It seems that Games Workshop have been changing lately, what with a return of the specialist game department and their return to facebook. Another seeingly retrograde step is to move back to a monthly White Dwarf magazine.
Quick reminder: A few years ago they moved to a weekly format for White Dwarf. Up to this point, it had been monthly and I had loyally bought every issue since 130, way back in October 1990. I used to love it, but towards the end it had deteriorated badly. I never got into the weekly format, mainly because it was the time I was losing interest in GW and also it was hard to get hold of unless you were quick!
So when I found out that GW were moving back to a monthly format I decided to check it out. I duly went down on release day and picked this up:
First impressions were good. It came in at £5.99 against say Wargames Illustrated at £4.95, so it's normal magazine price. It seems heavy and good quality, clocking in at 148 pages. It comes with a free mini - useless to me as I never liked Chaos even in my GW days, but free toys are never a bad thing. So far, so good.
Into the magazine the first two pages are the editorial and staff photos, followed by two whole pages just for the contents list.
After this there are 16 whole pages of whats new. It's all very glossy, goes to great lengths to point put how awesome everything is, and covers the whole GW universe - miniatures, books, terrain and computer games. What I then have a small problem with is after 16 pages of this, we then go into two pages of adverts. It reminds you we still have in our hands a GW catalogue and promotional magazine.
After that there are two pages of readers letters. Sounds great, but a lot of these letters seem along the lines of "wow, you guys are doing a great job," without any real fan engagement. It left me a little cold. The next two pages are "Eavy metal" spotlight, and are photos of new minis.
It is only at this point that we reach the first real article - The Tale of Four Gamers. A style of article used in the old White Dwarf, four gamers collect armies over several months, and document it. I like that idea, but each collector only writes two paragraphs, so it likes a real in depth analysis.
The next chunk I really did like:
This is a readers army section. It features great photos of the army and plenty of text from the owner describing how he collected it. Also, a four page pullout of the army all nicely laid out.
We then have a large chunk of extra, and to my understanding, new, rules for several of GW's games. Thumbs up for this - it's far more like supporting the hobby. For me personally I can't use this but if you play these games, you're in!
I won't bore you with the rest in any great details. We have a very flashy battle report, some backgroud for Imperial Knights, a feature on terrain at Warhammer World and Blanchitsu. There is an article on various staff members Kill Teams for 40k, and a converting article (all GW pieces only of course), along with a painting guide. It finishes with some really nice photos of readers models, along with a side box contianing tips on photographing mini's.
Let's boil this down. I am not unbiased - I fell out of love with GW a few years ago. I like the direction the magazine is going, and I imagine if you do all or most of your wargaming in the GW unuivese, there is plenty of stuff for you here, the extra rules being a good example.
But I can't help feeling it's a tired and souless effort in some ways. Monthly battle reports SOUND good but I feel its too much of a good thing. Back in the day they were once or twice a year and eagerly anticipated, and came with tactical maps etc. Now, they are every single issue, so the magic is gone. I also think Tale of Four gamers need more substance but has been done before and one bug bear for more is Blanchitsu. I know John Blanche is a hobby god and has some serious skills, but do we really need a regular monthly article showing yet more of his drab and dirty style miniautres, nice as they are? Not really.
I found myself wanting more words. A quick flick thorough and I can't find a single page of just writing, or even mostly writing. The most you get is two thirds of writing and the vast, vast majority of pages are half or less. It's very clear that this is desgined to further GW's mini sales, and the abundance of flashy photos support this.
I would also have really have liked to see some sneak peeks, and maybe at least a very small mention of Lord of the Rings and the other games, but the magazine exsists in a GW only, 40k/Age of Sigmar bubble, which I think is a shame. GW is a massive part of the wargaming hobby (like it or not), if only as a gateway, and it's a shame GW doesn't capitalise on this.
Final verdict: Good, but could do better. I will only buy this again if there is an issue with something for me in it, such as the upcoming return of Blood Bowl, but I will not be resubscribing as it stands. But, if you live and breath the GW universe, it's worth cover price.