Thursday, March 27, 2014

Warhammer: Visions

I was confused and a little disappointed a few months ago, when Games Workshop announced that the venerable White Dwarf magazine would cease to exists as we know it. Ironically, the announcement came just a day or two after I had finally resolved to subscribe to the magazine, which I have been reading for almost the last two decades. (Instead of paying the subscription fee, perhaps you would be interested in purchasing an Imperial Knight instead? – Fat Bloke) For those of us who have displayed this level of faithful readership, discussions of the magazine have become almost ritualized in form:

"I remember when there used to be rules and hobby articles."

"Now it's just a big advertisement!"

"$10 for a magazine?!"

And certainly all of that's true, but it's familiar ground. I accept that White Dwarf magazine is dead and gone. I've read a few of the slim pamphlets that bear the White Dwarf name and to them I say: "I knew, White Dwarf, sir. And you are no White Dwarf." Of Warhammer: Visions I had almost no interest at all. Until I received a copy as a gift.

Before reading it (a task that is impossible without spending cash money, as these are shipped in the kind of heavy polybags usually reserved for softcore porn mags, which in retrospect may be an apt comparison), I assumed a magazine which was literally just 200 pages of pictures of miniatures would be completely useless to anyone with an Internet connection.

Production Values

The production values are through the roof. The covers are heavy gloss stock, and compared to the previous version of White Dwarf, the dimensions are now a little smaller. As a physical object, it's beautiful. It almost seems classy, distinguished. Inside, it's much the same, and the design team have done an excellent job creating a layout that is modern, attractive, and does justice to the content.

And although there are probably less than 1,000 words in the entire magazine (or 3,000 if you include the Frensh and German translations that accompany the text on every page), rest assured, there are still typos. For example, on page 99 of the March edition, the caption refers to a "Tau walker" although a Great Unclean One is the only model that appears on the page. On page 101, the text repeats verbatim, but now a Riptide is shown. Since I might feel a little cheated reading a Warhammer publication without some sort of glaring editorial flaw, though, I let this pass, smile, and think of the good times.

Make No Mistake

In March, Games Workshop released a wave of model kits for the armies of the dwarfs in Warhammer Fantasy. The copy of Warhammer: Visions sitting on my desk right now is the March edition. It is absolutely full of pictures of dwarfs. I am thinking this is no coincidence.

Make no mistake, Warhammer: Visions is largely an advertisement. As you look through its pages you will see many pictures of the studio armies that you have seen on Games Workshop's website, in White Dwarf, on box tops, etc. If you're not interested in the releases that correspond to the edition of Warhammer: Visions that you hold in your hand, you can probably safely discard the first quarter of the magazine.

Still, That's Kind of Cool

The remainder of the magazine is where the value comes in. To my delight, many of the models featured are not studio models. The Games Workshop painting team is obviously top notch (and I would argue that over the years GW has used their skills to influence, sometimes even subtly, our purchasing habits) but it's very familiar. It's much more exciting to see what other hobbyists are doing and it is here in its role as curator that Warhammer: Visions succeeds. I have never been an especially gifted (or diligent) painter, but I have recently noticed improvement in my painting skills, so the pages and pages of high-resolution images of a wide variety of models are pretty inspiring.

Most of this reads like a picture book, but there are a few "articles" which amount to collections of similar images. Blanchitsu has been retained and expanded a bit. John Blanche is still turning out probably the most imaginitive conversions in the hobby so all is well. The conversions featured in the Kit Bash section are not particularly notable but the paint jobs are all done to a very high standard.

So is it worth it?

Maybe. It depends on you. I would maybe purchase this once or twice a year if I was feeling like burning some money or was about to get on a plane. Ultimately, Warhammer: Visions is a luxury item in a luxury hobby.

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