Inside Pulse 12

Tabletop Review: White Dwarf, October 2012

White Dwarf Magazine, October 2012
Publisher: Games Workshop
Page Count: 152
Cost: $10
Release Date: 09/22/2012
Get it Here: Games Workshop

So I’m totally new to the tabletop versions of Warhammer. Sure, I’ve played all the video games and I’ve read several rule books and several of the Army/Codex releases, but I’ve never played an actual game until my recent purchase of Dark Vengeance for Warhammer 40,000. It looked neat, seemed like a great jumping on point and was exceptionally cheap compared to other GW products. I’ve fiddled around with it, put all the guys together, painted a few and decided what I want to build both my Space Marine armies (Chaos and Guardians of the Covenant) up with. However, I decided to pick up the new issue of White Dwarf, my first ever to help increase my knowledge of the game.

I picked up White Dwarf, October 2012 for several reasons. One, it focused on the Chaos Space Marines, which as one of the two armies in my DV starter, I wanted to learn more about. The second is that like Dark Vengeance was the jumping on point for Warhammer 40K, Sixth Edition, Games Workshop promised a completely new and retooled White Dwarf Magazine. While long time fans and readers might have preconceived notions and biases about the changes, as I am completely new to Warhammer, I knew I’d be going in wide-eyed and optimistic. After all, EVERYTHING about the magazine would be new to me. The third is that I miss physical copies of gaming magazines. I’ve picked up Kobold Quarterly but never found it very impressive. I guess I long for the days of the old TSR Dragon and Dungeon magazines. Hell, even Inquest or The Duelist were okay now and then. I’m a big believer in using my Kindle and Kindle Fire instead of paper, but sometimes, you just get the longing for a gaming mag, you know? Finally, I remembered that when White Dwarf Magazine won our best gaming mag of the year award in out 2012 Tabletop Gaming Awards, there were some readers that complained loudly and bitterly about that getting the duke. As a non-Warhammer player and non White Dwarf reader, I couldn’t comment either way. Now I would finally get the chance to see why that was the one award our readers disagreed with. So what did I think of the newest and my first issue of White Dwarf? It’s time to take a look.

So let’s talk about the good first. This is one gorgeous looking magazine. It’s stylish, glossy, in full colour and it’s just beautiful to behold. The pictures are great and I especially loved the pull-out gatefold pages on the Forgefiend and Maulerfiend miniatures. Cthulhu knows I want one; I’m just not sure which. I like the look of the Maulerfiend better, but man o man, does the Forgefiend seem more fun. Basically this magazine is just slick from cover to cover and it does a great job of being one giant ad for Warhammer 40K. People already into the system will most likely really enjoy the look at the new Chaos Space Marines.

That however leads me into the bad. First, the magazine is JUST about Warhammer 40K. There was a PARAGRAPH on The Lord of the Rings game they do, and only two flimsy articles on Warhammer Fantasy, one of which was just pictures of some guy’s Skaven collection and the other was a very brief look at a Dark Elf army Vs a Vampire Counts one. I realize 40K is the biggest money maker for Games Workshop, but this really should have been balanced out better. Right after picking up Dark Vengeance, a friend gave me roughly 2,000 points of old Lizardmen guys from the late 90s, unopened and unassembled (along with 50+ paints that had basically dried out except for the inks). I would have really liked to have learned more about that game AND The Lord of the Rings, but White Dwarf seems to care naught for either. Maybe it was just this one issue and it was because GW really wants to sell the new techno-organic look for Chaos Marines, but the unbalanced coverage left me a little cold.

Another problem I had is that the magazine was not very newcomer friendly. What I liked about a lot of the older gaming mags (and even some new ones like Pathways is that they try to remember that every issue is someone’s first and be more inviting to those new gamers. Not so with White Dwarf. This magazine read like it was for people who have been playing for decades, and so at times I had to look stuff up online to know what it was talking about – not something you want with a magazine. This also turned me off.

Finally, the magazine read like one giant ad to me. There were no real articles about painting tips, or how to assemble an army and WHY said army would work. It was primarily pictures and articles that read like the fake articles that are actually paid for ads you routinely find in magazines. I already am buying your game. Give me substance. You don’t need to sell me anymore. I would have liked a bit of fiction, maybe a few stat block examples for the new Chaos troops (but then if they did that, god forbid someone doesn’t purchase a $50 Chaos Space Marine codex) I guess. I went in looking for maybe some info about the new pieces, like how to use them, point costs, stat blocks and the like, but all the “article” on the new Chaos Space Marine pieces gave me were some beautiful pictures and copy that was little more than fluff and hype. Disappointing.

So let’s look at the articles. “New Releases” was a look at the Chaos Space Marines that are about to hit the market. The pictures and layout were stunning and I loved looking at all the different minis to add to my DV CSM team (I chose Warp Talons and a Heldrake. Maybe the Sorcerer too). However again, the whole thing read like an advertisement rather than an actual article with news and information about the pieces. I’d have liked to have seen some stats, point values and the like. At least there were plenty of pictures highlighting the detailing on these things along with the super quality paint job that I myself will never be able to achieve. Still, thirty-one pages on this topic and no real substance behind it.

“Army of the Month” was neat, but it suffered from the same problems as “New Releases.” It was six pages of pictures, which is great, but there was no meat behind it. If I wanted to just look at pictures of Warhammer figures, that’s what the Internet is for. Players love to post pics of their minis from what I’ve seen. Five paragraphs is not really an article in my opinion. Let’s see why the writer chose various pieces. Perhaps some info on how he painted them. Maybe some 1,2 and 3,000 point army lists. Again, things look great in White Dwarf, but I’m not seeing enough substance.

“Battle Report” was the best article in the magazine as it gave a descriptive battle between the White Scars (a group of Space Marines) and the new Chaos Space Marines set. Both armies were 1750 points and by having a full description of a game, you not only get to see how the new pieces hold up in play, but it also gives newcomers like myself some insight into how 40K veterans build their armies and more importantly, how they field them. Unfortunately the Chaos Space Marines suffered a 4-0 loss which probably isn’t the best way to “showcase” the new releases, especially when you’re trying to sell them. The good news is that shutout score bellies how the game really went. After all these are new pieces and people have to learn how to use them. Remember when Necropotence first game out in Magic: The Gathering. No one knew what to do with it and found it useless. Then look what happened. As well, if you read the actually article, the game was quite close in terms of what was left on the board. If the CSM didn’t have such bad rolls, things could have been dramatically different. For myself, I was most interested in seeing how the Heldrake and Warp Talons did. Thankfully they proved to be as good in combat as they looked. Articles like this are what I hoped to see in White Dwarf and so at least here, I was not disappointed.

“The Rivals” was a similar article, although it was about Warhammer Fantasy armies and was nowhere as in-depth or detailed. Here two players described their armies and opposing strategies. In this case it was about a Dark Elf army with power and abilities spread equally through the pieces Vs a Vampire Counts army that focused on a few crazy powerful vampires. I enjoyed that both players gave an army list (2,400 points) and the reasoning behind what they chose, but then there wasn’t any real description of how things went down between the two armies. All we get is a single paragraph about how things fared. That’s…disappointing. A word I’m using all too much with this magazine.

Other articles included, “The Horus Hersey” which looked at the novels and miniatures from that time period in the 40K setting. It was interesting, well written and had beautiful pictures, Unfortunately I was lost on occasion throughout it. That’s my fault as a newcomer and not the fault of the article itself. There was something called, “Blanchitsu” which was short, mostly art and had no real depth. Just some guy’s collection. Now by “some guy,” I mean Games Workshop’s longtime art director. Again, though – not enough substance to go with the pretty pictures. “Citadel Hall of Fame” was a very transparent ad for one of GW’s own products – in this case the Necron Nightbringer. Really? You’re going to have a Hall of Fame for your own product? That seems way to sleazy for me. Articles like “Parade Ground” and “Kit Bash” were again 95% pictures, although the former is about paint jobs and the latter on modifying models. Unfortunately, neither talks about anything. It’s just pictures and paragraph or two praising a job well done. For the paint jobs. Why not talk about what colours were used and the painting techniques each hobbyist has. For “Kit Bash,” instead of showing the final product assembled, tell what was modified, HOW it was modified and tips on how to help others re-create the same effects. Again, the magazine looks great, but where’s the depth and meat that articles need?

“Battlegrounds” was the other article I really liked. It took was full of beautiful photos, but it also talked about how the scenery was made. I’d have liked some more how-tos for things like the water coming out of the sluice gate effects, but this still had more substance than most articles in the magazine.

“Paint Splatter” is eight pages of what is supposed to be “a wealth of handy painting tips and ideas,” but it starts off slightly weak. One page was of four Chaos Space Marines, but all you are given is a list of four to five paints. No techniques of photos of the models in their various stages of completion. Just a shot of the final paint job and a list of paints. How is that helpful? Now that’s not true about the second page of the article. Here it gives a list ways to make things look rusted and it gives multiple photos, one in each stage of the painting process along with a list of paints and brushes used along the way. That’s awesome! From there you get the same breakdown for Daemonfire, Dakkajets, Ork Checks and Skaen Warpstones. However the article peters out by looking at some Hersey-era Space Marines that have the same problem as the first page. So basically the bookends of the article are terrible, but the middle four pages are terrific.

Amazingly, the next sixteen pages are all ads for Games Workshop in some way. Maybe it’s for the official Facebook page, or trying to get people to sell GW products at their store, but it’s all ads. Why put ads in for a product the reader is obviously already buying. You have to go to someplace that tells Warhammer products to pick this up in the first place. Either that or place a subscription through the Games Workshop website. It makes no sense. Neither does the pages and pages of store listings. That’s what “Store Finder” on the website is for. These are just wasted pages, pure and simple.

The last fourteen pages are about what is going on over at the GW HQ The British one, not the Glen Burnie, MD one. None of it is particularly interesting or useful. It’s fluff such as pictures of staffers gaming or pictures of painted minis by staffers. Same with the section on Forge World Studio. There was already a massive article on their Horus Heresy bits, so why devote two more pages to pics, some of which were in the earlier article. The six pages on the “Design Studio” were neat, if only for the early artwork of what would eventually become the new CSM models. It’s always fun to see what did or didn’t translate from the original sketches.

All in all, White Dwarf did not make a very good first impression on me. Sure the issue was huge, and had gorgeous photo to go with the incredible quality of the interior pages, but said interior was almost devoid of any real substance, discussion about the products being showcase and at the end of the day, it felt like I had spent my time reading a 150 page ad for Warhammer 40K rather than learning something new or interesting about this hobby I am starting to dabble in. When I can say I only really liked two to three articles in the whole magazine, that’s not really a good sign. At this point I have no idea if this “relaunch/remake” was just a bad first issue or if I can expect forthcoming issues to be just as shallow and insipid. Right now I have no plans to pick up any future issues and Cthulhu knows I won’t get a subscription to this like I did with Dragon. I definitely can’t say White Dwarf, October 2012 is worth a ten spot or even half that. There’re some great photos of minis to be had here, but little else. I’m crossing my fingers this was just a bad first issue for me to pick up, but right now I’m skeptical of that.

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  • The reason it was so focused was because Warhammer 40k Sixth Edition had just come out as well as the new Chaos Marines codex. When Warhammer Fantasy 8th Edition came out, the magazine was pretty much focused on Fantasy for a while…oh and Lord of the Rings is basically the red headed step child of the company, it expected big things from the franchise but it flopped so they don’t really pay attention to it any more.

    But in reality, White Dwarf has been one giant ad you have the privilege of buying for quite some time now. Can you believe it was even more advertising than this in the earlier format?

    The only decent thing about the magazine is the occasional painting guide and the regular battle reports but both of those can be found online for free and in video form (for example, Miniwargaming.com or beastsofwar.com)

  • Oh, I knew it would be focusing on the new products. That’s why I picked it up. I just got 6th Edition by way of DV so I wanted to learn more about the new guys to add to my Chaos army. Unfortunately, all I got was a lot of pretty pictures and no real information.

    Weird that LOTR is the stepchild of GW, especially since they just re-upped the license for four more years. I wonder why they would do that if no one plays it?

    It used to be even more of an ad? How so??? Why do people purchase and read White Dwarf then?

    Thanks for the links. I’ll check those out!

  • They re-upped the license I believe because they’re hoping the Hobbit can rejuvenate the franchise.

    Basically, it used to be even more of an because you see those final pages where it’s literally just straight up ads? They had more of those :P

    White Dwarf succeeds because it’s simply sold to newer players just entering the hobby. When I first joined a couple years ago, I bought White Dwarf for a few months before stopping due to all the ads and finding websites. Sometimes, they print exclusive rules in WD such as a while ago where the Sisters of Battle got a new mini-codex in WD for some reason…..