On White Dwarf: What’s The Problem With A Sentence Or Two?

Tybalt posted this first on his facebook page. We had intended to cover the new white dwarf launch ourselves, but Tybalt summed up our feeling so succinctly we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel – we’re reproduced it here with his permission.

Check back for Tybalt’s 40k Hall of Fame selection soon!

A reflection upon White Dwarf Weekly and Warhammer Visions

At the turn of the New Year, I had just returned from a festive break in Scotland, where a huge stock of my White Dwarfs is still permitted (under a certain degree of sufferance) to live in storage in an otherwise-unused cupboard. Upon returning to my own house, I read what turned out to the last ever monthly White Dwarf, and commented on Facebook that, for a magazine, it could have done with a few more words. Shortly afterwards, the GW community learned that White Dwarf was no more, to be replaced with dual release of the new titles ‘White Dwarf Weekly’ and ‘Warhammer Visions’.

I’ve now read them both. It didn’t take long…

There is a danger, I am well aware, that in choosing to write this short piece, I am going to sound like a hoary traditionalist, forever resistant to change. This is not my intent. But if I don’t see myself as a traditionalist, what am I?

I have been involved in the GW hobby for twenty-two years. I am not certainly not, and never have been, a ‘competitive’ player of either 40K or Fantasy. The tournament scene strikes me as wholly missing the point of the hobby. I am an above-average painter, though I have never struck the heights of winning major painting competitions. I thrive on the rich background that underpins the worlds Games Workshop has created; narrative and ‘background-appropriate’ armies thrill me, and I devour new codices and source material eagerly. I have, in my student days, done what many hobbyists have done, and worked for GW as key-time staff, giving me a chance to further indulge my hobby-fix and (honestly!) because I felt I was giving something back to the company that provided my hobby for so long. Alongside the main games systems, I am an avid supporter of the ‘specialist’ games, and have been heavily involved in the Inquisitor game system since it was released.

Glory Days Of White Dwarf

In my twenty-two year hobby span, I have maintained an unbroken chain of White Dwarfs. I know what I’m looking for in magazine to keep my hobby juices flowing.

What I have always hoped for from White Dwarf is that it will occupy a couple of hours of my attention, lost in the hobby universe. When it’s done that well, it has always done so by giving me words to get my teeth into; detailed design notes behind publications, expanded painting articles for the advanced painter, short stories, expanded details for troop types, new background that I’ve never seen anywhere else, battle reports – whether narrative or ‘factual’ – that conjure the action with prose and paragraph as well as photos. When it’s done that well – Stillmania, Index Astartes, the ‘Eavy Metal Masterclass, new canon such as Malekith’s Invasion of Ulthuan, the Third War for Armageddon – White Dwarf was even more welcome than any new Codex or Army Book. I genuinely credit my immersion in the GW hobby with my burgeoning and diverse childhood vocabulary – White Dwarf was a part of that, always rewarding a teenage return-reader.

Truth be told, I believe White Dwarf has been going seemingly downhill for several years now. I see the real heyday of the magazine in the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2000s. Recent efforts have drastically reduced the word count, and seemingly re-focused the magazine as a glorified product catalogue and entry-level publication, while gradually pushing the price upwards. Sadly, the debuts of neither of the new titles give me much indication they’re going to restore White Dwarf to where it has been in the past.

And So It Has Come To This…

White Dwarf Weekly feels not-so-much a magazine, and more of a pamphlet – it’s no thicker than brochures that would previously come free with a monthly White Dwarf. The page count is still heavily weighted towards new releases, the painting content appears as basic as it has been for the last few years, and the articles carried by Issue 1, while (perhaps) conceptually promising in focus don’t contain anything to hold my attention, being all-too-brief and superficial in their analysis. Especially since White Dwarf changed in focus in late 2012, much of the text effectively repeats, “Our new releases are fantastic – I can’t wait for the next ones!”, in a dozen different disguises. I’m not even going to pass serious comment on ‘This Week in White Dwarf’ – I can do without the tongue-in-cheek content in a publication so short. If White Dwarf Weekly were twice the length, for the same price, it might have legs if there were a desire to introduce more detailed content. As it stands, I’m let down.

If White Dwarf Weekly appears even more aimed at hobby novices, what of the new title, Warhammer Visions? Is this the tome I’m hoping for? Sadly, Issue 1 was a serious let down – I genuinely struggle to understand it. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a miniatures showcase, with incredibly sparse text reduced even further by the bizarre decision to reproduce each pitifully short paragraph in three languages. While some of the miniatures are undoubtedly lovely, I don’t understand why you would opt to purchase this when you can hunt down a wealth of stunning miniatures online. It feels like a sister magazine that *could* have been viable a decade ago, when the online miniatures scene was nascent, but seems sadly redundant now. Unforgivably, even this new format appears vulnerable to ‘new release syndrome’ – many of the Tyranid images are effectively stock product shots. Worst of all, with so few words and such paucity of written content that needs attention to digest, it doesn’t feel like a magazine to me; I’ve picked my copy up around half-a-dozen times, and I finally had to *make* myself ‘read’ it cover to cover. Before that, all I wanted to do was flick through it quickly, and put it down again.

I will not comment in detail on the costs involved in purchasing these magazines, other than to say that expecting hobbyists to potentially part with £17 per month for this level of content seems crazy, even by the ever-inflating price standards of GW.

I would genuinely love to understand the rationale behind the decisions that have resulted in White Dwarf Weekly and Warhammer Visions. I’d like to see the market research that’s identified the target audiences for these publications, because I can’t fathom them. I have a few months left on my old White Dwarf subscription, and I’m going to see them out and give ‘Visions’ a chance to either adapt, or grow on me. As for the Weekly, I don’t visit a GW store every week, and won’t do so for such a paltry magazine. I’ll skim when I’m in-store, but would have to see something special to make a purchase.

Last weekend, I was excited to think White Dwarf would improve once again. By the end of the weekend, I felt genuinely sad because, unless something significant changes, these new editions will result in the end of that twenty-two year collection of magazines. If that happens, I think a piece of the little boy in me – the hobbyist I know I’m still indulging when I look at a miniature – will have died a death…

Tybalt

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  • Martin Jørgensen

    I feel as you do.

    WD has all the resources to make it the best hobby magazine of all time. It is sad how little work goes into making these new ones.

  • Phil

    I really like both of the new things, the weekly magazine is a cool light read with more of the content people wanted (rules, fluff) than before and visions just has a lot of really nice pictures, its the kind of thing I can see myself going back to over the years

  • James Upton

    I miss the random background of the old WD’s, you could find some great background that was never in the army books. And the battle reports were really simple and well paced, and didn’t treat you like a idiot by using mostly pictures to describe the battle (which they seemed to be doing, in the more recent battle reports)

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