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Subject: Fantasy Wargaming: Hangins' too good fer 'em!!! rss

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John "Omega" Williams
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FANTASY WARGAMING
Review and commentary by Omega
2008

NOTE: This review is ***NOT*** for the unrelated 1990 real fantasy wargame game of the same name.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/27188

Found laying face down in a gutter in a pool of its own bile is the dead rotting corpse of one of the few "games" to ever elicit from me so much revulsion. Compiled and edited by Bruce Galloway in 1981 in the UK. I first saw this book years ago at the library in the occult section and wondered why. Though never had a chance to check it out. Some 25 years later a former roomate happened to have the book and I had a brief chance to examine it. After he moved out I chanced to spot the book at a local comic store and picked it up finally to add to my meager wargaming collection. Thus would begin my descent into the stripping away of one lie after another contained between the covers of this vile tome...
***NOTE: Thoughts and commentary will be denoted thusly.***
***NOTE: I exaggerate some the books nasty attitude. But not by much.***

The book is hardbound, 8 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches, consisting of 300 pages printed in average font. The cover slip mine came with depicts a lurid image of an alchemist reading some book while Satan himself looms over his shoulder, springing to life from the pages of some diabolic tome. The cover slip reads.

The Highest Level of All
Fantasy Wargaming

compiled and edited by Bruce Galloway

The back cover slip shows more of the alchemical lab.

Under the cover slip though it is a rather dark leathery brown with a tan spine with the title on it printed in an allmost neon pink. No title or images on the front or back.

A small (c) at the beginning credits Bruce Galloway, Mike Hodson-Smith, Nick Lowe, Bruce Quarrie and Paul Sturman 1981. (Least now we know who should be drug out in the street and slapped thoroughly. Though I'll lay most of the blame on Galloway.) Chapter frontpieces are by Lawrence Heath who does a good job of adding some interesting BW illustrations at least. ***NOTE: Galloway died in 1984. The game was written while they were attending Cambridge and each writer was assigned a chapter I am told. ***

This is followed by a table of contents covering 7 chapters and two indexes.

The book starts off with REVELATION (or "In which all is revealed") where the author spouts off and thus sets the negative tone for the rest of the ordeal to follow. Throughout the book the author/s hammer the reader with the fact that they are Smahties and will educate everyone on just how Smaht the writers are, what veritable fonts of divine wisdom they are, and how Dhum the readers are for trying to think for themselves.
Right off the bat they reveal that the title of the book is a blatant LIE! This is in fact a book about Role-Playing and has absolutely jack to do with wargaming. ***ADDENDUM NOTE: Turns out that in the UK RPGs were referred to as Wargames so the title is only misleading in certain circumstances.*** They then go on to belittle players for liking fantasy elements and explain that real Smahties look down their noses at such crass things as wizards and warriors and on my stars dungeons! How droll... Dungeons & Dragons is specifically and repeatedly belittled and spat upon. Instead the authors will teach the unwashed masses the joy of playing in the DARK AGES! And when they are done you might even believe its REAL! ***NOTE: This said at a time when people in the US were still suffering the problems of the "D&D Witch-hunts" wherein certain vocal religious types were on the rampage and accusing RPGs of all manner of ills up to and including Satan worship. This book feeds upon that mass hysteria and makes role-players really look like a bunch of nut-cases.*** ***ADDENDUM NOTE: This would be totally irresponsible and unforgivable. But I am told that folk in the UK saw virtually none of this trouble so I'll waive that as simply being an issue of the writers not being aware of the potential problem it could fuel elsewhere.***

This rolls into CHAPTER 1: City, King & Country. 24 pages of the history and ways of the Dark Ages and how much more fulfilling it will be to play a totally powerless peasant under the heel of a noble.
Next is CHAPTER 2: Myth, Magic and Religion. 36 pages of pretty much putting forward religion as a sham and the powers that be as little better than etherial mana junkies. ***NOTE: Here though there rears its ugly head the second recurring theme underlying the tone of the book. A minor anti-Jewish attitude. In this book Jews are "Heretics" and we learn that the most powerful wizards are in fact Jewish Cabalists... Oh yeah... and they are likely damned too...*** ***ADDENDUM NOTE: Yes, it obviously fits the setting. No, it is not any more appropriate than would be listing African blacks as sub-human slaves would be in a Pirate RPG. Useful as background information though. ***

CHAPTER 3: The Book of Physiologus (or "Oh God! It's a Thesaurus!") 12 pages of the authors telling the reader how Dhum they are to play with all those made up monsters in D&D and how much more fulfilling it is to encounter real creatures of religion... A brief rundown of various superstitions and fae follow. ***NOTE: And the author gloats over killing off the character of a Jewish player who used a Jewish farewell to a Djinn...*** ***ADDENDUM NOTE: This is is my point of irk here. The writer killed off the character for something the player did, or in this case, said. Not for something the character did. There is no mention of the character also being Jewish which makes the whole incident stand out negatively.***

Next is CHAPTER 4: Mortal Combat (or "A poignard in your codpiece!") Here is some descriptions of medieval weaponry, some of it inaccurate no less, and 4 paragraphs devoted to medieval armies! 14 pages.

CHAPTER 5: Moorcock and More (or "Whatever takes your fantasy") Here we have another bit of unpleasantry as the authors proceed to bash Tolkein and his writing as "presenting too much of the world". Yet the authors proceed to do exactly that in spades. For the most part the chapter belittles readers for daring to think of basing their game in some book's setting and extols how most fantasy writers have it all wrong and the writers of this book will set the facts straight obviously with their wisdom of the ages...

CHAPTER 6: The Complete Enchanter (or "What the Hell do I do now?") Here the authors really lay it on heavy. You see you, as the GM, have been obviously doing things all wrong up until you picked up this miraculous book. 20 pages of drivel extolling the vast Prometheus-like knowledge the authors have to impart upon you in the art of game mastering and how you must be a mental defect to play in those filthy D&D modules with things like, GASP! Dungeons! Heaven forefend! Avert your eyes children!

Finally we get to CHAPTER 7: Gaming Rules... That is correct. over 120 pages of back patting and fluff. Yes. Most of it sets the feel for the medieval setting and the base concepts of what the authors believe. The extensive background is useful. It is the presentation that is the problem But they now proceed to repeat a-lot of that and actually get some rules laid down too.
This section starts off by getting the player to assign to their character an astrological sign from the Zodiac. This has an impact on the characters attributes. Said stats lifted mostly from that dirty old D&D game they were speaking so lowly of previously... There are also stats for Greed, Selfishness, Lust, Bravery, Faith and Social class. The stats even stick to the D&D pattern of 3-18. ***NOTE: So were other RPGs. But these gits just finished 120 pages of bragging how they could so so much better!*** Female characters are smacked up cross the side of the head with a series of stat penalties, AND cannot play combat or clergy classes. It kinda fits the setting, yet also does not. Attributes are then added together, multiplied, subtracted and otherwise juggled in convoluted patterns to get things like height and leadership scores. High points in stats like Lust and Greed will bar you from the clergy.
Next you have to roll to see how many times you must roll on the Bogey Table which is a series of handicaps or boons the character can be saddled with. And being a Jew is one of those handicaps. None of these are explained more than a sentence at best. Again, they fit the setting, but some feel rather wrong no matter the era.
After that is the skills section - such as it is... 6 in total ranging from riding to stealing and explanations of what stats effect them. There is mention of more skills. But none are actually given in the rest of the book. This is followed by a description of the experience system. Each level up gains 2 points to toss at attributes.
Next up is the social class table where you determine if your character is a slave or a noble and just how badly off you likely are going to get it if you end up in the lower end. After this is the cost system for purchasing items and buying your way into society.
There is a quick mathematical formula for Luck and then we get to Leadership. Each character has a Leadership score and the one with the highest score is the leader of the group. But... According to these pearls of knowledge who wrote this thing. You see all that rot about characters banding together and working to a common goal in D&D and anything else is total bunk! The GM is instructed to FORCE players to challenge the leader and question them. Obviously this promotes group survival. ***NOTE: This doesn't even fit the supposed era as a group constantly at eachothers throats isn't going to get much at all done or survive overlong either...*** Next up are various commandments to the GM to virtually play the characters instead of the players. Taking control away whenever things like temptation and doubts arise. Whenever a player doesn't act as the GM thinks they should then they will likely risk losing control of the character and having them railroaded into possibly very detrimental situations. This is followed by a few pages of "how to" on things like searching, picking locks, climbing, etc.
From here we move into the combat system and again, if a player balks at something, they can end up losing control of the character. The combat system is an appallingly convoluted thing overlayed on a mishmash of the D&D system and some other basic parameters. Next is some mass combat rules interrupted by a few pages of weapon and armour stats. Then we get something resembling a mass combat system and stats for various troops and how to use them. Again an overly complex system overlaid on some basics and none of it really explained fully. That is the sum total of the Wargaming... NONE!
Now we get to the magic system. In this RPG there is no real distinction between a wizard and a priest other than where the mana and trappings are originating. Presented here is about the games only interesting feature. A freeform magic system resembling somewhat that used in MAGE from White Wolf. In this system though Jewish Cabalist priests are the most potent spell casters, and short of Satan worshipers, the furthest away from whatever passes for God. Aside from that its an interesting approach to spellcasting that would be done less backhandedly by other RPGs in later years. A few pages of pre-gen spells are listed as well as various star signs and totemic elements with possible effects. This rolls into the priestly side of the coin with prayers, miracles, and how it all ties into the manabrokering of the ether entities everyone else calls God, etc. Christian and Norse religions are given some detailing as to how they function, who does what when where and how. As well as the notable differences between the two and listings of major characters from each. Lots of usefull background material can be gleaned from this and elsewhere.
Lastly we have the beastiary. You see. Those D&D cretins went off and made up all sorts of silly monsters. But the Smahties who wrote this burning bush of enlightenment know better. You see they list here 60 or so of the most goof-ball critters imagined from medieval texts. A parade of chimera and hybrids of all type - with a few elves, faerie and barrow wights tossed in because they can so do it better than those dross D&D hacks.

This ends my Dante-like ordeal of reading through FANTASY WARGAMING!

I exaggerate things here a little. But have not refrained from bashing the writers at their own expense - much as they did to other writers and the readers. The writers have an appallingly demeaning attitude towards the reader, bash the very games and writers they are lifting material from, and kick the novels they are pulling ideas from. And then have the gall to call this Wargaming when its really just a very badly pieced together RPG. ***NOTE: Except in the UK RPGs were called Wargames it seems so we will let that slide I guess.*** The original AD&D game had a better wargame system even. Which is not saying much really. The book begins on a bad note and goes downhill from there.

Worse yet is that this RPG requires a *very* skilled GM to even remotely hope to run a session. And in the end, the leadership, morale, greed, etc rules can, and will, all but leave the GM running the whole session by themselves. ***NOTE: Snipped out some commentary here that years later seems less a real issue than it originally seemed.***

The other problem is that the rules are so sketchy that the game is incomplete and someone will have to fill in the gaps. I guess the game designers were so full of their own brilliance that they could not be bothered to, you know, finish designing the game. There is enough to play. But there are notable omissions.

And this is a shame as the book does have a-lot of very good background information for the era and had the RPG system been presented better it might have gone further. Part of the problem is possibly that this was written at the veritable dawn-o-RPGs and the writers simply did not know any better. But its really no excuse and they did the work a disservice no matter. All the potential of the RPG is dulled by the writers wretched attitude throughout.

But guess what. After all that - I DO believe it is REAL!
Real Garbage. Real Horrid. Real Waste of Time... GAH!!!

Avoid this thing like the Black Plague & Leprosy combined.
(Except for the useful setting info, and you can get better from many many other RPGs out there rather than wasting money on finding a copy of this.)

ADDENDUM: No game designers were harmed in the making of this review. Well... other than myself...

ADDENDUM 2: Review edited 2013 to clarify some things, add in some important information, and remove some commentary that in retrospect was more harsh than needed. Also some spelling and punctuation errors removed and hopefully no new ones added.)
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Alex Martinez
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Wow, this was actually a fascinating little review. Thanks for posting it. I'd almost want to own this book for the novelty factor.

It reminds me a bit of those guys we all know who are designing a game or RPG with the intent of doing something amazing and all they do is a knockoff of some other game that is needlessly complicated and half-as-interesting.

The anti-semitism is especially interesting to me. A strange and (thankfully) forgotten piece of forgotten gaming history. Thanks for reviewing it here.
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Nathaniel GOUSSET
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Hum, about the anti-semitic trend and the way the author obviously want to translate a "historical" medieval fantasy world I think this is actually logical.

Being a Jew in medieval time was really a flaw as it expose you to brutality, seizure of possession and violent death. The society despise them and only tolerate them because they can do things the christian aren't allowed to ( like banking ). They were indeed perceived as Heretics, and often the Noble and Royalty when redeemed to pay back their debts just go on a witch-hunt and start a pogrom to get ride of his contractor.

So my question is : are you sure the authors are anti-semitics or where you chocked by the way Jews are portrayed and took the historical report as a personnal bias from the author ?
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John "Omega" Williams
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Some of it is obviously historical. Some of it obviously is some odd bias on the authors part. Without the writers comment in one particular section the rest might have been just taken as historical. But then they go that extra step and declare in two seperate sections that Jews and particularly the empowered ones are one step short of Hell or equivalents thereof. Alot of little things that added up to make an already unpleasant read moreso.
Which is the problem with the whole book really. If they had just shut their mouths and stuck to writing a dark ages themed - more historically heavy RPG and not spent so much time demeaning and dirt kicking they might have hammerd out something remotely viable. As is though its just not a playable game without absurd amounts of calculations and other hoop jumping. And the GM still will have to fill in all the gaps that were left. That is when he or she isnt busy having to run the players characters for them. Or *forcing* the players to squabble and in-fight amongst eachother.

I havent seen this level of problem since White Wolf's little d20 company Swords & Sorcery totally botched a series of books and a major secondary title while demeaning the fans of the original material and dirtkicking WOTC and TSR.

And so it goes.

As said. I exaggerate a little on how bad the whole thing is. But not by much.

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William Crispin
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I actually still own this book from when it was first released. It is an interesting read but a basically unplayable RPG. I think they tried to stay true(r) to a medieval or dark ages context than D&D. I took the anti-semitic undertones in that context but I see how it could strike someone as offensive.

Fantasy Wargaming is probably the title they thought people would understand. RPG was not a common term when the book was written. There is certainly nothing relating to wargaming as we would understand it now.
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castiglione
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Back when the book was written, RPG'ing was considered very much a SUBSET of wargaming. Almost every RPG out there on the market had roots in wargames and was designed by wargamers; the only exception, I believe, was Tunnels & Trolls, which was written because its designer read the D & D rules and couldn't understand them (since the rules assumed some basic knowledge that a miniatures wargamer would have).

If you look in the design notes, etc. of early RPG's, you'll notice this mentioned, i.e. RPG's being a subset of wargaming.

And as for the anti-Semitic and sexist bits...they model historical reality. The book was written by Oxford (or was it Cambridge) history students. The game assumes a set background, which was pretty revolutionary back then (most RPG's back then didn't provide a background). And that background is a medieval setting where magic actually works. And in that historical setting Jews, Muslims (actually, any non-Christians), homosexuals, women, etc. were pretty much looked down upon (to put it politely).

I actually found the book pretty interesting reading. I think the section on mass combat alone is worth the price (I got my copy pretty cheaply on eBay). And the historical sections were very interesting, particularly in how various elements of society fit together. I would've liked references in the various essays in the book but that may be a lot to ask for an RPG written back in the infancy of the hobby.
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castiglione
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wwscrispin wrote:
I actually still own this book from when it was first released. It is an interesting read but a basically unplayable RPG.


There's some debate as to whether it's really unplayable or was unplayable based on how the information in the book was organized, i.e. instead of tables of modifiers, they bury them all in frickin' paragraphs.
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Rich Hart
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Thanks for this review, very amusing and harks back to a best forgotten way of writing.
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Aaron Thorne
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Of potential interest to people, someone at RPG.net recently completed a read-through of the book.

http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=422199
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Frank Eisenhauer
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It is interesting to note that at least Bruce Quarrie was a big name in wargaming back in the day. I assume that he was ask to do a book about "historical" fantasy games to jump onto the bandwagon by the publisher. PSL produced a lot of historical wargaming books, some of them still sought after, for example Donald Featherstone's "Tank Battles in Miniature". Bruce Quarrie wrote some of the books in that series.
I do own a copy of "fantasy Wargaming" and think the destain the authors had for "Fantasy"- instead of "Real" wargaming does show quite clearly. The book is interesting from a historical point of view into RPG's.

Edit: Spelling
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Sean Shaw
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Is there a board? Are there miniatures or game pieces? Are there chits? Heck, are there even cards? NO? Then why the heck is this here and why are you reviewing this if it is not a boardgame in Any aspect that I can see? It's just a book, and doesn't look to have minis or any sort of boardgame rules. Why review this? It should be deleted from BGG (the book that is) and saved for RPGgeek.net when it arrives instead.

(at least the review indicates that it is an RPG purely and NOT a minis or boardgame in any fashion.

Personal opinion of course.
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Frank Eisenhauer
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Rant on.
What's eating you? How can adding meaningful content be a problem? People aren't complaining when computer-game content shows up, so why the fuzz?
I understand that some things really don't belong on BGG, but since this is already here, why not write a review and prevent other users from buying a book about "Fantasy Wargaming" that is really more a RPG in disguise?
How about you just ignore this post if it doesn't "please" you? I for one was pleasantly surprised by this review.

Rant off.



GreyLord wrote:
Is there a board? Are there miniatures or game pieces? Are there chits? Heck, are there even cards? NO? Then why the heck is this here and why are you reviewing this if it is not a boardgame in Any aspect that I can see? It's just a book, and doesn't look to have minis or any sort of boardgame rules. Why review this? It should be deleted from BGG (the book that is) and saved for RPGgeek.net when it arrives instead.

(at least the review indicates that it is an RPG purely and NOT a minis or boardgame in any fashion.

Personal opinion of course.
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John "Omega" Williams
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I just realized that there are two books called "Fantasy Wargaming" This one, which is an RPG with no wargaming elements.

And a seperate book which is as I recall is a rules set for wargaming. That one has a cover with a wizard mini casting a spell on a giant skeleton mini. The two are unrelated as far as I know.

Hopefully people were not mistaking my review for that other book.

Much appologies for any confusion on that. I'd totally forgotten about the wargame of the same name.
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castiglione
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Actually, THIS Fantasy Wargaming is an RPG but it has an entire chapter devoted to mass combat; this chapter is basically a set of wargaming miniatures rules.

They're actually quite functional and seem to be very playable.
 
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John "Omega" Williams
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Actually they didnt even devote that much page space to what they were trying to pass off as the wargaming. And none of its very functional at all. The original AD&D DMG had better wargaming rules than this trash, and AD&D didnt have that much at all really, so they failed to better the game they were demeaning and stealing rules concepts from on all points other than putting forward the idea of a RPG set in semi-realistic midevil times.
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Dan Boggs
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There is something vile here. It is this review. Fantasy Wargaming has playability and organizational issues but virtually everything you say is so exaggerated and opinionated it bears little resemblance to what is really in the book. The fact that they were educated wargamers who present an honest assesment of both the state of the hobby in 1981, converting fantasy novels to games, and some downsides Gygaxian fantasy gaming from a wargaming and historical perspective is refreshingly honest and insightful, not "trash talk". In fact they are far kinder in their judgements than you are in yours. Most eggregious is your accusation of anti-semitism. Such serious allegations can ruin reputations and forever malign individuals and you make it while carlessley disregarding the fact that the game explicitly states it is attempting to present an historically accurate depiction of society in the middle ages. You seem to be oblivious to how hated, mistrusted and discriminated Jews were in most of Europe throughout the period, including numerous episodes of mass murder. Reflecting that historical reality in a handful of game rules does not make the authors Jew haters anymore than the similar rules regarding homosexuality makes them homophobes. That would be quite peculiar considering that Galloway also wrote Prejudice and Pride: Discrimination Against Gay People in Modern Britain. But don't worry, neither he nor coauthor Bruce Quarrie can sue you for libel because they are dead.
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John "Omega" Williams
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hmmm. You seem to have missed that. "And I exaggerate" part of the review by a liitle bit m'thinks.

Yes. The Dark Ages was a bad time for Jews. Well duh. That was not part of my argument. It is the negative attitude of the writer/s that underlays the whole thing and undermines any good points that they could have been making. It doesnt matter if the writers went on to do good work later. Stuff like this just should not be.
TSR, for all its MANY MANY bad points and behavior, never degraded the competition in their books or even the Dragon magazine like this. (They were perhaps too busy either sueing or buying out and burying rivals.) And most other RPGs have refrained from demeaning the people they want to pay their game. Even Games Workshop hasnt stooped to that in their books. (as of last read.)

Finally, as of last check, this is a Review: My opinion, observations, feelings and assessment of the product as presented to me. Im not being payed to be nice or pull punches. (Im not getting payed at all on BGG.) If a game fails in some way, it fails for me and possibly for others and Im going to point this out. Fantasy Wargaming failed miserably in everything except presenting the Dark Ages as a viable Role-Playing setting. As said. Had they not been so busy putting down the very game and players they were "borrowing" elements from. Then they could have had a viable concept and game with a little more effort. But as was published? No.

ADDENDUM: For those skipping over the other commentary. The review is NOT about an actual wargaming book called Fantasy Wargaming that was published some years later by a diffrent company.
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Dave Bernazzani
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A friend of mine got me a copy of this book at his local Library Sale. I'll admit the actual RPG rules are a bit dreadful, but the first half of the book was actually interesting. To see their take on the state of the hobby in 1981 (when AD&D was exploding). The early chapters are an entertaining read of the now ancient 'Dungeon Delve' and a treaty of a number of fantasy book authors that most of the fantasy RPG systems drew from. The main problem I had with these early chapters was that the author seemed to have a bit of an attitude that came across as rather snobish.

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Dan Boggs
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Do you honestly think, John W., that lamely claiming "Well I said I was exaggerating.." is any excuse for directly accusing people of anti-semitism and proclaiming that they should be executed by hanging? I'll say this plainly. The handfull of rules in the book that penalize certain groups of people (women, Jews, Muslims, homosexuals, peasants) in certain small ways were among many attempts in the rules to create a true to history European Medieval game setting. Such rules may not work for you or for anybody but to then accuse the authors of being anti semites who ought to die is an eggregious and irresponsible act on your part and ought not to be tolerated in a game forum.
 
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John "Omega" Williams
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Do you honestly think that lamely misinterpreting and deliberately ignoring what I said in the review and after is any excuse for attacking someone who happens to disagree with what the authors if this book attempted to pull off?

The books title is an outright lie. The books contents are demeaning to the reader and other authors allmost to the point of slander. They deserve whatever flak they may get for this sort of low behavior.

The author gleefully goes out of his way to execute a Jewish players character. The other entries can be waived off as par for the period the RPG is set in. Why this one entry and why use what amounts to an out-of-character comment to single out that one player so? It certainly wasnt for the betterment of the session nor really appropriate for the scene if what was said was not attributed to the characters notrmal race in game.

As for the title. Read it again. It says "Hangins' too good fer 'em!!!" as in they should *not* be killed.

Aldarron wrote:
Do you honestly think, John W., that lamely claiming "Well I said I was exaggerating.." is any excuse for directly accusing people of anti-semitism and proclaiming that they should be executed by hanging? I'll say this plainly. The handfull of rules in the book that penalize certain groups of people (women, Jews, Muslims, homosexuals, peasants) in certain small ways were among many attempts in the rules to create a true to history European Medieval game setting. Such rules may not work for you or for anybody but to then accuse the authors of being anti semites who ought to die is an eggregious and irresponsible act on your part and ought not to be tolerated in a game forum.
 
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Christopher Cale
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Woah! I just discovered this review.

I know it's a long dead topic, but I really couldn't leave the thread in the state it was in case people read this that could actually find something good in this book get turned away by this... review.

So I present my Review of a Review!

First of all, the reviewer understands nothing of the situation in British roleplaying and wargaming in the 70's and 80's and so makes assumptions that are quite frankly ridiculous. The game does not "lie" by calling itself "Fantasy Wargaming", fantasy wargaming is what this sort of game was commonly referred to in Britain at the time. It grew out of wargaming after all. It even sort of explains this in the book... On top of that there is a mass combat system included in the book.

Before going any further: yes, the rules are convoluted, difficult to use and incomplete. Again you have to understand where this book came from before you can understand the book. At the time, wargaming books generally tended to have a lot of explanation in the first half of the book, either exploring the subject matter in a scholarly fashion or just describing the authors approach. They would also generally be written under the assumption that the umpire running the game would already be using systems of his own devising, anything the book provided would be additional ideas or alternative approaches they might like to consider. This book *is* different in that it actually has a somewhat more complete system than most. But the principal IS EXACTLY THE SAME. If you are used to the american roleplaying books then of course you might find this difficult to understand and find it a bit strange. It's a book about the emerging roleplaying trend written in a fashion that British wargamers of the time would be used to, by a wargamer. "Fast Play" games where the rules came pre-packaged as a totality, whilst becoming popular, were a different matter to the traditional wargame that relied on umpire driven systems.

Seriously, what is this about the writers being "Smahties" and looking down on you? There is none of that tone there unless the reviewer has some sort of complex. It's just making suggestions for a more believable campaign world. Or does the reviewer believe that everyone should be tromping around in unbelievable dungeon complexes with millimetre thick walls, monsters that should have starved by now and treasure stashes that someone hasn't knicked yet? Dungeons and Dragons is not repeatedly belittled and spat upon, just the habits of some of it's dungeon masters. I believe they make only one comment that might be taken as some criticism of D&D in that particular chapter. And is nothing compared to the ridiculous rants that Gygax went off on about his competitors!

The book certainly wasn't written to feed into the mass hysteria mentioned, something that was a massive problem only in America really as far as I know. It does provide a unified field theory of magic and religion that attempts to reconcile mediaeval beliefs together into one, neat, gameable system. It's approach is almost guaranteed to look like heresy to a particularly devout Christian. But we don't haven't had witch-hunts in Britain for a few centuries now...

Oh gods. Seriously. I can't go into every point this bloke makes and points out why it's written by an ignorant reactionary who hasn't bothered to do more than skim the book or attempt to understand it, I'd be here for hours. But it looks like I'll have to. I'll be as brief as I can.

Doesn't say it's more fulfilling to play a peasant. It's just telling you about mediaeval life.

The writer was an atheist so doesn't have any particular loyalty to the christian god. He wasn't particularly portraying religion as a sham. It's just his attempt to unify varying mediaeval beliefs between pagan and christian into one meaningful system. I'm guessing the reviewer is religiou and thus has taken this bit as some form of personal attack. I could be wrong, but that's what it looks like.

Seriously. There is no anti-semitism in this book. I don't know what the reviewer is on. Of course Jews are Heretics in this book. So are the Cathars funnily enough... And the Jews can still gain piety with their own god in the system, it's only the church that sees them such.

Oh my god, Jewish Cabbalist's are most powerful sorcerors in the game, the writer must be making a case for the Jewish conspiracy! Umm. No. It's just that Jewish and Moslem science and mysticism is a lot more advanced at this time than Christian. What with their religions not actively holding back the course of science and medicine...

Again, what's with this Dhum thing? The author is pointing out that most fantasy games at the time had creatures in them taken from mythology which they promptly proceeded to take all the mystery and interesting bits out of. The point of the chapter is just to show you how cool real mythology can be. You realise they also advocate making your own monsters? It's just the warping of existing ones into something pitifully dull that the author is objecting to.

I've been looking for this bit about the author gloating over killing off a jewish player in this section and I really can't find it. There *is* a bit later on in a completely different section where a player (unspecified as a Jew or not) accidentally uses a Jewish greeting to an Arab Djinni and because they are leaving the game anyway, the referee has the Djinni splat them. Not the way I'd call it, but still does not in any way indicate anti-semitism on the part of the author.

Mortal Combat: Most of it is accurate. Some of it is not. Especially the reasoning for the development of the bastard sword. Remember this was written before any sort of widespread physical research into the use of mediaeval weapons took place. It's not all going to be accurate. You know Gygax got most of it wrong too right? Does that mean Gygax knew nothing?

How the hell did the reviewer get the impression that the author is bashing Tolkien? He repeatedly mentions how much he loves Tolkien's work. He's just saying that the use of Tolkien's world in a roleplaying game is too stultifying because there is no room to create your own stuff. That all the stories that matter about Tolkien's world have already been written by Tolkien. I agree with that. I love the Hobbit and the Silmarillion but to game them? Again, he doesn't state that any of those writers have "got it all wrong", the author is just running through a list of books he has read and saying which bits of which of them would be useful for gaming with. As for presenting too much of the world in spades... The assumption is not that you will be roleplaying in an exact historic replication of the dark ages or mediaeval period. Just that the best campaigns feel consistent and real and with solid social systems behind them that make the game believable. Something, by the way, that he praises Tolkien for (though personally I disagree with this as far as Lord of the Rings itself goes). Obviously the easiest way to have a complete and believable social system is to use one that already exists and feels right. Tadaa! Feudal Europe. By all the gods, a lot of the book talks about building your own world from this stuff.

The Dungeon Master advice given is for a generation of people who'd never had roleplaying games before. All this stuff happens to be relevant! You are taking wargamers who are used to two opposed sides with an umpire arbitrating and suddenly putting them in a game where the opposing side is run by an all powerful umpire. Funnily enough, this caused problems for some people at the time. Again, dungeons are not universally maligned. Most of the suggested scenarios the author happens to put forward are variations on the theme. The author has a problem with dungeons put together with no thought about consequences. That's his opinion. D'you know what? It's a well formed and considered one. Unlike this reviewer's it seems.

I've already gone into the reasons for the fluff at the start...

As for the drivel written about the system itself... again no attempt was made to understand the reasoning behind any of it. So assume I'm pointing this out and the usual arguments as to why there isn't anti-semitism or sexism from the author throughout the whole of this section.

One major point though: It's not even slightly overlayed onto the D&D combat system. I haven't the faintest idea where this thought came from.

And another: the stats and the method of generating them are quite similar, yes. I wonder if the reviewer has ever bothered to read any of the roleplaying games wandering about the place between 1974 and 1983?

Argh. The repeated Smahties comment is really starting to irritate me now.

The "goof-ball critters" mentioned in the "beastiary" (sic) happen to be drawn from mythology and legend. I repeat, the authors encourage making up monsters. They just don't encourage warping existing ones into something crap. In particular, the game has a better treatment of elves and dwarves and their like than most games around, presenting the Alvar and Duergae of northern european mythology and then blending them neatly into the celtic myths.

I know the reviewer claims exaggeration, but there's a difference between exaggeration and defensive ignorance with no real research pretending to be a review. This vile outpouring maligns the character of the author of Fantasy Wargaming to an extreme degree, when all the poor chap was doing was trying present a useful book for wargamers new to the fantasy scene and to attempt to suggest a more solid and believable support structure to fantasy campaigns. It is in fact an extremely important book, whether you think it is usable as a system or not.

Despite claims to the contrary the reviewer has not refrained from making jabs at the author, repeatedly claiming him to be a Smahtie and an anti-semite.

There is no appallingly demeaning attitude toward the reader, but there is an assumption of intelligence on the part of the reader. It was written by a Cambridge phd student. This doesn't make his attitude demeaning, it just means he assumes you can keep up. The author makes one or two very minor remarks about a grand total of two other systems, neither of them particularly derogatory. They did not lift material from anywhere. 3 dice for characteristics is about the extent of it. On top of which it seems that Bruce never played D&D to lift anything from. They were Tunnels & Trolls players. The novels aren't kicked, although the author does present his reasons for disliking one or two of them, and also reasons why they would make a good or a bad setting for roleplaying in or to take ideas from.

See my previous comments on the wargaming thing... the system is actually quite neat and allows any figure scale. It's not as flexible as Chainmail, but it does allow people to use the figures most people would have had from playing WRG's fast play ancient rules which were prevalant at the time. The book does not begin with a lie, the reviewer just knows nothing about his roleplaying history and terminology, so why he bothered to review this game I haven't the faintest idea.

It doesn't require a skilled GM particularly, it does require a very prepared one who has copied all the tables out. Luckily someone else has already done that for us here: http://www.nettally.com/gldearman/gaming/fantasy_wargaming/r...

Thankyou whoever you are!

The leadership, morale, greed, compulsion rules etc aren't meant to be used constantly... they are meant to be used to help compel a player who isn't acting in character, or to provide mechanical reasons for them to do so. And mechanical methods of changing their character slowly. Besides, if you don't like these particular parts of the rules there's no-one saying you have to use them.

Once again, and I can't stress this enough, THE AUTHOR IS NOT ANTI-SEMITIC. The mediaeval period happens to be, again no compulsion to use the penalties for Jews if you don't think it appropriate.

Seriously? Feeding off the suffering of others? If this game contributed to the ridiculous situation at the time in America then that is hardly the authors fault. We don't tend to take religion to quite such a ridiculous extreme in this country.

You're unlikely to see Bruce at a convention. He died in 1984 at a very young age.

My final conclusions about this review is that Omega merely skimmed through the book with a bunch of preconceptions. He did not bother to take into account the location or date of the books creation, and so cannot be expected to understand it. It appears from the content of the review that Omega is only familiar with Dungeons and Dragons and has no background in any other systems. In short, the review was penned by someone completely ignorant and utterly unqualified to give any sort of review of the book. Instead he piles slander and hatred onto the author of what is in fact an important tome, and attempts to protect himself by claiming "exaggeration". The review is vile and baseless. Omega is perfectly entitled to his opinions on whether the book is any use to him or not, but when they are put forward in this manner it is, quite frankly, insulting and reflects badly only upon himself.

I reiterate:

THERE IS NO LIE.
THE BOOK IS NOT DEMEANING.
THERE IS NO ANTI-SEMITIC UNDERTONE.

It's far from the best or most usable roleplaying volume. But it is an exceptionally interesting bit of roleplaying history, with some very good ideas and a very solid attempt at trying to introduce wargamers of Britain at the time to fantasy games in a way they would understand. Whether it's of any use to you depends on how interested you are in your gaming history.

Either way, I urge you to make your own mind up and not to listen to Omega's vile ranting. Or to mine either.
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John "Omega" Williams
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Actually... I went through the book page by page very systematically and get the whole idea of what it was supposed to be. Its the way its presented that blows the whole endeavor to hell.

The extensive background habit of writing I surmised fit for a RPG or a Wargame. That wasnt the point. Though I should add a comment in the review to clarify perhaps.
I did not though know it was common practice in the UK to refer to RPGs as Wargames. That I can correct in the review. Thank you very much for pointing it out. Here, have a thumb and a GG.

As for the demeaning attitude to the reader and my jabs at the writer(s). Yes, its there and it permeates most of the background/fluff section of the book. The writer(s) knock authors and games left and right and while they may compliment here and there, they promptly backhand any of that twice over. And the whole "Smahties" bit did exactly to convey my irk at the attitude expressed.

As for the anti-semetic attitude. In retrospect, years after writing the review. I think the above attitude problems of the writers combined with having to live with a *very* bigoted family magnified the issues more than they might. I'll look that over and consider it anew with thought to removing where needed.

As said. The book is a great resource for medeival style play. Thats not a problem. As for the goofball monsters. Thought I mentioned that "yes" they are taken from the era? If not. Then that should have been in there and can be corrected. The so-called wargame section though is as pointed out elsewhere, less than skeletal.

This does though now make me wonder if there arent diffrent versions of the book where some of the issues and negative wording in my copy simply aren't in others...

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I think it unlikely that editions would vary that much.

It's not just in the UK that it was common to call early roleplaying games fantasy wargames, we just took longer to change the name. The front cover of Dungeons & Dragons labels it as "Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures".

I don't see how the monsters are that 'goofball', especially in comparison with some of the games contemporaries, but that's a matter of opinion.

The wargaming section contains all that you really need to fight out a battle. I can't see what your problem is with it. Does it have to be a hundred page tome to be any good as a wargame? Try taking a look at De Bellis Antiquitatis, one of the most successful ones. It probably contains fewer rules. Fantasy Wargaming's is perfectly usable, and contains some interesting points. That all depends on opinion though of course. But it contains more of one than the AD&D DMG (see further comments later). To 'bash' it, for want of a better phrase, for being skeletal is irrelevant. To 'bash' it for being numerically complex etc is fair enough, though I disagree with you.

Can you please present to me an example of this demeaning attitude? I cannot see it. It might help if you were to present an example and explain. It just looks to me like they're trying to present an approach to roleplaying. And at the moment it still seems to me that you are assuming things about this book.

I can't see how you can have gone through the book page by page. I can understand you not liking the book, not everyone has the same tastes. I can understand you giving it a bad review. Some stuff is just opinion. My main problem is that you repeatedly present stuff that simply isn't true as fact to support your view. Stuff that isn't a matter of opinion. Demeaning attitude etc is a matter of opinion I guess. But a statement that the author repeatedly bashes Tolkien is a complete falsehood.

"I would be willing to lay heavy odds that virtually a hundred per cent of the readers of this book have read Tolkien and would think of The Lord of the Rings first if asked for the title of a modern fantasy novel. So, I shan't say anything about the contents of the book itself except that it is probably the closest thing in modern literature to a concept of another world which is really rooted in the above-mentioned cultural past, and the closest in terms of depth of treatment to the type of fantasy scenario which I hope this book will inspire you to create for yourself."

"In terms of making a setting for a fantasy adventure game, however, it has to be admitted that Lord of the Rings is BORING because Tolkien has done all the work for us and the only way to produce surprises in a game is by going outside his framework and introducing alien influences. It would not have been so bad if his posthumously published Silmarillion had not filled virtually every gap, but as things are, Middle-Earth is almost as well documented as the historical Dark Ages and does not allow your imagination rein to roam. Besides, who the hell wants to play the role of a Hobbit?"

"Please don't imagine I'm decrying Tolkien. I first read Lord of the Rings in 1960, long before the book had become a fashionable cult, and I still have my school library's volumes at home (they may even have forgiven me by now!). I have re-read it so many times that I can mentally read it almost word for word without having the printed text in front of me. It is, without doubt, a tour de force and among the outstanding novels of the 20th century. But it isn't fertile ground for a fantasy gaming adventure."

I'm not certain exactly who wrote that chapter, so I can't credit it appropriately, but those are three sequential paragraphs on the first page of chapter 5, Moorcock and More of Fantasy Wargaming.

"Here we have another bit of unpleasantry as the authors proceed to bash Tolkein and his writing as "presenting too much of the world"." - Your comment on these paragraphs. Can you please point out to me which bit of it is "Bashing" Tolkien? He does state that Tolkien's setting doesn't leave room for fantasy gaming. But that is hardly "bashing", which indicates a violent and extremely personal (and potentially irrational, depending on context) opposition.

Another of your incorrect statements, not in the review, but later on; you mention a wargaming system in the original AD&D DMG. This does not exist. Although it does have a skeletal but functional section on sieges. And things on aerial combat and campaign movement of troops. No mass combat system though.

"120 pages of bragging how they could do so much better" is a bit much. The total content of discussion on other systems amounts to a few paragraphs at most. And your comment on how this relates to the 3-18 scale is utterly irrelevant. 3-18 was so ubiquitous because it works. The probability scale is perfect for any game with a high level of randomisation in character creation.

"24 pages of the history and ways of the Dark Ages and how much more fulfilling it will be to play a totally powerless peasant under the heel of a noble." Really? It's just an essay on Mediaeval and Dark Ages society. And I don't see what would be wrong with playing a peasant anyway.

"how Dhum the readers are for trying to think for themselves." Hmm. If you had read any of this fully, you would have realised that this is exactly what the authors are trying to promote. To break out of the tunnel and design something brilliant; as an example, in the Revelation section: "But it is much more challenging, and a great deal more fun, to design your own world - or, if a whole world is too much, at least a continent. And this is precisely what this book has been written to help you do." Whether it succeeds or not is a matter of opinion, I personally believe it does. But it's this freedom of thought and creation in roleplaying games that is pretty much the whole point of this book.

Anyway. I guess I just don't understand your attitude. Or your need to present complete untruths alongside your opinion. Some people write a book about roleplaying games and attempt to help move the hobby on from badly constructed tunnel bashes and into trying new things. In short to help bring about modern roleplaying. Just like several other people they write their own game because they were unhappy with the current offerings. In doing so they present it in the only way they know how, with plenty of background information and help in creating a setting from a solid cultural basis. Without people like this, roleplaying games would have remained essentially specialised wargames in tunnels. Yes, they present their opinions on dungeons & dragons scenarios (not dungeons & dragons the game itself I might add, but the tunnel bashing scenario that was always referred to as dungeons & dragons no matter what rules system was being used, for much the same reason vacuum cleaners get called Hoovers). These are people who saw the promise and potential in the Dungeons & Dragons phenomenon and wanted to see it expand beyond the limited horizons most GM's were clinging to at the time, and promote the building of believable worlds. If you actually read and understand the language being used it's never the Dungeons & Dragons game itself that the authors are talking about in this sense, but the limiting tunnel-based scenarios ("This is the type of game usually referred to as 'Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) since it was first popularised under that name by American writer Gary Gygax, and is still the most prevalent"). Without people exactly like the authors of Fantasy Wargaming there would be no GURPS. No Everway. No FUDGE. No Ars Magica. No Warhammer. Fantasy Wargaming itself is unlikely to have influenced many people, it was badly organised and never had the same sort of support that other games received. But the people are the same. Presumably, a similar sort of person to you, judging from your Game Designer tag. I too am a Game Designer. And every Designer I've met designs games for the same reason. They can never find that perfect game to play so they have to try and make it themselves. Of course, we never get there. There's always something that needs improving.

And yet you claim that this book contains "one lie after another contained between the covers of this vile tome..." for making an honest attempt at improvement.

So how come Fantasy Wargaming is demonised with trying to tell you how to play your games and AD&D is not? I believe this is another example of assumptions that you have built up about the game without actually thinking fully about what you have been reading.

I appreciate your consideration in reworking your review. But it's not enough for me. If it was entirely an opinion piece I would have no problem, except to present an alternative viewpoint. My issue is that you present a completely incorrect vision of the book by making statements based on falsehood (not that I'm accusing you of lying, just that you might need to read the actual words written) and not just on opinion. So for this reason I strongly oppose your review and feel that it damages the reputation of a piece of gaming history in an entirely inappropriate fashion. Not that you have to listen to me, but I request that you attempt to damage its reputation in an entirely appropriate fashion instead, with a full and careful reading of the actual text of the book instead of re-reading the words you've put there for yourself. At which point I will write a review from my perspective, if I feel it necessary. Until that point, I will continue to point out the ignorance contained in what has been written so far.

Edited shortly after posting to clarify a point.
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j h
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I found this book in a pile at the used book store. There was no dust jacket. Thankfully, I only paid $1.00 (too much) for it. I've only paged through it, but these reviews really make me want to malign it some more

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John "Omega" Williams
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You know... I never thought to check under the jacket to see at what the actual book cover looked like...

Its a rather dark leathery brown with a tan spine with the title on it printed in an allmost neon pink. No title or images on the front or back.
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