Tales of Battle

'Tales of Battle' is a high-production-value fanzine devoted to Warhammer Fantasy Battle--specifically the WHFB Grand Tournament Circuit--which has just reached its milestone sixth issue...no small feat for what is essentially a two-man operation.

Each issue covers the latest developments in the Warhammer world, via reviews of such things as recent army book releases, through the prism of what has happened on the GT circuit. There are, as well as reviews, frequent army showcases and occasional modeling workshops--but even these are geared toward the GTer. An excellent example is local hobbyist Matt Mayer's article about Dwarf entrenchments in issue five: although Matt does a great job expanding on the basics for building the model (presented in an earlier issue), making it 360 and addressing a defect in one of the recommended building materials, and the article would stand as valuable from that perspective alone, the remainder of the article elaborates on how the entrenchment played at the Alamo GT.

It isn't in any way a criticism to point out this emphasis; and in fact much of 'Tales of Battle's' success is probably due to it's catering to a specific potential audience. It is just something potential customers should know: there are frequent uses without elaboration of abbreviations and terminology which have become commonplace over the course of GT play which a non-GTer may have difficulty deciphering, and a general sense of familiarity amongst the circuit's top players (which understandably include 'ToB's' staff) which can leave readers interested in Warhammer but less a part of the GT subculture scratching their heads.

It might be fair to suggest clarity in such matters could be improved by judicious explanatory editing...and it is also fair to warn readers in advance that if they are bothered by the presence of other errors one expects to be cleaned up by professional editing--such as spelling or punctuation errors, mid-paragraph changes in tense, etc--such things are too common in issues of 'ToB' to ignore. 'Tales of Battle' is a fanzine; as it's colour, graphic design and photo reproduction have improved from issue to issue, it is easy to forget that it's creators and contributors are producing it out of affection for the subculture, and by definition are professionals at something else. Nevertheless, five bucks is five bucks; some readers won't stand for muddy or inaccurate photos or diagrams at that price, and others may not for muddy english...

Each issue of 'ToB' can be counted on to include regular features: those present from the start have included in-person coverage of the most recent GTs, Masters of Battle interviews with hobby (meaning circuit) notables, Table One (a fully-diagrammed battle report from climactic tables at recent GTs, a particularly impressive, labour-intensive piece of work) and The General's Tent, offering playing advice. I have found something of merit in all these regular columns; I learned more about Wasteland Wars and it's tireless promoter on the Adeptus North Texas mailing list, Brent Collins, in issue 4 than I had known, for example (all of which makes me want to get out to Lubbock someday even more), and the General's Tent on GT Etiquette in that same issue should be something every hobbyist reads.

The irregular features have been spottier--short WHFB-ish fiction, painting and building articles and army showcases increase the zine's appeal beyond the GT circuit players circle, while commentaries from such players and/or about activities on it can be so insular as to be offputting. Issue 5's At The Crossroads of Overlord is a fine example: an article about four East Coast players' attempts to claim a season-overall championship through play in the last tourney event was fascinating, once into it--but with far too little explanatory set-up about who they were or how they reached that point to be very clear. Doubtless for others on the circuit who know them or know the whole story, it was sufficient; for the remaining potential WHFB-loving audience it took a lot of inference while reading-through, to get satisfaction.

In particular, I would enjoy seeing more reviews: the format in issue 5 which judged the Skaven Army Book by familiar letter grades for Imagination/Excitement, Balance (which it did well on) and Rules Clarity (where it nearly failed) was enlightening.

'ToB's' newest feature will be as an outlet for 'unofficial' WHFB playlists. This started as a well-received, fan-created army list for the long-officially-unavailable Chaos Dwarves, which has been accepted for official play at certain GTs (the 96 page PDF can be downloaded at http://www.warmongers.ziggyqubert.com for the interested); author Kevin Coleman adds the Fimir (for the true WHFB grognard) in issue 6. It is a neat idea, and the initial impression the list makes upon this Black Orc player is positive, ruleswise--but it's credibility is, if not destroyed, badly undermined by the worst case of the aforementioned amateurish proofing/editing yet seen in an issue...

'Tales of Battle' is the brainchild of North Texas' own Ben Burns, ably assisted by Matt Birdoff. Copies are available locally at The Gamers Realm and Area 51 for $5 each; subscriptions can be had for $25 at http://www.talesofbattle.com and, while I am no WHFB GTer, I felt I got my five bucks worth of entertainment and am happy to have found all six issues through local retailers. I anxiously await the seventh.