White Dwarf #385 Review

File this one under: The Imaginary Wars Lease Continues to Capitalize My Time. 

I bought the newest issue of White Dwarf the day it came out, had started on the review by the next morning…and then BAM! Monday hit and I was left scrambling trying to do five different things (including taking care of my daughter) so that this review had no other choice but to be set on the back burner until all the final bits of getting the lease could be completed. 

So after all the drama that Monday and Tuesday held, I’m finally able to say that I have a store location (no more of that “things are almost 100% confirmed” garbage that I’ve been saying for almost a month now!) and I also have the time to finish my review of the newest White Dwarf issue. 

Probably best I do it correctly, now that it’s time to roll up my sleeves and REALLY get to work.

Of course I’m also sad that GW has decided to cast away War of the Ring; they haven’t said as much, but the repackaging of the infantry boxes says enough: if a person wants to get into War of the Ring, for most formations in the game he’ll likely have to buy six box sets just to get one formation at a semi-adequate size of three companies (movement trays) in strength. It’s not too huge a difference from the current way in that players have to buy three box sets; but I think it’s fundamental enough that War of the Ring is now as relevant as the 54mm-scale game, Inquisitor. It really is too bad; War of the Ring was very close to being an awesome game—I’d say it was one edition-rewrite and FAQ away from being an exemplary game. Who knows, perhaps when the second Hobbit movie comes out and GW needs a rules set to better re-enact the Battle of Five Armies.


White Dwarf 385

Page 0: Message from the Editor: Andrew Kendrick gives a quick run-down of the issue’s contents: lots of Lord of the Rings coverage, another installment to Warhammer: Civil War, new scenery rules penned by Jervis and a lot of 40k material that highlights the game’s 25th anniversary.

Page 1: Table of Contents

Pgs 2-19: New Releases: Apparently GW has released a NEW starter box for Lord of the Rings and a new hardcover Rulebook—I jest! After the splash page showing the two starters, the magazine delves into showcasing the considerable amount of new Lord of the Rings releases, closely followed by info on the new Vampire Counts battalion box, Necron battleforce box…and the new piece of tower scenery, Deathknell Watch, the skull-tower with a blood-skull hot tub on its top floor (seriously, that’s what it looks like in the photos).

Pgs 20-21: Also Available… GW reminds us what other FineCast™ box sets are available for Lord of the Rings. Ho hum.

Pgs 22-23: New Releases: Black Library and Fantasy Flight Games Releases—though it needs to be pointed out that the space dedicated to a text box telling readers to follow GW on Facebook & Twitter, a text box telling readers to follow Black Library on Faceook and Twitter and a text box informing readers that GW is (desperately) seeking new store managers outnumbers the space dedicated to new releases by a factor of about 3 to 1. Don’t let it ever be said that White Dwarf is strictly a glorified catalogue…

Pgs 24-31: Lord of the Rings SBG: Race to the Ruins (battle report). What’s cool is that this battle report also shows the mission write up from the sourcebook the mission is taken from. The Watcher in the Water model and rules are heavily featured; I don’t know…I have problems using a giant octopus for battles fought on land…regardless of how cool the model may be.

Pgs 31-33: Advert: GW Hobby Centre grand openings. Nothing to see here; move along.

Pgs 34-45: Lord of the Rings SBG: Armies of Middle Earth. This article serves as an overview of the five new sourcebooks that have just been released for the LotR SBG (Moria & Angmar, The Free Peoples, The Fallen Realms, Mordor, and The Kingdoms of Men). Each quick, quarter-page overview includes a sample army list too.

Pgs 46-53: Lord of the Rings SBG:  The Storming of Harlond (battle report). Unlike The Race to the Ruins, this battle report doesn’t include the mission’s write up; I think it’s just a ‘kill everything’ type of mission replaying a scene from the movie—except in the movie, when Aragorn and his Army of the Oath Breakers came to the battle of Pelennor Fields, they weren’t squaring up against Easterlings, a Ringwraith and a Beast of Gorgoroth.

Pgs 54-55: Advert: Lord of the Rings: all the repackaged infantry plastic kits for the entire Lord of the Rings / War of the Ring range—it should be pointed out that by “repackaging” GW has cut the number of models per box in half.

Pgs 56-57: Standard Bearer: Jervis phones it in by going on at length about how cool tape measures are. Then wraps up by writing about how also-cool templates are.

Pgs 58-61: Warhammer: Civil War continues this month with tables to roll on for when Orcs & Goblins, Tomb Kings and Warriors of Chaos armies face off against the same kind of race/army.

Pgs 62-65: Warhammer: Deathknell Watch. Rules for the new scenery piece as well as a mission to play using the new terrain piece. WHY I AM DISAPPOINT: the rules for the Wyrding Well are nothing like the blood-and-skulls hot tub that are one of the “features” of this new terrain kit should be. I mean: hot-skulls-tub…COME ON!

Pgs 66-69: Warhammer 40k: Howto paint the Necron, as covered by Chris Peach. I’m actually kind of impressed that he paints his Necron Monoliths using intaglio methods for parts of it.

Pgs 70-73: Warhammer: How Matt Hutson and Carl Dafforn have included the Vampire Counts battalion box contents into their armies.

Pgs 74-75: Armies on Parade: Nick Bayton’s Ultramarines army.

Pgs 76-80: Lord of the Rings SBG: How to paint Easterlings (both infantry and the mounted Kataphrakts), plus a sample army list at the end of the article.

Page 81: Advert: White Dwarf subscriptions.

Pgs 82-95: The Augury (adverts & independent stores’ events info)—this month, extra-phoned in: not only do they carry the same mistake forward from  last month (repeated sentence in the headline of the Augury “section”…which now that I checked has been going on for some time), but they didn’t even change the table of contents to match where the Augury’s specific sections actually are in the magazine: The Augury in this issue runs from pages 82-95, but it lists that the Events Diary and Store Information sections start on page 109 and run through to page 118. FOR GOD’S SAKE! WHITE DWARF NEEDS AN EDITOR.


Now upside down for your reading excitement!

The back 20% of the magazine is all about the lineage of Warhammer 40,000—annoyingly (or at the very least very gimmicky) this section is upside down, meaning you have to turn your magazine upside down and read it from the back to the front. And here was me thinking that this format (last used when Lord of the Rings was still in the theatres) pissed off enough people that GW had decided to abandon it. Guess not…

Page I: Features the 25th Anniversary model: a Crimson Fist taken right from the cover of the original Rogue Trader book…complete with an awesome banner that the model neither holds, nor even appears on the cover of Rogue Trader.

Page II: Advert: Warhammer 40,000 25th Anniversary schwag to be gotten on the “official” anniversary date of February 25th (a Saturday, as luck would have it).

Page III: Models from the present; models from the past.

Pgs IV-IX: Gone Rogue: An interview with Jervis Johnson, Alan Merrett and John Blanche. A pretty interesting read, actually, as they discuss the beginnings of 40k and its evolution—they even (barely) touch on some reasons behind the game’s design choices. Too bad the interview is so short.

Page X-XI: Advert: Black Library has come up with their ‘Top 25’ list of 40k books. No Horus Heresy books are included—apparently because they’re all Warhammer 30k, not 40k. Sigh.

Page XII-XXI: 40k Eye Candy: A series of two-page spreads depicting famous 40k battles imbedded deep in its lore: the Battle for Macragge, the Battle for Armageddon, the Battle of Thesus Reach (??? apparently a “famous” battle from the Apocalypse expansion), the Fall of Iyanden, and finally, the Badab War

Page XXII-XLI: The Battle for Rynn’s World (battle report): Four games played simultaneously and presented as one giant battle report.

Thoughts on the Issue

This issue was really a mixed bag for me. The Lord of the Rings coverage was superior to the coverage they’ve given the game over the past couple years, both in quantity and in quality. (But that’s also me: I’m biased towards the game—it’s not the best game ever, but it certainly doesn’t deserve the vitriol it garners). 

At a cursory flip-through, the book feels like it has a decent amount of varied content—even if you’re a bit of a LotR hater. The Warhammer 40,000 25th Anniversary coverage is actually present in this month’s issue, complete with a retrospective of the game (or at least as retrospective as GW can muster the will to produce). The bits of Warhammer content—most notably the new Civil War tables—aren’t too bad either. 

I was really kind of liking this issue.  

…Which isn’t surprising; considering White Dwarf’s new modus operandi seems to be “heavy on articles, light on content” (based on, I’m sure, the m.o. of the processed food industry: high on calories, low on nutrition seems like what White Dwarf would be if it were food). Still, far better this than what they’ve been serving up the past two years.  

My “Street Beef” 

I have two this month; the first one is just two words: battle reports. There are three of them this month: two for Lord of the Rings and one for Warhammer 40,000. Honestly, I find battle reports to be the most unengaging part of White Dwarf’s format. Am I the only one? 

No matter how much I may love a GW game (any GW game), no matter how curious I am about how the new army might perform on the board, I find the prospect of reading these reports to be absolutely exhausting. The most I can muster is reading how the players chose their armies and then flipping to the end to see who won and why. 

I find battle reports so draining that even trying to write a jabbing diatribe, ranting on about how terrible they are merely results in me being able to only come up with a couple sentences. If battle reports were a small child drowning…I would still have to engage in  an internal debate as to whether I should throw a life preserver into the water or not—that’s right I already know I wouldn’t dive in and rescue him/her/them/it. Battle reports are the most tired part of the White Dwarf; if the magazine went to having battle reports present in their books only six times in the year, that would not be too drastic of a cut.

My second beef has everything to do with the editor. I said it once, I’ll say it again: FOR GOD’S SAKE, WHITE DWARF NEEDS AN EDITOR.

I could say that this is in reference to the screw up with the Augury listing, the way that it was last month’s table of contents; but this month’s Augury Table of Contents is just the break in the skin that confirms the fester beneath. I mean, right under the header for the Augury on page 83 (the Augury tells you it starts on page 109, despite all evidence to the contrary) it says—and this is verbatim:

“A directory of everything you need to get involved in the Games Workshop hobby community! A directory of everything you need to get involved in the Games Workshop hobby”

Aaand it ends there without punctuation. The header has been this way for six months.

Editing a magazine isn’t rocket science…or relativity science for that matter.

This really bothers me because White Dwarf expects me to pay a price for their magazine that equates to me thinking they’re serious about themselves and consider themselves professional enough to demand a “professional” magazine price—which I’m actually willing to do, but for God’s sake if you want me to take you seriously, White Dwarf, you should be taking yourself seriously as well. A literate and attentive proof reader would go a long way to helping me think you guys are working on this magazine as your day job. 


2 responses to “White Dwarf #385 Review

  1. Very well said. I stopped picking apart WD years ago when I ended my subscription. It’s quite literally, the most expensive of the few magazines I still buy occasionally. I used to buy it all the time, but now I pick it up only if it’s particularly interesting. For the price. Love the Street Beef pic! Good lord that brings back memories. Keep it up dammit.

    • Haha, yeah I’m SO glad I was able to find that picture of John Candy; the first time I went to this type of review of the magazine, I envisioned doing a ‘Street Beef’ of each issue that would reference SCTV…so glad I was able to find an image that fit with what my mind’s eye envisioned!

      As for the magazine itself, I’ve stopped mentioning with every review how I can’t bring myself to stop collecting because I’ve been buying it every month since about #110-117…there were a few issues in the 160s to 180s that I had somehow managed to miss and it took me FOREVER to find them on eBay…so now I guess I’m just sucking it up and paying the money now to avoid future regrets. At least that’s what I try to remember to tell myself now and then.

      Thanks for the compliments on the review; I have no plans of stopping the reviews!

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