I am, at best, an infrequent White Dwarf reader. The last I picked up was the issue on Dark Angels.
This weekend, I picked up the July 2013 White Dwarf on GW’s latest iteration of Warhammer 40K Apocalypse, partly because I don’t think I’ll buy the new Apocalypse 40K rulebook right away.
Some basic observations:
- It’s (still) a beefy magazine of over 150 pages (more than twice the Iyanden Codex) on heavy, high-quality full-colour paper, yet the White Dwarf (still) is a surprisingly quick read.
- Having not read a White Dwarf in half a year, I was rather annoyed by several heavy-handed praises of various GW’s digital products throughout, something I don’t remember in this form from last year’s October and this year’s January White Dwarf.
- Last but not least, this White Dwarf features a truly excessive focus on the Warhammer 40K Apocalypse release. I certainly did get what I was looking for from this White Dwarf: Apocalypse 40K coverage. More so than I expected.
Overall, this White Dwarf (again) made me think about what the White Dwarf “is” and “is not”. I find that it has almost become a “supplement” of sorts (with heavy “buy-me-undertones”) for a particular army or – in this case – expansion, and not a “monthly” magazine of any kind.
#1 – The Things That Are Not Apocalypse 40K
I’ll start with the easy part. What’s in this White Dwarf that is not dealing with Apocalypse 40K?
Not a lot.
There are splash pages for new Hobbit miniatures, new Black Library novels, new Forge World models, including the Minotaurs Contemptor Dread, and the Games Day UK ticket. These pages do announce the existence of the various new product, but do little more.
Beyond these, there was:
- A Warhammer Fantasy Army of the Month of Chaos Warriors (6 pages)
- A War Diary on 7 people preparing for the Armies on Parade 2013 competition (4 pages)
- A 40K-themed Parade Ground showcasing armies, mostly from GW-staff (6 pages)
- A Hall of Fame 2-pager of GW praising their own Warhammer Fantasy Necromancer sculpt
- A one-page interview with Black Library author John French on his new Ahirman novel
Some of this is good. I did enjoy the page by John French (as I am reading his book). Others, I found rather odd. The Warriors of Chaos Army of the Month (see picture above) is certainly stunning. Unfortunately, rather than insights about collecting and/or painting this army, the article consists mainly of blunt product-references, for example when I am told how incredibly useful GW’s digital guide for painting Warriors of Chaos would be painting Warriors of Chaos! Gee.
Some 20 pages out of 150 for non-Apocalypse/non-Ads is not very much however.
#2 – The Apocalypse 40K Battle Report
Admittedly, I did buy the White Dwarf to get a good look at Apocalypse 40K without having to buy it (straight away). No point in complaining too much about the lack of non-Apoc content I guess.
The heart of this issue is clearly the battle report, which pitches an alliance of Chaos Marines (Lords of Skull!) and Necrons (Tesseract Vaults!) against Dark Angels and Blood Angels (defending lots of the new shiny terrain-pieces).
Like all recent White Dwarf battle reports, it doesn’t care about things such as point-values, etc.. . This, of course, makes sense, seeing how this is what Apocalypse ought to promote. It also feels a bit odd, as that’s how the White Dwarf always (!) plays their battle reports these days.
Anyhow, I thought the battle report was an enjoyable read. It certainly succeeds in conveying the mayhem and carnage the Apoc-rules try to evoke and its sprinkled with all sorts of funny “mini-tales” about one unit doing this or some crazy thing happening over there.
#3 – Apocalypse 40K Everywhere
As noted above, the majority of this White Dwarf, even outside the Battle Report, has been co-opted to talk about Warhammer 40K Apocalypse with an almost obsessive single-mindedness.
- Some 40 pages of new releases include only 2 pages on the Hobbit. Even the new Apocalypse 40K templates get more space than the half-a-dozen new Hobbit miniatures.
- A 14 page “Road to Apocalypse” article about GW-staff prepping their collections for Apocalypse 40K, including the armies of the subsequent Battle Report.
- Jervis Johnson’s column: Apocalypse 40K
- Jeremy Vetock’s column: Apocalpyse 40K
- Paint Splatter: Apocalypse 40K
- The Design Studio: Apocalypse 40K
Not everything is bad. The Design Studio articles towards the back of the White Dwarf were – again – a fun read, giving insights into how people at GW went about designing Apoc miniatures, the Apoc rules, etc.. . The columns give interesting insights on the philosophy behind it, etc. . . .
Last but not least, the wealth of high-quality pictures really made me warm up to the much-maligned Khorne Lord of Skulls. I think it looks like an incredibly fun model.
I am merely amazed at the incredibly narrow focus of it all.
#4 – The Riddle of the White Dwarf
This heavy focus on Apocalypse 40K made me think about GW’s use of the White Dwarf as the main-launch-pad for- essentially – all their products (minus Forge World and Black Library, who often show their products online first).
I did buy this White Dwarf, in a GW-store, because I knew it was about Apocalypse 40K. That is why I bought it. Thanks to the internet, I knew what this White Dwarf was about, and most of what I would find inside, long before I picked it up.
This however – from a distance – doesn’t appear to be what Games Workshop is trying to do.
The entire company, not just the White Dwarf team, seems to operate around the idea of launching a big wave of new products with the White Dwarf, and to make sure the White Dwarf is (ideally) the first place their customers ever see or hear about GW’s new products.
This, of course, also includes the odd current monthly routine of scanned pages from early-delivery White Dwarfs churning the internet the week before the White Dwarf is released (and the pre-orders with it). The entire thing would obviously collapse upon itself, if Games Workshop were to put up new pre-orders on their Website a week or so before the White Dwarf is released.
Yet they don’t. Why?
If I were a regular subscriber to White Dwarf in a world were, each month, the White Dwarf truly was the first and only place I ever read about new releases, I would be seriously annoyed by the magazine’s overwhelming 90%+ dedication to the latest thing, and the latest thing only.
- What if I had started a small Eldar project just last month and would want to have some small, continuous coverage in my monthly hobby magazine?
- What if I was convinced by this issue to start an Apoc-worthy army with a super-heavy centre-piece, only to be given an all-out coverage on whatever happens to be the next release next month, and probably no Apocalypse 40K content in sight?
Of course, I didn’t buy this issue to read a “monthly magazine”. I bought it for a quick primer on Apocalypse 40K, and that is exactly what I got. If I were to start – random example – a Necron army, I might well try to hunt down the “Necron-issue” on eBay.
That, I believe, leaves the White Dwarf in an odd spot for what Games Workshop is (presumably) trying to do with the White Dwarf magazine.
The White Dwarf’s extreme focus on the latest new release is exactly what makes it poor reading as a “monthly hobby magazine”.
This in turn greatly reduces the likelihood of the White Dwarf actually being “the place where people read it first“, and not a – at best – another Codex/Army Book/Expansion supplement-of-sorts, which people may pick up because they are looking for that one particular issue, which includes the battle report, paint splatter, columns, etc.. on the army they happen to collect.
Let me know what you think. Leave a comment!