Henry Hyde just announced that he would step down from the editorship of Miniatures Wargames. I’ve been a subscriber to this magazine when I was a kid, reading it under the school bench and dreaming of playing games like those depicted. This was around 1989, there was no internet and in Austria, this was about the only way of connecting to the world of wargaming. I’m not even sure how I came to know about the magazine, but it certainly caught my imagination.
When I restarted wargaming a couple of years ago, I resubscribed to MW. I also discovered Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy and subscribed to that, too. However, I soon learned that many wargamers think magazines superfluous and are not prepared to shell out the subscription cost – after all, there are a zillion blogs and forums out there and all the information, they argue, can be found for free on the Web. And there I was, even changing my subscription to WS&S from digital only to paper and feeling like an old sod.
So what is it I like about magazines?
First of all, let me state that my favourite magazine has become WS&S. I still like MW, but it can’t hide that fact that it’s not as well funded as WS&S. Henry did a marvellous job, but there is only so much one man can do in contrast to a team – especially if the team is working on a bimonthly publication and doesn’t have to churn out one issue per month!
And what about Wargames Illustrated? Well… I have to say that I don’t especially like it. It’s full of pretty pictures, but often, articles are disappointing (although there were some notable exceptions). But first and foremost, I don’t like the way they represent the hobby: It’s a very limited perspective, acting as if 28mm is the only scale available. Most of the images are staged dioramas, not snapshots of games – if I wanted a modelling magazine, I’d read one.
And this gets me to the point: I’m not very interested in pretty images, especially if they serve no purpose (like showcasing a game that is actually played). What I want instead are good articles. Pretty pictures can be found on the Web, but for substantial articles, forums or even blogs are not the appropriate medium. Historical background stories, but especially scenarios and ideas for gaming are what I enjoy. A case in point is the last issue of WS&S on monsters, which not only featured nice and useful scenarios, but some very inspiring ideas for rules mechanism. Background stories on the industry are also interesting, as are in-depth reviews that point me towards things I wouldn’t have discovered on my own.
All this boils down to own thing: good editorship. The Web is full of stuff, and we all know how you can lose yourself browsing around and feeling like you have achieved nothing apart from wasting a couple of hours. There is something to be said for the skills of a good editor who knows how to put together a selection of interesting stuff. In the best cases, he manages to mix things I know I’m interested in with stuff I didn’t care for, but, as soon as I read into the article, might get hooked (or at least broaden my horizon). And there is, in my opinion, even more to be said for reading such a magazine in the paper version, lounging on the couch with a nice cup of tea.
I for one hope that despite the online competition magazines still have a great future!