White Dwarf #386 Review

So it’s a week after the White Dwarf was released, and I’ve had plenty of opportunities this week to flip through it (many times even). The extra time I’ve taken has meant that I’ve had the opportunity to flip through the book several times; which is good thing: in many ways this is actually a really good issue of White Dwarf. I’m not sure how much of a passing grade I’d give this issue, but it does have its strengths–which is exceptional considering how many past issues over the last few years have been nothing more than a conglomerate of weaknesses and failures.

This issue is a little different compared to the last…two years of White Dwarf—and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The first thing that struck me was that the table of contents (which, for my format for reviewing the magazine, is practically the most important part of the rag) was shifted forward a little.

More interestingly, the month’s editorial moved as well: no longer relegated to the backside of the front cover, it’s been given its own proper page. More significantly, the editorial is presented less as a footnote and more as an introduction to the month’s issue, due mostly to the mug shots at the bottom of the page of this month’s contributors to the magazine.

I think this may be the first signal that GW knows there is something wrong with their magazine: to me, this feels like a first step to making real changes. I’m hesitant to attribute the changes to the editor, as it has always felt to me he lacks the personal initiative to really try and improve the book. No, Andrew “Cut-and-Paste” Kenrick’s efforts seem to be more about perpetuating the “just good enough” culture that has permeated the magazine for the last few years.

—Indeed, as I was writing that last paragraph, I had to double check the spelling of the editor’s last name; at the top of his editorial page, the editorial header says this is White Dwarf #387 (which it is in the UK)…even though the front cover of the North American edition clearly shows it to be #386! Come on, White Dwarf: either change the numbering system to all the White Dwarfs across the world, or perhaps make sure your editor is able to know what issue number he’s working on! Sloppy.

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Anyway, back to the “changes” to the editorial page: I think, with the photos of the people contributing to this month’s issue, Games Workshop is trying to take the faceless corporate feel out of the magazine. I think it’s a very small effort, but somewhere, someone has asked how White Dwarf can be expected to build any kind of hobby community when it is so utterly devoid of personality.

Answer: mug shots of the issues writers.

White Dwarf #386 was brought to you by the letters B, L, A, N, and D.

I’m not sure it’s any kind of solution, but I do think it’s better than the last few months where they’ve crammed as much mini-articles as possible into the book in hopes that they could randomly fumble their way into a decently-recieved issue, like they did back in issue 379. We’ll see how long this lasts—and if Games Workshop puts any more effort into raising their sub-par, over-glorified catalogue with aims of returning it to its previous status as a better-than-average in-house magazine and catalogue. (Honestly, the bar is not being set all that high!)

Pgs 0-1: Two-Page Spread: 40k: Space Wolves vs. Tyranids battle scene. New models abound.

Page 2: Message from the Editor: Andrew Kendrick tells us all about how issue 387, with its unveiling of the new Space Wolf and Tyranid models will feel eerily similar to this month’s issue 386 with its unveiling of the new Space Wolf and Tyranid models.

Page 3: Table of Contents

Pgs 4-19: New Releases: TONS of Space Wolf and Tyranid releases. Plus the Hellcannon is now available in Finecast™ AND GW now sells thin and thick versions of their glues, bringing their repertoire of glue up to four kinds of glue.

Pgs 20-21: New Releases: Black Library and Fantasy Flight Games Releases. Things look sparse in the Fantasy Flight Games releases; luckily GW considers their constant need of new staff still worthy of being included in the new releases section of the magazine, so there are no embarrassing white spaces on the new releases page.

Pgs 22-33: Warhammer 40k: Focus on Tyranids. Several different hive fleets are showcased—including ones that have never (or rarely) been seen in White Dwarf. Black primer paint jobs figure prominently in the new hive fleets.

Pgs 34-35: Advert: Tyranid codex, Finecast™ models & plastic box sets.

Pgs 36-43: Warhammer 40k: Focus on Tyranids: new models are shown off as are the rules for them. I do applaud GW for having the bravery to put the full rules for them in the magazine, regardless of the risk that some players may photocopy the magazine pages in lieu of buying the codex. (Seriously though, I’m glad they’ve realised they hurt their sales not at all when they show off the full rules of some of their models.)

Pgs 44-49: Warhammer 40k: Painting workshop – Tyranid Tervigon.

Pgs 50-51: Advert: GW Hobby Centre grand openings. Nothing to see here; move along.

Pgs 52-59: Warhammer 40k: Focus on Space Wolves. A couple paragraphs on the different companies (along with an illustration of the dial of favour which is on their home world and shows which Space Wolf company is the most liked at any given moment). Detail given about the Harald Deathwolf, Space Wolf hero.

Pgs 60-61: Advert: Space Wolves codex, Finecast™ models & plastic box sets.

Pgs 62-67: Warhammer 40k: Painting workshop – Space Wolves Thunderwolf Cavalry.

Pgs 68-69: Standard Bearer: Jervis answers the six questions most-often asked questions of him when he’s at Games Days—well, he tells us the six most-often asked questions, then goes on to explain why each question can’t really be answered by him.

Pgs 70-74: Lord of the Rings SBG: Battle Report: Ambush at Amon Sul. I’m pretty sure the attack at Weathertop was one of the first battle reports done for Lord of the Rings, back when Fellowship of the Ring first hit the theatres. And now they’re doing it again…but in Finecast™.

Page 75: Advert: The Finecast™ boxes you need to buy if you want to play the Attack at Weathertop scenario…in Finecast™.

Pgs 76-81: Warhammer: Civil War continues this month with tables to roll on for when Daemons of Chaos, High Elves, Dark Elves, Wood Elves and Bretonnians face off against the same kind of race/army. It feels like Civil War is taking forever to be complete—maybe they should have had tables for five armies every month, so as to avoid the idea feeling like it’s been dragging itself out.

Pgs 82-83: Citadel Hall of Fame: What I regard as possibly the dumbest, most masturbatory of White Dwarf regular “features” returns this month, showcasing the plastic Empire Wizard kit. That the model in question is a Brian Nelson sculpt still isn’t enough to keep this article from feeling like the same old self-congratulatory wank-fest that all the Hall of Fame articles are.

Pgs 84-91: Slayer Sword 2011 Gallery: H Even though the internet beat this article to by many many months, I don’t mind seeing all the Slayer-Sword models in the same place.

Page 92: Advert: The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game and Mines of Moria starter set contents.

Pgs 93-101: Lord of the Rings SBG: A Tale of Four Gamers. Four Games Workshop employees start new Lord of the Rings armies, trying to keep up with each other and avoid falling behind in their painting. Ho hum.

Pgs 102-103: Armies on Parade: Christian Byrne’s Ogre Kingdoms army.

Page 104: Advert: GW Hobby Centre “birthday” celebrations.

Pgs 105-117: The Augury: (adverts & independent stores’ events info). The cut-and-paste culture that is Andrew Kenrick’s editorial style, though not as blatant as last month, is still on display in this month’s Augury. (The repeated sentences, “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” in the header sub-text is now at month seven of remaining unfixed.

Pgs 118-119: Advert: Forge World: Tyranid Bio-Titan.

Page 120: Advert: Know Thy Enemy: the full Tyranid range lined up for scale. Kind of gimmicky–but nonetheless cool.

Thoughts on the Issue

I don’t think this issue was very interesting at all—and I’m not saying that because of the preponderance of Space Wolves (I’ve hated Space Wolves since the late nineties: how’s that for being a 40k hipster?); however, I’m having a hard time condemning this month’s White Dwarf despite the lack of interest it has for me.

Let me explain.

It’s the tone. The issue is actually pretty good—as long as you don’t know much about anything between its covers. Let’s assume the internet doesn’t exist and you would not have had the opportunity to do any online surfing / researching of these armies before picking up this month’s magazine; if that were the case, these articles would come off as pretty informative and engaging…providing you didn’t know too much about the game’s background.

I think that’s a back handed compliment but a compliment nonetheless. For the most part, the articles are decently crafted and decently engaging. Unfortunately, apart from some of the pictures, they’re not really all that useful for long-time players; and I suspect they are of limited value to those new players who have already voraciously consumed whatever the internet as to offer concerning Space Wolves and Tyranids.

I think with a bit more tweaking of the articles, and the continued “bravery” on the magazine’s part to print full pages from codices and show off the full rules and points values of specific models could turn the magazine back towards limited relevance. Time will tell.

STREET BEEF

The Tale of Four Gamers (hereafter, T4G) is a format that harkens back to the mid-nineties—roughly around the White Dwarf issues in the late 190s and early-ish 200s…if I’m remembering the magazine’s chronology correctly). T4G’s first outing was a string of articles where the editor and three other players were given a monthly budget of X amount of money and were tasked with building a Warhammer Fantasy Battles army, all while documenting their purchases every month, the building and painting of the models and the games played as the army grew in size. Up t that point, no other White Dwarf article or format (or whatever) had resonated with White Dwarf readers as much as T4G did.

To this day the original T4G article is regarded by White Dwarf as one of their most successful articles—so much so, that every once in a while, the magazine revives it and applies it to another game and a new batch of players.

Even though they revive format from time to time, ever since T4G’s first outing, White Dwarf has modified the article in one small but crucial way: they no longer include the part in the article where the players must purchase their models, while staying within the parameters of their monthly spending budget.

I argue it was because the article dealt with the going and buying of models, while having limited funds, that Games Workshop’s customers related to it so much—it was something as gamers we all know about: wanting everything but being able to buy only a few things and then planning accordingly. That’s what made it so engaging. By cutting that out, GW has lost an opportunity to connect with their fans and customers.

It’s an odd stance, you know, for a company that maintains their models are the best on the market and worth every penny: if they’re not at all apologetic about charging a premium for said models (and unabashed about increasing their prices annually), it’s a tad incongruent of them to decide at this point that they would suddenly get all shy about the actual buying of their models and rather not talk about price (or just what quantity of GW’s models a person’s pay cheques can purchase, for that matter).

Yes, I know they’re not stupid about customers’ sensitivity to price; this is just me doing a bit of devil’s advocating here. Still, if they’re not willing to talk about the price of their products in any context inside their magazine, what message are they sending?

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…..Well, certainly not the “and worth every penny” message, that’s for sure.

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4 responses to “White Dwarf #386 Review

    • Thank you–you’re too kind! (And here was I scared I’d be coming off as a sourpuss, doing nothing but whinging and finding fault with Games Workshop.)

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