiast press, thinking about it. Wizards of the Coast and Games Workshop have their in-house magazines but I’m guessing that those are run as loss leaders for the brand.
I can’t comment on the costs of in-house magazines, but WI and MW aren’t the only gaming magazines that have been around for some years. That tells me that there is at least some sort of market out there.
I look at this as a sort of chicken and egg thing. If you don’t produce good content because there isn’t the revenue, then you won’t get the revenue to produce good content.
Since you asked, some stuff I would pay for (it’s geared towards fantasy & sci-fi since that’s what I’m into):
– articles & interviews on game design. Like the interviews with Brent Spivey and other designers on the Deltavector blog. This blog has quite a few nice pieces on game design, where the author weighs the pros & cons of different approaches. It’s important that these articles are more than promo pieces for this or that new game. I remember seeing a really shallow video Rick Priestley did on game design for his Gates of Antares game, and that is of no interest to me whatsoever.
– really in-depth game analysis: how does the game really work, what synergies are there in the rules, what sort of tactics are rewarded or punished. Where do they malfunction or break down. Not army list building as such but examining why & how this or that sort of army works. And yes, this should sometimes involve number crunching & probabilities.
– modpacks for existing games. An add on that converts a sci-fi to a fantasy game (but in an interesting way, not just “call all psykers magicians and a gun is now a bow”) for example. Alternative magic rules for Havoc. Another approach to soldiers in Frostgrave. But only if it’s clever stuff that actually makes a difference, so this might be something occasional only. The same would apply to campaigns, scenario’s. We all know the basics, every rulebook has them these days, but if someone comes up with something creative that’s still of interest. I got it with the main rules when I bought Rogue Planet, but the campaign rules included there were knew to me, and if I’d come across them in a magazine, that would have made me likely to buy that issue.
– tutorials that help average painters successfully paint in less common styles: monochromes for example, or how to achieve the vibe of certain paintings & illustrations (2D) to 3D miniatures. I don’t know if it can be done since I’m just an average tabletop painter, but I’d like to read a piece that teaches how to paint your medieval army to make it look like it just stepped out of 15th century altar piece.
– painting & modelling showcases of creative & unique models/conversions. The Iron Sleet people or Bigbossredskullz spring to mind as examples, but there are quite a few others.
– conversion tutorials on how to do new things with existing kits. As in, legs from kit A combine with bodies from B, arms from C and heads from third party manufacturer X to create a new type of soldier, creature, etc. This could be tied in with new rules, campaign settings, etc.
– pieces that stimulate the imagination. The False Machine or Soogagames blogs are nice examples (though RPG, and not miniature gaming). Both publish really cool short “background” idea & campaign setting pieces. There’s no reason to think it couldn’t be done for fantasy & sci-fi gaming. Creativity & writing skills are key here. And none of that dreary rulebook fiction!
– the visual counterpart of the above. Nothing wrong with pretty pictures. If fantasy or sci-fi, preferably not tied directly to the big commercial lines.
– industry information. Explaining both technical & commercial/economic aspects of the trade to lay people. But don’t treat us as idiots. and don’t leave out the numbers. If a major goes bust, how did it happen? Why did GW-killers invariably fail in the past? What’s the deal on plastic miniatures? Interviews with people who set up their own miniature or gaming business, but done properly, not just as padding to a publicity piece.
– miniature gaming history. Both personal memories from people who were there and historical articles (shorter versions of the approach taken in a book like Playing at the World).
An excellent and informative reply Thomas. Thank you very much.
From my perspective as a gamer I’d love to see all those things.
From my perspective as a writer and designer (and former editor) it sounds enormously difficult and would require an amazing team to pull off. Would be cool if you could get the resources to try though 🙂
It is enormously difficult! Not everything must be awesome & mindblowingly original all the time, but every issue will need to have some genuine highlights. Right now I’m missing that in miniature gaming magazines.
But I’m usually just told I’m jaded 😛
I have read through comments made and going back a few years I would agree with the physical Magazine View.. I used to go to the news agent and look for the latest model mag or miniatures mag.. Mainly Tamiya or Airfix mags or WD from GW
However, due to the nature of the internet i find myself reading much more electronic mags and as mentioned PDFs..
I find the advantage of an electronic Magazing is it does not take up space in the home it will not tear or get wet it will not collect dust or get thrown in the bin by the Mrs 😉
For this reason Online Magazines in my opinion are better, they take next to know room on a hard drive and can also be kept in a cloud programme like DropBox.
This is just my own personal opinion Not one for all at Initiative Magazine..
So lets go back to the start with Figure Painter Mgazine.. FPM was set up purely for the sole reason to look at what was available in the Miniature World.. be it 28mm or 200mm scale painter of all levels can look in the mag and see varying qulities of painted miniatures. There was also Companies who produced games but the focus was on the miniatures rather than the Game/Game Play. so in the respects of FPM it was targeted at painters who wanted to paint or learn to paint at all levels..this has grown into a really nice magazine and is now well over 30 issues..
FPM is the Parent Magazine to Initiative Magazine. In IM we aim to look at a broared scope of the Gaming Community, we will look at the big guys of course as they are a huge part of the Gaming scene. but we will indeed be looking at the smaller guys too with in depth article of Game development, game play,the miniatures and tutorials for painting the minaitures involved. we will also be looking at card based games such as Magic the gathering, RPGs, Historical gaming. and we will be looking at Kickstarters and other crowd funding campaigns which start off the small guy and recently there has been some very excitive games and products developed which deserve exposure over the big guys..
we will also be looking at Games from a gamers POV rather than a corporate jounalist writing an article they will be done by Gamers for Gamers. there will be many other items such as tutorials reviews interviews.
But at the monent we are finding our feet gathering information which will aid in releasing the first issue.
with the FPM team behind us we are hopefull IM will also be well over 30 issues in 3 years time..
But for now we have plans and we ar focussing on the first issue and this im sure will be the first rung on the ladder for IM in the electronic magazine industry..
If You guys wish to contact the magazine please feel free to jump on facebook and send us a messge and if you like what you see dont forget to hit the Like button 😉
Thanks for joining us IM 🙂
That was an unexpected move, and pleasantly one that proves interesting.
the “broad scope of the Gaming Community, we will look at the big guys of course as they are a huge part of the Gaming scene. but we will indeed be looking at the smaller guys too with in depth article of Game development, game play,the miniatures and tutorials for painting the miniatures involved. we will also be looking at card based games such as Magic the gathering, RPGs, Historical gaming. and we will be looking at Kickstarters and other crowd funding campaigns which start off the small guy and recently there has been some very excitive games and products developed which deserve exposure over the big guys..”
This sounds more interesting and something that expands the gap between TTG and MWG and casualgamerevolution it would be good.
I’ve been asked to join the crew at Initiative Magazine and I’m hoping we can meet all of the goals and suggestions mentioned above. Please, as Normski (IM) mentioned above, contact us on Facebook if you have any suggestions or ideas. I look forward to our first issue and seeing the response, and then improving from there.
Facebook page: facebook.com/initiativemagazine/