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Tiny Tin Men :: Archives

Is the Net hazardous to wargame magazines?

January 26, 2005 9:44 AM - Posted by Robartes - Category: General

In the latest issue of Wargames Illustrated Ray Lucas makes an interesting observation in his A view from the trenches column. Basically, he states that the increased publication quality of recent rulesets (flashy pages and photographs versus copied or — god forbid — stenciled black and white pages of dense text) has led to the article content of WI being reduced to nothing more than thinly disguised adverts for the various new rulesets.

I have recently resubscribed to WI, after having given up on it on account of the lack of decent articles in it (this was around the period when WI was turning into a Foundry catalog, written by Chris Peers). I had heard it said, however, that the publication was picking up again, so I resubbed a few months ago.

I have found, however, that I enjoy reading the magazine a lot less than I did before. Of course, part of this can be the rosy veil of the past remembrance smoothing over the flaws of yesteryear, but Ray’s comment has set me thinking that he may, in fact, have a point, and that his point is the reason I enjoy the magazine less than I did before.

I do not agree with the whole of his comment, though. I think he is right in saying, and he has certainly opened my eyes to the fact that, the vast majority of the articles in the current crop of WI issues are indeed only thinly veiled adverts for various rulesets or figure ranges. This is probably the reason why I enjoy the mag less these days, despite the cornucopia of increasingly attractive miniature photography that seems to have become be a major selling point for the publication (at least for the publisher).

What I disagree with, or at least want to nuance a bit, is Ray’s reasoning wrg to the cause of this: he argues that the increased publication costs of the new crop of rulesets is the direct cause for this style of article-slash-advert. While there might well be a kernel of truth in this, I do not think that this is the entire story. As often stated when yet another thread on magazine quality erupts on some mailing list or discussion group somewhere, WI’s editor can only publish what he is sent in the way of articles. If it turns out that Duncan McFarlane only gets sent this kind of article, then that is all he will be able to publish.

My point (what, there is a point to this?) is that while there are indeed ruleset authors and members of their inner circle (alpha friends as Phil would call them :) ) that send in adverticles for their rulesets, this was happening in the past too. What has changed though, is that there are less and less other articles being sent in to the magazines (with the odd exception to prove the rule, of course — viz Barry Hilton’s of League of Augsburg truly excellent series on WWII rulesets), thus diluting their non-adverticle content.

And I think we do not have the look very far for the reason behind that particular development: you’re reading it. Of course, I am not arguing that Tiny Tin Men is the reason for the decline of article quality in WI, but the Internet might well be. In an age where every club, wargames group, ruleset author and miniature manufacturer has its own website with information and — occasionally — good articles, there is no more incentive for most people to go through the rigmarole of writing a true to god paper article and getting it published. Only people with an interest in promoting their ruleset or whatever have an incentive to still use this channel

And while I am not quite the raving blogs are the future of journalism, the universe and everything fanboy that many in the blogosphere are, I do believe that wargames blogs such as TTM will only increase this tendency. This very post is an example of this: back in the old days, this would have been a letter to the editor. Now, it lives on the Net only.

Is this the future knocking on our door?

Comments on this entry

I have noted the tendency to find the magazines less interesting over the last year, but had put it down to my failing eyesight.

Not being able to focus properly tends to give a feeling of dissatisfaction with magasine articles in particular as they tend to use smaller print.

That said, I can agree with you to a point but… Wargaming has always gone in cycles, when there were fewer rule sets about there used to be phases when certain periods were all the rage; - the rennaiscance for example, in the late 70’s when a new range of good looking figures came out; - the Samurai when Dixon’s First did their improved 25mm range;- and then Colonial and the Sudan etc etc. At times one got to the stage where it was not worth reading the mags if you were not interested in the fashionable periods.

The problem for me with WI and MW is that they do not ‘manage’ the content, they wait to see what comes in. I would contrast this with Vae Victis which has a very clear format style. The Brit magazines could benefit from going down the line of commissioning articles in order to improve. Now I had better go read this month’s mags.

January 26, 2005 11:54 AM - Posted by Graham K


Funny you just resubbed, I’m going to drop it this year for the first time in 16 years. I think the quality has really suffered over the last two years.


January 28, 2005 8:27 PM - Posted by David Black

The main difference between magazines and weblogs/bulletin-boards/your-own-website is the issue of credibility.

When an editor selects incoming articles, edits them, provides photographs, and publishes them as a renowned magazine, the articles themselves gain credibility, because they have gone through at least one filtering process. This is different from just publishing your own stuff on the net, where there is not even the slightest form of quality control.

This is very parallel to the scientific word, in which scientific results NOT published in a good quality journal (so-called peer-reviewed publications), are usually not to be considered very worthy or significant.

Does this mean that the stuff that appears in wargaming magazines has always better quality? No, of course not. But on average, their quality will be better, since the article at least has been scrutinized by one person, who is supposed to have a lot experience.

There are some sites that list free wargame rules, and these are a good source for ideas. But these sites often have gems of free rules hidden underneath huge piles of junk rules. So how do you filter? By appointing someone you trust, make him select the relevant bits, and publish them together. In other words, a magazine. Whether this magazine exists in print or just on the net is another issue, of course.

So, the question really should be whether printed magazines still have a future. It’s obvious that more and more the internet is a good and viable alternative for niche hobbies such as wargaming.

January 31, 2005 12:44 PM - Posted by Phil Dutre

That’s a good point Phil brings up - peer, or at least editor, reviewed publications. While there are certainly disadvantages to this mechanism (the odor of elitism attached to the process, to name but one), it does have the advantage that it forms a first layer of filtering, as Phil states; whereas weblogs and personal webpages are basically a free for all (or free for author) without any control, which leads to the sparkling gem buried in mountains of crap syndrom.

On the other hand, good web pages have a tendency to rise to the top by themselves, due to a very bastardized form of peer review: readers referring others to the site and linking to it, thus increasing its visibility through its Google rank (Google ranks search results higher if there are more other sites linking to the site in question).

All very interesting indeed, and touching (somewhat) upon the whole blogging-is-journalism-is-not-journalism thing that’s doing the rounds these days.

January 31, 2005 1:07 PM - Posted by Robartes


I’m afraid that your re-subscribing was my fault. There was a period of about 3-4 months last year when ‘Wargames Illustrated’ was pretty good and I think I told you about it.

I have just bought the Feb edition and you’re right, it’s a pretty shameless plugging of games systems. The one potentially good article is on a WAB campaign but it’s written in a style that is, well, indescribably awful.

Sorry about that.

I quite like printed magazines. The French produce superb material, particularly the military history publications. My compatriots have not the same ability, I’m afraid, but do produce better ‘quirky’, fanzine type material or publications like Slingshot or ‘Counter’. No graphics but often quite intense and interesting articles.

When all that is said, perhaps the best is indeed to abandon the instant gratification of magazines and stick to more serious publications instead?


January 31, 2005 7:19 PM - Posted by Alan

I gave up reading WI some time ago as it had an over abundance of adverts. The articles tended to be from the larger clubs with their bias on rules,etc. I have found that there is a wealth of information and very good free rules to be had on the internet. I for one have published a series of rules and about to publish my modern rules. With all of these free rules do we need to buy wargame magazines? It would be handy if WI went with the times, put itself up for free on the internet. It can still make money from the adverts because it is such a well known magazine and would get millions of hits.

October 12, 2005 3:52 PM - Posted by Peter Morffew

Hi there

discovered your excellent blog a week or so ago and just noticed this post re the changes in wargames mags.

Well, I think your prayers may be about to be answered: see for news of a brand new printed wargames magazine with a difference.

No, I’m not on commission but I know the editor and am contributing to this issue - check it out!

Kind regards


February 15, 2006 2:23 PM - Posted by Alistair Birch


Yes, I know about the new Battlegames magazine, might even subscribe one of these days ;-)


February 15, 2006 3:03 PM - Posted by Phil