Sunday, May 17, 2015

Warhammer Visions Review: A magazine for hobbyists

The new Warhammer Visions!
It has been years since I have had a subscription to Games Workshop’s monthly hobby magazine, White Dwarf. I have many fond memories of coming home from school and excitedly finding the next issue of White Dwarf waiting to be explored. I feel that the magazine played a critical role in driving my enthusiasm for the hobby during my early years, at times where I did not have the money to build armies, and times without the wellspring that is the internet.  The magazine offered countless pictures of painted models, including people's’ conversions (they even had pages at the back of each issue showing the parts of each new release to encourage conversions). Slowly however, White Dwarf shifted further and further away from the modeling and background centric focus, replacing the cool conversions and background stories with more advertisements. And eventually I stopped the subscription entirely. As many of you know, this scheme of releasing a monthly issue of White Dwarf was heavily modified over a year ago. Instead of releasing a single magazine, they shifted to releasing two magazines, a small weekly White Dwarf issue, and a larger monthly issue called Visions. While the smaller White Dwarf has been somewhat successful, having a good mix of both gaming and hobby content (including the rules for new releases), the larger picture-centered Visions has not received much attention or praise (I only purchased an issue or two). This month (May 2015) marks the release of a newly formatted Visions, with an increase in the size of the printed pages, back to the size of a standard magazine. I decided now would be a good time to give the magazine another chance and give my thoughts about it. Also, the cover of the magazine showed a battleline of Adeptus Mechanicus Skitarii, promising lots of high quality and detailed pictures of the new model range released by Games Workshop.

Description of in the magazine itself:
It is a bumper-sized photographic showcase of the best Citadel miniatures in the world, ranging from the latest releases from Games Workshop to Golden Demon entries, Armies on Parade, Army of the Month, Blanchitsu, Paint Splatter and much, much more besides.

As anticipated, a large portion of the magazine is dedicated to advertisement. Roughly the first 60 pages of the magazine (⅓ of the magazine) are devoted to showing the month’s new releases from Games Workshop (and Forge World), namely the new Skitarii models.  And while this might be offputting to many, since you can go online to Games Workshop’s website to look at pictures of their new models, I think that the section is surprisingly relevant.  I say this because, although GW does have pictures online, they have become increasingly less helpful in recent months.  Since GW unveiled its new website months ago, they have dramatically reduced the size of the images they show for their models. So while it is true you can see pictures of their new models online, they are small and limited in scope.  Many of GW’s new kits can be used to build multiple units with many different weapon/head/bits options, but only a fraction of these options are shown on their website.  The Skitarii Sicarian models, for example, are loaded with different weapon options, two different choices per unit type (so 4 in total between the Ruststalkers and the Infiltrators), but only two are shown on their website (or even the codex book), despite having pieces sculpted. Visions is situated to address these issues, with many high quality, large images of the new models, including some with the less advertised wargear.  It is true that this might not appeal to everyone, but if the issue is focussed on an army you are considering to collect, it would be substantially more helpful than scrolling through the tiny images on GW’s website, struggling with their frustrating magnifying feature.

Visions has excellent detail shots from the month's new models.

The magazine does a great job of celebrating the work of hobbyists around the world, with a notable focus on entire armies (as well as single models). In this issue they showcase two armies, one in Army of the Month, and another in WAAAGH! Ghazghkull. In this month, the Army of the Month section showcases James Karch’s expansive Space Wolves army (complete with detachments of the Sons of Guilliman, Militarum Tempestus, Imperial Knights, and Grey Knights). This section boasts an impressive 22 pages, which is large enough to get a good look at much of the force. The photography is fantastic, showing close up photos of individual units and models, along with full page spreads showing sections of the army. Many of the photos are accompanied by a short  description or thought from the army’s owner. This provides some much needed insight into the force (It would be nice if there was a little more of this). Towards the end of the magazine they have another feature titled WAAAGH! Ghazghkull which showcases an ork army built and painted by Dan Harden. At a total of 10 pages, this section, like the Army of the Month earlier, does a wonderful job of showing pictures of the army as a whole and several close-ups of notable inclusions in the army (including a really nice converted Fortress of Redemption and a fighta Bomber). Both articles are exciting because they allow people to see another vision of the army in question, rather than the tried and true ‘Eavy Metal teams’ renditions that populate GW’s rulebooks and codices.

The only official GW picture I have seen with Infiltrators with stubcarbines!

Another neat section in the magazine is the Readers Parade Ground, which collects together photos of miniatures sent to Games Workshop by hobbyists. In this issue, the section is 6 pages and shows a range of models from both Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000. Each image is accompanied by a title of the miniature(s) and the name of the hobbyist responsible for the model. At the end of the section they list where you can send photos of your own models for a chance to be shown in future issue of Visions ( Although only a small portion of the magazine, I feel it is still an exciting element. Even though most of the models on display are not Slayer Sword quality, it is great to see other peoples’ hard work, and is an inspiration to keep painting, with the thought of getting a model showcased yourself.  This celebration of all skill levels and different aspects of the hobby is refreshing, and distant from the business element of Games Workshop.

Thanatar Siege Automata - Richard Gray

There is a large section of the issue showcasing models from Golden Demon 2014, both winners and finalists. More so than any other part of the magazine, it captures the incredible breadth of the hobby, showcasing that labors of love of so many people, each capturing a unique aspect of the hobby, and giving insight into each hobbyists’ personal take on the game/universe. To me, it is a reminder of what brought many of us to the hobby in the first place, not the promise of winning games, but to create awesome models. And ultimately, I find models like those showcased in this short section far more inspiring than the GW stock models (which while, well painted, do not tend to exude the same care and passion). One of my favorite models showcased as a Genestealer Hybrid conversion by Mark Tait. It is an amazingly subtle conversion, one that does not look like a conversion at all. It explores a rich element of the 40k universe that has been largely ignored for years, rekindling memories of 2nd edition, with its muted purples, blues, and yellows.

Genestealer hybrid - Mark Tait

One of the elements that I was most looking forward to in the magazine was the Blanchitsu section. In the past, it has focused primarily on the shadowy world of the Inquisition, showcasing different exquisitely converted warbands from artists all over the globe. The Inquisition is my favorite element of the 40k lore, so such work really interests me. With this issue, they broke form a bit, and tried something a little different. Instead, they showcased Phil Kelly’s army of Chaos Daemon engines. While only four pages in length, it does a nice job of getting a glimpse of Phil’s heavily converted defilers and techno-spawns.

Phil Kelly's Daemon engines!

At the very end of the magazine they include a short 6 page Paint Splatter section detailing how to paint different Skitarii models in the color scheme of Forge World Metalica (a neat white and red scheme). The guide is nearly all pictorial (just like what is now in the White Dwarf magazines), showing a picture of each step of the painting progress. The only writing present tells the paint and brush used at each step in the process. While nothing too groundbreaking, it is nice they included the painting guide in the magazine. This section is really the only one in the magazine that makes an effort to help or guide new hobbyists.

Although the lack of text prevents the painting guide from being particularly helpful, it is still a nice touch.

While I did not read too many of the earlier versions of Visions, there are a few notable absences in this new version (from memory), particularly Battle Reports and Kit Bash. Of the issues I read, these sections were two of the weakest articles, however, so their absence is not a major loss.  Both suffered from Vision’s general lack of text.  Without descriptions and rational, the battle reports were rather uninformative and verging on pointless.  The Kit Bash section, while not as dependent on text to function, tended to be uninspired head and weapon swaps, rather than exciting conversions.  Perhaps if more text was present, such a section could be used to teach techniques for working with green stuff or ways to extend conversion beyond the simplest of kit bashes, but in Vision’s current format, I think leaving it out is not a major loss to anyone. In the future, I think it would be neat to see  a section like this introduced in a more substantial way, one that focus on the conversions of different hobbyists. Ones that goes step by step through the conversions and allows the hobbyist to give some insight into what they were thinking or trying to achieve with their work.

Skaven Gutter Runners diorama - Max Faleij

It should also be mentioned that the magazine itself is incredibly well printed. It exceeds what nearly every other miniature game company produces (including most companys’ premium rulebooks), and Visions is simply a magazine. The cover of the magazine is made with a heavy card stock and the images have a nice matte finish with the models in the foreground highlighted with a glossy coating. Each of the pages is hefty and has a matte printing, making it very easy to look at. I would say the printing quality alone gets close to warranting the twelve US dollar price tag.

Harlequin Solitaire - Neil Green
Warhammer Visions is an interesting magazine, one that focuses less on selling models, and more on simply promoting the modeling/painting aspect of the hobby. And for a company that makes its living on selling models, it is somewhat surprising that without this magazine, there would really be nowhere for them to promote and showcase the creative and artistic elements of the hobby. Their rulebooks and codices, White Dwarf, and website are all focused on selling models and rules, rather than encouraging painting and conversions. Visions uniquely caters towards this, showing this exciting and very relevant aspect of the hobby.  Admittedly, it is not for everyone, but more for the hobbyist excited for inspiration for their next conversion or painting project, it is perfect. Overall, I quite enjoyed the new issue of Visions and will certainly consider buying some of the future issues of the magazine. I might even be tempted into getting a subscription to the magazine; I really love the Blanchitsu section of the magazine and all it represents in our hobby. Unlike the rulebooks and codices, where I find the digital versions are more functional than the printed versions, the fantastic photography and production values on Visions make the printed version preferable (ideal for looking at photos of some of the best painted model soldiers in the world).

- Adam Wier


  1. Brilliant little review mate. I've ummed and arrred a number of times about picking up a copy of Visions but never bothered after most reviews I've read have talked it down.

    I've of the most common complaints was about double page spreads that are ruined by the centre binding. Did this issue have any of that or did the switch to larger format clear that up.

    1. Though I actually own a few visions (old format), I never understand the pricing structure between the two magazines (WD and visions).

      I really wish they'd just throw in visions along with your WD subscription (which is already pretty high in cost), then use visions as a cross reference to the WD (for more information on this army, check out visions page X through Y!). Instead they kinda of act as two separate entities, when they could really make them greater then the sum of their parts. A major missed opportunity :(.

    2. @Frothing Muppet
      I am glad you liked the review! Visions is a very interesting magazine and certainly worth looking into every now and again (particularly if you are interested in the new releases of the month). Its biggest strength is that it shows the work of hobbyists from all over.

      Even in this newer format, some of the two page spreads can be a little tricky to see everything due to the binding. Overall however I did not find it to be a big problem.

      @Greg Hess
      The whole pricing structure between the two magazines is pretty weird. The two do compliment one another pretty well though as you mentioned. For the price you pay for the subscription of White Dwarf, it would be nice if they included Visions (or at least let you subscribe for a heavy discount). As it is now, I don't think many people even consider looking into Visions...

  2. I actually re-subscribed last month to Visions again after electing not to prolong my original subscription. Funnily enough I missed the format as it has little tidbits of excellence hidden in each issue. Though I must admit it has never been the same after Fat Bloke stopped as editor. That was the golden age of you ask me but I make do now.

    1. I am am considering subscribing at one point too. I am hoping the format continues to evolve to feature the work of other hobbyists even more prominently.

  3. I have found visions to be pretty darn disappointing if I am honest. It could be so much more if they put text in it and actually tried to be a little creative with their content (like blanchitsu). It could be packed full of conversion ideas, painting tutorials, fluff, photos, proper battle reports (anyone remember battle for orcs rift?. One of the greatest battle reports I have ever read) ect. Instead it just feels like a coffee table corporate magazine. I hope the shift in direction really starts to show some improvement (although I am not hopeful)

    1. The magazine certainly has its share of problems. It would benefit greatly if they put more text into it, expanding on the different conversions and the thoughts of the hobbyists that created them. As it stands it is very much a coffee table magazine/artbook. I hope that they shift the magazine more towards the Blanchitsu section and other sections showcasing the hard work of fellow hobbyists.