Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

What’s happening with Wargames Illustrated?

Posted by Martin on February 12, 2009

It was only last October that I asked this very question about Miniature Wargames magazine. And now that other stalwart of UK wargames magazines is also under new ownership. This morning it was announced that Battlefront Miniatures (New Zealand purveyors of Flames of War) has purchased Wargames Illustrated. It’s a bit of a bolt from the blue and I’m still trying to work out the significance of this news.

Some random thoughts…

How’s a New Zealand based company going to manage this (until now) UK-based magazine?

Is there a risk that WI will become a sort of Flames of War house magazine – a 15mm WW2 White Dwarf, if you will?

Am I sad or glad of the change? And has WI reached the same critical point in it’s history that I speculated Miniature Wargames had back in October 2008? I wonder if, taken together, these two changes of ownership signal the last thrashings of a dying species or a vibrant rebirth.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about WI. On the one hand, it was the magazine (along with some work friends at the time) that rekindled my interest in the hobby back in 1999. I still own a rather dog-eared copy of the April 1999 issue – in fact, by coincidence, it’s here on my desk in the study at BfK HQ as I write this tonight. I purchased that issue specifically because of an article by master Napoleonics painter Mark Wilkin. It was entitled “An Eccentrics Guide to Painting!” and exemplified all that was best (and worst) about WI over the years.

On the plus side (and ten years ago, it was a very big plus side), these articles were truly inspirational. In this particular case, Mark gave a blow by blow account of his techniques for painting 28mm Napoleonic miniatures from prepping the figures right though to basing up the finished results. It was all there – conversions, priming, paint mixing, washes, glazes, varnishing – with no secrets held back. And best of all, there were some eye-popping colour photos.

But even then, the faint whiff of why I eventually fell out of love with WI was loitering in the background. Every one of the four pages of Mark’s excellent article was literally bordered with Foundry edging. And, as the issues went by, this form of advertorial became less and less subtle and less and less relevant to me. So, at some point, I can’t even remember when, I stopped buying issues of WI. Sure, I’d still leaf through them in the newsagent but the excitement had gone and I’ve only actually purchased one issue in the last three years.

And it’s not just me. One of the things I did notice in those recent years of putting issues back on the shelf is that Foundry no longer advertises in WI. I don’t know why but I have my suspicions. Now all magazines need advertising to remain commercially viable but a moth that gets too close to the flame runs the risk of getting burnt.

Still, let’s end on a hopeful note. In its announcement Battlefront says: “We have plans to re-launch the magazine soon with an increased page count, a wider range of articles covering every game, scale and era of the historical hobby combined with broader distribution globally so that getting hold of the foremost historical gaming magazine will be easier than ever.”

White Elephant? White Dwarf? Or Great White Hope? Cross your fingers for the latter.

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4 Responses to “What’s happening with Wargames Illustrated?”

  1. Robert said

    No lack of hypotheses on many forums out there about what the future will bring with WI now that it is under Battlefront’s wing, but the reality is that only time will tell.

  2. Randy said

    Great White Hope. Times change. Things move on. When I first read your post I’ll admit to a certain nostalgia pang re: the loss of print media assets that where once meaningful to me. Upon further reflection I asked myself, Would you trade the ‘zines of the past for the web of the present?” Not surprisingly the answer is no.

    There are numerous sites that post information pertinent to my interests…this one, for instance 😉 And while I and others of my generation might miss the comforting feel of a tactile page there is much more information available in my little niches of choice than there ever were in the heyday of the print media. And I don’t have to flip past all the ads either, I can simply choose not to click on a display ad.

    When I’m doing up a specific unit, say one of Italian line at Raab, I can actually find it on the web. Sometimes.

    So while I’ll miss actually holding a ‘zine in my hands, I don’t think I’ll lament the passing of print. But I won’t sell off the back issues I’ve stocked up. At least not until I’ve scanned them.

  3. A little more information here: http://www.leagueofaugsburg.com/fightingtalk/viewtopic.php?t=1716

    The internet can provide a lot of information but it’s nice to have something physical to read, and something to read on the way to/from work or sitting in the garden etc. Currently for me it is Wargamers Illustrated and Battlegames (& Slingshot though I have yet re re-subscribe for the new year). As the proud owner of every WI ever published I’ll try and be optimistic about the future. The magazine has had its ups and downs but I have nearly always read it cover to cover.

    Salute
    von Peter himself

  4. Giles said

    I’m not sure that Foundry now advertise anywhere. Given the scarce nature of their new releases, they probably don’t consider advertising a necessity. That said, I think I recall seeing their new “realistic Nap paints” advertised in WI last year.

    But advertising must be a killer for the mags these days – why pay for print ads when you can sent TMP a news item and have it seen by thousands of wargamers within hours?

    Giles

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