Sunday, 7 June 2015

Blast From The Past - White Dwarf 98

She had her first number one in February 1988, the cover date of this issue of White Dwarf

Prior to my recent purchases, my oldest White Dwarf was issue 98.  This isn't the first issue I bought in the flesh, back in the day - rather it's one of a bunch of back issues I found by making several visits to a second-hand fair in my native suburb of Bearsden when I was a nerdy teenager.  These were prized possessions of mine back in the day when one couldn't just eBay any old thing.

Since the last post about old White Dwarfs seemed popular, I thought I'd do a rundown of what catches my eye about this issue.  This time round you are getting, including the cover, ten pages - though there's two two-page spreads in that mix.

The cover, bright and bold

A sight at the cover will reveal a big change from the last two - those are unmistakable Space Marines.  Yes, Warhammer 40,000 arrived just a couple of months ago and has made a big dent on the magazine.  The last issues we reviewed felt mostly RPG magazines with a dabbling into wargaming, but now the spread is much more even.  Articles on WFRP, Runequest and Stormbringer must fight for space with fluff and rules articles covering 40K and Warhammer Fantasy battles, as well as board games.

God, this was a nightmare to find...
The inside cover has an advert for Chapter Approved; The Book Of The Astronomican.  This is the oft-forgotten first ever supplement for 40K, a generalist book which combined a short campaign with sample army lists, painting guides and a then-current model catalogue.  It's probably best known for giving it's name to the third ed Chapter Approved books which were subtitled Xth Book Of The Astronomican and were similar generalist supplements.

Getting a copy is quite hard - few pop up on eBay and fewer still at sane prices.  Even a scanned PDF is difficult to locate, meaning even pirates are missing out on this one.  I did eventually manage to blag a hard copy and it's a fascinating read - feels much more like the Rogue Trader corebook than the later 1st ed supplements, a game designed for refereed campaign play and half-RPG-scenario touches rather than a strict point-total tournament style game.

The arrival of an underrated gem

Here you'll see mention of a game a few months away.  "Highway Warriors", as if the art and premise couldn't give away, turned into Dark Future which of course I've written about before.  Thanks to Mad Max this game has a definite resurgence after years in nerd limbo, and I highly recommend you check out the Oldhammer: Dark Future group for some awesome paint jobs and conversions.

Something we're sort of going back to
This advert doesn't interest me for the models so much as for what's with them. Yes, that's a stat block for the Rat Ogres alongside their advert - the basic rules to play them slapped out in White Dwarf.  Several adverts in this issue had this included - often a full colour page of models, then on the other side a normal text page summarizing the rules.  Rather than insist you pick up the army book, they're trying to ensnare you right there on the glossy page.  "LOOK AT THAT TOUGHNESS SCORE!  I need to get those bad boys."

Even in the 2nd / 3rd ed heyday we were still getting a fair bit of rules preview and sampling in White Dwarf, something which was dead for ten years or so with very occasional exceptions.  White Dwarf has been a GW house mag for decades and that's fine, but the day it lost rules content was the day it became a very expensive advert and pretty valueless object to a 21st century nerd.

There's some evidence this is a trend reversing, though.  Imperial Knights saw a rules preview in White Dwarf and some recent models have come with the rules packed into the kit - mostly so they can add a new model to an army without issuing a new codex edition.

It's 40K, Jim, but not as we know it
 This two page spread gives me so much joy.  Individually named models, you will note, are the norm rather than just "Space Marine with Bolter 3" or "Minotaur 2", which makes these little guys oddly characterful.  The names, the random weaponry outfitting and the bizarre Space Pirates hint at the skirmish roots of 40K rather than the mass wargame it's become.

The real joy for me, though, is the Beastman Trooper and Female Troopers.  These are something I love the Imperial Arm... Guard.... Milita.... whever the hell they are to have.  Modern purchasers can still get stuff like this thanks to third party sellers - Victoria Miniatures does some great kits to assemble your own lady and Beast trooper squads, or to mix and match them into your regular units.

They got a dedicated fluff article before the Space Wolves, Dark Angels or Blood Angels.  Truefact.
 As well as a piece on Space Marine biology, the Mentors chapter got a fleshing out and some stats provided for them. (Here they are called Mentor Legion, nomenclature we'd chuck by 2nd ed when "Legion" came to mean old Space Marine arrangements.)  The double page spread in the middle of their rules shows a senior Marine being put into his armour and detail of their insignia.  This is one of the nicest pieces of art in the issue and does a good job of portraying the quasi-medieval Imperial world without going into grimdark skulls-everywhere parody.

The Mentors are given the gimmick of being a wise chapter who value information, loaning their squads out to assist others with their wisdom and gather field intelligence.  They use experimental equipment - whether that's "new" or "newly rediscovered" might vary on your interpretation - and the rules help back that up with their experimental "targetting web".
Still a roleplaying game magazine!  Honest!
Oh, yeah, this is still an RPG magazine at this point, so there's a few scenarios and stuff scattered about.  Grapes of Wrath is a short adventure designed to be used with semi-experienced characters, and saw reprint in the early 2000s for the second edition of WFRP.  (The reprint collection, Plundered Vaults, updated this and the other adventures to give them less pun-tastic names

Still going strong
Look who it is!  Yes, Leisure Games has an advert here again, as does the Orcs Nest - another long-time London gaming shop I've visited.  Unlike Lesisure Games, it is in slap bang in the center of london so a lot easier to get to.  Truth be told, though, the Orcs Nest didn't wow me that much, the selection wasn't anything I couldn't get at home.  part of the appeal of Leisure Games for me was the weirder stuff it had, the indie games and the like.

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