Spotlight on Games > Features > Random Musings

Moves Off

RANDOM MUSINGS on the fin-de-millénaire games scene . . .

8 September 2002 . . . Hannibal fans will be thrilled to learn that two American film companies are racing to bring out films about him. No, not the cannibal, but the general who managed to arrange so many subjects for wargames. (Links come and go so here are a few to try: The Telegraph · The Telegraph · The Guardian · The Spectator · Prevue · FilmForce · Denzel v. Diesel · casting discussion · 1937 version · read up in advance) . . . Speaking of wargames, Moves is dead and it seems I killed it. An age has passed since I first began subscribing to SPI's number two magazine, or so it seems. I was still in high school at any rate. I believe its real purpose was to keep the game buyers' attentions during the two month period when they weren't getting their game in Strategy & Tactics magazine. I know I read each issue eagerly and several times over because lots of unexpected things showed up there, including industry gossip and even reviews of non-wargames by Sid Sackson. Certainly any dream of my ever writing for the magazine back then was very much only that. Eventually SPI notoriously foundered and Moves was revived by Decision Games. As they were already publishing the new Strategy & Tactics, and also Fire & Movement, it seemed like a good idea to follow the habits of many game buyers and switch Moves to cover German-style games. After eight issues (about a year) of this, I received a letter from Decision stating that "overall subscriptions and store distribution continued to fall [and] therefore Moves will stop publication." The reason that I got such a letter is that I had been writing reviews and articles for the magazine and in fact authored "Piracy, It's in the Cards", the feature piece in the very last issue (no. 108). Its final demise after all these years seemed fated the moment they decided to employ me. Hmm, perhaps some of you are anti-monopolists and would like me to go work for Microsoft? . . . Even though Moves has ceased, I still think there could be a place for an American magazine on German-style board games if anyone wants to publish one. After all, there are several such magazines in Germany, so one would think that this country could manage to support at least one. But such a magazine should free itself from the cliches of the wargame magazine and seek more to emulate its across-the-pond cousins. There should be lots of games covered, not just a few. The look of everything is very important in this hobby so there should be plenty of illustrations, at least some in color. Cartoons are a good idea. The presentation, from typeface to layout, needs to be considerably more slick than is customary in the wargame mags. There should be space reserved for plenty of letters and game or puzzle features. Finally, probably the most important improvement would be to have much better immediacy. Someone should be sent to Essen every October and to Nuremberg every February and a report on each needs to follow within about two months. In addition, publishers should be contacted to get evaluation copies so that reviews can appear within three months of first publication. Decision has commented on this, saying

The problem is publishers have not been willing to provide preview copies, and even on those rare occasions the reviewer is not looking at the final production version. Even when review copies go direct from the publisher to the reviewer to the magazine, the best I have ever seen is about four months from publication to review which can't beat an Internet review a few weeks after the game is out.
That may be true, but I suspect it is also true that if done the right way, such preview copies can be had. Moreover, it's not really necessary to beat the Internet, only to beat the buyers actually pucrchasing the games, which in three months will be the case with all but the most ardent early-adopters. . . . Although I have previously written about my surprise in the durability of Atomic Publications, this entire experience has ended by teaching me why. There is something about writing when real money will be spent to bind it into a magazine, for which one will be paid in real money, and which will be edited by someone not necessarily in sympathy with the writer, that completely changes the writing experience. In such circumstances, the drive to excellence clearly ramps up a level or two. For this reason alone, what one reads in a good hardcopy magazine should, on average, be much better than what one can average on-line. Of course, this is not to say that an on-line magazine cannot be just as good, but at least so far it seems this is mostly rare . . . After decades of decline, the traditional game of Go is apparently again on the upswing in Japan . . . I have been asked, among the "evolution games" Ursuppe, Evo and Urland, which is best? It's true that the answer is not really made clear in my capsule reviews, but there is a reason for that: I don't know. Each is rather different, it's true. Ursuppe is a bit longer and heavier, but has by far the most interesting variety of mutations. Evo is lighter and has more frequent meaningful decisions, but also has more chaos. Continuing on the scale, Urland is lighter yet, probably even more chaotic, but extremely elegant and quick-playing. All of the advantages and disadvantages of each really do balance out so I can't really say which I like best, or, more importantly to you, which one you will enjoy the most. If pressed, I would probably wish at this moment to play Urland the most, but that probably has more to do with my having played it less than the others. Actually, my favorite evolution game is none of these – that honor goes to American Megafauna., But I understand that it's not for every one. To do it justice, one should really do outside reading to truly appreciate what is going on – about how many games can that be said? – and not all like doing that. But for those willing to put in the effort, the returns are far, far higher than for the average game . . . BBC suggests that playing video games leads to increased levels of alpha brainwave activity. I wonder if this, or anything similar, would be found of board games? Perhaps Hasbro, or someone should sponsor a study? Studies about the effects of red wine on the heart have sure helped that industry. To find out more, see Gamers get into 'The Zone'. . . .


Please forward any comments and corrections to Rick Heli