Unfortunately for many, it’s the only print source for fantasy and 40k (and LOTR if you care about it); other magazines in the market don’t cover it, barring a few pictures in painting competitions. It seems that if we want quality printed content about the hobby we care for, we can only look backwards to a time then White Dwarf was more about the hobby itself than an eternal sales pitch for it. Whilst I didn't read White Dwarf in my early years, I do possess a number of 'older' copies I’ve been given by friends and other players. These contain what todays’ gamers really want: good quality content, battle reports, and lots of varied pictures, not just off the new releases.
Today I'm retro-reviewing one of my favourites: WD #295. It may be tatty and a little water damaged, but it is what today's White Dwarf ought to be.
First thing to point out is that the magazine is split into sections, one for Fantasy, another for 40k, and a third for LOTR games. This is how it should have stayed. I’m only really interested in 40k, so a lot of the time, half, if not 2/3, of current issue releases do not appeal to me. With this method, there was something for everyone, and everyone was at least a little bit happy.
One of the things it contains is free bonus rules for games. In this issue it was rules for fielding the Relictors chapter: a chapter of Space Marines that used daemon weapons and chaos artefacts against Chaos, for the good of the Imperium.
Today, you'd have to pay £20 for a supplement to get bonus content and rules. Whilst it is only a couple of pages, it was content that readers welcomed and enjoyed incorporating into games.
Combined with pictures of some cool conversions it made for a great article.
This brings us neatly to the next point. #295 is choc-full of conversions, painting guides and terrain-building tips. My favourite has always been the Iron warriors section. This article actually got me playing Iron Warriors briefly. Whilst I never found the other parts to this series (if anyone has them let me know), I can sense continuity and good journalism. The reader feels engaged in the journey to create a bad-ass Iron Warriors army. And it’s honest too. The writer admits how the army lost many times in its early incarnations: something you rarely see when it comes to current 'flavours of the month'.
Tactics and gaming theory are fascinating articles, which can really help players who are struggling to get to grips with a new army. The Imperial Guard one in this issue is well thought out and in-detail, which you have to be if you want to explain the tactical doctrines of the Guard.
So there we go; a history lesson in how to make a fantastic magazine. Normally we shouldn’t be going backwards, but in the case of White Dwarf, it should be. By bringing back the old way of doing things, gamers and hobbyists would have a magazine they’d actually want to buy and would enjoy reading time and time again.