Saturday, February 14, 2009

White Dwarf and Cognitive Dissonance

As a pre cursor to my next rant entitled, "Poisoning the well"- which talks why public internet forums are a brain rotting waste of the precious moments of your life- I thought a discussion about White Dwarf would be a good lead in. If you follow any number of public forums that concentrate on the Games Workshop Hobby, you'd think White Dwarf was nothing more than a advertising pamplet for the months new releases. With nothing more than advertisements and some features that are nothing more than "masked" advertisements. I read extremely negative things about White Dwarf, everything from its a malicious hoodwink, a complete ripoff to people who claim to use the magazine to pad their cats litterbox. The problem is these people are not actually reading White Dwarf or at least not the same one I am reading.

Cognitive Dissonance, for those who don't know or have forgotten in laymans terms basically means steadfastly believing in an idea when evidence to the contrary is right in front of your face, it's cyncism over truth in the rawest form. While it may apply slightly differently to the various social structures of modern society, its a term that rightly applies in the current perceptions of White Dwarf.

While clearly not the worlds greatest hobby magazine and clearly a shell of itself from its 2004 incarnation (where it was 20+ pages longer with literally 3 times the non-ad content). Its also very clearly NOT what's purported to be by former fans and cynics of the mag found on the various popular internet forums.

When I think about what I like about a hobby magazine outside of the normal model showcasing and hobby and painting tips. (which WD always has in every issue) I like to look for what we gamers call "crunch". "Crunch" is either new rules, tactics,tips, expanded game options, or new
scenarios..things that we can use to elevate our own gaming and hobby experience outside of what the core books we collected say is short I look for a hobby magazine to be a gateway between the designers and its customers a place where supplemental information for products can be had.

While I have sporadic issues of White Dwarf back as far as 2004, I recently went back to 2006 (when I went "hardcore" on the hobby)I started with the Dec 2006 issue my first "subscription" issue and went looking for what ever useful crunch I could find in order to see if how my own
"Cognitive Dissonance" was doing because, while I was never as negative as some...I knew I was like many people who just flip the mag look at the awesome models..put the thing down..and never bothering to read half the stuff in there..especially if If I wasnt currently immersed in a
particular game.

So here we go here are all the crunchy bits I can find for 27 issues covering the three core gaming systems, I was suprised how much currently useful stuff I found for my own pursuits. I skipped alot of the 40K stuff pre 5th edition because, tactics have changed and I don't know enough about the current rules to vett what is useful and what is irrelevant but I made note of all other crunchy info I could find. Feel free to copy and paste this somewhere for your own reference. Page number are in parenthese.

DEC 2006 # 323
Warhammer Fantasy Battles - Tactica- Deployment (80)
Lord of the Rings- Tactica- Legions of Middle Earth (114)


JAN # 324
Warhammer Fantasy Battles - The Cannon Roars- scenario (104)
Lord of the Rings- Warhost of the 1st Born- Scenario/ Tactics (54)
All systems- Darker grows the Valley- Ladder Campaign (116)

FEB # 325
Warhammer Fantasy Battles- Defend the heroes of our past- Scenario (114)
Lord of the Rings- Ambush in Rhudaur- Scenario (34)

MAR # 326
Warhammer Fantasy Battles- Tactica- Movement (84)
- Campaign Scenarios, (68)
Lord of the Rings- Arnor and Angmar- Tactics and Tips (58)

APR # 327
Warhammer Fantasy Battles- Tactica-Shooting (84)
Lord of the Rings- Lords of Evil- Tactics (78)

MAY # 328
Warhammer Fantasy Battles- Defend the Headless badger- Scenario (118)
Lord of the Rings- Prowler in the Darkness- Scenario (104)

JUN # 329
Warhammer Fantasy Battles- Terrian Feature - Tactics (29)
Dwarf miners- Tactics (44)
Capture the tower of moonrise- Scenario (112)
Warhammer 40K- Blood Angels Codex, Part 1 (74)

JUL #330
Warhammer Fantasy Battles- Woods, Obstacles, Buildings- Tactics (108)
- Under the hanging tree - Scenario (112)
Lord of the Rings- Dragons of Middle Earth- Rules/ Stats (68)
Warhammer 40K- Blood Angels Codex, Part 2 (78)

AUG #331
Lord of the Rings- Glory of Gondor- Feature- Stats (30)
Battle Fleet Gothic- Brace for Impact - Stats/ Rules (68)

SEPT # 332
Warhammer Fantasy Battles- Famous Campaigns- Rules (64)
- Tactica- Magic (81)
Lord of the Rings- Servants of the Dark Lord- Tactics/ Stats (52)

OCT# 333
Warhammer Fantasy Battles- Tactica- Fast Cavarly (110)
Warhammer 40K- Apocalypse - Rules/ Stats (40)

NOV # 334
Warhammer 40K- Apocalypse Campaign, Rules, Scenarios (74)
Lord of the Rings- Monsters Tactica (80)

DEC # 335
Warhammer 40K- Apocalypse Campaign Scenarios (54)
Lord of the Rings- Middle Earth in Flames Campaign - Full Ruleset (40)


JAN #336
Warhammer Fantasy Battles- Tactica - Flyers (84)

FEB #337
Warhammer Fantasy Battles - Empire Tactica (80)
Mighty Empires Campaign Rules (60)

MAR #338
Warhammer Fantasy Battles- House of the Dead -Scenario (37)
Warhammer 40K- Rynns World Campaign- Scenario / Rules (82)

APR #339
Warhammer Fantasy Battles - Legendary Battles Rules (14)
Warhammer 40K- Apocalypse Data Sheets (60)
Lord of the Rings- Enemy of my Enemy - Allied Tactics (78)

MAY #340
Warhammer Fantasy Battles- Glory of Chaos- Campaign- Rules (32)
Lord of the Rings- Enemy of my Enemy part 2- Allied Tactics (66)

JUNE #341
Warhammer Fantasy Battles- Warriors of Chaos - "get you by"- Army Lists (68)
Warhammer 40K- Chaos Tactica (56)

JULY #342
Warhammer Fantasy Battles- Daemonic Incursions- Scenarios / Rules (72)
Warhammer 40k- 5th edition feature, Rules, quick reference sheet (22)

AUG #343
Warhammer 40K - Apocalypse Data Sheets 946)
Lord of the Rings- Mordor Tactics (42)

SEPT #344
Warhammer Fantasy Battles- Raid Scenarios (36)
Lord of the Rings- Council of Elrond -rules/ stats/ scenarios (24)
Warhammer 40K- Black Reach Campaign rules (52)

OCT # 345
Warhammer Fantasy Battles- Raid Campaign rules/ Scenarios (36)
Lord of the Rings- Magic tactica, part 1 (52)

NOV #346
Warhammer Fantasy Battles- Bound in Chaos- Warriors Tactics (16)
Lord of the Rings- Magic Tactica, part 2 (52)

DEC # 347

Warhammer Fantasy Battles- War in the North Campaign- Rules (14)
Lord of the Rings- Black Riders of Mordor Tactica (22)
Warhammer 40K- Liber Apocalyptica- Data Sheets (36)


JAN #348

Warhammer Fantasy Battles- War in the North Campaign II, scenarios/ rules (36)
Lord of the Rings- Sons of Gondor tactica (44)
Warhammer 40k- WAAGH Bork- Scenarios (54)

FEB #349

Warhammer Fantasy Battles- Echoes in the Fall- Scenario (58)
Lord of the Rings- Prepare for Battle- Tourney Tactics (42)
Warhammer 40K- Boot Kamp- Ork Tactics (36)

MAR #350

Warhammer Fantasy Battles - Mighty Champions. Campaign Rules (34)
Warhammer 40K- Liber Apocalyptica- Data Sheets (44)
Assault on Fort Wrath - Scenarios/ Rules (58)

Of course I am leaving out the bulk of features, Battle reports, Modeling and Painting while certainly useful they don't fall into that "crunch" catagory that seems to make or break a magazine. I have to say I surprised at how much I found that's useful( particulary for Lord of the
Rings as it's a game I don't know that well yet) Admittedly there are some very poor issues that arent worth your time particularly in late 2007, early 2008..unless you are just excited for that issues featured army. However, overall there is alot of good stuff that certainly adds up over time and you definitely can see a major content spike in the last 6 months...if you are into 40K Apocalypse..# 350 is absolutely packed. I am definitely going to scan and combine all those Warhammer Tacticas into one PDF for our local group as its one thing I wish I had access to when I started playing or even started a new army. I think I also need to go back thru these and pick out all the modeling / terrain articles as there is alot of great stuff there that's been overlooked. I also found the Lord the Rings info indispensable as a relatively new player to game.

In conclusion I must say I think White Dwarf gets a bad wrap, but per my lead in this piece is about peoples "Cognitive Dissonance" and not about justifying White Dwarf's existence, so let me say this. The magazine its still obviously lacking in content from its former glory years and I only go back as far as 04' with the magazine. I know the business and hobby have changed overtime and I can only assume the magazine follows suit given financial constraints. I'm somewhat immune to pricing debate on the mag because subscriptions were lacking about a year ago and they put out a ridiculously low 2 year deal with free promo models that alot of people like myself took advantage of. Hopefully they will continue to justify the cost with more content, because I really think a saturation point of where it will sell is about $5 (the current re-up, price) At $5 I think its worth your time if you play any of the core GW games, because the "crunch" is there and it adds up nicely over a years subscription.

I am sure certain people will read the above and scoff, that all those articles are useless crap and they're just "too good a player" for any of that to be worth their money, but again these would be the same people "poisoning the well" on various Internet forums and more on that later.


Docrailgun said...

Some people have nothing better to do than complain... so they go on forums and make trouble.

I have never understood why people who seem to hate a game they supposedly play continue to torture themselves by playing whatever game they're blasting. These tend to be the same people who announce how they could save their beloved game if the game designers would only listen to their brilliant ideas.

As for White Dwarf, I haven't read it since the middle of 3rd Edition 40K, but I imagine it's still the same pretty decent quality. However, I remember the days when White Dwarf was a general-gaming (mostly role-playing games like AD&D) magazine.

Anonymous said...

While i get your point, I don't think that's really enough crunch for my tastes, especially as a lot of those entries were tacticas, which i view as only semi-crunchy, maybe they have a crunchy shell lol.
That's just me though, I only play 40k and the only thing I really want from White Dwarf is crunch, so that's why there's not enough in there for me to feel its worth buying - I only get one article I'm interested in every other issue. But that doesn't make it a bad magazine, generally. I respect that other people might appreciate different aspects of it.

Chicago Terrain Factory said...

WD catches a lot of undeserved flack. For a few months I was reading Fine Scale Modeler. For 50 cents more, FSM has 50% fewer pages and its packed with advertising. I'll go out on a limb and say most (gaming) hobby magazines are in the same category - high on cost and low on usable page count.

As for the glory days of crunch, WD used to include new rules and/or units in almost every issue. If you played the game, WD was a must have. At the time I loved it - getting a rules kick in the pants every 30 days kept the game fresh and interesting. Breaking in as a newbie must have been tough though.

Evernevermore said...

While I agree that White Dwarf isnt what it once was I think its still better then most of the plastic scale modeling magazines I still poke through for ideas. The only one of those Ive found that is worth getting is Military Model International out of Britain - but its extremely pricey.

I've been pretty reliable about picking up WDs for the last few years, but thats because I enjoy the painting articles and Im constantly trying to learn new techniques, and 'Eavy Metal is still quite an impressive team of painters.

Peter said...

it was actually white dwarf that got me back into the hobby (although i was originally going for WFB not 40K) with white dward #321 (September 06 (the battle for skull pass one)although they no-longer have the 2 battle report an issue thing, they don't really have any of the '40K' issues were if you play LotR or WFB than it was a waste of your money.

But personally i like to read about that stuff even though I haven't started my Dark Elves (except picking up the Code... army book) and i have no plans to ever start LotR but it's still nice to read about and I think the white dwarf is almost manditory if you play one or more of the main core systems available.
Buy it. Read it. Enjoy it!

Felix said...

I know they time the content with the release of the models, but maybe people would be more excited to pick up White Dwarf if the Army Book/Codex previews came out before any Internet leaks.

Just a thought.

John@Plastic Legions said...

That be genius, felix but of odds having no leaks is about nil, GW likes the fact that rumors build hype and hype that escalates long before White Dwarf could ever hope to catch up, definitely help sell the magazine thou.

John said...

I find WD to be a good read. Yes as a Fantasy player I get annoyed by the over abundance of 40k vs. Fantasy stuff but everything is useful if you look at it right. You get good tips on tactics, modelling etc from articles across all 3 game types 40k, WHFB & LoTR. However, I dont subscribe only buy older issues (20 for $10 can't be beat). The older ones pre-2005 were far more content heavy notably in terms of gaming fiction, but the later issues I find are better for their descriptive articles on painting etc.

Either way I read it as much as I can. No magazine is perfect though said...

Personally I don't buy it, as I only play 40k. The other problem is that in Australia we get the content a month behind everyone else, so I simply read the forum talk of the issue, and don't really need to buy it.

If I feel like checking it out, I read it in borders and put it back on the shelf.

I did have a subscription for a few years, but having to chase them up to send me new copies lost in the mail was a real pain. Not their fault, but the postal services.

I agree about the new stuff in the WD, just look at the latest one out in the US. It shows off the new IG Valk in all its glory. That not enough for you? For something that is done three months ahead of time, that is pretty good.

Bill Lim said...

Won't comment on the Cognitive Dissonance, as I think you got it pretty spot on. While I don't consider my self a "fanboi" I do genuinely enjoy the mag and most of the articles. Do I wish there was more hobby content/game content...sure, but I think we all do. And lately the last couple of issues have seemed to be addressing the lack of content in the previous few issues. The article on faces (Feb 09 I think) is actually really worth the read, even if you don't get that heavily into the painting side of the hobby.

little surprised no one has commented on the great indexing that John did (or if someone did comment, I missed it and I'm sorry). John that is a lot of work getting all those indexed like you did. I'm greatful/happy to have all that information. Especially with LoTR heating up locally and me never having played a game I'll need all the help I can if only there was some way to get the Ents and Hobbits in a list together with out using a 3rd force as a bridge.

Anonymous said...

I complain about WD as much as the next guy -- I still think there's too much advertising, and frankly, I consider all the content devoted to the LOTR dead space.

Now, that said, they have come a LONG way in the last couple years on content - painting and 'Eavy Metal masterclass how-tos; scenarios; etc -- all the stuff you point out.

What I'd love to see, however, would be more of the Blood Angels Army list kinds of stuff -- use the flagship magazine of the hobby to flesh out variants on rules and shore up weak spots. Space Wolves haven't had a codex in a long time - give us a hold over one. Re-do the IG Mechanized Army list -- and so on.

As long as you're explicit about when these expire (eg: these rules will be superseded by any published codex rules, or this list supersedes the list published in WD 3XX, etc) - there'd be no problem.

Domus said...

I'm one of the negative Nancies. I love reading White Dwarf.

I stopped paying for it when they dropped the US editor (I think it was John Schaeffer), increased the font size by like 3 points, increase pic volume and reduced useful content. (Circa 12/07 - 01/08)

I should quantify 'useful content'. I love tactica and Battle Reports. WD has set a historical though with Battle Reports of getting rules wrong or being written using non-finalized rules. The tactica has occassionally been off, but used to be decent back when I was reading.

The minis - always outstanding. I never minded seeing 40K and LotR stuff as I love those models also, I just never read any of the content as I don't play either game.

Everything in WD could be found on the internet for free. The tactica and battle reports are quite often much better online than in WD. The same can be said of the painting tutorials.

All in all, I stopped getting any 'return' for my dollar. There is nothing in WD I can't find elsewhere for free.

I would love GW to put decent exclusive content back in and give me a reason to buy it again because as my opening statment indicates, I love reading WD.

I just read somewhere that WD was going up to $9 an issue off the rack though which IMHO spells trouble for the mag.


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