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.