Ender Wiggins
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Why is Ender reviewing wargame stuff?

I'll be straight with you: I'm not a wargamer. Sure, I own and enjoy Richard III: The Wars of the Roses. But for the most part that's out of character for me. I've even tried playing a few wargames. But as much as one of my bestest buddies in Canada tries to convince me that there's an inner wargamer inside of me, waiting to be discovered, by and large it's just not my thing. By the way, my friend's regular dabbling with ASL and his dream date for a month with a box of Pacific War on a desert island should give you an idea of his well-attested wargaming credentials. Yet oddly enough, it was my session report on the block wargame Richard III that got me on the road that led to this review. Because imagine my surprise when I recently saw this image posted on BGG:



"Wait a moment," I thought to myself, "I recognize that picture!" Sure enough, it was almost identical to the one I'd posted in my session report of the game I'd played with my son.



Someone had taken the trouble to copy the game situation captured in one of my BGG photos! In excruciating detail! Block for block, step for step, card for card, location for location - just with a slight change in angle and different cropping. In a magazine review no less! I had to find out what was happening. It turned out that the person who posted the picture is the publisher of a high-end independent wargaming magazine in France: Battles Magazine. Hmm, I'd never heard of it. Mr Publisher told me that he needed pictures for the game, but because he didn't know the game himself, he copied my pictures from BGG - or to be precise, he'd reconstructed them, taken his own photos, and included them in the magazine article with the review of the game. Well that's fine, I felt more flattered than offended, and my son whom I'd played the game with was particularly pleased to see that his efforts as Lancaster ended up becoming photographic material in a magazine review. Perhaps Mr Publisher felt he owed me something, because he was kind enough to offer me a complimentary copy of the magazine. No strings attached. So I said 'yes'. At the very least, I'd enjoy reading the article on Richard III!

So fast forward to yesterday, when an envelope arrives in the mail. Battles Magazine! All the way from France! But now what's this? It's a 140 page glossy magazine? And it includes a free war-game? I could hardly believe what I was seeing! This is quality stuff man! And that's how this review came about. I can't tell you a lot about the game-play of A Week In Hell: The Battle of Hue. But I can show you a thing or two about the magazine, and about the game, and maybe it will help the true wargamers out there (like my good buddy back in Canada) decide whether or not this magazine might be for them.

Introducing the Publisher

So who are these guys anyway? A publisher in France, selling English magazines? Yep, that's pretty much the gist of it! You'll find them listed as a publisher on BGG here: Battles Magazine.



If you want to know more, head over to their own flashy website at http://www.battlesmagazine.com.



You'll find subscription information, including an offer for a free game to new subscribers: Storm Over Kunlun Pass, 1939



These guys sure know the right kind of carrots to put in front of you don't they! And no, I'm not getting any kick-backs for writing this article! Although they're welcome to send me more stuff if they like me for doing this! I'll even advertise for them in their own words: "Battles Magazine is a professional and independent wargame magazine. Every 3 months: 132 full color pages, including reviews, analysis, regular columns, general and historical articles, scenarios, player aids ... and much more. Battles Magazine also includes a complete game with die-cut counters, map and rules." Repeat after me: "also includes a complete game...." If that sounds cool, that's because it is cool. And I'm going to show you how cool. After all, war-gamers are cool, or want to be cool, right? Work with me here folks!

So we've figured out that this magazine comes out every three months. The first issue was in April 2009, and the current issue (#3) is from January 2010. Here's the issues and games that have come out so far:


Issue #1 (April, 2009)
Game: Striking the Anvil: Operation Anvil Dragoon


Issue #2 (October, 2009)
Game: Counter-Attack! Arras


Issue #3 (January, 2010)
Game: A Week In Hell: The Battle of Hue

Issue #4 is slated for April, 2010. So now we know what these guys produce, let's take a closer look at the particular issue of the magazine that landed in my mailbox.

Introducing the Magazine

Battles Magazine is published in France, and the normal cost per issue if purchased separately is 26 euros, although it's currently selling for 20 euros. That may sound pretty steep, but remember that it comes with a free game, so you could consider it as 20 euros for a game, and a 140 page magazine thrown in. A very glossy and impressive magazine! The front cover is already impressive:



And here's the table of contents:



A good percentage of it is reviews, but there's also some articles with analysis, some interviews, and scenarios for games like ASLSK, ASL, CC, L'nL, and others. Yes, thanks to my wargaming buddy, I do know what those acronyms stand for! At any rate, it's good content. Remarkably, I could even actually understand the review of Richard III. I know enough about the game to know that the content and analysis was excellent. It took up 6 pages (which included an interview with the designer Jerry Taylor), had lovely accompanying pictures and lots of text. Here's a sample of a two page spread from the review:



Doesn't that look pretty? (and not just because it was inspired by another of my images, capturing that magical moment when my son convinced Warwick to commit treason, as described in my session report). It's well organized, and I really like the layout, writing style, and the pictures. I'm coming to realize that these wargamers are articulate and educated guys! (Make mental note to self to compliment my wargaming buddy next time I talk to him - my respect and admiration is growing by the hour!) In the process, I wonder about the demographics of wargamers - somehow I bet most of them are smarter than average (they have to be, surely, to figure out how these games work, remember the rules, and play them!), and that many of them are well educated, and professionally employed perhaps with a disposable income greater than the national average (someone has to pay for the glossy magazines and the growing ASL collection!).

Now I'm not terribly interested in wargames myself. But I have to admit that the magazine makes them look good! The pictures, my friends! The pictures, they are amazing! From my own contributions here on BGG you probably already know this about me: I love looking at pictures. And these guys know how to make wargames look real slick. Stacks of counters? Maps? These look good enough to eat! Check this out!



Oh, and it's all like this! Throughout the magazine! 140 pages of glossy pages, filled with impressive content like this:



I like this! I like it a lot!



Pretty impressive looking isn't it?! And this from someone who isn't a wargamer! You real wargamers out there are just going to gobble this stuff up like candy! There are some pages with advertisements, to be sure, but they don't swallow up or overshadow the content of the magazine by any means. And to be honest, you wargaming aficionados probably enjoy checking out a selection of adverts for the newest and latest wargames anyway.

If there is a criticism, it's that occasionally there were a few spelling mistakes or grammar mistakes. Pardon my French, but you know I mean, right? Perhaps we just need to pardon the French their English? Maybe it's just their team of editors or translators. But I can live with that, and you probably can too, given the high quality of the content in the magazine. I'm starting to like these French guys, so I'm prepared to cut them a bit of slack.

Introducing the Wargame

Oh yes, you want to know about the game. Not only do I have this impressive looking glossy magazine, but also a game: A Week In Hell: The Battle of Hue.



It's a pity it's a game I'm never going to play, but even so, I'm happy to tell you something about it. Here's all the components:



So what do you get? Well it comes with a 17x22 map, and 120 1/2' and 5/8' counters. Pretty sweet looking stuff, I'll admit. Let's get you a closer look at those counters:



And the map:



The rules are 8 pages in the magazine itself. Not everyone is going to like that, but hey, that's life. To be honest, rules like this make my eyes glaze over. Not because they're bad - in fact there's even some helpful illustrations and play examples. But when you haven't yet found your inner wargame-geek - as I haven't - then some of this stuff sounds like a foreign language. For you experts who use massive ASL binders of rules as paper-weights, this stuff is chicken feed.

So what's the game about? Thematically it deals with the Tet Offensive, in the Vietnam War. Here's the official word: "A Week in Hell is a solitaire wargame at the platoon level. It retraces the fighting of five USMC companies for the liberation of downtown Hue from January 31 to February 6, 1968. A Week in Hell simulates combat where the player controls marines attempting to take control of almost the entire map and rendezvous with units entrenched at the northern edge of the map. Units begin game off-board, and the games is divided into seven turns (which each has 10 phases), each turn representing one day of fighting. A unit can either fight or move, and after it has defeated an enemy unit it needs to stay one turn in the same spot to "mop up"." I know enough about wargamers to know that the "solitaire" part is going to go over quite well!

I can't really tell you much about the gameplay, except to say that you'll find an overview of how the game system works here. But the theme actually sounds quite interesting. I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to the Vietnam War, let alone specific battles (although there is some vague memory from my high school years about the 'Tet Offensive'). This issue of the magazine contained a lengthy 6 page article (including several colour illustrations), describing the historical events behind the game. A stellar idea!



And you know something? I found this article to be a fascinating read! I expect that people who play the game will find it immensely rewarding to read this. Knowing something about the historical events and seeing some pictures of marines in the streets of Hue all helps add colour to the game.



It's a good read, even if - like me - you never play the game. And I gather that a historical article of this nature is standard fare for all games included with the magazine. Bravo!

So you get some good history, good components, and by the looks of things, a good game. Plus a magazine!

Recommendation

Would I spend 20 euros on this magazine? I'm the wrong person to ask, because I'm not a wargamer - for me personally the answer would be 'no'. But I can absolutely see why many people would spend that kind of money on something like this. For starters, it comes with a quality game, complete with map, colour counters, and an extensive article about the history behind the game. And then there's the magazine itself - for you dedicated wargamers, there's 140 pages of solid content, with very little fluff. All that, with very high quality production, accompanied with wonderful pictures and a very visually pleasing design. I may be no wargamer, but I think I've seen enough to know that this is good stuff, and that the guys at Battles Magazine deserve a very positive recommendation for what they're doing. They can send me stuff to read and admire anytime they want. And as for you real wargamers out there, I suspect that you've seen enough to know that Battles Magazine Issue #3 and its accompanying game A Week In Hell: The Battle of Hue is definitely worth a closer look!

So what do you say to that, my wargaming friend?

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

This review dedicated to a good friend on the other side of the globe.
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Kenny Jenkins
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Re: What happened next when non-wargamer Ender got a wargame magazine and a solitaire wargame (with pictures)
Quite the advertisement they're getting in return for ripping off your image!

But seriously, great review, as usual. If I'd be more into war games myself, you'd probably just have made me order this. Wouldn't be the first time either...
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Jonan Jello
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Re: What happened next when non-wargamer Ender got a wargame magazine and a solitaire wargame (with pictures)
Victory Point Games solitaire affairs have me interested in more chit-styled wargames and the A Week in Hell hasn't helped dull that interest. I agree, everything in the magazine issue looks very well-produced, informative (which was an unexpected bonus for me with VPG games) and
enticing to play. Ender you're not helping to quell the fires!
Nice review and an impressive acknowledgement of your images.

Thanks for the review.
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Iain K
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Quote:

It's a good read, even if - like me - you never play the game.

So you get some good history, good components, and by the looks of things, a good game. Plus a magazine!

Recommendation

Would I spend 20 euros on this magazine? I'm the wrong person to ask, because I'm not a wargamer - for me personally the answer would be 'no'. But I can absolutely see why many people would spend that kind of money on something like this. For starters, it comes with a quality game, complete with map, colour counters, and an extensive article about the history behind the game.


Honestly, my opinion of you as a reviewer has just taken a huge hit Ender.

Bottom line, someone sends you a free game. You rave about it, and then close by admitting you never played the game.

How can you make the claim it's a "quality game" if you never played it?

Let's be realistic, no one in their right mind pays thirty dollars plus shipping for a magazine. We pay for the game and the magazine is a bonus.

In my experience, Battles magazine is much like your review Ender, it looks good but I found it lacking in substance, with universally positive reviews that lack real depth. The games are attractively produced but have nagging ergonomic issues and generally display a lack of playtesting and development.

And I have played the games.

There is no doubt the magazine is a labor of love by Olivier and his crew. I hope they learn from their experiences, continue to prosper, and grow into a valuable contributor to our hobby.

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Manuel Pombeiro
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Now Ender, just give it a little effort and plow through all those 8 pages of rules, play it and come back and review it. Maybe that's the way for you to get out of the closet and join us, wargamers, on this side of the barricade. We sure need someone like you to review wargames!!
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Ender Wiggins
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citizen k wrote:
Honestly, my opinion of you as a reviewer has just taken a huge hit Ender.
Bottom line, someone sends you a free game. You rave about it, and then close by admitting you never played the game.
How can you make the claim it's a "quality game" if you never played it?
Let's be realistic, no one in their right mind pays thirty dollars plus shipping for a magazine. We pay for the game and the magazine is a bonus.
In my experience, Battles magazine is much like your review Ender, it looks good but I found it lacking in substance, with universally positive reviews that lack real depth. The games are attractively produced but have nagging ergonomic issues and generally display a lack of playtesting and development.
And I have played the games.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Iain, and for giving me the opportunity to clarify. Perhaps I can restore some of your faith! My comments about this being quality were intended as a reference primarily to the components and production values, and especially to the magazine itself. I think I was brutally honest about my lack of wargaming credentials and experience from the outset, and quite explicit that my comments were exclusively addressing the presentation and content of the magazine and the appearances of the game rather than the game-play. I regret any lack of clarity on my part that may have led you or others to conclude that I was endorsing the game-play. For the record, let me state conclusively: I absolutely cannot comment on the game-play whatsoever! I'll leave that to those with expertise like yourself! In all likelihood, I'll never even play the game. My article was deliberately written in a light-hearted tone, from the perspective of a wargaming novice clearly wading into territory that is somewhat beyond his depth, and intended to be read somewhat tongue-in-cheek, with amusement - although I do stand by my enthusiasm for the magazine.

Furthermore, the magazine and game are bundled together as a package. The BGG items for all the Battles Magazine games also incorporate images, articles, and discussion about the magazine itself - so that is what I've done too. Strictly speaking perhaps it's fairer to say that this is more a review of this particular issue of the magazine than of the game that comes with it (although I'd respectfully suggest that there are reviews on BGG that give even less information about the games they purport to review than what I've provided here about this one!). So please consider the above primarily a review of the magazine, and at best only a quick introduction to the game - I also stated this quite clearly in the opening paragraphs. This makes this review somewhat of an anomaly for me - be assured that as a rule I only post reviews of games after getting a good grip on the game-play and if I feel they merit a positive review.

Notwithstanding, I appreciate you giving a different perspective on the magazine, because it's alternative viewpoints like yours that will help readers make up their own mind, based on a variety of opinions. I hope others will take what you write into consideration. There are wiser and more experienced gamers that are better equipped than me to weigh your criticisms from a wargaming perspective. But it should be noted that your perspective about Battles Magazine does appear to be somewhat in the minority. Prior to posting my initial article, I did do some research about what other wargamers had to say about this magazine, and nearly all of them were very enthusiastic (see for example this review and this one). For the benefit of other readers, I pass on the endorsements of other BGGers, whose wargaming credentials imply that their opinions undoubtedly should carry more weight than my own:

"Starting subscription of the Battles magazine. No, it is a wargaming journal! ... Every page is professionally done ... Numerous articles and additional scenarios to the already popular tactical level games. Everything is excellent. Hats off to Luc Olivier." - Lawrence Hung
"The magazine which is easily the most beautiful wargame magazine I've ever seen. Full color throughout with lots of interesting articles on wargames." - Andrew Carlstrom
"This magazine screams quality! Apart from reviews and articles the magazine features scenarios, interviews, book reviews, a quiz with the chance to win a board wargame, and a lot of other good stuff too. I can only highly recommend this magazine. The price tag of 28€ might sounds steep, especially for our fellas from the USA, but the magazine is worth every single (euro)cent ! Even more, considering that you receive a full game with quality map and counters with it!." - Marc von Martial
"I found it to be worth every bit of currency it cost. There is a LOT of content in that magazine." - Martin Gallo
"The magazine is gorgeous and very interesting. Highly recommended for anyone interested in wargaming and easily worth the cost as long as {insert name of free game} is not completely, unredeemably broken. I would recommend the magazine to any wargamer without hesitation after seeing my first two issues arrive." - (newuser)
"Wow! Unlike previous similar magazines (S&T, AtO, Wargamer, etc.) that emphasize military history with minor references to simulations, be assured that Battles is a magazine about wargames -- reviews, analysis, scenarios, interviews, etc. All 132 pages is a cover to cover read that I thoroughly enjoyed. From Liberty Roads, series games, designer notes, Across 5 Aprils, to bonus scenarios, all good stuff!" - Ray Smith


Apparently I am not alone in my enthusiasm, and given the endorsements just cited, I think I'm in good company in recommending this magazine, despite my lack of qualifications. I trust that readers will take all these comments into consideration, including Iain's, and come to their own conclusions. Perhaps some other wargamers can chime in with some of their thoughts and impressions about the magazine - hearing from more hobbyists who've read the magazine and have experience with wargames can only be helpful and welcome.
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Martin Gallo
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I received my copy yesterday and while I have only had time to flip through it, it looks like another worthwhile issue. I have hopes to actually do more than skim the issue in the near future.

Ender, you should someday try a real wargame. Yes, some of them require work, effort and thought but they often reward equally well.
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Ray Smith
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Ender has very accurately described the content of the magazine, which I still fully endorse (and I didn't even receive a free copy!).

It is graphically beautiful, informative, and an all in all immersing read from cover to cover.

If you want something more on the enclosed games, check out each specific BGG game entry. IMO, the games in issues 2 & 3 have been equally excellent productions; just not my cup of tea subjectwise, so they're pushed down on my "need to play" list (which is waaaay too long).

Regardless of the game, I still look forward to every issue!
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T. Nomad
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Good story.
Gorgeous magazine: those guys know design.
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Tom Grant
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Quote:
I regret any lack of clarity on my part that may have led you or others to conclude that I was endorsing the game-play. For the record, let me state conclusively: I absolutely cannot comment on the game-play whatsoever! I'll leave that to those with expertise like yourself! In all likelihood, I'll never even play the game. My article was deliberately written in a light-hearted tone, from the perspective of a wargaming novice clearly wading into territory that is somewhat beyond his depth, and intended to be read somewhat tongue-in-cheek, with amusement - although I do stand by my enthusiasm for the magazine.


Then you'll love the box art reviews on the ASL podcast, The 2 Half Squads.

Ender, if this kind of article has any value, it's somewhere other than the reviews section. No one makes a wargame buying decision based on the production values alone.
 
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Aaron Silverman
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Kingdaddy wrote:
No one makes a wargame buying decision based on the production values alone.


Oh yes they do. Try following a few Consimworld threads on preorders. . .
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Martin Gallo
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Kingdaddy wrote:
Ender, if this kind of article has any value, it's somewhere other than the reviews section. No one makes a wargame buying decision based on the production values alone.


I know several who do. In fact that is the first thing they consider!
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Tom Grant
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martimer wrote:
Kingdaddy wrote:
Ender, if this kind of article has any value, it's somewhere other than the reviews section. No one makes a wargame buying decision based on the production values alone.


I know several who do. In fact that is the first thing they consider!


And the shelf life of bad games with shiny production values is...?
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Terry Maciw
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Hi,

Just like to add my comments. I bought issue two of this magazine. I didn't play 'Arras' the wargame as it's not a period I'm interested in. I bought the mag on the spur of the moment, and must say I spent weeks reading it. Especially about games that I might not really consider. I thought it was great.
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Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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I tend more towards Iain K's opinion. Both the magazine and the game are beautifully produced and I wish Olivier and the team behind it the best of luck. I like the fact that it is a magazine about the game part of wargaming; a historical magazine with a game included wouldn't interest me as if I want to know more about a subject I'd rather pick up a book by an established historian.

Nevertheless, I remain slightly cautious about Battles Magazine. A Week in Hell has some nice design decisions; for example, I think it's quite clever how the 1/2 inch NVA counters not only record up to four different steps of strength and step-loss, but also two types of US control. However, I wonder how often I will want to play the game; I've play three full games so far, each time with rules errors (though fewer each play--and I accept full responsibility for them; I'm not blaming the rules) and managed a marginal victory each time, despite the fact that in all three games I was heavily handicapping myself through one of my mistakes. Still, I think I've got the strategy worked out, and it seems to me that every game will pretty much play out the same way: first the MACV platoon has to get control of the zones to allow the convoy in; then you make a bid for the zones over the bridge; then, once you've got your full complement of companies, you push to control Hue. If one of these goes wrong, you don't neccessarily have to make different choices: your task remains the same, you just have less time now to do it.

Some of the magazine's content was also quite interesting and some of the reviews were good. However, much of it did not seem noticeably different to or better than anything I can read online. Many reviews followed the "components, rules, opinion" format that you often see on BGG and I found myself skimming thorugh the rules part (especially if the rules are available online) to get to the opinions. Personally, I would like to see articles that somehow set it apart from reviews here, or on Fortress Ameritrash or Boardgame News. Perhaps comparative reviews, looking at two or more games on the same subject, or something on the development of wargaming, or more on how well a wargame reflects its subject--maybe more like the Charles Vasey article at the end, but a little more detailed (and better proof read...).

I haven't given up on battles magazine and I plan to buy the next one as well because I'm interested in the subject of the wargame. However, I can't really see myself getting a subscription at this stage; I'll keep an eye out on what's coming up, but will have to be really interested in the game in order to make the buy.
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Mark Crane
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EndersGame wrote:
Perhaps some other wargamers can chime in with some of their thoughts and impressions about the magazine - hearing from more hobbyists who've read the magazine and have experience with wargames can only be helpful and welcome.


Missed #1
Bought number #2
Bought number #3
I'm seriously thinking about a subscription.
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Marc von Martial
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craniac wrote:


Hahaha, exactly
 
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Marc von Martial
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You know guys, I always love these kind of discussions.

"Battles Magazine" is exactly what our hobby needs. A glitz quality magazine with shorter reviews good enough to draw in fresh blood (which is only to the good of everybody) to the hobby and to entertain those that are already in. If the magazine does not cater the grognards then so be it, there is other mags for that target group too. I for myself think that Olivier nailed it here.

Personally I am not interested anymore in 20 page reviews you need a BA in history for, printed black and white on 80g ink jet paper (exaggeration intended, for those that lack the humor ).

Everbody in our little niche should be happy and rejoice that he actually had the guts to start something new and refreshing in this segment. I wish him success with the magazine, bought all three issues so far and will subscribe starting with issue 4.
This mag simply rocks.
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Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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Marc, the reviews are longer than those you'll find on BGG. I can't see the magazine drawing in new blood: why would someone who's new to wargames drop 30€ on a magazine for reviews when they can get the same content online for free? The whole "cranky grognard" thing is missing the point; the magazine is totally aimed at existing grognards who are interested in reviews of 9-hour games from small publishers (such as Ici, c'est la France! The Algerian War of Independence 1954-62 ). This isn't a bad thing, but to characterise any one who isn't completely bowled over by Battles Magazine as an old-fashioned grognard, cranky or not, is to misunderstand the content and target audience of the magazine entirely.

(edited for overuse of the word "totally")
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Marc von Martial
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Well, fresh blood does not go online on BGG to read reviews. There is a quite a few folks that don't even know BGG or that wargamers hang around there too.

But fresh blood will see the visually attractive magazine at a friends house or a trade show or stumble over an online review and possibly get interested in wargaming by the short reviews that are presented in a well designed and visually pleasant way. I for one will give the mag to friends that I feel could get interested in wargaming, cause I think that these kind of reviews combined with a well design and attractive product photos (for most of the part) will motivate them to actually read it. Eventually they might be ordering the next edition.

One should not underestimate the impact that this has on prospective fans of the hobby. I know to some guys glitz is something that is not needed in magazines (or games for that matter). But to other, more visually oriented people it is a selling point and a key factor in drawing their interest on the matter to begin with. Quite a few of my buddies only got interest in wargames because GMT (as an example) started to shell out visually well designed games.

Quote:
the magazine is totally aimed at existing grognards who are interested in reviews of 9-hour games from small publishers


Well, in the wargame biz there are only, with a tiny few exceptions, small publishers. The mag is not aimed at "grognards" it is aimed at wargamers in general. Hence the more light reviews that to die hard grognards might lack some meat. I certainly see that point. But to me the more light reviews are a good thing.

Quote:
but to characterise any one who isn't completely bowled over by Battles Magazine as an old-fashioned grognard, cranky or not, is to misunderstand the content and target audience of the magazine entirely.


That is not my intention.
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Marcks wrote:
Well, fresh blood does not go online on BGG to read reviews [...] But fresh blood will see the visually attractive magazine at a friends house or a trade show or stumble over an online review and possibly get interested in wargaming by the short reviews that are presented in a well designed and visually pleasant way...


I'm sure there are a number of Eurogamers who came to wargames via BGG. And if you're not on BGG or Consimworld, how are you going to find out about the magazine? All the other ways you suggest imply some involvment in a form of gaming already or friendship with someone who is into wargaming (in the latter case, convincing your friend to play a good quality gateway wargame is probably going to be more effective than giving them a magazine). Either way, I think it's more likely for new wargamers to read BGG than a wargames magazine.

Marcks wrote:
...the short reviews that are presented in a well designed and visually pleasant way.


They're not short reviews; they're really quite detailed. I've got nothing against the visual design, which is great.

Marcks wrote:
The mag is not aimed at "grognards" it is aimed at wargamers in general.


Look at the games reviewed; there is only one gateway game (Richard III) and many of the rest are long games on obscure topics; not a bad thing, but it doesn't strike me as something really aimed at beginner wargamers.

Marcks wrote:
Hence the more light reviews that to die hard grognards might lack some meat. I certainly see that point. But to me the more light reviews are a good thing.


You've missed my point: it's not that the reviews lack meat; it's that they are not substantially different from the reviews I can read online for free. If I'm paying 30€ for something, I want it to be different.

Marcks wrote:
Salo sila wrote:
but to characterise any one who isn't completely bowled over by Battles Magazine as an old-fashioned grognard, cranky or not, is to misunderstand the content and target audience of the magazine entirely.


That is not my intention.


It's certainly how you came across; in fact you do it in that very same post (cf. "die-hard grognards" above).

I'm not saying it's a bad magazine; I'm not wishing it ill-will, or hoping that it will fail--quite the opposite. Indeed, I would have thought criticism would be welcomed as a means of sounding out the target audience and seeing how the magazine can develop. The real question, though, for eveyone is "why should I buy it?" and the aim of my post was to explain why I don't find the content interesting enough to put in a subscription; if you're happy, that's fine (even though I do think you're overestimating its ability to pull in new wargamers).
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Well, I did not say "new wargamers" I said "prospective wargamers" which is a big difference. If somebody is a new wargamer he got already dragged in, and will most possibly be on BGG or CSW sooner or later.

Quote:
And if you're not on BGG or Consimworld, how are you going to find out about the magazine? All the other ways you suggest imply some involvment in a form of gaming already or friendship with someone who is into wargaming (in the latter case, convincing your friend to play a good quality gateway wargame is probably going to be more effective than giving them a magazine).


Right, that is all I said. Unless Olivier manages to get the mag to the newsstands it is about showing and recommending it to friends and people that show a chance of becoming interested in wargames. And word of mouth will certainly not hurt.

Quote:
Look at the games reviewed; there is only one gateway game (Richard III) and many of the rest are long games on obscure topics; not a bad thing, but it doesn't strike me as something really aimed at beginner wargamers.


I said it is aimed at wargamers in general. I did not say it is solely aimed at beginners nor solely aimed at grognards.

Quote:
it's not that the reviews lack meat


Well to me they do not lack meat, they are good as they are. I said that I can see that they lack meat to others, that expect more detailed and thorough reviews.

Quote:
It's certainly how you came across; in fact you do it in that very same post (cf. "die-hard grognards" above).


"Die-hard grognard" or "die-hard fan" is not a negative term, at least not in my book.

Quote:
Indeed, I would have thought criticism would be welcomed as a means of sounding out the target audience and seeing how the magazine can develop.


Sure why not? I'm not affiliated to the mag, I just like it. Having worked together with Olivier in the past I'm very sure he appreciates criticism


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Interesting discussion. I was quoted by Ender above (he also contacted me pointing out this thread) and have decided that I do want to comment here.

citizen k wrote:

Let's be realistic, no one in their right mind pays thirty dollars plus shipping for a magazine. We pay for the game and the magazine is a bonus.


I disagree slightly: there is no "bonus" when getting a magazine like this. It is crucial for me to have both the game and magazine components to justify the cost. I wouldn't subscribe to either component separately... although that is just my opinion.

Battles is exactly what I was looking for from a magazine: something fun to pick up and read, focused on gaming first and history second, and not limited to a specific topic/time period/company. It bears repeating that the production values are wonderful. Since most of my magazine time is spent browsing and skimming articles (or bits of articles) that look appealing, this definitely matters to me. The production values also make a difference when showing the magazine to any non-wargamer friends. My choice in hobbies looks slightly less crazy when they see the great layout and photos. If that makes me shallow, then so be it.

Battles has also done a good job with the games included. Are they well polished, fully developed gems? No. But in my limited experience, games included with other magazines are rarely popular or particularly well-designed. If you only care about getting a top-notch game, then spending money on a stand-alone game is clearly a better choice. (On the upside, games from Battles magazine have received strong support at ConSimWorld with errata or clarifications issues as necessary. So the games certainly are playable.) Additionally, being short and relatively light makes it easier to either push counters around solo or convince a friend to try.

One reasonable complaint is that not everyone is looking for a magazine. Some prefer (free!) digital content to having something physical they can carry with them, and there is nothing wrong with that. But as someone who was actively looking for a wargaming magazine subscription, Battles was consistently strong in the categories that mattered most to me. This doesn't mean others will love the magazine, but I am thrilled with what my subscription provides and would continue subscribing if the current quality is maintained.

Battles magazine still gets my full recommendation... now if only issue #3 would arrive in my mailbox already!



One last note: I'm hardly a "credible" wargamer. I stick to entry-level games or CDGs or block games, with occasional dips into ASLSK if an experienced player is available to help keep the game moving. I also prefer abstraction and playability over simulation value, and like to finish my games the same day they are started unless playing online. "Credible" gamers probably have wider experiences and aspirations.
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Salo Sila,
Thanks for the feedback. The positive and negative critics are always useful, when argumented, like yours.

Some thoughts and answers

Salo sila wrote:
. Personally, I would like to see articles that somehow set it apart from reviews here, or on Fortress Ameritrash or Boardgame News. Perhaps comparative reviews, looking at two or more games on the same subject, or something on the development of wargaming, or more on how well a wargame reflects its subject-


All good ideas. Battles is "borning", we're trying to progress, really, on every new issue. We'll have something like the compratrative you talk in our next issue btw, and other stuff are coming.
BTW, if you feel it, write something for us, you're welcome !

Salo sila wrote:
why would someone who's new to wargames drop 30€ on a magazine for reviews when they can get the same content online for free?


I disagree on this.

1 - IMHO, our reviews are generally better that what you can find on the net. I can be wrong but that's what I think. I can find on the net very few paper as good as the TCS article by Jean (#1), the NWBM analysis by Nels (#1), the history vs Cards analysis in the AMDT review (#2), the THOS review by David (#2), the 1805 review by david again (#3), or even the short review of Bulge 20 by Matt (#3). Read also the serie of articles from Elias about Small Wargames. etc. Seriously, they are really good articles. The authors took a lot of time to think about them, to write them etc... And you can read it. Most (the big big most) of the net reviewers on BGG or CSW (me included) will not spend so much time for a review or an OOTTW on a forum. At least, I can't read it, and I spend a lot of time on the net.

2) When you go on BGG for example, you are looking for something you have in mind. It's a free market. When you open a magazine, we propose you something, a whole package, something you maybe don't know about before. That a big difference between the net and a magazine. We have a lot of testimonies on our CSW Forum from people saying that they did know nothing about a game we talked about in the magazine, and that they bought it or played it since.

I understand that the free net is a big concurrence (at least), but I really (and, well, humbly, believe me) think that we bring something different, something more.

Olivier
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