Tabletop Review: White Dwarf, Issue #31 (Warhammer: The End Times)

White Dwarf, Issue #31
Publisher: Games Workshop
Cost: $3.99
Release Date: 08/20/2014
Get it Here: The Black Library

Warhammer: The End Times continues! After how great last week’s issue was I’ve decided to buckle down and get the magazine for the next few weeks as I’m really enjoying the content. I’m sure once the focus goes back to 40K or The Hobbit, I’ll stop picking this up regularly, but for now the magazine purchases (and thus reviews) will be like clockwork.

First up are the articles on the new minis and set collections available for sale this week. Hey, it wouldn’t be White Dwarf without a sales pitch, right? While the pieces on the Army of the Silver Pinnacle, The Black Host and the Army of Sternieste are sales pieces showing previous released models grouped for easy purchase (without the bundle discount most companies would do, of course), but these do at least include so flavor text talking about the origins and makeup of the army. My favorite of these was the Black Host since it was about Bretonnia.

Then we have the new Mortarch models. Now, these models are new versions of classic Warhammer characters in new poses in addition to being mounted on gigantic undead steeds known as Dread Abyssals. Each kit contains the pieces to make each Mortarch, but of course you can only make one. With a price tag of $79 each (or $237 for the set), these pieces are pretty expensive, but they are also extremely large, so you should get your money’s worth if you’re looking to start a new Undead Legion army or bolster up your already existing Tomb Kings/Vampire Counts. Your Mortarch choices are Mannfred Von Carstein, Arkhan the Black and Neferata and all of them look great. I’m seriously considering getting an Arkhan or Neferata for my Tomb Kings but I’m on the fence right now. I’m waiting for my copy of The End Times to arrive so that I can get a good look at the stats and point values before I decide to take the plunge. I was a bit disappointed last issue had stats for Nagash but this lacks any for the new models.

Of course the models aren’t the only thing getting a sales pitch this issue. You also have a piece for the new issue of Warhammer Visions (Do people actually purchase this?), a basecoat spray of Zandri Dust for mass undead painting (Which I don’t get as it’s khaki tan rather than bone coloured) and two new novels. The first is The Doom of Dragonback which is about goblins vs. dwarves and Kinslayer which is the newest Gotrex and Felix novel. This novel is an End Times tie-in and is the first part of a story arc called, “The Doom of Gotrek Gurnisson.” Apparently a major Warhammer character (or more) bites the big one in this, so fans of this twosome might want to check it out. I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of Warhammer but The Return of Nagash is one of the best gaming novelsthis year, so maybe I’ll pick up the Gotrex and Felix one just to see how things end with those venerable character – unless of course it’s a swerve (which is probably is since it’s the start of a new arc).

These quasi-sales articles take up roughly 28% of the magazine. From there though we get actual substance pieces. Of course quality varies in these articles, especially in the eye of the beholder, but for the most part it’s pretty good and well worth the cover price. “Codex: Apocryphya” covers the history of Nagash’s was with the God-King Sigmar. “The Chronicles of Death” is a long article covering the history of undeath in Warhammer You learn about Nagash’s early years and his battles with Settra and Alcadizzar. You get the origins of vampires and the schemes of both Vlad and Mannfred. You even get some history on Arkhan the Black. It’s a nice long in-depth piece which is inviting to newcomers while also serving as a fun refresher for longtime Warhammer fans. The last bit of fiction fluff is a Nagash timeline going from -2000 to the current year of 2522 where Nagash returns.

The last half of the magazine consists of mechanics and painting pieces. “The Lore of Undeath” talks about the new form of magic available to spellslingers from ANY army. Unfrotunately this article really doesn’t go into too much depth about the lore. It talks mostly about the summoning aspect of the mahic type and how you can use these pieces tactically, even if they don’t score victory points. I wish there would have been more conversation about what else the Lore of Undeath does. That says, the sheer number of free troops you can get from this means my Tomb Kings priests (and perhaps even my Slaan) will be taking this. Although I wanted a little more substance from this article as the Lord of Undeath, at least you get the Undead Legion army list. It’s weird seeing Neferata and Khalida on the same list. It’s also interesting to see Prince Apophas listed as a hero.

“Raising the Dead” is a fun article by White Dwarf lead designer Matt Hutson. It talks about the evolution of his Vampire Counts army and how it started with a single zombie dragon and the Blood in the Badlands campaign book and its evolution over the years. It sells us a bit on the new Mannfred figure with its dread abyssal, but it’s a really fun look at the organic growth of a Warhammer army. I know my Tomb Kings started with the Casket of Souls and my original Undead army from back in Fifth Edition started with the Red Duke mounted vampire lord figure, so this piece really resonated with me.

“Paint Splatter” is all about hints and tips for painting Mannfreed and his dread abyssal to top tier quality. I really enjoyed the different layers of the bones and ethereal skulls, but I did have to balk at the idea of TEN layers for Manfred’s skin and EIGHT for his cloak. That’s a little too intense/anal retentive for me.

“Designer Notes” is a talk with Edgar Ramos who created the three new Mortarch sculpts up for pre-order this week (and also profiled in this issue). You get to see his original design concepts and hear why he chose the characters to be mortarchs. This was a very interesting read to me as I assumed the process at GW would be, “Here are the minis we want you to make.” Rather than letting the designers choose and the story then fit around them. About the only thing missing from this article was “then and now” pictures showing the old models for some of these characters compared to their new ones.

The last fifth of the magazine are the “This Week in White Dwarf” short articles. We get a fantastic read on how to best photograph your miniatures which is something many people will want to re-read several times over as it is filled to the brim with top notch advice. The model of the week is one of the web exclusive Space Marines from earlier this year, which was nice to see fully painted (I have both, but unopened). “How Did They Do That?” is a short and shallow look at blending. They mention a technique called “feathering” but don’t bother to explain what it is or how to do it, so this was a bit disappointing. Not everyone is a master painter who already knows all the tips and techniques after all. After that we get bits and pieces of filler, three necromancer biographies and the magazine wraps up.

So, Issue #31 wasn’t as jaw droppingly awesome as issue #30, but it was still a great read and well worth the four dollar price tag. That’s two solid issues in a row from a magazine whose quality level is usually ALL OVER THE PLACE. I think Warhammer; The End Times has really revitalized things, not just for Warhammer fans, but for Games Workshop employees as well. I can’t wait for next week’s issue and if White Dwarf can keep the sales pitch on the down-lo (trademark Bebito Jackson) while continuing to pen articles with substance about the hobby, mechanics, painting tips and the like, I’ll continue to pick these up. It’s hard to believe just how good the new version of White Dwarf has become since the switchover, but I’m loving every minute of it. Here’s hoping that when we move on from The End Times, the level of quality we’ve seen in the past two issues doesn’t go away too.

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