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a Board Wargaming Web Column


by Andrzej Cierpicki


As this is the inaugural web column on board wargaming, I thought it would be appropriate to take stock of the magazines, past and present, that contain a wargame in each issue.  This is not the first time that I have written such a piece; issue 19 of Despatches (September 1982) had a review of wargame magazines then being published, more recently, issue 107 (Spring 1997) had a similar review of three contemporary magazines. 


It is more than 30 years since I took out a subscription to Strategy & Tactics (S&T) and it’s still going strong.  Other publications have come and gone, but that wargaming icon, Jim Dunnigan, first published the granddaddy of them all, back in 1968 when I was just 15 years of age.  My first issue, #34, contained a game with the somewhat foreboding title of ‘Armageddon’ covering several battles from the dawn of civilization.  I was hooked.  Whilst, even then, the cardboard counters were die cut, the map was, shall we say, a little bland; two colours: black and white.  How things have moved on.



Back in 1972 S&T had little competition.  Conflict magazine came and went after just 7 issues (1972 – 1974) and it wasn’t until the arrival of Jagdpanther (later Battlefront), in the mid 70’s, that any real alternative was to be found, although it too disappeared without trace in 1976 after its 15th issue.


Thus far all the publications had been produced exclusively in the USA, this was to change however, as in 1979 an upstart across the Atlantic, one Keith Poulter, took out a second mortgage on his home to found a wargaming company called UKW (United Kingdom Wargames) later renamed World Wide Wargames or 3W for short.  Its house organ, The Wargamer, had a game in each issue, the irony being that after its 62nd issue it was reborn as S&T, Keith having bought the rights to that magazine when its publishers got into financial difficulties.  Jim Dunnigan returned briefly as editor in 1989 before handing the reins over in 1991 to Joseph Miranda, the current editor, when Keith sold S&T to its present owner, Christopher Cummins of Decision Games.



Since then we have had Command magazine which, for a time, seemed to be the market leader, before going under in late 2000 after issue 54 due, perhaps in no small part, to its owner’s proclivity for ahistorical subjects, such as a Napoleonic invasion of England, and, believe it or not, chess variants!  The said gentleman, the irrepressible Ty Bomba, who had departed as editor of S&T in 1989, returned briefly to the pages of S&T following the demise of Command to have his game ‘Back to Iraq?’ published at the end of 2001, a choice that has subsequently proven to be remarkably prescient!


Game Fix, later Competitive Edge, published 13 issues containing so called ‘more playable’ games, meaning small, and though not officially defunct, has not produced an issue since 1998.  Another magazine apparently in stasis is Counter Attack.  The amazing thing about this periodical is that little over a year ago I received in the post issue 4 of my 6-issue subscription, a game on a hypothetical conflict between North and South Korea (yawn).  So what’s amazing?  Well, it had taken some 10 years to arrive since its publication in 1993! 



And so we come to the present.  To prove that the genre is not yet dead (although it’s probably merely a matter of time) a new publication popped through my letterbox early last year.  Against the Odds is a very professionally produced magazine, the first issue game being ‘Hegemon’, focussing on the wars between the Greek states prior to the rise of Macedonia.  So what’s different about this publication?  The hint is in the title; each issue will focus on a conflict where one side fought outnumbered or in an apparently disadvantageous position.  Not a formula for balanced games one would think, but we shall see. 


So far I have focussed on publications written in English, so before I get accused of chauvinism, its time to look at what’s available in other tongues.  By my count, you can get similar magazines in 5 languages other than English: French, Italian, Spanish, Polish and Japanese.


By far the most colourful and eclectic overseas publication is the French bi-monthly Vae Victis, covering all aspects of the hobby, including miniatures and computer wargaming.  Since its inaugural issue in February 1995, it has produced consistently high quality glossy magazines in full colour containing a game in each issue.  Unlike its American counterparts however, the counters, whilst superbly executed, are not die cut and are on thin card, thus requiring mounting.  The games cover a variety of periods from ancient to 20th century conflicts and English translations of the rules can be readily obtained from Web Grognards: http://grognard.com/vaevict.html.


Moving south to sunnier climes, the Spanish entry  in the field, Alea  is published to an irregular schedule by Ludo Press, with games on a variety of subjects, mostly with a Spanish theme.  Two series of games using system rules, ‘Shadow of the Eagle’ (Napoleonic) and ‘No Pasaran!’ (Spanish Civil War) are frequent visitors to the pages of Alea, the most recent issue (number 27) being no exception, with the featured games being ‘Balaguer 1938’ and ‘Galmonal 1808’.  As with Vae Victis, the counters need to be mounted and those of you who, like me, don’t have a command of Spanish can download English translations of the game rules from their web page (click on the cover below).



Eastward across the Mediterranean we have a magazine with a similar title, Alea Iacta Est (“the die is cast”) the Italian contribution to the genre.  The five issues so far published all include fairly simple games on Italian themes.  The most recent, ‘Pavia 1525’ covers the renaissance battle between French and Imperial forces in a park outside the city that gives the game its name.  The maps are colourful, as are the counters which, as with the other European publications, need to be mounted.  English translations of the rules can be obtained from their web site (click on the cover above).


It is not at all surprising that the remaining European publication should emanate from a country that has seen more than its fair share of war than most; Poland.  Taktyka i Strategia (“Tactics & Strategy”) is a historical magazine with a game in each issue.  The sixteen issues published since 2000 have been on a variety of subjects, many games using the “Bitwy II Wojny Swiatowej” (“Battles of WWII”) rules, also known as the ‘B-35N’ system, sold separately by its publishers Heksagon.  The maps are all uniformly splendid and the unmounted counter sheets are similar in quality to those produced by Vae Victis.  What is interesting is that the maps of 3 of the issues link together to form a very large rendition of the Normandy peninsula in 1944.  Prior to being published in its current guise, several issues were published in a similar format under the title of Dragon Hobby.  Heksagon also publishes board games on other subjects, most notably several on the battles in Poland in 1939 using a generic system called ‘W-39’.  The company has also published a number of games on pre 20th century subjects, although many are now out of print.  Until recently, the rules were only available in Polish, however, several now have English translations enclosed, and it is hoped that in time most of their output will be translated into English.  Click on the cover below to see their current range.



And so we come to the last player on the stage, Six Angles, published to an infrequent schedule; the latest issue, number 7, went to press in mid 2001, although another issue is rumoured to be in the pipeline.  While the magazine is in Japanese the maps, die-cut counters and rules are in English and can be obtained from http://www.bouldergames.com/, as can most of the in print magazines reviewed above.


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