Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Community: The Astro Mag

One of my larger time commitments to the hobby is tending to the Astro Mag, a 40k e-zine/fanzine released quarterly (well, we give it the old college try).  You have your hobby articles (this is the bulk of the content), fiction, artwork, opinions, tactics and battle reports.  It is, for all intents and purposes, the poor man's White Dwarf.

The Mag started was the brainchild, to use a cliched term, of Kevin (his blog), and was under his care for five issues.  To give you an idea of scale, Issue 9 is currently in the works.  The vast bulk, and I daresay all, of the articles for at least Issues 1-3 came from members of the Astronomican forums, for which the Mag is named.  A small, but very cool community project.

These days, the scope has expanded.  Ron of From the Warp fame has been a supporter, promoting releases and even letting us publish a jetbike conversion article before it was on his blog.  Through FTW the blogosphere has been breached, and this is a sort of continuation of that effort to expand the readership.  When Wintermute posts an announcement on Warseer's frontpage our downloads skyrocket.  Readership has increased since the Mag has joined the Hobby Talk Network, a collection of podcasts and hobbyist sites like MyBattalion. 

Why expand?  It's just a collection of articles released what seems like once in a blue moon?

Well, yes.  The goal I've set for myself is to try and match White Dwarf for quality of content.  Old timers pine for the days when "Fat Bloke" was in charge of White Dwarf; you can read Gav Thorpe on missing the sandbox and creative feel that era had here.  It's a glossy catalogue!  There's no worthwhile hobby articles!  Anyone active in the online community is at the very least well aware of the common gripes.

This is where the Mag fits, in this gap that Games Workshop has left unfilled.  People want a publication that promotes creativity?  Homebrew?  Chapter Approved?  A publication where all the hobby articles aren't specific to one army?  Check, ticked, noted and yes.

However, there is no free lunch.  I have no paid staff to work on articles, ensuring gobs of hobby goodness when the release rolls around.  All of the Mag's content comes from the community, from blogs, from forums and from podcasters.  When I say that, I mean pried from their cold dead hands/begging people to write articles/ having to be an annoyance.  Squeaky wheel getting the grease and all that.

So, what is in the cards for the Astro Mag?

1. I'd like to rival the old White Dwarf in terms of how people view it.  The Mag should be useful in some manner to 99% of all readers.  The readership should grow beyond the approximately 2000 who read each issue.

2. Expand the number of articles.  Recently I typed up the table of contents off all eight issues for the Database page of the Mag's blog, and the number of articles has dwindled.  Time to fix that.

3. Push creativity, act as a publisher and promoter of new gaming material. Games Workshop has built a very rich and intricate background for the 40k universe that hasn't been fully incorporated in the game.  Those aspects that have been fall under scrutiny, with some rules being lackluster to downright depressing (how many Chaos God specific items are there now in the current Chaos Space Marine codex? How bland is the Dark Angels codex?).  Luckily for us, GW has never said "Don't tweak the rules, or make your own"; quite the contrary.  However, they have been doing less and less of that work themselves.  Notable absences include Chapter Approved, Warhammer Chronicles, new army rules (for new armies no less) in White Dwarf (Feral Orks, Kroot, etc).  There are scattered efforts on this (Big Jim at Galaxy In Flames is rather prolific, as is Bell of Lost Souls), and The Codex Project is acting as a hub for homebrew.  I would like for the Mag to be a showcase for these efforts.

Thank you for reading to the end (or just scrolling down to see if there's anything interesting).  As reward, here's what I've been painting in the past few weeks:


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