Another one bites the dust

(Rob Morgan submits the following report.)

A July review note from Paul Le Long on Phil Olley’s Classic Wargames Journal made the publication seem right up my street. So I dropped Phil a line and enclosed a cheque. Sadly, back came the news almost immediately, that this new venture had ended. No more Classic Wargames Journal. It has proved to be an impossible task. And so after three (or was it four ?)issues, Phil has called it a day.

That’s sad. Any new wargames venture is worth supporting. Mind you, over the years I’ve collected a couple of dozen wargaming, military and naval history titles which didn’t last more than, in some cases, two issues; in others, a few years. Can anyone remember Bayonet in the late Sixties? Or War Games which managed only two issues in 1977? In recent years, specialist “period” publications like Abanderado ( Spanish Civil War) and Frontovik ( Eastern Front WWI) have bitten the dust, along with the best wargames magazine ever published, Stuart Asquith’s Practical Wargamer.


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3 Responses to Another one bites the dust

  1. Chris Hahn says:

    On the passing of a Classic . . .

    I cannot remember Bayonet. Until reading this post, I regret to report that I had never heard of the magazine/journal. As I was just four or five years of age at the time, perhaps my ignorance can be excused? I don’t think I can plead the same defense with respect to the “specialist” publications mentioned by Mr. Morgan in the obituary notice for Classic Wargames Journal. Mr. Asquith’s publication rings a faint bell, but again, I find myself furrowing my brow and or scratching my head trying to remember what it looked like, etc.

    I do recall Wargamer’s Digest, however. I believe this was around in the late 70s and early 80s. I also recall stumbling across copies of Battle magazine at a local model/hobby shop at around the same time.

    Not knowing anything at all about Classic Wargames Journal (the name Phil Olley seems familiar though), I confess that I cannot drum up as much emotion as Mr. Morgan.

    I am curious to find out the reason or reasons that CWJ proved an impossible task.

    While I agree in principle with Mr. Morgan’s statement concerning the support of any new wargames venture, I wonder if this “blanket approach” is practical. (Isn’t there some military maxim about spreading one’s resources too thin across a theater of conflict? If the new venture is a set of sci-fi models or fantasy figures, am I, as one who prefers Ancients and Napoleonics required to purchase said models and figures?)

    I wonder if copies of the three of four issues of CWJ are still available?
    I confess to being intrigued by the title and what it suggests about the content of the publication. In a recent issue of MW, there was a color pie chart about the type of games at SALUTE – which I understand is THE wargame show in Britain. If memory serves, some 48% of the games put on were of the sci-fi/fantasy type. That’s great for the sci-fi and fantasy crowd and more power to them, but I wonder what it means for the other side of the hobby?

    Given the quality of products being developed and published (from rule books like HAIL CAESAR to the new plastic figures from the Perry dynamic duo to items I don’t know about – and I’m sure that’s a lot!), I wonder what kind of audience CWJ was hoping to attract?

    When I worked in publishing (years ago), I had a chance to talk with some folks about putting together a magazine and so forth. I was stunned by the start up costs as well as by the suggestion/advice that one needed a year’s worth of material before one could go to press.

    I don’t know if these “rules” still apply today, given the ubiquity of Blogs, Forums, Twitter, and so forth, but I would guess that starting a new wargaming venture – especially publishing – is a weighty decision. (All due respect to Mr. H. Hyde of Battlegames, but didn’t he run into some trouble with his publication? I think his contribution to the hobby was saved by the intervention of a larger corporation.)

    I am not a business person, but I wonder if this might be the short-term future of things? That is to wonder if, more and more, new products and publications will spring from established and large entities, places of business that can support (and afford) new ventures.

    I have not had the privilege of collecting as many titles over the years as Mr. Morgan. Even so, and again admitting my comparative ignorance on the titles he mentions, I can appreciate and sympathize with his concern and comments.

    I don’t think I can rightly make a comparison between CWJ and MWAN, but I do feel that the hobby lost something when MWAN went away/was taken over, changed, and then disappeared.

    It still boggles my mind that an American equivalent of anyone of the three British magazines has not come into existence. Then again, what could or would a fourth title add to practitioners of the hobby? (The three I’m thinking of are WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED, MINIATURE WARGAMES, and BATTLEGAMES. My list does not include the Spanish magazine – I forget the name. I believe there might be an Italian publication as well, but I don’t know for certain.)

    In closing, having never thumbed through an issue of PW, it feels as if my wargame experience has been somehow “robbed” or less than it could have been. All due respect to Mr. Morgan, his assessment of PW is a subjective one. But it begs the interesting question of which magazine or journal readers of this blog believe was/is the best magazine for/of the hobby?

    Forced to choose, I would have to rank MWAN at the top of my list. Granted, it didn’t have the “splash” of the English publications, but the breadth and depth of the content more than made up for its lack of full-page color spreads of Dallimore-quality miniatures.

    With apologies for the disorganization of this discourse . . .


    • Paul Le Long says:

      CWJ didn’t fold because of lack of sales but because Phil was too busy with other projects (he works with Charles Grant et al on various ‘old school’ books and so on).

      CWJ produced 5 issues in all (quarterly including a pilot issue). I didn’t update my review when it folded because I hoped (as did Phil) that it would be only a temporary halt to production while he got other projects out of the way. I reviewed it in the first place because it resembled LW – same production quality and same individualistic approach to gaming.

      CWJ’s target audience was ‘old school’ 18th century imagi-nations shiny toy soldier players by and large. Which isn’t even my thing really but it had that non-commercialist, individual, do it how you want to do it approach that I so like in LW. People would design a scenario and then readers would play it & send in a report in the next issue – really entertaining. And like LW the emphasis was on the game not the latest set of commercialised rules or figures.

      I don’t know if back issues are available but if they are I’d recommend them. I never read MWAN so can’t comment on that. Practical Wargamer was a ‘glossy’ but a real quality one – in my opinion the best of the lot of this type so again if you can find copies anywhere I’d recommend them.


  2. JAird says:

    Wargames – gone but not forgotten!

    Rob Morgan’s recent posting on the folding of the short lived (but promising sounding) “Classic Wargames Journal” also mentioned some of the other lost magazines of wargaming including the short lived “Wargames”. This reference came with two small factual errors – Rob said that it appeared in 1977, it was actually 1981-1982 and he also stated that it ran for only two issues whereas in fact it ran for three (unless, of course, there was another magazine of the same title in 1977 – in which case, Rob please accept my apologies!).

    Little (A5 sized) “Wargames” – ah yes, I do remember it well – but why, you might ask, has such a short lived a magazine of 30 years ago remained fresh in my memory? Well, I suppose because at the time there was very little else on the market – “Battle” had been folded into “Military Modelling”, “Model Soldier” had had a few pages on wargames every issue but this had I think also closed. The only area that was really thriving was the fantasy genre. “The Dragon” had come into existence and had at first regular wargaming type articles, “White Dwarf” had exploded onto the scene. There was a rash of fanzines – from the semi-professional ones such as “News from Bree” which had grown out of the earlier “Diplomacy” fanzines, through the articulate D&D fanzines such as “Underworld Oracle”, down to the university student or lower produced very amateur fanzines – full of enthusiasm and bursting with ideas and also typically having an unhealthy obsession with Monty Python (you know the sort of thing – encounters with dungeon dwellers who declare -“we are the knights who say “Ni”! “).

    And nestling alongside the fanzines in The Games Centre were copies of “Wargames”. It looked like just another fanzine, but it had the voice of authority that we’d come to associate with “Battle” and “Military Modelling” – the presence of Charles Grant Senior in Issue 1 probably helped with this along with input from George Gush, Bob O’Brian and other hobby notables of the era. And the presence of proper advertising distinguished it from the fanzines it was shelved with.

    However, quite unusually for the time, it covered both historical and fantasy material under the same cover – even going as far as including a full dungeon scenario in issue 2. For a boy who was Dungeons and Dragons mad, but also loved the spectacle of historical games this was a great thing. Boardgames, book reviews, coverage of the nascent computer wargaming industry alongside detailed historical material and complete rule sets with cardboard counters instead of figures were additional attractions – and Issues 2 and 3 also came with a complete set of ancient figures. Admittedly they were printed on the cover and needed photocopying to get a full 1,000 or 1,500 point WRG army – but for the impoverished player this was yet another great thing.

    Flicking through the three copies again after having them unregarded on the bookshelf for quite a few years there’s a big hit of, yes, nostalgia, but also a burst of enthusiasm: I want to try the Science Fiction space battle rule set from issue 1, I want to scan and colour those cut out armies and have a pop-up game of WRG Ancients 5th edition!

    There is also one other reason why the issue run of “Wargames” was easy to recall and why the magazine holds a special place in my heart – in issue 3 there is a letter from one Jonathan Aird which represents I think my first, or possibly my second, time in print in a proper magazine. There was another letter to the “General’s Knowledge” column of Military Modelling at around the same time for which, incidentally, I received my first ever payment – a Military Modelling retractable biro (of which I was inordinately proud). Looking back at it now, my contribution to the forum of “Wargames” was a rather picky and pedantic letter – but then, I was only fourteen – an age when “being seen to be getting it right” can seem very important.

    So – “Wargames” I salute you, and all three of your issues!

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