White Dwarf - October 2012 / 394 - Review


So then, new White Dwarf vs the same old review style. Fair warning that this is pretty much a train of though written up as I go through the articles properly after a quick flick through.

There are a number of things worth noting before I start breaking the magazine down into articles.  This is only initial impressions, so skip to the end for a more fleshed out opinion.

The Good.

The new White Dwarf is a different beast from its forebears, simply as a physical thing. It's shorter, and thicker, and the paper quality is much better. This makes it feel more like a glossy magazine than it did previously, and I couldn't quite shake the expectation of finding samples of perfume or a National Geographic subscription ad inserted between the pages.

Talking of pages, the count has gone up. Last month we got 120 pages, this month we're up to 153. White Dwarf is getting fat.


We'll see below if the improvement in physical quality is matched by an equal improvement in actual content.

The Bad

The price has gone up to £5.50, something GW have wholly failed to mention, that I've seen, in all their publicity. Last month we were only paying £4.50. I wasn't happy that White Dwarf was value for money even before, so it's just raised the bar higher for itself. I've no idea how this effects current subscribers, and it'd be quite nice to have some information about that.

Now, I want you to take a close look at the picture of the cover above. Spot anything missing? 

Well done anyone who said issue number. It appears no where in the magazine, which is somewhat disappointing, as at issue 394, we're not far away from the big milestone of 400 issues. I wonder if we'll see a celebration of that, or if it'll be a question of marking years in print instead.

The other thing missing is the slice of Dark Angel on the spine, meaning that he will be forever unfinished. I'm a bit miffed by this. Here's what it'll look like on your shelf.


The page backgrounds are now consistent across the articles, meaning there is a loss of clear distinction between articles, game systems, etc that there was before. It's not a big thing, but worth noting.

Finally, the internal font size has changed, increasing markedly. This changes the feel of the articles, and makes them feel far more airy and brief, which I'm not a fan of. This, combined with the shorter pages may mean we're technically getting less content in terms of text than we were previously.

The white bar is the top of last month's issue, with the bottom edge aligned.
The Indifferent

There's nothing I can think of at the moment that hasn't fallen into one of the above camps. Take that as a sign of either me being too opinionated, or the changes being significant.

Grombrindal is Dead. Long Live Grombrindal? Let's get onto the review.

Review

The New Logo

I like it. In comparison the old logo does look a little dated, where as the new one look nice and bold, with a bit of a retro edge.  (+1)

The Cover

I'd have to search my White Dwarf collection to find if there's even been a model on the cover before. I don't think there has, but I'm not certain. * EDIT It would seem that it's White Dwarf 316, which had the plastic giant on the cover. Any other suggests from the UK? Certainly looking online at some US editions there were far more instances of models on the cover. * I like it, as it provides an idea what GW actually sells. If it's what we'll have going forward then it is relying on a good model being out every month. Guess we'll see what happens.

The layout is good, providing a nice run of the big games along side the title, but with the other text giving have more specifics than we've seen recently. I wonder if we'll see the Hobbit added to the list or simply replacing LotR. If someone's avoided the publicity around the new White Dwarf and the forthcoming releases then the cover would do a good job of pulling them in. (+2)

The Spine

It's going to be far easier to browse the spines with the month so prominently shown.  Again it's a shame the issue number has disappeared. It's good to see the content summary (however pared down) mixed with a quote. Going to start getting repetitive or redundant if there are months without big releases though. (+1)

Just so I can make the point again, lack of issue number (-1)

The Poster

I was going to say "the free poster" and then remembered the price increase. It's nice to see something packaged with White Dwarf again. I'd rather it was a model, or card terrain (I suspect those days are long gone) but I'm a sucker for a poster as well. (+2)



Inside Cover - In a return to the old days we get shots of the whole team, so it's now possible to put a face to the article. Hopefully we'll also get a little paragraph from everyone as the months go by. In a surprising move we've also been given the email addresses for the team. Make of that what you will. Certainly gets points from me for opening communication with the community. (+2)

Pg 1. Editorial - Jes Bickham gets the issue off to a good start, putting the new White Dwarf in it's hobby surroundings, and an invitation for feedback. There's also a foreshadowing of the layout style to come, with little pictures (you'll see what I mean further down). (+1)

Pg 2-3. Contents - To get this out of the way now, pretty much everything feels new, or at least tweaked, I'll talk about what's changed in each section as I get to it, but take the "it's new" comment as read unless I go out of the way to say otherwise. The contents now spreads across two pages, with article titles, summaries and, slightly redundantly, shots of the page. Useful if you're searching for a specific article in years to come I suppose. (0)


Pg 4-47 New Releases - Take a deep breath. Don't be scared by the page count. Things are different now. Before the "New Releases" section was mostly pictures of the new releases, that would be followed up by an article on them, probably taking up the same sort of page count as we get here.

I've had to force myself to read the text is this section, as I've been conditioned to concentrate on the pictures. Let what that says sink in for a moment.

The pictures of the models and a bit of background on them is presented on the same page, each little bit of text sitting with the author's initials, so you know who to praise/blame.

The presentation of the models themselves has changed, with detail shots being far more prevalent, and the majority of models being shown both against an appropriate backdrop (everything is dark red this month, fitting the atmosphere of the Chaos models).

Each new kit has at least it's own page, if not two, with the Maulerfiend and Forgefiend going so far as to share a gatefold. Hopefully we'll see more fold out  sections in later issues, for particularly impressive battle reports and the like.

The blurb has a nice split between the background and the kit as a model, and the more detailed shots come into their own with different weapon options picked out and codified.

These sections lack the pricing and kit/material details, as these have all been moved to the "Full Releases List" at the end of the section. This is a bit of a pain, as looking at some of the models it'd be nice to know straight off if they were Finecast or not, and the like.

It take till page 22 to get to details on the Codex, which seems like it ought to be opening the show. It's worth the wait though, with shots of the pages, that provide an idea as to it's contents, and a half page of text about the book. This doesn't seem a lot, but there's more later in the book, and if you're not interested in Chaos (Loyalist scum that you must be) then it's not drowning you in tedious information. That said, it was probably the wrong month to pick up White Dwarf. It certainly does nothing to dim my enthusiasm for the book. 

Sadly we've not quite seen the end of toting Finecast, as the four big marked characters get two pages to themselves, followed by another two pages of assorted Chaos Finecast re-releases, with text that drips praise for the material. I wouldn't mind if it was more balanced.

The psychic powers cards are tacked in at the end of this section with no mention of them being only a limited release. Interestingly there's no mention of the Limited Edition Codex at all, which I suspect is a sign that everyone knew how fast it would sell out.

The upgrade packs get two pages, and are interestingly presented, with a photo of the contents, and a photo of the painted parts added to an unpainted model, giving a clear, if slightly redundant, idea of their usage. Not all the parts in each kit are shown in the pictures, although there is a full rundown in the text.

The Battleforce gets a page to itself, feeling a bit alone in showing old plastic kits. It'd have been nice to see the whole range of Chaos models as it currently stands, even if it was just a big army shot.

Lastly in the Chaos section, Abaddon and Hurin get a look in, as models that have been out in Finecast for a while.

The section breaks new ground with the inclusion of "Digital Products", which now includes White Dwarf, a fearfull harbinger of a day (hopefully a long time coming) when physical printing is no longer viable. If anyone has the digital edition I'd be interested to know what they think.

There's also the Chaos Space Marine Codex as a digital edition, as an iPad exclusive for the moment.

The Black Library finds itself included within the New Releases, with a staggering four pages to talk about new and upcoming releases, with a page apiece given to Shadows of Treachery and Treacheries of The Space Marines. The sniff of Warhammer this month comes in the form of Swords of the Emperor and The Sundering getting half a page each. Lastly comes Brotherhood Of The Storm, which, with it's week long window gives White Dwarf readers a chance to buy it if they act fast, and two audio dramas with a Chaotic focus, Chosen Of Khorne and Perfection.

Forge World has also joined in the main releases, with a sadly dateless and priceless (yes, I know all the above have been so far as well, but see below) entry with the first Horus Heresy book, Betrayal, and a focus on Space Marines, with only the Preyton hailing from the Fantasy side of things.

Licensed Games make a full appearance, rather than just in dribs and drabs on the old news pages, with a focus this month on Fantasy Flight Games' Relic. I wonder if we'll ever see the game in store. (+38)

Pg 48-49 Full Release List - This will be a bit of a blast from the past for older readers, with a list of this months releases, sculptors, dates and prices all in one place. As mentioned above there's no information for Forge World, or for the Licenced Games for that matter. (+2)

Pg 50-51 Games Workshop Direct. Our first true advert of the new White Dwarf, with the website being put forward, couched as a store rather than anything else. A sad reflection on the lack of obvious deeper content to be found there. (-2)

Pg 52-57 Army Of The Month - Skaven. At last some Fantasy amongst all the 40K Chaos, and this month's first real article. It's always good to see someone elses army, and the pictures give a nice balance between seeing the force as a whole and focusing on individual models. The numbering of the shots also allows a bit of explanitory text to be attached to each, giving it more value. What's harder to countenancer is the return of big quote block, taking up space. It's repetitious and tiresome. The text of the article ties in very well with the photos though, and as the first full piece it works well. (+5)

Pg 58-59 Jervis Johnson - Farewell Standardbearer then? With the big picture of Jervis, and the increased text size, I'm not sure if the text would have been much beyond a page in last month's edition.  Content wise though, things are good. There's no decent into talking about the new style of White Dwarf, which would have been somewhat navel gazing. Instead we get a piece on the removal of  0-1 unit restrictions, that goes to interesting places.(+1)

Pg 60-77 Battle Report - Chaos Space Marines vs Space Marines. Or more proper, Alpha Legion vs White Scars. This is going to be the real proof of the new White Dwarf for me, as Battle Reports have been badly handled for a while now. Things get off to a bad start with a narrow text bar and a two page spread of the armies decoratively, but pointlessly arrayed.

The opening text is an odd look behind the curtain, essentially saying, "This is us kicking the wheels of the new Codex, playing with the shiny bits. Chaos is fighting Space Marines, because it fits, and we can use more special rules." Quoting verbatim for a moment
"To make this test as useful as possible, we'll be reporting on the action in general, and focusing on the details as they pertain to what the army is like to play with."
It's an interesting and potentially more useful take on the Battle Report, but does it work?

The new style flows through into the pre game army building discussion, with the emphasis on "here's what we're going to showcase/try out". It's a refreshingly honest approach to it. The Chaos Force is a nice mix of models with Alpha Legion (From Chris Peach's army that was shown last month) and newer models from the 'Eavy Metal team.

The tiny pictures are possibly taken to the extreme here, and look unbalanced, especially with the font looking so big.

The Space Marine force is to be "the crash test dummy", and to that end the force covers a whole range of attack and defensive options. Interestingly neither player has chosen to dick around with fortifications.

The army lists are presented in a new format, clearly split between the different parts of the Force Organisation Chart.

The report starts with deployment, with the type of scenario apparently coming second. It works after a fashion, but isn't brilliant. Deployment is shown with a shot of the table from the Whote Scar POV, which is a poor second to a overhead shot, or a map.

Rather than Turn 1, we get "Opening", which covers turn one. "Midgame" or turns 2, 3 and 4, and Endgame (turns 5 and 6)  continue the cometary, which flip flops back and forth between the commanders as they play. It's a style that only half works, as some units are left in the cold, but there is a bit of tactical insight. Overall though there just isn't the detail.

The text commentary goes to pains to match up with the pictures at times, and it is all the better for it. It does get out of step though, and things start to fall apart.

The pictures of the game in progress feel weird as Adam and Andrew seem to be playing in the inky black void.

Some of the writing is lacking in terms of description and clarity. Also "in other news" is not a phrase that should be used in a battle report. For what sets out to be an evaluation of the Chaos force things get a bit too wishy washy.

Throughout in fact the bigger picture of the battle takes a back seat to showcasing the action on a smaller scale, with the focus on how the Chaos army fares. While it may fit with the stated intent of the report, not having an overall picture of how the battle develops feels disappointing, and has left me a bit disconnected.

Here's a shot of the report, giving an idea of the layout. Note that new White Dwarf lies badly on the desktop as a result of it's new size. 


The conclusions are split into the thoughts of the two players and cometary from others. The player commentary feeds back nicely into the opening army selection, returning to the points to be tested about the Chaos force. It descends too much into discussion rather than analysis, but there's the seed of something good there. The outside commentary picks up on a lot of faults, but most glaring is that it doesn't seem to be a about the game at all, but about how the tests went.  

The Battle Report was the wrong vehicle for testing an army, and it'd have been much better to have done an Arena of Death type article, or scrubbed the plan entirely and just gone for a standard old school battle report. 

I'm unsure how to judge things here. I can't honestly say that I'm impressed by the new style of Battle Report, but then little of the article felt like a Battle Report. I think I'm going to have to remain on the fence until next month, in the hope we get a proper Report rather than a failed hybrid. (-12)

Pg 76- 81 The Rivals. An interesting new type of article, with two writers taking and defending differing viewpoints. It's a good addition in theory, but the discussions start from bad footing, with, in this instance, a Dark Elf general in favour of spreading power across a force, and a Vampire general in favour of keeping things together more. It's an argument that is always going to boil down to being horses for courses, as the armies work differently. The Vampire force shows the extreme end, with a unit of Black Knights with four vampires in, but the argument still feels flawed. There's an army list for each force, without accompanying pictures, making this feel more like a paper exercise than a reality. There are tiny pictures of the two forces, that accompany a back and forth between the two players as to who would win and why, that is resolved with a box out, that comes down to, we fought and one of us won.

It's a good idea, but like the battle report, it suffers from iffy execution. (-4)


Things get better after the break...



Pg 82-89 The Horus Heresy - Opening with a double page spalsh that's enough to make me go wow, this is a good article, mixing showcasing the background and the new models without either feeling short changed, and touching on all the things that have gone into the Heresy so far, and a love letter to the Black Library series. There's a bit of shoehorning to get the information about Betrayal and the new wave of models in, sadly.  The big feature though is Angron, and rightfully so. He looks fantastic. (+8)

Pg 90-93 Blancitsu - Despite using two pages for the opening where half od one would have done, I can forgive any and all sins with a John Blanche article. It's the essence of Games Workshop background and design laid bare, and it's brilliant. This month the focus is on Inquisitor warbands, and some gorgeous conversions and artwork. (+4)

Pg 94-95 Citadel Hall Of Fame - The Nightbringer. If you're going to give such a high honour to a model you may as well give it a full page shot to show it off. It's always interesting to get the nominators, and the sculptors viewpoint on the model they've sculpted.(+2)

Pg 96-101 Parade Ground - Six pages showing off various models and units, from around the Design Studio with a bit of commentary, does a great job of demonstrating what can be done with GW's kits. It's very cool to see the 'Eavy Metal teams own models, as well as those from others. It's a shame to see models that were in last month's White Dwarf though (Night Lords and Bretonnians)

I've said in previous reviews that White Dwarf needs to interact more with the community. This looks like it'll be the stage to do that in future editions, with an invitation to submit pictures. (+5)

Pg 102-105 Kit Bash - Ork Fighta Bombers- With photos of the finished models compared to the unpainted conversions it's an illuminating article as to what can be done with kits (and a good paint job). It's heartening to see that this will be monthly. (+4)

Pg 106-111 Battlegrounds - The Urdek Refinery Another article that needs it's pictures to make an impact, they aren't the be all and end all, with a lot of little modelling tips and hints, and a fair old wow factor. The only thing missing is an unpainted WIP shot, but that's me being picky. (+6)

Pg 112-117 Paint Splatter - I've had my issues with the painting guides shown recently in White Dwarf, and they continue into its new incarnation. Less of a painting guide, and more field notes, my complaint remains that there isn't enough text backing up the pictures. There's also some quite rough painting on display, and some models we only see part of. There's a few layout issues that annoy me here as well, such as numbering four pictures in a square 1,3 (top row), and 2,4.  (bottom row). That's not the way English readers read things. Either run a line down the middle or go 1, 2 and 3, 4.

It is good to see the techniques used on some of the models previously shown in the issue to be broken down (with page references), but there needs to be a bit more text. The warpstone technique has some weird, redundant steps for example. (-5)

Pg 118-119 Jeremy Vetock - Following the same layout as Jervis' article, I'm not sure if the piece is really worth two pages. I do know that I have no pressing need for almost half a page to be a head shot of the author.  Layout aside, the contents is lacking, it's all text and ideas about the hobby, and no pictures of the physical side of what is being talked about. It's all very well for Jervis' design rational discussions, but not for talk based on terrain projects and the like.  It's a oddly pitched piece about lofty aspirations and tempering them a bit, but doesn't really finish. (-2)

Pg 120 Facebook. Really GW? Everyone else just sticks the logo somewhere unobtrusive. (-1)

Pg 121-135 Local Events and Where to Buy. Pretty much business as usual here, with a look at the Glasgow store and a big list of stores around the world.

We also has the first QR code of the issue. It's a shame that these aren't elsewhere, to link to product pages on the web say. (+1)

Pg 136 White Dwarf Subscriptions. Once again business as usual. (0)

Pg 137-151 This Month In... - And White Dwarf suddenly cranks it up a gear. Flicking through I got the stores lists, and wondered what on earth the last chunk of pages were going to be. Pure gold, as it turns out.  This Month In.. goes behind the scenes in various departments, so I'll break things down further.

...White Dwarf. Remember way at the top, where I said I wonder if we'd see a bit from each member of the WD team? Well this month deals with introductions, but I suspect next month we'll start to see things get a bit more personalised. There's another invitation to send stuff in, which is all for the good. And a nice window on what the team has been up to other than making the mag.(+4)

...The Design Studio. I'll no doubt express this at points anon, but I would be first in the queue for another Jes Goodwin stetchbook.

Why am I mentioning this? Because the Design Studio section has Phil Kelly and Jes Godwin talking about the new Chaos releases, with the illustrations from Jes spread across the piece. 6 pages of fantastic stuff, (although the Dark Apostle sketch isn't up to the high standard of the rest). (+8)

...Forge World. A slightly dated segment about the Rhino outside of GW HQ, is the only poor section amongst more details on the Heresy releases. (+2)

...Black Library. Christian Dunn gives us more of the Heresy with hints of things to come with the series and how it echoes down the years to other books, while Gav Thorpe gives us his favourite moments from the Sundering. (+2)

Pg 152 Gandalf. With no text, it's a teasing page filler. Is it for next month? Certainly LotR content has been notably absent, bar some Rangers in the Parade Ground piece. (0)

Inside Back Cover - Hobby Calendar. Octobers big hobby events including the CSM release day, Warhammer World events and Games Days around the World. A shame it's marred by an inconsitent layout. (0)

Back Cover - Swooping Helldrake. A nice, if redundant, echoing of the front cover. (0)

So then the grand total comes to +71

Last month's issue scored a miserable -38, so I think it can be agreed that White Dwarf has improved for it's make over, although the score does reflect the presence of the new Heresy releases and being a launch issue. The biggest complaint I have is over the Battle Report, which was messy. It'll take another issue before I can decide about the price rise, as I need to decouple the idea of paying an extra £1 from the increase in quality, and figure it against the actual value instead.

Here's hoping the invite for readers content sees a good response, and that White Dwarf becomes part of the community again.

Article of the Month: "This Month In..."

Grombrindal is Dead. Long Live Grombrindal.
 
With the White Dwarf relaunch having gone well (on the whole), I can only hope that we also see changes to the Games Workshop website as well.

What do you think of the new White Dwarf? 

Comments

  1. Knight of Infinite Resignation3 October 2012 at 00:46

    I didn't like it, the articles were lightweight and the editorials/blog pieces just rather odd.

    The painting guides were pointless and poor quality. Too many big pictures and too many small ones too! Can we have normal sized pics and text please?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's got a long way to go, but compared to previous months it is a lot better. Not perfect by a long stretch, but better.

      The painting guides need to bring back 'Eavy Metal painters and give four pages over to one model, and include some text. The battle report suffers badly from the picture size issue. It seems they found a style that worked for the New Releases and then ran with it throughout. The text size is jarring once you notice it. Fingers crossed we see a better issue next month.

      Delete

Post a Comment