|Issue 107. The beginning of the Golden Age of White Dwarf - in my opinion anyway|
Its a matter of opinion.
Here at Realm of Chaos 80s (and in the wider Oldhammer Community), the 'Golden Age' of GW is generally decided to be the Bryan Ansell era of 1985ish to about 1992. True, there are many affectionardoes who would argue that the Jackson/Livingstone era of 1977-1985ish could also been deemed part of this, and they may well be right, but for me anyway, its the GW games themselves that inspire me (along with the associated artworks) rather then the D&D roleplaying games that were the basis of the early years of GW and White Dwarf.
In fact, when you think about it, White Dwarf's first 10 years or so were nearly entirely devoted to roleplaying. Games like Dungeons and Dragons, Traveller, Pendrangon, Runequest and so on and so forth were covered and discussed throughout that time, sure GW had its own games (Golden Heroes and Judge Dredd are two such examples) and they would later (under Bryan Ansell) re-publish classics of the genre like Call of Cthulhu.
Roleplaying games built GW.
Citadel Miniatures, once a separate brand, produced miniatures at first purely to support these wide and varied games, but focused in particular with AD&D in the early years, before branching out into other areas, most successfully the Men at Arms/Wars of the Roses ranges sculpted by the Perry's (and still available via Ansell's Wargames Foundry). Its worth remembering at this point that it was Citadel Miniatures that bought Games Workshop, and not the other way around.
However, roleplaying games were very much in decline. Their golden age had passed. And Citadel Miniatures/GW were very aware that is was the case, and had the evidence from their audit of the bricks and mortar stores and mail order service to prove this. Roleplaying supplements were not really selling as they were in years past, but the miniatures... They were selling almost as quickly as they could be produced. Over a million miniatures a month by 1985. The casting teams sometimes worked 24 hours a day to keep up with the demand.
But with no roleplaying games, what were collectors doing with the models? Wargaming being the most obvious answer, with the early editions of Warhammer being a fantasy favourite. More wargames were required and fast. As we know now, the roleplaying skirmish game called Rogue Trader had been so successful that the Design Studio was beginning to convert it into a larger scale wargame. Big box games would follow, all with their miniature lines and supplements. These new releases needed a place in the fictional universe created for the games (an idea with its roots deep in pencil and paper roleplaying games) and White Dwarf was the best place to provide the enthusiast with these materials.
White Dwarf Issue 107 marked a change. It had been slow in coming, but by its publication it heralded in what I feel to be the Height of Golden Age of GW/Citadel Miniatures. The best way to explore these changes is to head back twelve months or so to issue 96 of White Dwarf.
First up, we have a cover that is in fact take from Caskets of Souls, a very well illustrated 'choose your own adventure; style book, illustrated by Iain McCraig- who had, and not many people know this, designed the famous Games Workshop logo. This wasn't a GW product as such, though it shared writers and artists in common. Issue 107 also used an unrelated cover, this one was a Conan one by Les Edwards. The difference would be in the actual size of the magazine. Issue 107 was different in regards to being much smaller and more compact than WD had ever been.
Marginalia, the review column, still existed in issue 96. This was a vehicle in which the editors of White Dwarf were able to review 'roleplaying' materials, though to be honest by this point in the 1980s Games Workshop were dominating the market in the UK and were, essentially, reviewing their own new releases, though in a less blatant, more wordy way then they do today. Mail order still pushed, largely, roleplaying games with the miniature releases presented in lovely colour pages (see here and here from the releases from issue 96). By 107, this was refined to lovely colour adverts in a more formal, professional style. Issue 97 also still had Thrud the Barbarian the comic strip, who would depart with his creator, Carl Crithlow when he left to join 2000AD. Its true that GW games dominate, with WFRP's Bar Room Brawl, expansions for Warhammer and Rogue Trader. Roleplaying games were supported with Judge Dredd, Runequest and the Heart of Dust, but these were of course, published by GW. There was a letters page at the back of the magazine, something that was doomed to disappear entirely from WD around 107 alongside external advertising, though the odd piece did slip through later on.
White Dwarf 107 is a far more polished thing than WD96.
It also focused on, almost entirely, GW wargames or WFRP. And each of these games (Warhammer, Rogue Trader, Bloodbowl and Dark Future) had lots of scope for development and new models. Things were fresh. Issue 107 gave you articles that you could just use to expand your games (if, of course you bought the miniatures released that month too). These are, of course, the very same models that we here in the Oldhammer Community, and beyond, collect and paint. In future issues we would discover the model ranges, rules and background for Space Marine, Adeptus Mechanicus, Heroquest, Advanced Heroquest, Advanced Space Crusade, The Troll Games, Space Fleet, Space Hulk... So much still to come. And it is this wealth of released material that makes issue 107 a really important issue for me. GW had become more professional in its approach, but still had that zany sense of humour and a willingness to dip its toe into the darkness. This is way I believe that WD 107 heralds in the 'Golden Age' of the magazine. Each issue afterwards deepened the canvas, either with background, rulesets, games or miniatures. Over the next 24 issues or so, we saw the development, and publication of, the best fantasy and science fiction roleplaying games ever produced and the manufacturing of the greatest range of miniatures to support them. It would be an astonishing period of creativity, guided by Bryan Ansell's vision, that has gone unsurpassed by any other company since. Even GW themselves.
Afterall, what have they really done since 1992?
Re-release, re-hash, dilute the products, ideas and miniature designs created in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
What are your opinions of issue 107, or indeed the issues that surround it? Do you have an opinion concerning the article? Do you agree, disagree? Please do share your thoughts.