It's been a while since I covered any magazines and a few new ones have appeared since last issue which seems encouraging, at least on the surface. Who said there's not enough magazines in the hobby?
Gamesman. Aaaargh, another British general games magazine. Will they never learn? As with the others, I have to say good luck and so on, but the track record is not encouraging. Whatever, judged as it stands, Gamesman isn't going to be accused of narrow-mindedness. It covers every area of the games market and then some. Boardgames, wargames, PBM, RPGs, Live Role Play (with great photos of some prime tossers), computers, news, books and films are all given space on the page. This means, inevitably, that coverage is cursory and reviews are short, but this is no excuse for the latter often being weak and uninformative. On the plus side, it certainly has enthusiasm, claims to be getting a good reaction and it has advertising so we may just be on a winner at last. Also good is that the magazine is improving noticeably and has recently grown in size. After the issue one fiasco (rushed layout, no direction and some piss-poor reviews), issue four is starting to strike a balance and show character. OK, so the interest level for me isn't great (though it exceeds that of GMI) but it's there and it's alive and they might even take classifieds eventually. It's odd but despite all the evidence I have a good feeling about this one - but I'm still not subscribing! Available from your local newsagent at £1.50.
BoardGame Journal is published by the Fresno Gaming Association who aim to take the boardgaming world by storm en route to world domination. There is no holding these boys and the magazine reflects their enthusiasm, typified by their making everything, however small, into a division of FGA, writes Mike Siggins, a division of MegaSumo Offshore (Cayman) Ltd. Sadly, this enthusiasm comes over mainly in the ads for existing and forthcoming products which do, by their own admission, mainly tend towards the 'playable monster' 2-player wargame. This isn't my field at all but they do show signs of expanding into more general games such as a re-make of After the Holocaust (with Environmental disaster replacing the Nukes) and non-military games are hinted at as well. As for the magazine, I would say it is as close to The General in presentation quality as you could hope for - FGA are certainly no slouches graphically. Their writing is something that needs attention though. The editorial is way too pally and the articles are rather dry and serious, being distinctly amateur history rather than games related, but this is issue one and I'm sure things will get better. An encouraging start.
Operations is the house magazine of The Gamers and is already up to issue two. The Gamers pride themselves, rightly, on delivering product on time and this should be a regular publication if nothing else. At the moment, for me, it does indeed offer little else but purely because I don't yet play any of the Gamers series games. However, if you play the Civil War Brigade Series or the WWII/Modern games, Operations is required reading. Graphically, the first issue is drab and uninspiring, due to lack of colour more than poor layout. Issue two is a big improvement but if you are interested, I would suggest you subscribe or buy from the States. You should be able to pick the issues up for about half the European asking price of £4 which really is too much.
USA Today Baseball Weekly. To be honest and gushing for once, this was the most exciting magazine I've seen for a long time. Imagine all the baseball boxscore pages of every daily USA Today, add in virtually every stat table you can imagine and combine this with news, articles, pictures and the usual ads and you get a fan's dream publication. This is like the Sporting News but it covers only baseball. Good news and Bad News: The cover price is just $1 but unfortunately the annual subscription to the UK by priority airmail is $168, working out to around £2 per copy. According to the lady in subs department, no surface delivery is offered which is a bit of a bummer. Otherwise, clearly the sporting media highlight of '91.
Minden Games Newsletter. Another new one on me. From time to time Gary Graber of Minden showers me with unsolicited review copies of his various player sets and amended rules for Playing Card Cricket. I can add little more to my sadly chopped GI review apart from to say that this is one of the two best replay cricket games around (along with Lambourne's, of course) and actually, to my taste, knocks all the non-replay ones for six as well (little cricketing analogy there, for my foreign readers). The man charges a pittance, takes Sterling cheques, remains enthusiastic about and constantly updates the game and now he publishes a newsletter. What a guy. The newsletter is quite small but covers such popular esoterica as new rules, player ratings and news of upcoming or recent releases in the Minden line. Layout is neat and tidy and is a required purchase for fans of the game.
Der Musketier. Ulrich Blenneman is not a man to be trifled with in the boardgame world. Recently winner of a Charlie for his articles in the American hobby press, Ulrich edits this German language magazine that is both the newsletter and reviewing stage of the German Historical Gaming Society. Every time it drops through my door I wish I could read more German than I can - it carries some interesting reviews (though which, to my untrained eye, seem a little uncritical) and the best hobby news around. Plus it describes Sumo 5 as 'an excellent issue' which seems to be an entirely sensible conclusion. Ulrich is acquiring a growing band of writers which can only help matters and I look forward to continued publication of this one.
Fairplay. Another German magazine and one that Sumo takes as something of a role model. Yes, I know they have decent artwork and layout and a posh cover, but the mix of features is as close to Sumo as a professional magazine could be except I have a bigger letter column and size is important. Again, I wish I could read German better than I do as in Fairplay you will find some of the best reviewers in Germany. An excellent magazine, and close to what Games International might have been without the pretension and the poxy laser print.
Small Furry Creatures Press. I haven't seen this for a while because both sets of publishers thought we'd fallen out and we hadn't. Ah, such fun - that will teach me to listen to hearsay! During the hiatus, SFCP has swung much more towards my type of magazine thanks to publisher response to a reader survey, something I will consider for Sumo soon. This change means more reviews, articles and letters on games and much less obvious postal game coverage - they are there, but in the background. The best issues are the specials that concentrate on a theme such as Holmes, Robin Hood, Arthur and so on, tackling games, films, books and related media. There are some good writers working on SFCP and they have the added benefit of professional layout and artwork. They have also taken on a fair number of commercial games which are sold through the SFCP trading division. As these are post-free in effect, their prices deserve comparison with the likes of Mr Ashton and Custom Games. Overall then, I formerly regarded SFCP as expensive for what it delivered, I now consider it extremely good value. Recommended and it's good to see a magazine with an equally daft name.
Mission from God has been mentioned here before but it has recently undergone a change of editor and production values such that it deserves a re-plug. MfG is a listings magazine covering the loosely-defined postal Diplomacy hobby. I say loosely-defined because many of the magazines listed sensibly don't run Diplomacy at all and others, like Sumo, are listed because we are tacked on the back with a vague connection to the hobby or members of it. This means you will get a good cross-section of general games magazines listed in the average issue - the reviews are rather non- critical but with the usual subjective bias, that is for the best. Either way, I'm glad of the publicity even though I often feel as if I'm one of the few who reads MfG from cover to cover, decides 'That looks good' and sends off some subs. Conversely, since it has been in the listings, Sumo has just one subscriber directly attributable to MfG so perhaps the key word is apathy - and that doesn't really surprise me. This is not to say there is apathy on the part of the publishers, Mr & soon-to-be Mrs Key. The first issue under their control looks as good as the Electric Monk (which they also publish) and takes the interesting step of including some game-related articles along with the capsule magazine reviews. This is to be applauded and I think, taken with the layout, the whole impact is significantly improved. Well worth a look.
Nertz is one of my few contact points with the tolerant elements of the Diplomacy hobby. I now sit firmly in the intersection of gaming's Venn diagram and as such don't qualify as a proper "'zine" for the Diplomacy hobby purists. Me, I couldn't give a toss as long as we all enjoy and write about games, but I guess I just don't have the correct discriminating attitude. Whatver, William Whyte is nutty enough to allow me to trade with him and in exchange for three or four issues of Sumo I get a pile of unstapled, multi- coloured paper covered in every typeface imaginable, nearly all of which is illegible unless one is in possession of a large magnifying glass and an arc lamp. Still, it's worth it. William is a scientist at heart but thankfully one of those who exposes himself to other influences, not least a good range of books. As a result, the articles and letter column make for fascinating reading, covering everything from quantum physics to boardgames. I love it and I hope the move to Oxford won't hinder publication.
Major League is still, despite light-hearted gripes from its publisher Mike Clifford, the focus of the sports gaming hobby in the UK. It appears every couple of months or so and as such is always bang up to date on the few releases that manage to escape from the manufacturers nowadays. A typical issue contains sport and game comments, a review or two, some league reports and a growing trend towards comments on other types of games, probably to fill the vacuum that sportsgames tend to encourage - once the new games are bought, they seem to disappear into the background to be played by a fanatic, loyal but rather quiet audience. Those that do attempt to make intelligent comments on the games are few and, because of the subjective and sometimes divisive nature of sports discussion, earn few rewards and a lot of pointless observations. Free for the cost of an SSAE.
Punt & Pass might well have had a claim to be the No 1 sportsgame newsletter when it re-appeared a few months ago, but despite an initial gaming flurry it has now rather changed its spots. Not that I mind, as P&P is a mini sports news service these days. As an example, the latest issue contains a complete run down of The Tour de France including times, stage winners and commetary which goes on for pages. This sort of thing must take hours to do and it is impressive. This type of thing is usually backed by other scores, league tables, reports and so on making the gaming content rather light. It is an odd diversion but it certainly gives Malcome something more to write about than the gaming side does. Still recommended and at a £1, P&P is definitely delivering the goods.
Tales of the Reaching Moon is a well-established specialised games magazine, covering only Runequest and occasionally other Chaosium game systems. It is however one of the best fanzines ever to emerge from the roleplay area and I know because I've read most of them. Tales has a high standard of contributor including Greg Stafford himself, Oliver Dickinson (of Griselda fame) and David Hall, all mean wielders of a pen. The graphics and layout are rather good as well. This really is the place to read about all the new releases, developments and gossip on the RQ system even though I get the feeling, which indeed also applies to me, that many of the readers are trapped back in the RQ I and RQ II era rather than the generally available RQ III from Avalon Hill. This would certainly explain the rarity value of oop RQ II modules and rulebooks, a healthy market for which exists in the pages of TOTRM and at the few conventions. Obviously of restricted appeal unless you are a RQ or Chaosium fan, but otherwise indispensable.
C3I (the 3 should be superscript, but I don't run to a fancy printer) is a recent new issue and, for once, is an American magazine with a UK agent in the shape of Sumo subscriber Frank Dunn. Published by the Harpoon User Group, the magazine almost exclusively covers that highly complex game, both board and computer versions. It is chock full of articles, rules queries and revisions and all the latest news on releases - including the forthcoming 'Patriot' land version. From what I can make out, the magazine is independent of GDW and Three-Sixty so the comments have more credibility for the average gamer. C3I is nicely produced on a laser printer and looks as good as it needs to. Again, you will know if this one will interest you but as even a casual and occasional player, I found plenty to read and interest me.
On to the review of The State of Computer Games or back to the Short Reviews.
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