For all that this is a big launch issue, there isn't an overwhelming amount of Hobbit content, and the other systems get their fair share of coverage, which is a welcome change from the Dark Vengeance launch issue.
Free Poster- This is a massive poster.
It's an impressive display of the 40K range. Hopefully we'll see a Fantasy one next month.
Cover - I'm not sure about the use of models this month. For an issue that potentially has a much wider audience than the usual readers, I'd have gone for an image from the film, to draw people in.
They have really captured Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage as Biblo and Thorin, but Gandalf isn't looking much like Ian McKellen.
Opening Salvo - Sadly we're back to plugging this month's models (-1).
New Releases - Unsurprisingly it's wall to wall Hobbit. AS impressive as the gatefolds are I think they'd be much better used in the Battle Reports.
The individual shots of Thorin's Company really do the models justice, and the new releases section is the last time we really focus on them. It's good to see unnecessary shots being dropped from the rest of the issue, although I'm still not used to the New Releases section being an integral part of the issue again it is a good change. The only issue I have is that it would have been better to caption the pictures rather than use the number system, especially with the Dwarves, and the list of names.
The New Releases also includes the news that the Fellowship of the Ring plastic miniatures from the discontinued Mines of Moria set are to released on their own. It's suprising how these models have aged compared to the new Dwarves.
Crusade Of Fire gets four pages, which g a long way towards looking like an interesting book. Not sure I'm fully sold though.
There's also the parts of the Wall Of Martyrs set, which uses action shots, and doesn't give much of an idea of what's in each box.
The Black Library section highlights "The Siege Of Castellax" and the audio drama "Garro: Sword of Truth", and does a good job of talking up both stories. There's also another two pages worth of books out. The Black Library's output month on month floors me at times.
Forge World only get two pages this month, and show off their new tanks. I hope we see more of their kits on the pages of White Dwarf soon.
Digital Products keep adding more a more articles to the iTunes Newsstand.
The Licenced Games section focuses upon the release of "Talisman: Prologue" for PC and mobile devices, setting the stage for the release of a full Talisman game in the future. (+44)
We hit our first proper article of the month on pg 54...
Army Of The Month takes a look at Keith Robertson's Ogre Kingdoms. A former 'Eavy Metal painter and someone whose personal armies I've always liked it's great to see a feature on the Ogres, and get his thoughts on collecting and army building. (+6)
Jervis talks about playing in "the spirit of the game" this month, which talks about how the studio tried to fold it into the latest 40K rules set, and talks around the subject for a bit.
The Battle Report is Hobbit focused, featuring the "Flight to Freedom" scenario from the new game, using the models from the "Escape From Goblin Town" box set. One again there is an emphasis on "showcasing" abilities and models, and this seems even stranger than usual, as the thing readers will be interested in is the basic rules and how the game flows.
Sadly the battle report is a mess, and without a map, and only the photography of interchangeable goblins and dwarves to go on it's not easy to follow the action, or appreciate the larger battle. The whole game is covered in two pages of text (stretched to four with the pictures) and lacks any of the useful rules box outs that would usually accompany an inaugural battle report.
Without a change of style the Battle Reports are going to become a section I just skim over (-14)
The Rivals is turning out to be quite a nice series, that's basically taking pub arguments and deciding them. This week it's essentially "Who's harder: Ork Nobz or Wlf Guard". (+4)
Blanchitsu is only two pages this month, and it's Space Marine focused. It's a nice compact bit of inspiration for those of us who like John Blache's style. (+2)
Hall Of Fame - Coven Throne. I have no argument with this, it's an awesome model, all the more impressive because it works so well as two different models. (+2)
Parade Ground is flyer focused this month, and includes some fantastic conversions, including an Ork Bomber based on this plane, and it's damned impressive. We also get the first of the reader's submissions. (+10)
Kit Bash is much shorter, but non the less impressive, and once again features reader's models. (+4)
Battle Ground takes a look at the jaw dropping Somaro Starfort this month. It's a phenomenal model, and it's great to see it discussed here. Just a shame they're aren't any in progress shots, but you can't have it all. (+6)
Paint Splatter sticks to it's short form style and seems to be mostly taking the piss with it's guide on how to paint the Escape From Goblin Town set. 'Eavy Metal have certainly not just used one colour for each element of the models, and I'd imagine they've not simply dry brushed the beards, as suggested. The goblins are covered in a bit more detail, but ridiculously it's the Goblin Town terrain that gets the most description.
There's also a single page for Keith Robertson's Ogres, detailing skin, and a very orange rust. The layout of stages still annoys me, going vertically in a 2x2 grid, rather than horizontally, as you'd expect given it's in an English language magazine (if it were in Mandarin, or Arabic, then I'd be perfectly happy with up/down or right/left layout. All I ask is consistency). (-6)
Jeremy Vetock writes a good article about the boons of bad weather, and a game from yesteryear (1991). (+2)
This Month In... once again proves to be a great section
...White Dwarf. Another set of freshly painted models gets shown off, and snippets of news on the teams army projects and battles. (+2)
... The Design Studio takes an eight page look at the Hobbit Game, with a look at the models and the rules system. (+8)
...Forge World takes a look at some of the work in progress for the forthcoming Battle Of Black Fire Pass book, and boy does it look impressive. There's even the use of 28mm scale chainmail to detail models. There's also a look at models from the Heresy series. (+2)
...Black Library has interviews with James Swallow and CL Werner about their latest books, and it's always interesting to see what the writer have to say (+2)
And that's it apart from a picture of a Zombie Dragon, the Calendar (next issue: Jan 5th) and a back cover shot of the trolls.
Overall this issue gets a score of 73, which is quite good.
The real thing to take from this month is the White Dwarf is at its best when not trying to sell models, but instead enjoying the hobby. Battle Reports are still a shambles, and really need to start looking back to the old days of 10+ pages and maps. I haven't come away desperate to play the Hobbit, which is a big failing for a launch issue, but I am keen to get converting models, so that's a plus.