After my brief but timely front page scoop last time, the full story on Games Review's fold has yet to emerge. I heard that GRiM had gone under just as Sumo went to the printers but then walked into Smiths two days later to find a copy of the most recent issue on the shelf. As a subscriber without an issue, I was not best pleased by this and promptly wrote off a stroppy letter to their offices. Two weeks later and no reply indicated that something was up but of course when I went back to get the issue in Smiths, it had sold out. Further rumours broke about letters being sent to some subscribers about a cock-up at the printers that meant the newstrade got theirs but the subbers didn't. Later still, there was talk of a special reprint to keep subbers happy and that the next issue would be out anytime. This didn't help me as I never received any reply from Mr Rose, let alone a magazine. We are now three months down the line and I don't think it is unrealistic to fear the worst. My view is that it has probably long gone with, once again, the subscribers paying their way and coming up short. This means the three professional magazines that appeared in November '88 have now all gone under. I still wonder why they appeared in the first place. Anyone got a spare copy or five of the Bottled Demon issue?
After a seven year break, Punt & Pass is back. I was rather shocked to open the envelope and find a newsletter that I subscribed to with some enthusiasm when I was a mere stripling in the sports game world. Malcolm Jones, who remains the editor, sounds as if he has had a pretty grim few years through illness but he is back with a vengeance - P&P has been dropping through my letterbox almost weekly ever since! I guess he wants to make up for lost time. P&P's presentation has changed for the better (Malcolm has a Mac, I think) and the content is almost unchanged from those heady days of the PAAFL telephone Football Strategy league. My honest view is that P&P probably needs some more reviews and meaty content to flesh out the stats and league reports and I think £1 is perhaps a little steep, but then I trade so who am I to gripe? Punt & Pass joins Major League in the embattled but feisty sports newsletter field and is well worth a look. Malcolm is at 29 Little Hay Road, Cowley, Oxford OX4 3EG and any new or old subscribers who have moved are asked to get in touch.
The first issue of Strategy Plus is with us and I have to say it is rather lame. Boardgame coverage ('almost as much' was promised, if you remember) is down to seven pages of text (count 'em) plus a lot of adverts providing much-needed padding. An 1853 article stands out like a sore thumb through its high quality and decent length. Compared to the poor review of GDW's Imperium (Jonathan Turner is currently appearing in Waiting for Talent), Messrs Dagger and Jones have done us proud. But can you guess which of the three will be writing every issue? The editorial whinges on about boardgames being reviewed as they become available and then presents a paltry selection. Well, I bought or saw three times as many games than appeared last issue, but let's see what happens next time.
The computer section is acceptable and even good in places, but even I found little to justify a £2 price tag and I must represent something close to SP's target market. Frank Dunn covers the highly regarded Action Stations, Theo Clarke waxes lyrical about those 'orrible Sierra games (and turns up at an Ace Conference! - A tenner for the negs Theo?) and John Harrington gives deserved short shrift to Guns or Butter. The best piece was the review of the flight simulator by Paul Rigby who is obviously a man who knows his Aphids from his ASRAAMs and who had played the games.
Individual reviewers aside, from the slant of the content it is clear to me that Strategy Plus has lost interest in the boardgames industry and feels the white socks and bimbos field of computer games is more its niche. This is fine if you want to subscribe to a computer magazine but aren't there gamers out there just a little miffed by the change? My moles tell me that the official line on the first issue's feedback is 'very positive' and it is appearing regularly in WH Smiths which is more than GI did for most of its life. You will correctly assess that I'm drifting towards an anti stance after last issue's position of relative neutrality and feel that not only will Strategy Plus not survive but that I can hardly be bothered to care. Mike Clifford termed it Travesty Plus recently; as a boardgamer rather than a computer gamer, I am forced to agree.
Weirdness by Mail department. I have no idea who sent me the latest issue of Mondo 2000 (I suspect young Whitney) but it claims to be a journal concentrating on cyberspace or 'expanded consciousness'. Yup, it's a magazine about legal funny substances and makes for a pretty amusing, if ultimately depressing, read. It is filled with features by earnest West Coast hippy types discussing cyberpunk novels, hallucinogenics and consciousness expanding foodstuffs. Very odd, but a great title. Not one I'll be subscribing to.
I have however subscribed to The Canadian Wargamer's Journal and my first proper issue arrived recently. It heralds the first of a new quarterly frequency and maintains the standards set in recent issues. Contents of the Aug/Sep 1990 issue include a fair review of Days of Decision (it's good apparently), an overlong DoD variant, an Up Front scenario, review of SSI's Battles of Napoleon which rather goes overboard, a feature on computer wargames standards, a review of Family Business, a useful variant for GDW's Campaign Trail, a history article and some con reports. Varied, enthusiastic and perhaps a little uncritical but good stuff overall. At $2.50 this is a bargain. $13.00 pa from Canadian Wargamers Group, 207 Bernard Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T3K 2B6 Canada or from Second Chance Games on 051 638 3535.
Something weird is happening at White Dwarf. This title has been missing from serious magazine reviews for ages because of its sudden slide into a monthly house catalogue but issue 130 has some very unusual contents. For once, the Chaos mutie count is virtually zero (two nurglings, one runtbot!) and instead we get some distinctly normal articles throughout the issue. These include 'Bretonnian' medieval figures from the Perry twins, a very professional feature on making model buildings, a card based medieval hand to hand combat game and, best of all, an in-depth piece on the forthcoming Mighty Empires which has all the signs of being halfway playable in a Carveresque fashion. And of course the bits are marvellous and the cover is spectacular. Far be it from me to suggest this is a trend, I suspect the Ork Boyz and the Chaos Spawn will be back next month, but I am still stupid enough to think that if even one of the GW spotties gets a taste for historical gaming or boardgames of any sort, then that is a positive result. Ahhh, yes. I buy WD cheap (£10 for a year) on the shop subscription scheme and just look at the pictures and read the odd piece on Space Marines. Well, there goes any remaining cred..... PS. Interesting quote heard at Essen. Brian Ansell (asked who he regards as the best game designers in the world), "Greg Costikyan, Jervis Johnson and Me." Now there's taste and a half.
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