The Good and the Bad About Magazine Games by Len Krol
Since the lock down started, I have been playing mostly magazine games. I have noted that magazine games have certain advantages and disadvantages.
I have often joked that magazine games are “Wars and battles you have never heard of, but should.” SPI used to have a tradition where one of the six magazines was an “Editor’s choice.” This was a subject that rated low in the reader’s feedback, but the editor thought it was interesting enough that readers might develop an interest on the subject. A prime example of this was the Frederick the Great game in an old SPI magazine. This game sparked my interest in the 7 Years war period. Magazines also have the space to write about the battle and the time period. Other examples are little known campaigns and battles. Did you know that in the summer of 1944, while allied armies were advancing everywhere, the Japanese were advancing in China? Against the Odds #52, Operation Ichi-Go, covers that. Did you know that there was a war between Burma and Siam in the 18th century? I never did. However in Paper Wars #94, Fall of Sian, covers this. The game looks interesting. I may try it soon. In Paper Wars #86, we have a fun game called Nomads no more. This is about battles in Central Asia during the Russian Civil War. It is a fun and challenging game to play. There are so many examples, I could just go on.
Magazine games are limited in physical quality. They usually don’t have mounted maps or nice game boxes. The map tends to be limited in size and you can never have more than 240 counters. Exceptions have been made in the past. I have seen an occasional two map game or extra counters. Magazine games have a strict deadline. This may limit play testing and may result in a poor quality game. SPI’s Spanish Armada had so many problems that it was nicknamed Spanish Errata. It should be noted that once you had the errata, it was a good game. There have been a few other games like that but I will not embarrass anyone by mentioning them. I can understand in the rush to meet the deadline, too many mistakes could be overlooked. The reason why I bring this up is that I look at the catalogs of game companies and they have games on the same subject. I already have games on these battles and wars and am satisfied with what I have. I can understand this. Boxed games cost more to produce. To sell them, you want to have a popular subject. This is like the movies where every second movie has Batman, a marvel superhero, Star Trek, or Star Wars. Even if these movies are not successful, you will still sell a lot of tickets. A game on the battle of Gettysburg will sell more than a game on the battle of Perryville, even though the Perryville battle will be more of a challenge.
Magazine games are like those shows you see on cable television. They can afford to be experimental and edgy. If they spend their money right, it will look like a high quality production. I It also can encourage you to subscribe to the magazine. A future favorite game may be awaiting you in one of these magazines.