Sunday, 16 October 2011

White Dwarf Retrospective - 145 January 1992

The front cover of White Dwarf 145 comes as something of a shock, the main logo has been displaced to make way for the logos of HeroQuest and Space Crusade. I have written about HeroQuest before and Space Crusade was its Warhammer 40,000 inspired equivalent, in which players took control of squads of Space Marines battling Orks. Chaos Space Marines and Chaos Androids (the fore-runners of the Necrons). This was White Dwarf's second special issue dedicated to these more mainstream board games (the first being 134). It seems like a smart piece of marketing. The prominent logos could entice younger fans of the game while existing Games Workshop players could expand the games with a wider range of miniatures.

The Space Crusade article is particular elaborate, featuring a five part campaign with rules for Genestealer Hybrids, Terminators and Librarians. Given that Space Crusade had no system for psychic powers, the inclusion of psychic power cards for all the marine players, albeit ones you have to cut out or photocopy, is particularly ambitious. On the down-side, to make full use of the rules you are going to need a lot of models. One mission requires you to replace all the Orks with Genestealer Hybrids. With that in mind, its hard to see who this is aimed. Younger players would have to buy a lot of new models to play the missions, while the only players likely to have the required miniatures already would probably have a copy of Space Hulk and play that instead.

The HeroQuest article is rather better in my view. It consists of a two part quest called the Eyes of Chaos. It is illustrated with some imposing pictures of metal Games Workshop Ogres, but was released hot on the heels of the HeroQuest expansion 'Against the Ogre Horde' which featured seven plastic Ogres, so plenty of existing players would have the necessary models. The only truly new character is a Bretonnian Knight on foot, not a particularly challenging character to proxy. In fact I gave the Eyes of Chaos a go at the time of its release, but never player the Space Crusade rules at all.

The Eyes of Chaos for HeroQuest

In a clever piece of synergy, the issue also contains a version of Eyes of Chaos for Advanced HeroQuest, Games Workshops more complex HeroQuest spin off. The latter may not have offered the straight forward fun of HeroQuest, but had a number of enjoyable features, including its random dungeon generator tables, and was well supported in White Dwarf.

and again for Advanced HeroQuest

Moving on from the HeroQuest and Space Crusade material, the issue also features an article on Dragon Masters. This was a slightly odd game, written by Ian Livingstone one of Games Workshop's co-founders who ultimately went on to found video games company Eidos. He had long since left Games Workshop by the time the game was released and it feels like a product of a much earlier time in the companies history.

A self contained board game in which players took on the roles of rival High Elf lords sending out armies to explore a map board, it had the rather interesting mechanic of counters that were placed in each space face down and flipped over when an army entered the space to show what they encountered. This article provides a series of new counters to expand the game. A nice stand alone expansion that sadly has the drawback that, in a time before downloads and scanners, the new counters would have stood out a mile next to the professional printed counter-parts from the main game.

New Counter rules for Dragon Master

The final article is a new army list for Tyranids in Warhammer 40,000. It says something about the way Games Workshop has developed as a marketing machine that this article is weirdly low key, almost an after-thought.

It does feature an intriguing new idea. The whole list is printed on cards, or rather on paper intended to be cut out or photo-copied and used as cards, with background and images on one side and rules on the other. I suspect this idea was inspired by the recently release 2nd edition Epic which also used card-based army selection to good effect. It certainly pre-dates the modern fad for card-supported miniature rules and it is intriguing to imagine a world with army card decks instead of books. They would have been easier to refer to mid game, if trickier to read and store, and also would have allowed the seemless introduction of new units. Sadly this was not to be and the idea was never used again.

Army Cards - an idea that never caught on

The army list itself is a bit of a hodge-podge seemingly put together from existing models with as few totally new elements as possible. Some elements will be familiar to modern players, even if the models have changed, Tyranid Warriors, Genestealers, Termagents and Carnifex (the last two called Hunter-slayers and Screamer-Killers). Also present are Genestealer Hybrids, brood brothers, the Patriarch and the Magus. In fact, there is enough Genestealer elements here to comfortably put together a Genestealer cult army without recourse to Tyranid specific elements at all. Then there is the rather odd inclusion of Squig hordes which are apparently Tyranid-modified Orks, Zoats, effectively armadillo centaurs imported from Warhammer 3rd edition, and Mind Slaves, really an excuse to import chaos space marines and others into the list.

So ultimately, a decidedly bitty army list and one that doesn't seem to have much of a coherent plan behind it, except, perhaps, to put together an army with as little recourse to new models as possible.

This was an unusual and slightly special issue, but we still haven't moved very far from the format of White Dwarf we have seen so far. The bulk of the magazine, and all the key articles, are new, experimental rules for a variety of games. Much of the magazine is black and white with a few colour pages only. However, although not readily apparent from this issue, Games Workshop was starting to change in a way that would seriously impact White Dwarf as we will begin to see from the next issue in our tour.

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