Sunday, 30 July 2017

Thoughts on Magazines

Like lots of gamers I'm a regular reader of the monthly magazines...particularly the 'big 3' : Miniature Wargames, Wargames Illustrated and Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy.  In fact I've been a pretty consistent reader of MW since I picked up issue #1 in Mr Rutherford's Newsagents opposite my High School sometime in the early 1980s (I'm guessing at the year but I left school in '83 so it must have been before then).  Same with WI which I'm guessing was still in the 80s but a bit later...86/87?

I first came across WSS in a newsagents in Ewell while waiting on my son who was at a drama group...this was actually a good excuse on a Saturday for my wife and I to go for an all-day breakfast and spend and hour or 2 in the cafe reading the paper/magazine and chilling out.  This was when it was a translated Spanish magazine with occasional odd mistranslations.

In the last year I've taken out subscriptions to MW and WI in an effort to save money.  MW were offering a good deal for the first few issues of the subscription which of course quickly reverts to near full price.   I decided to embrace the modern age and try a digital subscription to WI and read it on the Kindle and/or iPad.  But in the last week I've cancelled subscriptions to both.  I've recently found both magazines have very little that I actually want to read. 

I know there was a lot of grumbling when MW recently changed hands and introduced an SF/F section in the middle...I actually quite like this although a lot of it is either reviews (which can be ok) or interviews, often about games in which I have little interest.  The rest of the magazine seems very sparse or repetitive: another feature on a club night at the Little Snivelling games club or somewhere (all of which sound very similar), one of the never-ending articles on building a terrain feature from coffee stirrers and PVA etc.  I'm sure these are very useful to some people but they leave me cold and they are in every issues.  More recently they've added a club listing over several pages which again doesn't change from issue to issue...something that could have gone on a website perhaps?  There are occasional good articles, especially the ones by Conrad Kinch, but otherwise it's all a bit 'meh' (as the young people probably don't say anymore)

My experiment with WI and the Kindle wasn't a success...I think this is largely down to my reading style of randomly flicking through magazines in a very haphazard manner which doesn't really suite the kindle.  I also often read them in the bath which really doesn't suit the Kindle (I'll leave you to get that thought out of your head...).  I find WI suffers a bit from the same kind of issues as MW although it's more variable and probably has more on balance that I find interesting.

WSS is probably the best of the bunch with a pretty high strike rate of interesting articles and good columnists (or at least ones that make me think, even if I don't agree with them).  The only jarring note recently has been the series of articles by Henry Hyde who I normally like reading...these seem an odd, entry-level series of articles (how to use infantry etc)...I would guess most readers aren't going to gain a lot from these.

So I've now cancelled my subscriptions and will do what I suspect lots of readers do...check out the issues in WH Smiths  and either buy a copy if it interests me (or just read it in the shop!) or leave it on the shelf.  Annoyingly the one that is hardest to track down locally is WSS without making a trip to our local High Street, which I usually try and avoid if I can.


  1. I will probably buy Augusts WI, but only as it has a Congo scenario involving Dinosaurs. I bet there is not much else in the magazine that will interest me though. I feel the Wargames Magazines are a total waste of money and would rather buy figures or an Osprey book instead.

  2. I used to subscribe to WSS, but always flicked through the others in-store before purchasing. I haven't bought any for a couple of years now. I actually find far more engaging and better researched content for free online.

    The magazines can only print what they are offered and a lot of that is edited due to space. What is offered is rarely edited or checked for accuracy, so varies between very good to totally inaccurate.

    My interests are pretty niche, so the odds of a magazine offering me anything I want to read are low. The days when a magazine was the only medium of communication within the hobby are long gone too and if there is anything 'new' you usually see it on Facebook or a newsletter months before its reviewed in a mag.

    I suspect that they will have to come up with a new direction and format if they are to survive the next few years.

  3. Ah yes, Wargames Magazines, my constant bone of contention.I have a love hate relationship with the current incarnations a bit like yourself, except being older I have more magazines to compare the latest ones with. I was very sad when Andrew Hubbrick? lost his role as Editor of the MW, because I honestly thought he was heading in the right direction with the magazine and was putting together some good issues, since then well things have been going downhill fairly rapidly.Clearly there is a lot of filler in the current issue probably caused by a lack of contributors, I suppose a lot of wargamers have just got complacent. As for WI, wll it always looks the part, but like so many goods nowadays they look great but have no substance.I also get very cynical with the product placement that invariably is linked to some article each month. For me the WSS was a great magazine right from issue one, and although I dont think its as enthusiastic as when it was produced in Spain it still has plenty of items to hold ones interest. Sadly however I follow Donald Featherstone's old gripe, if you dont support a wargames magazine by buying it, then it will disappear for good.So I still shell out for the lot.

  4. I really only buy and read WSS these days and then only when the subject matter is of interest or relevant to what I'm doing.

  5. Seems I'm not alone in my magazine-malaise and my liking for WSS. I guess blogs and podcasts also increasingly fill the role that magazines did in the past as well as some.of the better online forums such as Lead Adventure.