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The Tiger Roars 

King For a Day: If I Ran White Dwarf
While surfing around Internet 40K forums recently, I noticed that a lot of players are unhappy with White Dwarf magazine: they want more of this, less of that, none at all of this/that/and the other. Oh, and make it cheaper. Some—perhaps most—of this kvetching can and should be ignored: you can’t please everyone, and some people are never happy anyway (“Sure, they publish White Dwarf weekly and upped the size to 350 pages an issue and give you a free mini with each copy and now it only costs $1 for a year’s subscription—but it still SUCKS!”). 

I’ve been a White Dwarf subscriber for years, and while I wouldn’t say the magazine is indispensable to my enjoyment of the game, I wouldn’t say it sucks, either. Like any other periodical, it has its hits and misses, its good issues and those not-so-good. Though I keep buying it, I can’t help but think about what I would do if Games Workshop were to lose—I mean, come to—their senses and put me in charge of White Dwarf.

Any actual White Dwarf staff members who might be reading this are, at this point, no doubt doubled over with laughter at my presumption. It’s easy for someone outside the organization to expound on how they’d run the show and make “improvements;” it’s considerably harder to be on the inside and actually do it. I acknowledge that I am an armchair quarterback, but I believe I’m not a total newbie: I’ve been a professional technical writer/editor since 1998, I’ve worked in publications before (albeit on the government level, not private industry), and I’ve had journalism training. Take that for what it’s worth.

Here, then, are my suggestions….

Give 40K its own magazine. A common complaint among 40K players is that their game hasn’t received a lot of space in White Dwarf lately. Fair enough: give the people what they want and split off 40K into its own magazine (and call it “White Dwarf 2?” “White Dwarf 40K?”). The folks who prefer Warhammer will have more space for articles about their favorite game (“No more bloody Space Marines!”) and folks who play both games will be inclined to buy both magazines. 

It’s important to use White Dwarf to cross-sell GW products: you may have all the 40K armies and minis you want, but if an article or blurb in White Dwarf can pique your interest in Warhammer or Lord of the Rings, you’ll buy a whole new set of minis, game rules, an army book, maybe some new paints and brushes, etc. 

Accordingly, I would continue the current Dwarf’s practice of featuring a full list of new products for all games at the beginning of each issue. Perhaps at the end of each issue, I’d print some excerpts from the current issue of the other magazine, to make people wonder what’s going on “over there” in the Warhammer version of White Dwarf.

What to do with Lord of the Rings? My preference would be to leave it in the original “White Dwarf” with the Warhammer material. 

Encourage more submissions from readers. Did you know that White Dwarf publishes articles written by readers? Well, they do, but they certainly don’t go out of their way to ask for submissions, and their guidelines are not very helpful. There are a lot more players than there are Games Workshop employees—why not tap into the talent that’s out there?

Limit the amount of recycled material. I’ve been collecting White Dwarf since Jake Thornton was the editor, and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read about the battle between Horus and the Emperor at the end of the Horus Heresy. And I feel cheated whenever I buy a new codex and find sections of it printed verbatim in the next month’s White Dwarf: if I’m going to shell out $6 an issue, give me something I haven’t read before! 

Recycled material (particularly “fluff”) is best for new players who don’t know much about the 40K background. It’s also useful as a marketing tool. But I would limit its amount, perhaps making it a short column in every issue (“This month: The Badab War”).

Establish recurring categories of material. Only one thing’s for certain when you open a copy of White Dwarf: they’re going to have a battle report and they’re going to have some articles on painting. Other than that, you’re never sure what you’re going to get. Why not have regular features on tactics, terrain-building, collecting armies? Why not have original fiction—you know, actual stories instead of those blurbs (many of them reprinted from somewhere else)? Maybe some commentaries from WD staffers and readers—imagine a “Point/Counterpoint” column where two veterans debate rule interpretations or gaming theory....

Have something for each army every month. While we’re establishing categories of material that will appear regularly, let’s put something—anything—in each issue for every 40K army. Long-time WD readers are familiar with “codex glut”: a new codex comes out, and for months, that army is all you read about. Meanwhile, folks who play other armies wonder when they’ll read anything about theirs. 

This is not to say that the magazine needs to devote dozens and dozens of pages to each army every month. Nor does it mean that every sub-army (Kult of Speed, or Ulthwe, or Grey Knights-only Daemonhunters) needs to appear in every issue. But each month, something should be in there for each of the “major” groups, which I delineate as:

  • Space Marines (including Black Templars, Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Salamanders, and Space Wolves) 
  • Eldar (including all Craftworld variants and Dark Eldar)
  • Orks (including Kult of Speed and Feral Orks)
  • Chaos (including Lost and the Damned)
  • Imperial Guard
  • Tau (including Kroot)
  • Necrons
  • Hunters (Daemon-, Witch-, and Xenos- [when it is published])
  • Tyranids
Vary the battle reports. This suggestion ties in with the previous one. How often have you read batreps where Marines fight Orks? Or Marines fight Chaos? Or Imperial Guard fights Tyranids? You get the picture. Let’s have some different pairings with some unusual scenarios.

WD batreps tend to use studio armies that represent the army as a whole and are not the cracked-out monster combinations you might see at a tournament. Let’s have some battle reports where something like an all-Infiltrating, “demon-bomb” horde (such as Ken Lacy’s Alpha Legion) goes up against a Dark Eldar “air-force” or IG “Shooty Army From Hell.” Arrange for some of the veterans on the Grand Tournament circuit to show up with their nastiest lists and throw down for the readers’ bloodthirsty pleasure. 

Put more new rules from WD onto the GW site. Games Workshop has done a good job of re-posting new rules and such from White Dwarf on the GW site so that you don’t have to lug around your copy of the magazine to each game. But it could do more: where, for instance, are the rules for Ork Klans on the site? 

Provide listings of recommended websites. There’s always a need for quality 40K material, and even if GW spun off 40K into its own magazine and tripled the size and took reader submissions, people would still want more. Why not point them in the direction of good fan-sites? 

WD could have a sidebar column on a  page that provides URLs and short descriptions of the latest sites to come across GW’s radar. Or, as a regular feature each month, the magazine could do an in-depth profile of a site. Staff members could either surf the Web looking for sites or ask webmasters to send in their URLs for consideration. Sites that don’t meet Games Workshop’s standards could receive brief recommendations on how they could improve and be listed in future issues. 

Offer a lower-priced online version. No one likes paying high prices, and a huge chunk of the cover price for a magazine is for printing and shipping costs. Why not offer a lower-priced version available online by subscription? It will save money for Games Workshop and readers and no one with the online service will worry about losing an issue in the mail. 

Conclusion
Having never worked for White Dwarf, I don’t know if any of these ideas have ever been considered or if they were but were discarded because it would be too costly or too impractical to actually do them. If any current or former WD staff members want to e-mail me their comments, I would be happy to post them on the Jungle to support or rebut my suggestions. 

Related Pages
It Ain't Easy Being the "King": A rebuttal from someone who's worked on White Dwarf 
 

Posted: March 2005 

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Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle