A Review of the New-Look White Dwarf Magazine
Like many wargamers I still fondly remember the first issue of White Dwarf magazine I ever bought. It was issue 190 way back in 1995 when I was just 11 years old. The magazine introduced me to brand-new worlds, from the dark and inhospitable future of the 41st Millennium to the industrial nightmare of the Underhive to the more familiar fantasy territory of Warhammer Fantasy Battle. It also came with a free miniature (a plastic ganger for Game-Workshop’s newly-released Necromunda game) which helped kick-start my collection of Citadel miniatures which has grown ever since.
Since that day I have been an avid reader of the magazine and have bought almost every copy of White Dwarf published between then and now. In that time many editors have come and gone and many changes have been made to the magazine. However, perhaps none of those changes can compare to the complete overhaul that the magazine has seen with the release of the latest issue. So, what’s changed and, perhaps more crucially, it it a change for the better or worse?
An All-New Design
The first thing to notice is the production values of the magazine. The magazine is weightier and printed on nice, thick paper. The whole magazine looks and feels much more lavish than before. The cover is fantastic as well, combining a very modern, clean look with a pleasingly retro logo. The matte and gloss effect of the cover is also very nice. However, what I really like about the cover is the use of a photograph of a model as the cover image rather than the painted artworks we are used to seeing. Not that I have anything against the studio artists (and many of the covers were fantastic) but the new issue places the models were they belong, at the forefront of the magazine. After all, as Jervis Johnson points out in his column this issue, ‘ours is primarily a collecting hobby’ and ‘the act of collecting miniatures comes first’.
The clean modern look is continued throughout the issue. Models are nicely photographed, often against red backgrounds which is very distinctive and looks great. This really showcases the models to their best advantage. The ‘New Releases’ section features some fold-out pages which just seemed a bit gimmicky and these were hard to read unless sitting at a table.
However, the changes to the magazine are not merely superficial, the content has changed significantly as well and this issue heralds the beginning of what promise to be regular features. One of the things that I really liked about these was the renewed emphasis on painting and modelling that these articles introduce. We have ‘Army of the Month’, ‘Parade Ground’, ‘Kit Bash’ and ‘Battle Ground’ all of which focus on the painting and modelling aspects of the hobby. There is also a great feature called ‘Paint Splatter’ (perhaps not the best title for a painting article as presumably ‘paint splatter’ is what you want to avoid when painting models…) which covers techniques for painting the models found across the rest of the magazine. For example, the ‘Army of the Month’ this month is Ben Johnson’s Skaven and ‘Paint Splatter’ tells you how he went about painting his army. Similarly, the article covers techniques used for painting many of the new Horus Heresy models that are seen throughout the issue. In fact there seems to be a real attempt to establish such connections across different articles in the magazine which I really like.
This issue also sees the return of the designers’ notes which have been lacking in recent issues. These take the form of an article by Codex: Chaos Space Marines author Phil Kelly along with another by Jes Goodwin who designed much of the new range of models. Both of these articles are illustrated by plenty of concept art for the new models. I have always liked these features in White Dwarf as, in many ways, they are like the DVD extras of the hobby, letting you see behind the scenes. Personally, I find these glimpses into the design process fascinating and it’s always nice to find out why the designers did something a certain way and what their inspirations were.
Battle Reports are still a feature of the magazine and the new format is very clear and easy to follow. However, I don’t really have much else to add about this as they are not drastically different from what we are used to.
The only article I didn’t really like was another new regular feature ‘The Rivals’ (and no, in case you were wondering, it hasn’t got anything to do with the eighteenth-century play of the same name). In this article, the blurb tells us, ‘we take two highly skilled players and pit them against one another in a head-to-head tactical debate about both their armies’. Essentially the article begins well with both players discussing what they usually take in their respective armies and why along with a discussion of the tactics they use. So far so good. However, where the article falls down is in the next section where the players go head-to-head and discuss who would win in a battle. This seems to be nothing more than random speculation of the sort that you can all-too-easily find on the internet and the rationale for including this in the magazine is a little vague. The players do eventually fight a battle to see who is proven right but this isn’t really covered in detail and is relegated to a few lines at the end of the piece. This article might have been better had it had a stronger rationale, such as two players coming up with very different builds/tactics for the same army which would give it a stronger focus.
Overall I was very impressed by this issue and the new direction that the magazine seems to be heading in. The focus on painting and modelling is something that really appeals to me although I am aware of the fact that some readers would prefer more articles about rules and tactics, however, we may see more articles like this in the future. It’s hard to judge from reading just one issue.
What I really liked about this issue, though, was that it has some real content. The articles were, for the most part, interesting and engaging and had a lot more depth to them than a lot of the articles that we have seen in recent issues. It took me longer to read this issue than previous ones (which largely seemed to involve lots of pictures and little in the way of text) and it will definitely stand up to rereading. I also like the repeated calls throughout the magazine for readers’ submissions (this even goes as far as suggesting that there is ‘a tenth member of the White Dwarf team … and that’s you, the reader!’). This was always an enjoyable feature of earlier White Dwarfs and I am glad to see it make a comeback. It would be great to see the readers get more involved in the magazine.