Wargames Illustrated (#161, £3, monthly, henceforth WI)
Wargames Illustrated, Stratagem, 18 Lovers Lane, Newark, Notts., NG24 1HZ
At one point in time the UK was able to support three monthly wargaming magazines, WI is essentially the only high street survivor. Still glossy with full colour plates it is strange how the high quality of production is not matched by an interest in proof-reading or layout design. Essentially WI has not really changed that much since I last bought it a few years ago. There is something to be said for finding a style and then sticking with it. After all what we are interested in is the content not the presentation.
Wargames and roleplaying have rarely sat easily together. The wargaming world often seems stuffy and conservative but it is nice to see that new "official" periods are being added to the traditional wargames canon of Napoleonics and Ancients. With the magazine branching out into the new Pirates and Colonial periods this issue also brings a home-brewed version of GW's Mordheim and a
character based skirmish game set in the Roman period (Roman historical RPG - go on, say it!). This new experimentation means that the magazine's material is really intersecting again with the fringes of RPG for the first time in far too long. After all what was D&D but a fantasy skirmish wargame.
The standout articles for me in this issue are the Piratical History of Jamaica, The Battle of Granicus 334 BC, In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse and an installment of a series of mini-games designed to recreate the struggle of a ordinary Roman citizen up the ranks to the Senate.
The Battle of Granicus is a standard wargaming scenario recreating one of the battles of Alexander the Great but it is an interesting one and the article is well-illustrated and laid out. The Piratical History and Crazy Horse articles both contain pure history and new gaming content of any sort. Pirates are becoming a popular gaming obsession with games like 7th Sea, Pyrates, Lace and Steel, Flashing Blades and so on. The History is at the right level and fairly complete covering Jamaica from its capture by the British to the high points of British Privateering and the hell-raising done at Port Royale during its hey day as a pirate town. There are plenty of little touches but the overall picture is preserved.
In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse covers a tourist trip over a number of obscure battle sites of the US war with the Plains Indians. Lavish use of photographs make the best use of the fact the magazine is full colour and glossy. It is also an interesting piece if slightly clumsily written. I found it interesting from an RPG point of view because the author was keen to show how different the locations are to the idea usually conveyed in films and so on. The landscape is decidely different to what you would expect and few RPG's in the Western period actually go to any effort to explain what mid-west America looked like in the 1800's and how it was colonised. For those who play (even occasionally) in the genre the article is highly recommended.
If you are interested in historical RPG or like to blend real world elements with fantasy then you should take a look at this issue because it had solid articles on Jamaica during the height of British piracy, simulating Roman centurions on campaign and on the Plains Indian Wars. It might also be worth a look if you do not fancy paying £40 for Mordheim.