Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Periodical Cogitation...

...in which Our Hero examines some of the glossy wargames magazines in his shelves and ponders why he buys them so rarely.

Henry Hyde’s recent announcement that Battlegames and Miniature Wargames are to merge has set me thinking about the range of glossy magazines we wargamers are currently blessed with.  

Personally I don’t buy magazines very often these days.  More often than not, it’s when I have a long train journey ahead of me.  

I subscribed to Wargames Illustrated for many years, finally giving up my subscription when issue numbers were in the low 200s (in 2003 or so, I believe).  I gave up because the magazine seemed to be increasing dominated by articles produced to accompany the latest set of expensive, commercially produced rules.  Often there seemed to be little content beyond, “Here are the stats for Austrian troops in Kampfgruppe Blitzkrieg” or whatever.  

I was also getting a bit fed up with the design of the magazine, which seemed to be getting very fussy.  Sometimes the use of background images under the text made it difficult to read and it was increasing hard to see where editorial ended and advertising began.  In the end whole articles were remaining unread from one month to the next.

Miniatures Wargames (MW) was of course the predecessor to Wargames Illustrated (WI) and continued in competition with the latter.  MW suffered by comparison with WI not least because of its uninspiring visual design.  The continuing MW’s photographs in particular failed to tick the right boxes.  Too often they were neither the beautifully constructed set-pieces of WI nor the shots of actual games that had previously graced the pages of the late, lamented Practical Wargamer.  I can’t remember the last time I bought a copy of MW (certainly before I stopped subscribing to WI) so it may have improved in later years but it certainly hasn’t reached out and grabbed me from the newsagent’s shelves.

Through my post-WI period I’ve been aware of the new crop of entrants to the market.  The first I tried was the original, Spanish-produced, Wargames Soldiers & Strategy.  This scored reasonably on picture quality and could be selected (or not) on the basis of how relevant an issue’s themed core of articles were to my interests at the time.  WSS was also quite good for “how to” articles but it never grabbed my enthusiasm enough to make me a regular purchaser.  Production quality seemed to be variable with occasional lapses into Spanish where diagrams hadn’t been translated.

I was also a far-from-regular purchaser of the French magazine Vae Victis.  I think I bought about three copies at least two of which were found in French supermarchés whilst on holiday. Although it spreads its attention across boardgames and computer games as well as miniatures, I think it’s worth buying if one’s French is up to the task.

Next to get the use of my money were Karwansaray, the publishers who resurrected WSS after its Spanish masters pulled the plug.  The modern WSS is a beautifully produced magazine, clearly laid out and with a nice balance of substantial articles, opinion pieces, and reviews.  It seems blessedly free of articles-designed-to-push-the-latest-set-of-rules. 

Four times in the past few years I’ve shelled out for a copy of Battleground’s new, post-Duncan Macfarlane, Wargames Illustrated.  This is an enormously thick magazine but as I’m not interested in the 50% or so of each issue that’s devoted to Flames of War, it nets out at about an ordinary magazine’s worth of content. I still find the design a bit fussy and cluttered and still find editorial merging into advert (not surprising I suppose for a magazine that’s following White Dwarf along the path where magazine meets product catalogue.

Finally, we have Battlegames. For a long time I’d heard about this magazine and it sounded like one I’d really like but it wasn’t available from the likes of W H Smith until the recent issue 33.  The W H Smith connection is not insignificant.  Glossies cost nearly a fiver an issue and since I stopped subscribing I’ve become keen to see my magazines before I commit to buying.  The issues I have seen (issue 33 from Smith’s and an old pdf I bought as a sample) have both been keenly read from cover to cover.  it’s nicely designed and the articles seem to be aimed at wargamers like me.

And now Miniature Wargames and Battlegames are to merge, with Henry Hyde at the tiller and under the Miniature Wargames name.  If the new venture retains the style and spirit of its younger parent I may well be tempted to purchase more regularly, at least whenever I have a long train journey ahead of me


Dartfrog said...

I am looking forward to the new venture. I purchased MW twice last year for long flights and was sorely disappointed in terms of pictures and editorial quality. I have a digital subscription to Battlegames and really like Henry's style. As for Wargames Illustrated, I buy it for the pretty pictures.

Kaptain Kobold said...

We rarely see the glossies here - the odd Yankee trader drops off a copy sometimes with the jars of Marmite and ten year-old copies of the Times. Causes a bit of a scramble down at the beach :)

WI was turning into a product catalogue back in the 90s, when Foundry were obviously spending wads of cash advertising in it. And MW always suffered from the poor pictures (not quite picture of games but not quite posed pictures either) plus retro layout and proof-reading errors. I gave up on both of them when I discovered The Internet.

Kaptain Kobold said...

Also, you appear to have switched to one of those new-fangled blog styles. Stop it! :)

Counterpane said...

Hmm, yes, I clicked on one of the new blog style buttons and am now struggling to find out how to move back. I take it you don't like it?