With the ever-present publication that is the one and only White Dwarf turning 40 this month, I thought I’d pay my own tribute to Grombrindal’s rag right here on H&H. I’ve even pulled out a few of my favourite issues and covers – the sight of which still enthuse me with the hobby spirit (though I’ll confess that a couple were from before my time). I, like nearly every gamer, have a stack of these magazines at home, and though all my older editions long since were thrown away, I still remember those old monthlies like it was yesterday…
When I was but a slip of a lad (the lad in question being my father, and the slip being me) I, like several other children, enjoyed toys. And, being that I was a boy child, I liked guns and swords and tanks and all the really fun things that I’m now told aren’t fun and are in fact a stereotypical cage with which to assign children their future gender roles based on patriarchal pigeon holing (which sounds like an incestuous sex act but moving swiftly on) but I, as a child, didn’t really care about all that. I liked guns, and I didn’t like dolls, and I don’t think that did me any harm (nor would it have done any harm if I’d liked dolls instead of guns of course). What’s more, being an avid reader, I liked comic books because these were like books but thinner, cheaper, and full of guns and swords and silly words like ‘Waz-Bo!’ and ‘Zoorp!’.
I remember all those years ago that I was once in a news agents when I was of an age to still be receiving pocket money (which narrows it down to anywhere up to the age of 31) and I saw what looked like a comic book, and it had a free toy on it. What’s more, that toy was holding a gun! Just as a pizza covered in curry sauce and topped with chocolate bars would be a combination of my three favourite foods now, this was a combination of my three favourite things then. Incidentally, my three favourite foods back then would have been chips, bread and roast potatoes which, while nice, wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting. I scraped together what little pocket money I had, and bought a chocolate bar which I used as a distraction while I stole the magazine. And I haven’t looked back (or gone back into that news agents) since.
That pinched magazine was White Dwarf Issue 166 from 1993. I was almost 10 years old. And it was glorious. I didn’t understand half of what was going on inside, and it certainly wasn’t a comic book (which was a little annoying at the time) but it was so much fun. It was a new world full of strange words like ‘Space Orks’ and ‘Norse Raiders’ and ‘Man O’War’. And then I discovered that you could actually buy all of these things! Oh, the elation! Well, you can see how many exclamation marks I’ve been using here – that should give you some idea of how exciting this all was back then. But just in case I haven’t quite conveyed that, here are some more!!
My birthday was a few days later and I actually asked for a subscription to the magazine for my main present. This was unusual because it wasn’t made of lego and, as far as my mum could tell, wasn’t covered in guns and swords. Then she opened my copy and saw that it was full of guns and swords at which point she rolled her eyes (she got a 3 and a 2), shrugged her shoulders and sent off for what would be one of the most influential birthday gifts I ever got. Thanks, mum.
And so it has been ever since. Well almost. During my teenage years, I replaced White Dwarf with Loaded for a while (along with some much studied copies of Playboy that I purchased with a deep voice which, at the time, was more valuable than Sterling) but even when I was trying to be all cool, I would keep myself up to date. But before that, I saw some amazing things in those old White Dwarf issues. 4vs4 battle reports, the birth of characters like Captain Tycho, games like Epic 40,000, Titan Legions and the 3rd Edition of 40k being announced, and so much more. Names like Jervis Johnson, John Blanche, Adrian Smith, Mike McVey, Andy Chambers, Rick Priestly, Gavin Thorpe and so many others became familiar monickers that were uttered with the same levels of veneration that popes typically reserve for saints.
In later years, those personalities have all but disappeared from regular issues, and the magazine has gone through many changes. We had the recent run of weekly mini-Dwarf and monthly Visions magazines, and while I was fine with this, it didn’t really feel like White Dwarf (though issue 16 of Visions is a sure classic because some of my miniatures are in that one). As the hobby has grown, so have the depth of features and now these magazines are full of useful painting tips, conversion ideas and inspiring armies and miniatures from very talented painters. Not that those haven’t always been there, but it’s amazing to be able to chart the progression of the talent involved in this hobby.
Even today, as a sour, embittered middle aged man who has to deal with things like paying council tax, tinder dates, and morning commutes, I still get a wee pang of joy when I get my hands on the latest White Dwarf. It’s an escape that lives in my rucksack for much of the month, and is taken out to quietly enliven long train journeys and boring periods of waiting around (often waiting for those trains). It has been a near constant in my life since the age of 9, and it has brought me so much joy and inspiration that has lead me to be the hobbyist that I am today. Thanks, White Dwarf.
So, as this sickly sweet and saccharine puff piece of a blog post draws to a close, and my trip down memory lane leads me back to the fast moving motorway of modern responsibilities, I shall simply say this; I like White Dwarf. It is not the perfect magazine, but it is one that I read religiously. It has its issues with its issues but I am forever glad that it is there, and for the most part, it oft plays a blinder. And I’d like to thank the thieving little git that I once was for swiping me my first copy. It was good enough that I have paid for every issue since.