Wednesday, December 18, 2013

White Dwarf vs. Data Slates

It has been a long time since I ranted/raved/bitched/bemoaned/celebrated, etc. White Dwarf magazine, the monthly full color fix that I have craved since 1989. Because I was kind of at peace with it. In my last discussion on this subject, White Dwarf now, I celebrated the change over from the previous incarnation that I believe I can be quoted as labeling it's design as "sterile" with it's over-abundance of white covers and white space throughout the magazine. Since the new format started, with it's semi-glossy covers and funky orange logo, it has focused a lot more on dynamic photos and really showing off the new releases. Yes, it's a catalog in that sense, but it's done well and I get a very good sense of what I can do with a given kit and I get a good sense of what the included components are. This is a vast jump from the early days when we were sometimes lucky to even get a list of the new releases!  Often it was an in-house ad or the catalog pages at the end of the issue that we relied on to figure out what was new. And there wasn't a web site back then. 

But what the older White Dwarfs had, that I have been ranting about since I started this blog, was the need for worthy content and a reduction of the disposable nature of the magazine, especially at the current price levels (see changes-coming-for-white-dwarf.). The new format was a welcome, however I welcomed it not as a final solution to my White Dwarf wants and needs, but a massive step towards them. After a while, I started to grow bored with this 'new' format. The format seems locked, and rarely changes much. There is NO game usable content, and hardly any new background material. Ironically, that was something the previous editorial team was actually making strides at improving (the flyers expansion for example) right up to it's end.

Fast forward to December 2013 and we are now seeing this much needed content becoming readily available from our friends (yes, they are quite friendly, and thank you!) at GamesWorkshopDigitalEditions, granted for a price. But let's look at this material, the 'data-slates' in particular included with this month's Advent Calendar event: (12/18/2013: The History of Captain Sicarius of the Ultramarines; 12/17/2013: Carnage: a 4-player scenario for Warhammer 40,000; etc.) This is the kind of thing that used to be in White Dwarf! Expanded background, additional rules for older models, unique scenarios, rules on conducting campaigns, etc. So much so that I scratch my head and wonder what the function of White Dwarf truly is at this point other than a massive new release ad campaign that the consumer pays for the privilege of consuming! Genius marketing tactic if this truly is the case!

The content that GWDE is selling outshines a lot of the page-filing drivel that is in the current White Dwarf. Jervis' column is just so...ugh... I don't even try to read it anymore. It's like advice about the simplest of game concepts that only game designers or marketing people think of when they're stuck in a porta-toliet at an event that they don't want to be at, and they end up day-dreaming about fair play and sportsmanship among the geriatric contestants on bingo night at the village hall is the only respite from the misery they're in. Only that he chose to write about it. And an editor chose to publish it. Vetock's column isn't much better. only that I rarely see a point to it whereas Jervis has a point with each article, it's just an irrelevant point. Sorry gents, it's just how the last year's worth of columns have felt to me. Jervis had some great columns back in the '90s edition of Citadel Journal. I fondly recall an experimental article regarding how vehicles worked in Warhammer 40,000 that was very interesting to read. I didn't care for the experimental rules at the time, but appreciated the sharing of the material and his request for input at the time.

And the battlereports... the battlereports have been.... sort of lame really. I like to see pics of a real game in play, but I really used to get a kick out of the staged photos presenting the newest army going up against an established army, if anything just to see the lavish boards and new models from different angles. The current BRs just don't feel very exciting, and I get really annoyed when they don't play with point-balanced armies, but instead just wing it. ("we just wanted to show off everything we had painted"). Battle-reports should be used to show us rule changes, to show us examples of game play especially regarding the more advanced and challenging aspects of the rules, and most importantly, to show new players how to play! Preferably without dumbing it down.

Why couldn't this have been an article in White Dwarf?! 
What I do like still about the 'new' format: The photography remains top-notch! The new product pages, although taking up a lot of pages, are very nicely done still. Blanchitsu is still awesome, the paint guides in the back are nicely done, Armies on Parade is still a thrill to look through, Kit-Bash remains interesting and the Hall of Fame is always a nice read.

Most of the preceding I would reduce for: A short story/comic (Don't tell me BL isn't sitting on a ton of material that WD couldn't exploit! I should be careful what I wish for, or else they might decide to bring back Obvious Tactics from Inferno!), gaming content (it you still want to sell it separately well I'm sure there will always be a specific audience for it vs. people who read White Dwarf anyway), well written articles about select armies and ranges that coincide with the newest releases (White Dwarf used to excel at this, and sometimes it still shines. The Codex Space Marines release had some good articles about the evolution of Space Marine army and designer thoughts on the creation of the Centurians),  FAQs, (cause why not?), background material on Warhammer or Warhammer 40,000 and anything else to justify the price tag.

Thanks for reading this rant, and feel free to contribute your thoughts in the comments section.

(All images from this post were taken from or without permission and are presented here for review purposes only and not as a challenge to copyright or ownership)


Edwin said...

I kind of like the idea of the data slates more then white dwarfing the rules. It took me a good while to get both white dwarf containing the entire sisters of battle rules. You miss a book and you can't find them any more. White dwarf is just meh. They are a nice read, but not a nice buy for the price.

neverness said...

Good comment.

As far as back issues go, I believe back issues of the digital version are available but not not so much the issues prior to the 40k 6th edition release.

Amy E said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Da Masta Cheef said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Da Masta Cheef said...

And now that I'm signed in, and not Amy...

Quote: "This is the kind of thing that used to be in White Dwarf! Expanded background, additional rules for older models, unique scenarios, rules on conducting campaigns, etc."

lol, ya Rob & I were having that discussion just the other day. I still have no want to buy WD, and barring the 'Cypher' Dataslate (cause I'm an old fogie who used to field him)I have no interest in all the new 'buy 6 broadsides and a riptide so you can turn tau into kroot mercs' nonsense. Its just another shallow attempt at disguising marketing as game design.

War Frog said...

I hate & love this concept. White Dwarf is a horrible overprice advertisement, it does not even qualify as a magazine. I would rather buy an occasional dataslate on demand for a few bucks vs trying to find an old 10$ white dwarf. Back in the day WD came with great items like free minis, or cardboard buildings, and real rules supplements. Now WD is just crap.

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