Tabletop Review: White Dwarf, Issue #33 (Space Hulk, Warhammer: The End Times)

White Dwarf, Issue #33
Publisher: Games Workshop
Cost: $3.99
Release Date: 09/13/2014
Get it Here:The Black Library (Digital)/Your local Games Workshop store (Physical)

SPACE HULK RE-RELEASE. That is pretty much this issue of White Dwarf in a nutshell. By the time you are reading this, this new version is probably completely sold out, so you’ll have to go and try your luck at Games Workshop stores on the 20th or have to deal with third party sellers and their insane markups. I’ve played the original Space Hulk and I own the latest video game version (not the FPS from the 90s), so I decided to take the plunge and get the re-release. Mainly because my wife and I like tile board games like Castle Ravenloft and HeroQuest, but also because it was a much cheaper way to add to my Guardians of the Covenant army. Space Hulk is $125. A Squad of five Terminators costs between fifty and sixty dollars (the latter is for Deathwing) so it’s roughly ten bucks a Terminator. You get eleven in this set, which is a $110 value. Plus you get a Librarian in Terminator armor, which is $22.25 normally. That right there is $132.25 for just the Space Marines in Space Hulk, so the set pays for itself. Even better, all the Terminators are exclusive sculpts to the game, so they’ll really stand out when fielded in a 40K match. The board game and Genestealer Tyranids are just gravy. Of course, I’ll be painting mine to match my Guardians rather than as Blood Angels. If you haven’t pre-ordered yet, you might want to do so, as value and Games Workshop are rarely synonymous together. Okay, enough of me selling you on Space Hulk. I’m not a White Dwarf article after all. Let’s look at the mag.

Much of the magazine is a massive hard sell on Space Hulk. Sure, this is to be expected as it is White Dwarf, but the very first article is a return to the old ways of this magazine, where it was 100% sales pitch and 0% content. “Space Hulk” really does try to sell you on the game and its components. The article takes up a whopping sixteen percent of the magazine, so this is the hardest sell White Dwarf has done since the change to a weekly format. It is a little disappointing to see a return to form after so many reviews in a row applauding the new direction with content being king, but this is a big deal for Games Workshop, so I can understand the reasoning for this piece, even if I don’t like it. The article is a breakdown of the parts, a look at the new pieces in this edition and some pictures of the models in the game.

There are a few other sales articles, like one for the Sin of Damnation novel, a “Black Library: Quick Read” and the Tryanid Dimachaeron from Forge World. Interestingly enough, the magazine doesn’t mention the digital expansion for Space Hulk that lets you play as Ultramarines, Space Wolves or Deathwings. Perhaps that’s because they are iOS only and fifteen bucks just for each chapter’s rules sheet. That’s insane. When is Games Workshop going to move to PDF like every other publisher? It’s more effective and it reaches far more gamers. Between the horrible format of the White Dwarf digital magazine and the crazy way they do digital books, Games Workshop is costing itself money. Of course, these three variants are in old versions of White Dwarf from back in the day, so you can probably pick those issues up (158, 201 and 205) on the third party market for less than the digital versions. Do that instead. In the meantime, here’s a free copy of the old school Space Marine rules. You’re welcome.

“Space Hulk: Beachhead” is another long article, taking up more than a fourth of the magazine! You rarely see White Dwarf articles of this size. Here the WD team takes a look at the first mission in Space Hulk, breaking down the objectives for both the Blood Angels and the Genestealers, the specific rules for this missions, and then a long battle report showcasing the eight turns of the mission. It’s an extremely detailed look at this single mission, and by the time it is done, you have a very good idea of how to play Space Hulk as well as the tactics that will win or lose you the mission based on which side you are playing as. I don’t want to give any spoilers as to which side won, but if you’ve ever played Space Hulk, you do know the odds are stacked against the Blood Angels and that only good tactical strategy keeps them alive. The article is well worth the cover price if you pick up White Dwarf for battle reports or are really interested in Space Hulk.

Following that up is yet another article on Space Hulk. “Disable the Shields” is a new mission for Space Hulk that you’ll only find in this issue of White Dwarf. It was pretty common for White Dwarf to issue exclusive missions to readers, so it’s nice to see this trend continuing. It not only extends the replay value of Space Hulk, but gives owners of the game an impetus to pick up White Dwarf regularly. It’ll be interesting to see how many of these we get. This particular mission involves a two level playing field and a team of five space marines has to do the name of the adventure – disable the shields. It’s a lot harder than it sounds, and it seems like it’s going to be really hard. I’ll have to wait for my copy of the game to arrive to see if the Blood Angels can pull this one off.

“United in Undeath” returns us to the Undead Legions and Warhammer: the End Times, which has been the focal point of the past few issues of White Dwarf. This particular article is supposed to talk about creating an army focused around the new version of Arkhan the Black… unlike my poor Tomb Kings, which were designed around the original chariot riding one. Unfortunately, the article is a terrible one. It just talks about how the author was inspired by the new Return of Nagash novel and is little more than an attempt to sell you on some Undead Legions miniatures. There’s no actual advice on creating an army or talking about synergies between models like Khalida and skeleton archers. There’s no commentary on points values or anything at all. It’s simple a really badly done sales pitch of “buy this and this and this!” without any substance or reasoning behind it. Yuck.

“Sprues and Glue,” however, is a wonderful undead themed article, and it’s the exact type of article that EVERY ISSUE of White Dwarf should offer. It’s a talk about taking bits and pieces from other armies and combining them with undead miniatures to make some unique figures, like undead Empire or Bretonnians. I know Titan Forge has some amazing undead Orcs and Goblins, which I have to fill out my rank and file troops. They even has some great Orc Vampires and the like to use as Heroes or Lords in your Vampire Counts army. This isn’t a pitch for them, but an alternative if you lack the skill, time or resources to kitbash. Anyway, this article is very much in line with one found in one of my old Vampire Counts Army Books, where it showed how to make undead Empire figures, with my personal favorites being Flagellants used as Spirit Hosts. This one shows how to make a Bretonnian zombie or a Man-at-Arms skeleton. The zombie looks terrible, but the skeleton looks awesome, and since I have so many Bretonnian figures just waiting for new models and a sourcebook to be released, I might experiment with some of these. There is also an Empire Skeleton and an Empire Zombie – both of which look great. I have never had an interest in the Empire at all, so I have no figures to do this with. Obviously, the tips in this article really only apply to the plastic/resin models of today and don’t carry over with the old white metal/pewter figures from the Oldhammer days. This is a great article though, and perhaps the best piece in the entire magazine. Kitbashing deserves a lot more attention from WD, especially since a lot of new people will be coming into Warhammer for the first time via The End Times.

The last real article of the issue is “Paint Splatter” and it gives coat and colour tips for the Genestealker and Blood Angels in Space Hulk. The pictures of the layers are nicely done, but a little more verbal advice would have gone a long way for those that learn better by reading than seeing. Other than that though, it’s a fine article for those planning to paint their Space Hulk models in the same exact fashion as Games Workshop.

The latter fourth of the magazine is the usual This Week in White Dwarf article collection, which is mostly filler, like the Model of the Week, Bitz of the Week and a poorly done advice column. I really wish they’d use this section for a higher quality of content, but as in every issue, there’s at least one good read in the bunch. In this case it is “The Return of Space Hulk,” which gives a brief overview on what a Space Hulk is, as well as a spoiler-free history of the Blood Angels. Everything else is mostly skippable because you are probably Space Hulk‘d out by this point. The brief Space Hulk pieces are fluff talking about the characters in Space Hulk, the fun of switching roles (playing both Blood Angels and Genestealers) in Space Hulk and a list of canon Space Hulks floating around the 40K universe.

All in all, Issue #33 of White Dwarf is an issue you should definitely purchase if you have pre-ordered the newest version of Space Hulk, but is a definite miss otherwise. There are only two articles in the issue that aren’t about the game, so you can certainly miss this issue if you aren’t getting Space Hulk. Overall, the quality of the articles is still pretty good, although it is a bit more in-line with the old “paid advertisement masquerading as a magazine” that White Dwarf devolved into before it became a weekly periodical. I was disappointed by that, but at least there are enough quality articles in this issue to still make it worth your $3.99. Heck, the exclusive Space Hulk mission alone does that.

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