Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Wargaming Magazines - Views and Reviews

Just getting back a couple of days ago from parts-foreign and had a great time, but missing my normal gaming fix, I headed off to my local purveyor of periodicals and picked this months conucopia of Wargaming Journals.

I knew that this month would have some bumper editions to look forward to, and it certainly seemed to be the case with Wargames Illustrated 'Bumper Family Fun Edition' 25th Anniversary Issue bringing back childhood memories of the summer holiday prints of your favourite comic, White Dwarf ringing out the changes (about time too) with their October 2012 issue, Wargames Soldiers and Strategy Issue 62 always something of interest and Miniature Wargames Issue 354 still in with a shout.



The magazines are all very much in their own niche within the hobby and being a bit of a periodical junky I generally pick up them all on a regular basis.

The exception to this recently has been White Dwarf, which I have been reading since Issue 1, but of late say the last year or so I haven't as the level of interest the couple pieces of eye candy that the magazine has had that would interest me did not match the cover price, with nothing else in the contents to interest me. With the announced mash-up of the mag I thought I'd check it out.

With the increase in the cover price of the new look White Dwarf, you certainly get a pretty weighty piece of work at over 150 pages of good quality printing stock with a cover layout I quite like with it's current comic-esque glossy feel. The magazines' content has gone through a pretty rigorous change too and the look and feel to the pagation and type setting reminds me a great deal of an art-house catalogue with lots of type and image blocks and a fair amount of space. A look I quite like all in all, a bit old hat in art circles but a nouveau look for wargames mags, definitely a good move away from the Facebook-esque cluttered feel to the layouts.

The articles included in the mag are a mix of old and new themes with re-hashes of the old favourites including batreps, the very annoying ten pages of stores, Jervis' couple of pages of rote and so on but a couple of new bits have crept in with the one that peaked my interest was a regular slot for John Blanche and his delightfully dark meanderings. A big point in favour of the new regime is the tone of the writing has grown up markedly, a big plus.

The art house feel is of course enforced by the fact that the mag is a closet catalogue for this months new releases but I accept that tacitally but did note that the prices for each of the delights on offer this month were noticeable by their absence. All in all, I see a big improvement here (there was a lot to improve in fairness) and will give the mag another go if only for the improved eye candy count (and John Blanche column) but it does count as a coffee table mag rather than really being 'of use'.


The Bumper issue of Wargames Illustrated again falls into my category of 'I've been getting this since Issue 1' and as it's bound to full of nice piccies, I don't want to miss it.

As it's a pretty weighty tome too with close on 300 pages to it's name, there's bound to be something in here that interests most people but with the idea of a 'Bumper' lot's of games issue, there's not much content that you would come back to once you've looked at all the very nice pictures.

I will admit that I was a wee bit disappointed with the issue, if only because my favourite periods were ill represented (and the trotting out of Agincourt a wee bit unimaginitive, even though nicely done). I know as a celebraterly issue it needs to be all things to all men but there was little in there that after the initial flick through made me want to sit down and read immediately. The possible exception to this was the modelling article, a 'how to' for a Manor House and Palisade Fort being a tribute to Ian Weekley and the Y Gododdin Dark Age game.

Don't get me wrong, all the stuff presented was top notch and well done, it just didn't catch my interest. Again I would put this issue as a coffee table edition which I will no doubt return to over the next couple of weeks to pick at, but a bit deflated over this one.

Not a bumper issue or a a revamp, but I have soft spot for what I feel is the oft overlooked Miniature Wargames.

I have always felt that MW has been the 'Penguin Classic' of the wargames magazine world, full of little gems hidden away under unassuming covers.

I quite liked this issue, not for the fact that it covers the periods I like and usually play but just for the opposite reason that there's a couple of articles on a completely different (and unusual) area of coverage namely Anglo-American conflicts away from AWI. Having read recently about the War of 1812 (which I thought was immensely amusing) the theatre does have some legs and the articles here do get the thought juices going, which is really why you should buy any of these periodicals.

I like the reviews and the columnists in the mag with Darker Horizons always useful and often amusing, and Higher Ground though absent this issue, quite thought provoking.

Another mag in the same sort of stable but with it's recent re-vamp under it's belt is WSS. Again I like it's understated classiness, with a open moderne feel to the layouts and an eye for something different in the way of coverage.

The main thrust to this issue being the pulp fiction market, not one that immediately grabs me but one that I've certainly played in the past and games always tell a story which is what the genre is all about and the theme articles are varied enough to not be staid.

The Medieval plastic conversions article by Richard Lloyd (Captain Blood)  was an added bonus for the issue and something I was looking forward to having been following his posts on Lead Adventure forum and enjoyed the piccies. Not a relavation having been a kit basher for years but a nice, clear article which gets the inspiration (and motivation) going.

The articles I read first when reading WSS are once again the regular columns, this time by hobby worthy's Rick Priestly and Richard Clark, both of who's columns could happily be longer as both have an engaging writing style and generally pitch at the right level.


The foregoing magazines have all something in their favour, and in fairness something against them, but why do I spend a not in-considerable amount of cash on these every month and indeed over the last two or three decades?

I know a few of my fellow gamers who do not buy, or indeed read, any of the wargames magazines. I think I still own every one I've ever bought and use them as a depository of ideas and source information. Opposites.

Probably as i said at the beginning of this post, a quick fix, and indeed a habit from my early days in the hobby where the only place you could find stuff out and what was new was to buy the rags and see the adverts. The magazines general content has changed dramatically with source info really being completely absent now where before it used to be common place,uniform info, flags and modelling all good. The info-web probably has a lot to do with that trend. As mooted recently 'in the press' that wargaming is getting mo0re and more commercialised and the wargaming press is all part of this trend, the coverage you get in the magazines is bound to change and if we as wargamers get a slicker, more professional product this is I think welcome, but comes at a cost and the wargaming press shows this.

This post has turned into a bit of a ramble, but is a topic I think has a lot of legs (and perhaps arms too). Why do some not touch them and think they're a waste of money while others (like myself) buy most issues. What makes a good wargames magazine, and what makes a great one?

From my perspective, all I can say is they are a springboard for all sorts of projects and games in the past and hopefully will continue to be so and, if I'm honest, I just like looking at pictures of nicely painted figures and models.

6 comments:

  1. I'm a subscriber to WI, WSS & MW, plus Battlegames. I haven't touched the White Dwarf (oooh, err, fnaar-fnaar) since the late 80s when it stopped carrying articles for/about non-GW games.

    I think it's great that there are so many wargames mags around these days and of such good quality overall. As you say, each fills a different niche which suits me quite well.

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    1. Definitely agreed, variety is the spice and long may it continue

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  2. All the mags have their pluses, I've not been keen on WI since the Flames of War take over, I'm surprised they've not changed the name yet! MW was in my mind the poorer little brother of WI, but of late I think its the better mag, ok some of the figures printed are not the best but the contents I think its now superior to the FOW Illustrated. I do like WSS and have bought that since it first came out. Great post!!

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    1. I share your thoughts here and WI has an obvious bias but the high production values off set this to a degree but content is everything. They've pulled things back a bit for me with their Matt Parkes articles which are generally very good. Cheers Ray

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  3. Nice review/reviews. In the main I agree with you, traditional magazines were (and in my case still are) a regular monthly purchase, although I tend to pick up one a month rather than the whole batch. A quick browse at WHSmiths usually highlights one that I spend my money on.

    You are not alone in keeping and using your old magazines as a resource library, this is the No.1 reason why I find it so difficult to get rid of old mags - as soon as you do, you can guarantee that you are searching through the attic for just some article or another only to find that your last clear-out included that issue!

    Tony

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    1. Nice to know it's not juat me Tony :-)

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