09 May 2012

Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy magazine review

Short version: It's awesome, buy it!
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Longer version

I’m not really a magazine person.  When I was a kid around the time of Jurassic Park there was this really damn cool Dinosaur themed magazine for which my parents bought me a subscription – heaven for a kid who wanted to become an archeologist at that time (unaware that you would more likely get to dig up medieval latrines than be sent off to dig up old dinosaur bones). Following that I used to buy computer and PC game magazines in my teens but somewhere down the line with the impact of the internet I stopped buying magazines altogether as all I wanted to know was on the internet.

The question one has to ask with magazines these days is – are they worth the trouble? Especially hobby magazines. You have heavily biased examples like White Dwarf (went from a great magazine to toilet paper quality packed with GW product adds) and Wargames Illustrated which is owned by Battlefront and while a nice magazine I can’t say that I would be interested in a subscription.

I won a copy of Wargaming, Soldiers and Strategy over at the WWPD.net forum (superb community for Flames of War fans btw – check it out). The WWPD crew had mentioned how great WS&S magazine is in several podcasts, and while their enthusiasm easily rubs off on other people (me included) I still did not know what to really expect. Let’s say they hyped it quite a lot. But when it arrived it surpassed by expectations. Flipping through it I knew that THIS magazine WAS worth the trouble and definitely any money you might wish to spend on it. And I will soon bombard you with examples on how this magazine can co-exist with the information otherwise easily found on the internet.


WS&S is released 6 times per year, bimonthly. Each issue has a theme upon which most of the content revolves. This particular issue had a WW2 “Airborne” theme so a lot of articles about just that. However it also includes hobby product reviews, comparisons between rule systems, reviews of books, reviews of rules not related to the “theme” and some VERY well written columns.

Now let’s say you are interested in WW2 airborne, you will google around probably find miniatures and a couple of games. This magazine on the other hand includes a comparison between various ranges in the hobby and a brief description of each manufacturer carrying the range. Included are ideas and scenarios written for the Airborne fans to try out on their own, the attack on the gun emplacements by Lt Winters and his Easy company boys just like in Band of Brothers, or why not trying to free Mussolini with German paratroopers led by Otto Skorzeny coming in with gliders?
Need ideas for terrain for your paratroopers to fight over? Well then you get a quick and easy tutorial on how to make good looking hedges for a Normandy battleground. It really feels like the magazine puts several pieces revolving around the “theme” together very well.

On to the other stuff. The reviews. The magazine includes several pages of various reviews. Hobby products like paints or the new miniature releases from a certain company are described in a half page each. At the end of the magazine you have board game and book reviews as well as full page rule reviews of rule sets that have nothing to do with the theme of the current issue.

There are articles about stuff you would never think about, like a scratch written super simple but fun looking rules for “Gangs of New York” participation games where the guys who wrote the quick rules (1 page!) describe the process of how they try to come up with new stuff for conventions each year and the process from brainstorming ideas to the written rules and painted miniatures. Articles about completely different stuff, like the campaigns of ancient Rome.

Back again to the theme, you get articles that revolve around WW2 skirmish games, this issue included an interesting comparison between games such as I Aint Been Shot Mum, Victory Decision, Rate of Fire, Rules of Engagement and Disposable Heroes. The article was written in a way to quickly point out the differences between those games and their strengths and weaknesses.

The magazine also included a nice diorama section, in this issue the excellent blogger “Troop of Shewe” shows off one of his amazingly well painted vehicle dioramas and talk about the process.

My personal favorite were the columns which I found to be amazingly well written, well thought out and above all extremely interesting. One was about the moral dilemma about “modern wargaming”  which essentially boiled down to use gamers recreating real battles where real people died. I’ve had discussions about that before but it’s worth thinking about if you play historical wargaming. The other articles were about the return of cards as a game mechanic, where the column writer describes how cards were used back in the day and aren’t really as much of a new innovation as a reappearance. Last article  which was my favorite (written my Richard Clarke) discussed the problems with the game mechanics of command/control/communication in wargames which aren’t always handled in a satisfying way and it’s often around these game mechanics where players decide if they like the game or not.

This magazine really doesn’t hold any loyalties to any single brand, manufacturer or range. The content feels honest and to the point. It’s a great magazine with good production values, interesting articles, nice pictures, relevant hobby information and depth and variety enough to warrant a purchase. Even stuff that you thought you wouldn’t really care about is presented in such a way that you are going to end up reading it anyway because it’s interesting, it's not really stuff you can easily find (or find at all) just browsing the internet. The magazine is 80 pages thick.

It’s also hard to comprehend how good it actually is before you have one in your own hands. The link below will take you to the WSS site where you can buy the back issues real cheap if you want to satisfy your curiosity with a sample. Anyone who decides to sign up can use the code "WWPD" to save 15% on their subscription.

http://www.wssmagazine.com/cms/

6 comments:

  1. Anatoli, you should mention that anyone who decides to sign up can use the code "WWPD" to save 15%.

    It really really is a great magazine! Thank you for your review- I didn't want people thinking we hyped it just because they're an advertiser of ours! We hype it because we love it! This issue has been my favorite so far since it's most relevant to my interests.

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  2. Thanks for reminding me about the discount code Steven. I'll add it to the review :-)

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  3. Great review, I love this mag too, but am having difficulty getting hold of a copy this month; think I will look at subscribing ;)

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  4. I got a hold of the Viking themed issue and agree that is a great mag and intend to post a positive review as well. It pays to advertise as I got it after clicking the advert on WWPD.
    Cheers

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  5. You've convinced me. Well, the discount code did. Subscribed!

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  6. I think all the boys from an early age interested in war games, weapons and tanks. It's like encoded in them. I have a son, who is also very like toy soldiers and Wargaming. Thanks for your post, it was interesting to read.

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