Archive for white dwarf

WD Weekly and Warhammer: Visions — is it really that bad?

Posted in Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , on February 7, 2014 by krautscientist

Oh boy, what a week!

Even before my own respective copies of White Dwarf Weekly and Warhammer: Visions arrived in the mail last Saturday, I could already learn online that this was supposedly yet another catastrophy of epic proportions: The internet was already awash with reviews by Friday evening, and none of them were positive. And a sinking feeling was slowly growing in the pit of my stomach — was this the truth? Would the new magazines, especially Warhammer: Visions, really be as awful as everyone said?

Now, after spending the last weekend looking through both publications, then taking a few days to collect my thoughts on the matter, I have to say that the answer is not that simple, at least not for me. Allow me to elaborate:

Visions_review (1)

Before we take a look at the magazines proper, let me first say that the decision to split a running publication into two offshoots, if you will, all against the background of an economy where print publications are closed down rather than newly established, is still baffling to me. It would also be interesting to learn whether all of this was really part of a well-considered long term plan, or rather a more or less spontaneous endeavour (although I doubt magazines at that scope can truly be manufactured “spontaneously”). What I do understand, at least, is the fact that the return to a weekly release schedule necessitates an adjustment in the accompanying publications: If you want to be the one showcasing your own releases, you need a weekly publication alongside them, period. But to produce larger editorial content beyond the actual release info for a weekly publication can be a rather daunting task. So you split your existing magazine down the middle, right?

At least, that’s what it seems like at first glance: White Dwarf Weekly is basically a WD with all the fat trimmed off, while Visions is basically the remaining fat, to put it very briefly. But let’s take a closer look and allow me to tell you what I think about the new publications:


White Dwarf Weekly

What I liked:
Well, the mag is bascially identical to the first half of the “regular” White Dwarf we’ve been seeing for a little over two years now, and I have gone on record stating that I rather like the format. You still get a visually fairly comprehensive coverage on the new model releases, along with glimpses at new BL stuff as well. There’s also a stripped-down collection of editorial content, from Jervis Johnson’s usual column to articles on assembling and painting the new models. Nothing new so far, and if you’ve been comfortable with the latest format of WD, you’ll know what to expect.

The inclusion of rules for new models is also a really nice touch, and a return to earlier incarnations of the mag, albeit only a small one: It remains to be seen if this feature will only be used to tide people over until they get the expanded rules for a new character or unit with their army book (released in the same month, no less) or if GW will use this platform to actually release new rules that will not appear anywhere else — at least not for quite a while. For now, this could really go both ways, but it definitely has some potential for the future development of WD Weekly.

What I hated:
Here’s the thing, though: The fact that WD Weekly lacks virtually all the showcase elements of the latest monthly WD issues means that this basically feels like the first 20 pages torn out of a regular WD. And while the section depicting the new releases is thorough enough, this is really content that I can find for free on GW’s own website. The lack of kitbashes and custom armies to go back to and pore over really eats into the mag’s staying power, if you ask me: I read through it in about half an hour and only went back once to take a closer look for this review.

While most bloggers and commenters saw WD Weekly as the winner in this particular race, it was clearly the opposite for me: Dropping many of the showcase features leads to a magazine shorn of everything I personally find interesting. There’s the information on new releases, sure. But, like I said,  I can find plentiful information (and better pictures) of that stuff online, even on GW’s own website. The prospect of having new rules introduced through this publication alongside new kits is possibly the most interesting thing about WD Weekly, and I might get those issues dealing with kits and rules that interest me. But by and large, and especially at 3,20 Euros a pop, I think I’ll pass on this more often than not.


Warhammer: Visions

What I liked:
Warhammer: Visions is definitely a fascinating product because it seems so experimental in many ways: I am not all that sure that there is a noticeable market for a wargaming coffeee table book like that, to be honest, and it remains to be seen whether it will find its feet in the future or just turn out to be a way for GW to fulfill existing subscriptions before being unceremoniously canned.

That said, it really felt like some of the carry-over categories from WD really work much better in the new format:

Visions_review (3)
The “Army of the Month” feature, for one, gets quite an expansion (at 14 pages), which is great: I’ve always loved looking at well-conceived armies, even if I don’t play that particular faction or system, and 14 pages are enough space to really showcase the intricacies and little details. In the latest issues of WD, the Army of the Month feature was always too short for my taste, and the new format really works for me!

And while I can get tired of looking at GD winners for too long, there are some rather nice pieces in this issue’s showcase section, and even quite a bit of stuff I hadn’t seen before, such as Will Hahn’s amazing Nurgle Daemon Prince:

Visions_review (4)
Sure, you can always argue about the choice of content here, but such matters usually come down to personal taste. What I do like is that the section gets enough room to really showcase some of the more interesting detail, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome, either.

It’s also great to see that Blanchitsu and Kitbash make a return, although either of these could (and should) be expanded in the future, especially the former: I do realise that not everyone shares John Blanche’s taste in miniatures and design. Neither is everyone a fan of INQ28. But Blanchitsu represents a wholly unique voice in this hobby of hours, and INQ28 is the embodiment of “anything goes” in design terms: You can play any character you want. The model representing your character can be as restrained or as crazy as you want. You can experiment with kitbashing, painting or what have you. Towards this end, if you’re going for a mag that should showcase the versatility of GW’s models, Blanchitsu is basically your ace in the hole!

Visions_review (8)
Visions_review (9)
Oh, and one last thing: Quite a few people online are arguing that the smaller format is a step back, but I tend to disagree here: I really found it rather pleasant, and it somehow makes the mag feel “special”, less like a catalogue and more like an artbook. Sure, this is really a matter of personal preference, but the argument that the decrease in size allows for less content seems like a bit of a non-issue to me: I don’t believe they would have changed much about the mag’s content had it been any bigger: Like it or not, the layout and content of the mag seem to have been a deliberate choice on GW’s part.

What I hated:
Well, first of all, there are two things that I didn’t actually hate, but that puzzled me nonetheless, the first one being the very small amount of text in the mag. At least for the showcase sections, I would be okay with this, though: I realise the age of finding sprawling fluff and background sections in WD is well behind us, and I realise that, these days, extensive reading is not what I want from GW’s monthly or weekly publications. I come for the eye candy and stay for a couple of insightful comments and snippets of text here and there. Don’t get me wrong,  I love my background as much as the next guy (or, indeed, moreso on most occasions). But there’s so much excellent background fluff available online that GW is no longer my main outlet for that kind of content anyway. So, by and large, I don’t care about the lack of text all that much, except for two cases:

One, I would love to read something about the conception of the new models, even if it’s just some small designer’s notes – I’ll be getting to that in more detail in a minute. Two, I think that, at this point, they should really drop the battle reports altogether: If they are not prepared to give us either background context or rules and tactics discussions, the report is ultimately hollow. To wit, the most interesting thing about this month’s battle report was the opprotunity to get a closer look at Matt Hudson’s CSM army, if you ask me.

Then there’s the one thing that I really hated, and that’s the amount of repetition in the issue: We get 70 or 80+ pages of Tyranid models and colour schemes we have already seen last month (or online). I realise that GW need to feature the “flavor of the month army” prominently, but why use the same models and images over and over? And why compile a sprawling book of excellently painted miniatures and then complement it with painting guides that are really basic and unsophisticated? GW are welcome to feature the army of the month as much as they like, but they should be prepared to make the content dealing with that army as exciting as possible (instead of using twenty closeups from the same sprawling battle scene).

All in all, I am disappointed with Visions, but only midly so: If done right, I believe that this could be the kind of hobby publication I would be really interested in. As it stands, though, the first issue (which should have been a real killer) seems like a bit of a missed opportunity. They should really have let rip with this first installment, in order to win skeptics over. They settled for “kinda okay-ish” though, which is very unfortunate. Still, I believe Visions could become something special if handled right (and I will share some ideas with you in the next paragraph, be prepared). Whether it can be economically successful is a wholly different question, of course. But out of the two mags on offer, Visions is the far more interesting one, at least in my opinion. The mag has been derisively called “Miniature Porn” by many commenters, but you know what: That’s actually its appeal! I don’t know about you, but ogling beautifully converted and painted miniatures has been one of the core features of the hobby for me ever since my childhood friends and me sat hunched around a 40k 2nd edition colour section during our school breaks, marveling at the quality of the miniatures on display.


As it stands, both premieres are slightly underwhelming, which, of course, is hardly ideal when you’re replacing a long running product with two new ones. But I don’t want to be all negative here, so let me share some ideas on how to improve future issues. Some of these may be realistic, some of them may be crazy. But hey, I am just a blogger, so don’t expect any realism from me, okay?

I’ll also be focusing on Visions here, because it simply seems like the more promising format. So here goes:

1. Get rid of the countless rehashes:

Instead of reusing stuff we already know over and over again, why not compile a spotlight article for the faction that gets the most releases of the month? Such an article could feature enough pictures of the studio army, but it could also encompass concept art, short blurbs by the designers or even images of classic models. All of this would show how that particular army has evolved over time, what it means to the designers or what its central characteristics are. I firmly believe this would generate more buzz for any given army than just featuring the same 50 models in ever-changing arrangements. Also, instead of only featuring the studio armies, why not tap into the limitless supply of fantastic images available: The last issues of monthly WD were really good about using hobbyists’ armies over studio armies, so why not continue that trend? Speaking of the Tyranids, for example, Jes Bickham’s own hive fleet has been featured to death, but now it’s missing from the one issue of Visions actually dealing with ‘Nids? What gives? And why do they only show Adrian Komarski’s amazing models – easily some of the best ‘Nids I’ve ever seen – on the homepage but neglect to feature them in the mag? Each of these armies could have replaced four pages of rehashed photography! In short, if you want to show us 80 pages of Tyranid models, go right ahead! Just make sure it’s the most exciting inspiring collection of Tyranids you can come up with! And add some conversions, while you’re at it!

2. There’s so little text that you should make it meaningful — or drop it altogether

Here’s an edgy idea for you: Why not present most of the short blurbs of text as in character flavour pieces and soundbites? For example, a sentence like this

“The Haruspex crushes victims with its claws before dragging them into its maw with its vile grasping tongue.”

could become something like this:

“I swear Commmissar Helsrich was still shouting the Emperor’s catechism while his bones were being crushed by that thing. I still remember his face as that hideous …tongue dragged him into the creature’s maw. And I believe I will until the day I die.”
Trooper Constan Heral, 115th Palthian Grenadiers

Sure, it’s a bit longer, but you know what: Just drop the French and German translations while you’re at it! I daresay I speak for my fellow Europeans when I say that we would be able to cope. When all the text in your publication fits onto an A4 sheet, there’s a fair chance that your audience will manage to understand it, even if it’s only presented in english.

3. More dialogue with the community

This goes for more than the new mags of course, but in a hobby with such an amazingly vibrant hobby scene, why not work with those hobbyists more? We’re not even talking about democracy, here — you still get to call the shots when it comes to the business side of things, GW. But give us some information, for crying out loud! Ask us for our opinion! Will you have to deal with the – sometimes overwhelming – negativity? You bet! But you’ll also find many, many hobbyists that are eager to engage in some kind of honest dialogue with you, and even if nothing else may come of it, your publications would be the better (and more interesting, and possibly commercially viable for it)!


If I am disappointed with the new mags, it’s mainly because they are less than they could have been, but that problem should be fixable. Of coure, I am in the comfortable position to have been given my subscription as a christmas gift, so I can sit here and watch the mag develop without having to burn any money on it. But it goes without saying that I would rather see it flourish than go under. And there may just be a very real danger of that. To quote a remarkable comment by fellow hobbyist Matt Charman I found over on Faeit 212 some time ago:

It vexes me – I’m terribly vexed!

Now I’m usually the first to defend GW (former staff etc) and to slate economically illiterate whining about their policies. One of the things I haven’t bashed people as much about is their curious revisionist history of WD (where they refer to some golden age where its hobby content was much better). Now I have WD going back to the 80s, and the content and quality has gone through waves. For examples, in 1998 it was bloody awful, in 2002 it was amazing, in 2006 it was terrible, in 2013 it was awesome. Different trends and styles have given it a see-sawing history of quality whatever haters say.

But the Visions thing bothers me a lot. Now, my expectation was for a mix of imagery, original stories and hobby articles – leaving the rules, release information and Codex/AB commentary for WD. Maybe I misunderstood, who knows. That’s not what bothers me.

What bothers me is that all of the pages displayed, we’re seeing studio armies or very polished GD winners. Intending no disrespect to the great talents of these painters, I don’t find that hugely inspiring. Technically competent, yes – but we’re seeing things we’re familiar with (for example Empire troops in Talabheim colours, Tyranids in Leviathan/Kraken colours and so on). If I were to to produce a primarily pictorial magazine in this format, I think I’d have got for the diversity angle and compiled images of hobbyist collections. I find that a fresh perspective is more inspiring than a familiar one, even if said fresh perspective isn’t executed to studio quality.

To give an example of what I mean, remember Blood in the Badlands? There was a lovely conversion where one of the chaps had created a Tzeentch lord’s disc out of the vortex fulcrum. That idea had never occurred to me before, and I still want to steal it!

But here we’re being shown things which we’re already familiar with from our Codices/Army Books – albeit photographed at different angles and in different combinations. I’m honestly not sure what they’re trying to achieve here. But sadly, and as much as I’m a supporter of GW, I can’t get to grips with the idea of it being worth £7 per month.


So yeah, GW, just make sure it’ll be worth it in the future, alright? We’re all willing to help here, if you only let us 😉

So, what’s your opinion? Did you love or hate the new mags? Do you have any ideas you would like to share? Let me know in the comments section!

And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!