During the Christmas shopping frenzy I happened to pass by the International Magazine Store in Leuven (which caters for a very diverse range of magazines) and as usual I couldn’t resist the urge of having a quick look (it was cold outside). I tend to glance at the recent Wargames Illustrated issue but I rarely find the content within appealing enough to actually spend a reasonable amount of cash on it and if I do, the chances of becoming a tad disappointed afterwards are fairly large. So over time I have trained myself to resist the urge of the impulse buy. The huge source of information available on the internet these days (such as on Wargames Journal) helps in this respect. This time however I spotted a mag I hadn’t seen before called Wargames Soldiers & Strategy (nr 12) so I succumbed to the ‘little wargame devil’* and opened up my wallet.
I was not disappointed. The overall layout is tidy, the pictures are appealing and the content turned out to be interesting and useful. When first glancing through the pages you get this strange feeling that something is odd, until you realise that the thing isn’t swamped with advertisements! There is actual content inside! Not all of it applying to my specific gaming interests but still, content!
Apart from the general gaming content they also feature one core theme (or dossier as they call it). This issue had Trafalgar as the central theme and featured an interview with Rod Langton, an article on the history of and the events leading to the battle (pretty general introduction, but then again going in too much detail would require a book, not a magazine) and an article on painting and rigging ships from the age of sail. Having already read a few articles on the rigging subject, this one was by far the clearest. This is a considerable achievement since it is very hard not to get bogged down into an incomprehensible mess of nautical jargon which would give an admiral a headache, let alone be any way near comprehensible to your average land lugger.
The magazine turns out to be made by a bunch of Spaniards but this only shows to a small degree in their book reviews which feature Spanish publications next to the more international ones, in a schematic/map left and right and in the abbreviations used in the Trafalgar board game that came with the magazine; Nothing too disturbing. All in all this is a serious contender in the published wargames magazine market.
*The same one that insists that you “need” Gallic allies to go with the recently acquired Roman army (which is on number 358 of your painting list to start with). You probably know him all too well.
Update (Robartes): fixed two links which exhibited very weird behaviour
I agree that the Spanish magazine is quite excellent. There is always a dossier, with a historical subject but containing plenty of wargaming material (not the pseudo history so often see in wargames mags), plus other interesting articles, including one on painting and a nic uniform page. Highly recommended. You can buy it in Leuven, but cheaper to order from Caliver Books.
I have tried the Italian mag (free gift from Caliver) but found it less convincing, if a worthy effort.
In the painting section they mention an interesting technique/paint cocktail to make your models look more weathered which they call “Bitumen of Judea/asphalt” and is supposed to be a mixture of matt varnish, bitumen of Judea and turpentine. They refer to issue 10 for more details. Has anybody ever used this and what the hell is bitumen of Judea? :)
As for the usefulness of paper magazines. They read allot easier on the train for one thing. Seriously though, I still prefer reading stuff on paper and tend to print out things that I want to read in detail (such as scientific articles, rule sets etc etc). However, since they cater for a narrow market, wargame magazines tend to be pricy especially when compared with the internet. For this reason I don’t take a monthly subscription but tend to buy only things that really interest me. In this respect the dossier method of Wargames S&S is appealing as well, since if you are interested in that particular subject, you at least get your moneys worth of it.
BTW, also try to check out ‘Vae Victis’ or ‘Ravage’ now and then. Both are French magazine, glossy paper, full color, and also bring good content. Vae Victis even has a game in each issue. VV is for historicals, Ravage is for F/SF. Ravage also features painting articles, with quite a different painting style from GW. More French and artistic ;-)