I remember the golden days of White Dwarf. Back before The Fellowship of the Ring hit theaters. When pretty much every magazine came with an awesome battle report, and Chapter Approved articles that put a new element in the game, or a hobby article with useful ideas on building terrain, or getting a unit painted and on the field, or even Space Hulk tiles, or a new Warhammer Quest adventure. Who remembers the issue that actually came with Codex: Assassins for free?!
The marketing was always there, but it stayed classy; a quick review of what was hitting stores soon at the front, some mail order info at the back, and many times a new release was part of that month's hobby article, showing how the kit went together or providing some conversion ideas. You felt like you had to have it, rather than feeling like someone was trying to sell it to you.
Back then, I picked up every White Dwarf I could get my hands on, and at one point, I had almost every one dating back to '95. But things change. Prices increased, as GW is wont to do, and the (perceived) goal of the magazine slowly shifted from the love of the hobby to the love of the profit margin at the expense of the hobby.
Needless to say, my magazine purchases became fewer and farther between, and I think the last WD I bought was in 2005 - I bought one that year, having not purchased one since 2003.
So it was with mixed emotions that I finally bought another White Dwarf; the whole initial reason I bought it was that it had Golden Daemon coverage, something I had not seen in the magazine for a long time, which was compounded by the fact that the coverage included my work, so I was excited.
But I was surprised to find that this issue contained a lot more interesting content.
While a lot of focus is spent on the Empire, which doesn't appeal to me (as a 40k player) much at this point in time, The new paint range is another major release of the issue. They padded several pages with pictures of the new paints, but they also spent several more pages laying down step-by-steps using the new range to get a number of common colors painted quickly and nicely; quite handy if you're trying to get your army painted and need some tips.
They also discuss the new paint types (I'm particularly excited about the textured paint for quicker basing on models), as well as step-by-steps on painting the SW force used in the issue's battle report.
At the back, they also have a conversion chart detailing the new names for the existing paints in their range. Yes, you can find that online, but it's there nonetheless.
The Battle Report was hit and miss; I always like to see a battle report with Space Wolves, and the 1000 point game was an interesting change, but the army that they chose was right out. I understand the intent to build an army using the battleforce box and a couple of plastic kits, but some of the choices that were made with those models defy logic. But I guess if you hate Space Wolves and like to see them get thunderstomped, maybe you'll enjoy the report. ;)
Finally, and I was floored by this, they included a 40k supplement for introducing Death World rules and effects to your games. There's some fun stuff in there, and I'm slowly trying to get them incorporated into the tournaments at my LGS.
I'm not naive, I know that the endgame has always been to sell product; it's a business. But the way it used to be done, and the way it was done (for the most part) this time around are what the White Dwarf team did right. I don't need to see pictures of the newest kit next to a price guide over and over, just to pad pages in a magazine I paid money for; I can see that for free online. Put the kit on the battlefield as part of a giant force just out on display. Show me what you can do with the kit/paint/tool right there. Build the excitement, inspire peoples' hobby urge.
This issue did that for me, and it's been a long time since that has happened. If you don't buy another White Dwarf for 7 years, do yourself a favor and pick this one up.
PS: Next issue promises a modelling workshop on the Death World rules published in this issue, so maybe we'll see some terrain that adds a little bite to the board!