With the announcement of the White Dwarf format returning to a once a month magazine, guest writer Michael Corr takes us back to glory days of the once mighty magazine.
You’ve probably been hearing it for years and it is all over the internet; White Dwarf used to be so much better, why don’t they have proper articles?, it’s just a glorified sales magazine now……
Call it nostalgia, call it random internet complaining, but I really miss the good old days of White Dwarf. When I first started in this hobby back in high school, one of the highlights of the month was waiting for the new White Dwarf to be released. On a Friday, I would get off the school bus a few stops early to go to the newsagents and buy a copy- it was worth the extra walk home. I would then spend the whole weekend poring over my copy, carefully reading and re-reading every article, checking out the battle report(s) for tactical hints and tips, looking for terrain ideas to add to my slowly expanding collection. To a young hobby-er, just starting to get into the game, it was bliss!
My first issue was White Dwarf 210, way back in May 1997, and I had (and still have) a complete collection of issues spanning several years (maybe even a decade). I don’t know when I stopped buying it on a regular basis, but I think I kept it up for a good while despite reading very little of the content for a long run of issues towards the end.
You never forget your first Ork……
One of the reasons that I so lament the fall of White Dwarf was that it was an excellent resource for a gamer. It used to have well-written articles about tactics, painting, campaigns, scenarios and making terrain. I have several shelves in my gaming room filled with back issues that I frequently use for reference. I have garnered hints and tips that I still use to this day in my painting and terrain making. I also look through them to get terrain ideas when I am looking for a project to start or for army painting colour schemes. A while back, White Dwarf moved to a smaller weekly format. I only picked up a few of these issues- particularly the issues with the Looted Wagon rules for Orks and Assassins rules after the release of Assassinorium: Execution Force. The addition of rules for the models was enough to get me to buy a few issues, but not enough to become a weekly collector.
It now appears that White Dwarf will be moving back to a monthly format. The Facebook page promises News, Battle Reports, Designer Notes and exclusive Games and Rules. Is it too much to hope that White Dwarf will be returning to its former glory? If it does, they will have secured one regular reader for sure. With this change just recently in the news, I thought it would be the perfect time to don my rose-tinted glasses and highlight some of my favorite articles or series of articles across my White Dwarf collection. I think that these highlight what made the magazine so great.
- Launch of 3rd edition 40k (UK White Dwarf 226)
Whenever a new game edition, codex or army book was launched, an article would appear with a member of the design team explaining some of the new rules and themes. The one that sticks out in my mind is the release of 3rd edition 40k. Third edition was such a dramatic shift from what had come before and was the basis of the game that we currently play. In this article (and the later battle report), Andy Chambers explained some of the new rules and the philosophy behind the changes, helping the gamer to better understand what to expect from the new edition. I used to love reading these articles with a new codex release, it helped to give an insight into the design process and the evolution of an army between each edition.
I specifically bought the White Dwarf with the release of 6th edition (I think I had stopped buying it regularly at this point) to see the designer notes. After reading a couple of pages about making the game more cinematic, with no mention of any new rules and why they were changed, I knew that I was pretty much finished with the magazine.
- Mike Walker articles (Various issues)
In my opinion, the pinnacle of White Dwarf writing. Mike Walker was a contributor to White Dwarf for several years and wrote a series of articles about Warhammer fantasy. Despite not playing fantasy at this point, I absolutely loved his articles. An equal mix of insightful points and humour, he wrote about a variety of subjects including teaching new players how to play, running a gaming league, the intricacies of the magic phase and many more. His articles were well thought out, genuinely funny (with a liberal dose of humorous footnotes and Kylie Minogue references) and were an excellent read that I still enjoy to this day. I wish there was a copy of them online so that you could take a read yourself (I would re-type them all myself and put them online if that wasn’t (probably) illegal).
- A Tale of Four Gamers (UK White Dwarf 218-223)
Started in the heyday of Paul “Fat Bloke” Sawyer’s run as editor, this series documented the efforts of four gamers in building a fantasy army from scratch over the course of 5 months. Each month, the gamers would get a set budget (£50 in the first month, £25 over each subsequent month) to buy their army and had to get each section painted up during the course of the month. At the end of the project, they had a four-way battle report between the player’s armies. It was a really interesting read as you got to see the reasons behind each player’s choices and how they would budget the month. In addition, Paul Sawyer’s beastmen army was stunning. They repeated the series a couple of times, but in my mind, it never equaled the quality of the first installment.
- Brewhouse Bash (UK White Dwarf 223)
Freebies! who doesn’t love free stuff? White Dwarf used to give away some great freebies back in the day. There were free models; I remember receiving a Necron warrior, Dark Eldar warrior, a Mordheim special character, Ork Nob and Space Marine Terminator. There was free card terrain; A sisters of battle shrine temple and Ork Gorkamorka tower. Best of all, there were occasionally free games; a Bretonninan jousting game, a Dark Eldar gladiator game, the first version of Battlefleet Gothic and, my personal favorite, an Orc-based game called Bar room Brawl. This was a board game featuring Orcs fighting in a bar. It was really simple to play and a lot of fun. I remember bringing it in to school on one of the last days (when you were allowed to bring games in) and we had a blast with it (this was among non-warhammer players). I always had a notion to build a 3D version of the gaming board, something to keep in mind for a future project as I still have the rules in an old issue of White Dwarf.
- The Vogen Campaign (UK White Dwarf 271 and 272)
Another great piece of content was the Cityfight Vogen campaign that was detailed in White Dwarf. The articles gave you rules on how to play the campaign and detailed the rules for special locations on the map. I ran this campaign at my local gaming club a couple of years back and it was a great change of pace from regular 40k games.
Along with detailed campaigns, White Dwarf used to regularly provide new scenarios, new rules and new army lists. For example, the 5+ invulnerable save for terminators was first introduced in White Dwarf.
- Ruined! (UK White Dwarf 234)
As someone who loves to make and build terrain, I used to enjoy terrain building articles as they were a great source of tips and inspiration. Ruined! was an article by Nick Davis on basing up the (new at the time) plastic ruins first released in the 3rd edition 40k boxed set. I have constructed several sets of ruins based on this article. They have lasted me a long time and are still in regular use in my home games and at the gaming club.
- The Living Dead Return (UK White Dwarf 211)
In the very second issue that I ever bought, there was an article where the studio undead army was given a makeover to a more somber, coherent theme. The article include step by step (all 29 of them) instructions as to how they painted the new force. I liked the new army so much that I made the decision to start collecting an undead army myself.
In fact, the article was so good that it made me start an undead army for the second time! After the release of end times Nagash, I was flicking through the article again when I thought “I could do a better job painting them this time round and now is a perfect time to collect an undead army again”.
- ‘Eavy metal masterclass- wave serpent (UK White Dwarf 238)
This was an article by Mark Jones that showed you how to convert a wave serpent out of a Falcon grav tank using plasticard and a plastic spoon! The simple instructions showed how easy it could be and the final product looked great.
- Tactica articles (various White Dwarfs)
No specific example for this one, but articles were frequently published on a wide variety of topics for both 40k and fantasy. You could gain valuable insights into new tactics in deployment, the magic phase, close combat, etc.
- “Storm the Trenches” Battle Report (UK White Dwarf 230)
I miss high quality battle reports that used to feature in White Dwarf. You would get a quick intro to the game or scenario. Each player would detail their force for the battle, which units they had chosen and why. Then you would get detailed maps on each turn, descriptions of the game turn and some fantastic photos of the studio’s armies in action. I have tried to follow the flavour of these in my own battle reports and the excellent SN Battle Reports do a great job of emulating them. There’s a reason why “reminds me of the old White Dwarf battle reports” is used as a compliment in most cases.
One of my favorites was between Paul Sawyer’s White Scars and Graham Davey’s Chaos Space Marines. This was the first time I had ever seen a White Scars army and it was absolutely stunning. In addition, the battlefield was a board featuring a great trench network. It was a real inspiration for when I built my own trenches (which I will need to write about in a future blog). The bright White Scars against the dark Black Legion marines on an amazing board was a magnificent battle report.
- “Charge of the 7th Company” Battle Report (UK White Dwarf 286)
Another standout battle report in my mind, this featured an Imperial Guard army attacking an Ork-held stronghold, a nice twist on the usual narrative. The Imperial Guard army was entirely infantry based, over 100 models storming the greenskin barricades without the aid of their mighty battle tanks. Again, this report featured the amazingly painted studio guard army and some fantastic terrain. It was a real inspiration for my own guard army and terrain efforts.
These are just some of my favorites that I could think of. There are many more that I could list too.
Another big change to the fortunes of White Dwarf has been the Internet. When I first started with Games Workshop games, White Dwarf was the best way to see the newly released models and what was coming up. Now we have countless websites where you can check out the new models being released and even sometimes catch the rules before the codex is released. There are also a ton of great articles on tactics for every conceivable army build.
Whenever I see my shelves filled with White Dwarf, I get nostalgic for the old days where I would be genuinely excited for the next issue to come out. They are still a resource that I regularly dip in to when I am looking for inspiration.
Does anyone still read White Dwarf these days? Do you still keep copies around for reference or have any favourite articles/issues? What are your hopes for the new monthly format for White Dwarf?