I came up with this brainchild of an idea a couple months ago: doing monthly White Dwarf  reviews. I came to this nugget of an idea as I’ve wanted to incorporate something into this blog to help it stand out a little bit. Sure, it stands apart already, thanks to my decided focus on Games Workshop’s two Lord of the Rings miniatures games; but I also noticed I haven’t come across many regular White Dwarf reviews in the blogs I frequent—or on any blogs I’ve stumbled across throughout my forays onto the internet (not that sites doing so don’t exist…it’s just that you don’t see very many of them).

My understanding is that most people feel GW’s monthly magazine is never worth buying—though some do consider it rarely worth buying!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a sucker collector and buy it every month (and have been doing so since #114), so regularly doing a White Dwarf magazine review is a perfect fit for the Imaginary Wars blog. Plus, I’d be doing people the service of reviewing each month’s content: they’d have an inkling as to whether the rag was worth purchasing that month or not.

However, there is one fatal flaw in my plan: White Dwarf is a sub-par magazine and is not fun to read…never mind review.

Don’t get me wrong: more months than not, it’s fine to flip through and admire the pictures (perchance to read a caption or two), but to actually read all the sentences laid down in the magazine, page by page …well, that’s entirely different. If this blog were my job and my pay cheque required me to do White Dwarf reviews, I’d just plug my nose and grind my way through it; or if the reviews were my way of suffering for my art, I’d suffer my way through doing them each month. But this is my blog, and I try to have fun working on it.

Unfortunately, Games Workshop has been doing a bang-up job of ensuring that White Dwarf is not a fun magazine to read. I feel confident saying that Andrew Kenrick (the current editor) sleeps soundly each night–not from the satisfaction gained by spreading his passion for GW’s games and hobby amongst people throughout the world month in and month out, but because any rest derived from the sleep required to reconstruct his soul each night comes solely from knowing each issue’s work keeps his unemployment at bay for another month.

I don’t mean to come off too harshly with this—I mean, I’m the guy who defended Mat Ward! If I can take that stance, where do I get off crucifying the White Dwarf magazine?

But seriously, after doing a few cursory flips through the book and then settling down to read it, by page twelve it was dawning on me that the effort put into this issue was of no less quantity or quality than that put into issues 380 (a pretty-middle-of-the-road issue) or 379 (not excellent, but a surprisingly good issue). And make no mistake: issue 381 is far from being middle of the road…never mind “surprisingly good.”

How is it that THIS has become the brass ring of excellence to strive for?

What this means is that the White Dwarf team fluked their way into writing a decent magazine for one issue. How do you do that? How do you, as a magazine, simply stumble into producing a good issue? (They then went on the next month to produce a lack-luster issue before following up with the terrible-ness that is the this month’s issue.)

I’ve done some university and have only a handful of English and writing courses under my belt; but what has stuck with me is knowing it’s the very nature of all things written that those doing all the writing quite deliberately and consciously craft the words they put down to page. Genius writing or dreck, there is no “stumbling” into it. Or rather, there is no stumbling that isn’t immediately followed by crafting and revision. There should be a lot of crafting involved in producing a magazine; White Dwarf should no more accidentally produce a good issue than a carpenter should accidentally make a Windsor Fanback.

Philadelphia Fanback Windsor Chair.

Perhaps the White Dwarf studio simply uses a monthly-publication template which they plug Warhammer™  brand lorem ipsum text randomly into and then insert photos of current product? I don’t know; that’s the only way I can figure out how they can be so consistently bad in so many different ways each month, and then pull off a good issue seemingly at random (infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters and all that).

After that rather lengthy preamble… White Dwarf #381

Thank God I don’t have a store open (yet); it would be difficult to convince someone this issue was worth their purchasing dolllars. Dominating this month’s content, in one form or another, is sixty pages (of its total 105 pages–I DON’T consider the 15 pages of “event diary” listings as content) dedicated to their newest product: the un-advertised, kept intentionally secret, and released as a one-shot, never to be supported again board game: Dreadfleet. I’m not going to go into what I think of Dreadfleet right now: that’s fodder for another post (I’d like to stew on it a little more and collect my thoughts).

Dreadfleet-themed Back Cover of White Dwarf 381 (North America).

Here’s a run down of the issue–just in case you’re still on the wall as to whether you should buy it or not:

Pgs 1-9: Table of contents, new releases and cross-company product promotion (Fantasy Flight games, Black Library etc).

Pgs 14-17: Dreadfleet: game summary and back story.

Pgs 18-27: Dreadfleet ship-by-ship overview of the ships/factions/playing pieces.

Pgs 28-33: Dreadfleet: battle report (Phil Kelly versus Jervis Johnson).

Pgs 34-35: Advert: GW Hobby Centre grand openings in North America

Pgs 36-39: Dreadfleet: tactica (essentially the fundamentals to playing the game).

Pgs 40-49: Dreadfleet: battle report #2 (Phil Kelly versus Jervis Johnson).

Pgs 50-51: Advert: Warhammer “Riven by War” mystery advert for something new or:

Pgs 52-53: Advert: Warhammer Island of Blood starter box game.

Pgs 54-55: Standard Bearer: Jervis talks about games clubs & group projects = good

Pgs 56-61: Misc: Using Hobby Tools on Citadel’s Finecast models (esp. the newly-released Mouldline Scraping tool, Flash Brush, Emory Boards and Liquid Green Stuff gap filler).

Pgs 62-63: Advert: Citadel Hobby Tools line of products.

Pgs 64-69: Warhammer: Army Workshop featuring Chris Peach’s painted Ogre Kingdoms army).

Pgs 70-71: Advert: Warhammer Ogre Kingdoms (highlighting three of its plastics sets).

Pgs 72-75: Warhammer: Rules for using Ogre monsters in Storm of Magic

Pgs 76-83: Warhammer 40k: Three missions specifically for Sisters of Battle to play.

Pgs 84-85: Warhammer 40k: “Snapshot” of a Sisters of Battle game in progress.

Pgs 86-103: Dreadfleet: How to paint up your game pieces.

Pg 104: Advert: GW Hobby Centres celebrating their “birthdays.”

Pgs 105-120: The “Augury” (Events Diary, GW Hobby Centre info & Mailorder….does anybody read this section?).

I’ve editorialised enough already, so I think I’m going to skip talking about too much of the issue’s contents. Assuming you’re not gaga for Dreadfleet, I think this issue has only two articles of (dubious) merit:

1) Rules for the monsters found in the Ogre Kingdoms army book so you can use them as “bound” monsters in your Warhammer: Storm of Magic battles. This holds no value for me personally, but this article makes it so you wouldn’t have to buy the army book (assuming you thought the models themselves were so cool that despite not collecting Ogre Kingdoms, you just had to have them.)

2) The three new missions for Sisters of Battle. After the release of the Battle Missions supplement, I am a firm skeptic of this format (missions “custom crafted” for specific armies); but I’ve always valued anything that encourages playing the game differently. Interestingly enough, two of the three missions include terrain that confers special rules to troops who are within the terrain’s immediate vicinity…forshadowing for sixth edition, perhaps?

If neither of these two articles hold much water with you, or if you have no interest in Dreadfleet, overall, I’d recommend staying away from this issue. So much for my hopes that White Dwarf was slowly becoming something resembling a quality publication once more.

Sigh.

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13 Responses to Good by ACCIDENT? Really???

  1. Scott Bowman says:

    White Dwarf magazine, ah yes I remember way back when… When I first started buying the odd WD, it was a magazine that embraced the whole hobby – included articles on various companies products, RPGs featured frequently and it even had comic humour with Thrudd and Gobbledegook, ah the good ol’ days… Then things changed and it became a purely inhouse magazine for its own products. Well I persisted with it off an on as I went through phases of playing their Warhammer, 40K, Bloodbowl and Necromunda games… But over time and dissalluisonment I drifted away from their core games, and found the magazine rarely had enough to interest me in continuing to buy it. Now I only have interest in their LOTR stuff, and theres no way I am wasting money regularly on a magazine that may have approx a third the content that may interest me… Plus any articles of any real value usually end up on their website, so why bother to buy the magazine?
    How things change.

    • imaginarywars says:

      The one thing that keeps me buying is how in the past, I thought the magazine was crap (but working for GW, my issues were given to me for free)…and then a couple years later I go back through some back issues and find valuable nuggets.

      Funny too, because you can really track how far the magazine has fallen by comparing current issues to ones from years ago (circa 2003-2005); you don’t need to go back to the eighties’ issues to find good articles, surprisingly.

      I’d peg the rag’s swan dive into shit around 2007…or whenever they merged GW Canada with GW USA (they changed the White Dwarf around the same time because they canned the WHOLE GW USA studio who were responsible for the magazine in North America…I think I heard they also canned a good portion of the UK studio too).

  2. Ikkonniksverzinnen says:

    Scott, if LOTR gets 1/4000 of the content you should be happy, never mind 1/3. That’s why I’m never, ever going to buy WD

  3. Sadly, it’s a waste of money and paper. I wouldn’t buy it for half the price. 🙁

    • imaginarywars says:

      Sadly for me, hope springs eternal–just when I think I don’t care that my collection comes to a close, they release an issue with ONE good article; just when I’m about to give it up when my job ended, they released the July issue which was more than 50% good.
      Sigh.
      I should get angrier and quit it. But, sadly, hope springs eternal.

  4. nihili says:

    If they can create a Sam Jackson text generator (http://slipsum.com/), then chances are GW is capable of the same thing.

    • imaginarywars says:

      Haha–here’s what I got:

      “Do you see any Teletubbies in here? Do you see a slender plastic tag clipped to my shirt with my name printed on it? Do you see a little Asian child with a blank expression on his face sitting outside on a mechanical helicopter that shakes when you put quarters in it? No? Well, that’s what you see at a toy store. And you must think you’re in a toy store, because you’re here shopping for an infant named Jeb.”

      Okay…that’s GENIUS!

      But, considering GW can’t be bothered play testing rules (beyond the 1-2 dozen people at GW worldwide HQ) or decently proof reading / editing their monthly magazine, I’m going to go out on a limb and bet GW can’t actually make something similar.

      ….which is too bad, as the result would be a better-written magazine, month in and month out.

  5. […] those keeping score, I only managed to review #381—the October 2011 issue—after half the month went by, I entirely missed reviewing #380, and  my […]

  6. horrid says:

    The Dwarfs I’ve picked up recently have been disappointing. They seem to be regressing into that customer funded advertising place that over the years they are wont to do. The quality of the mag waxes and wanes depending on who is at the helm. I read a few of yourother articles and enjoyed them. The Ward defence was a good one. Comparing him to the present dwarf editor Kenrick was a strong preface to assessing recent issues. For all of Ward’s “crashes” he loves his job and as you observed he has a lot of ideas and just needs some help or the experience to sort them out.

    Andrew Kenrick really doesn’t seem to care. Made bosses happy showing new releases, check. Wrote editorial focusing on said releases, check. He could flip burgers with the same enthusiasm. Good articles engage hobbyists and invite them to dream. My favorite recent series (a couple years back?) was a Dave Andrews/ Jeremy Vetock “War Stories” piece. Two creative guys building campaigns/ collaborative stories. That rocked! Sadly the column died without explanation.

    Even without switching the focus from new stuff they could offer more than heavy metal pics. Hell, a sidebar explaining some of the painting within the necron release would have made it worth more. Or the dreadfleet issue this review was about. There was a good painting article for each ship in the game. A small picture of a banshee or lotr dead legion model near the ghost ship tutorial that said, “Use this technique for these models too.”

    Engage and Include. If GW was interested in really growing the hobby (beyond impulsive purchases) they could get a more savvy editor and still make the customer buy the advertising. I look forward to this guy getting axed; hopefully the next editor will be interested in what he is doing. At the moment the only article I really look forward to are the Jervis Standard bearers. Somebody there cares enough about readers to hope they play nice with each other.

    • imaginarywars says:

      It’s funny, I was just guest-hosting on JadedGamer Cast and the regular host and I were saying something pretty similar (scotch-induced though it may have been).

      Yeah I remember that Dave Andrews/Andrew Vetock article–I kinda’ want to go back and reread it; do you remember which issue that was in?

      With the quality of the magazine being what it has been over the last couple years,I can’t tell if becoming editor is meant to be punishment or promotion. As for Andrew Kendrick, I really like your analogy saying he’d just as enthusiastically flip burgers.

      As for Mat Ward, I DO think the guy is a font of creativity–he just REALLY needs a good editor (working under the model that editors are an integral part of and filter for the creative process). What troubles me are the ideas in the fiction in the codices he writes–I really hope he’s just writing whatever some suit in a board room has decided needs to be a story in the codex. I mean; Blood Angels and Necrons teaming up..huh???

      (Now had the story been about how there was this one battle where the Necrons teamed up with a contingent of Iron Hands, THAT would have totally different ramifications!)

      Back to Mat Ward: his fiction has the aroma of Gav Thorpe to it–albeit more pungent. I’ve always disliked Thorpe’s writing, not because it was terrible but because it didn’t come from a love of all things military (which my bias has me feeling if one is to write about wars and battles, one should have firm knowledge on military & history topics; I think Gav Thorpe, literary-wise, was raised on books like ‘Dragonlance’ but not Cornwell’s ‘Sharpe’series’). I think Mat Ward has a lot of that going on in his writing except that his writing doesn’t come from a love of the WH40k cannon. With good editing, this wouldn’t be such a glaring issue.

      Unfortunatley, just like how Ebenezer Scrooge felt about coal, Games Workshop feels editing is TOO EXPENSIVE.

      Thanks for checking out my blog and especially for the thoughtful comments!

      • horrid says:

        I’m not certain how many “Old War Stories” articles there were in total but at a glance but they ran somewhere around the 350’s to 360’s. My favorite was a scenario that involved a Catachan remnants suicide mission against an Ork army that included a gargant.

        I bookmarked your blog and and plan to keep following, Checked out the Jaded Gamercast too; “Champion” was pure awesome.

        • imaginarywars says:

          I think I vaguely remember the Catachan one! Yeah, I think I should go back through those older issues (I seem to remember the run around the 350s and 360s as generally having one nugget of an article per issue that could be argued made the magazine worth buying that month.)

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