The year, you see, was 1998. I had been in t’obby for almost two years and, after cutting my teeth on the Grim Darkness of the Far Future, was starting to sniff around something with swords, boards, and square bases.*
Mike Walker’s first article for White Dwarf was almost perfectly timed. To a lad who liked Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and Spike Milligan, and also happened to be curious about Warhammer, this article was brain dynamite. It was funny**, it was apposite, and it was all paced and delivered in such a way that you couldn’t miss the point even if you were busy laughing at the bits about Kim Basinger and Goblins with silly names.
From brain dynamite to brain tape, Mike’s articles kept on coming out every now and then, petering out in the same month that I was off to university. Perhaps that accident of timing accounts for a lot; it’s the secondary school years that cement our sense of nostalgia out here in Middlehammer-land, and mine were, in a small way, guided by the irregular transmissions from a double garage somewhere in soggy Wiltshire. This was Warhammer the way I was playing it, on temporary boards laid over kitchen tables and double beds, and later the pub-in-the-club above the Hyde Park in Plymouth. Army lists may be quite cutthroat but characters had silly or at least referential names and it was the daft circumstantial moments rather than the brilliant tactics that made the longest impressions.
I’ve read and reread them over the years***, and a few years ago when I was writing for the now-defunct House of Paincakes Blog Network, I happened to mention Mike Walker in passing while talking up the relaunch of White Dwarf.
To my eternal delight, the man himself materialised in the comments. Not just to say thank you and gaze mournfully toward the garage door where, presumably, Dug Bugman and co. still languish in ancient toolboxes – ho no. Mike was courteous enough to provide a full list of his contributions to White Dwarf over the years, which I reproduce here (well, down there) along with some of my own hopefully-helpful notes on what’s in them****. Thanks to Augur o’ the comments for picking up a couple I missed originally!
- 224 (August 1998) – First Encounters of the Warhammer Kind – inc. The Battle of Newberry Pass scenario
- 226 (October 1998) – The Battle of Iron Axe Ridge – a scenario for large armies on small tables
- 230 (February 1999) – Thump & Grind – tactics for beating Skaven
- 231 (March 1999) – Putting the Ploy in Deployment – a five step program for putting your models in the right place – before you fight, remember to SCRAP!
- 232 (April 1999) – Fighting with Cold Blood – tactics for playing with and against Lizardmen
- 233 (May 1999) – Like a Rat out of Hell – Battle Report, Mike’s Dwarfs vs. Gareth Hamilton’s tournament-tuned Skaven and some frankly dodgy rules calls (Skitterleaping regular-ass Clanrats out of units they could never normally leave is v. bad form). Mike wuz robbed!
- 236 (August 1999) – Top Gear? – Chariot tactics and test drives – shame he never got to take the Black Coach for a spin…
- 241 (January 2000) – A Touching Dilemma – on the rules for “being in base contact” and etiquette surrounding this convoluted matter
- 246 (June 2000) – The Gentle Art of Getting Fired – tactics for units that shoot things
- 253 (January 2001) – Dicing with Magic – a walkthrough of the sixth edition WFB magic system
- 254 (February 2001) – Unnatural Selection -approaches to army lists and setup for Mike’s league report
- 255 (March 2001) – Club Night! – more tales from the garage as Mike’s league gets rolling
- 256 (April 2001) – Dansing with Wolves – Mike’s league report, part one, and a kick in the eye for anyone who thinks Ravening Hordes was “balanced”.
- 257 (May 2001) – It Ain’t Easy Being Green – Mike’s league report, part two, and a review of his Orc and Goblin army list
- 258 (June 2001) – Fifteen Ways to Leave your Cover – how to ensure satisfactory terrain bunging
- 260 (August 2001) – To Kill a Bloodthirster – if you need to be told what this is about, you are beyond help
- 270 (June 2002) – The Strong, The Short and The Small – Dwarf tactics – I don’t have a copy of this one to check, but I recall the phrase “the problem with rune weapons is the delivery system: two short hairy legs” and some issues getting Grudge Throwers to land their rocks on target
- 273 (September 2002) – Pale Riders – Fast Cavalry tactics and comforting advice for Dwarf and Skaven players
- 282 (June 2003) – The Black Art – a blow-by-blow walkthrough of Necromancy, informed by Mike’s dabbling with a Vampire Counts army
- 289 (January 2004) – Rolls, Re-Rolls and Rings – on the etiquette of dice and wound counting
- 290 (January 2004) – Extreme Measures – on the perils and pitfalls of measuring, guessing and wrangling ranges
- 297 (September 2004) – How to Lose at Warhammer – which I read right before I went off to university, and it might have been the same one that had the Army of Sylvania background in it, so in case you’re wondering how I turned out to be the way I am, blame this issue of WD.
So there you have it. If you’re looking for a series at least as opinionated as Stillmania, and just as influential on the minds of young hobbyists (or at least me), there it is. Dig ’em all out, there’s a fan archive that will get you started (look, they’re not available through legitimate means and I’m sure as hell not buying cranchity old mags at collector’s markup, I have some standards) and have a butchers.
I’ve got to go now. The clouds have temporarily lifted from South Wales, and since I haven’t the faintest idea how to make hay while the sun shines, I’m going to do the next best thing and paint a Liche Priest. Come back next time, when there’ll be much more late-Nineties White Dwarf nostalgia and a sudden attack of the challenges…
*Memo to self: Swords, Boards and Square Bases would be an ideal name for the other sort of Middlehammer blog, the sort where you go boss-eyed and froth every time someone even says “Age of Sigmar”.
**I think it still is, but in some key respects I have never stopped being twelve. If I stop and think about it all I am of course far too mature to find the names “Wobblebottom Rumblebelly” or “Bugman’s Ultimate Response Patrol” at all amusing, but if you start thinking like that you end up far too mature to be playing with toy soldiers at your age, so – I’d watch out for that sort of thing if I was you.
***The ones I can still find, anyway. My original White Dwarfs were practically given away at a car boot sale just before I went to university, along with my second edition 40K and fifth edition WFB stuff. I should regret this more than I do, but eighteen year old me was delighted to pass them on to a twelve year old newly-minted hobbyist and honestly, I hope he still has them somewhere.
****I took a lot of things from Mike, including my love of footnotes and deeply unhelpful titles. I know titles like WFB MIKE WALKER WARHAMMER MIDDLEHAMMER FULL ARTICLE LIST WHITE DWARF L@@K would be better for baiting the clicks and optimising the search engines, but gosh it would be so boring.