Thursday, January 12, 2012
From issue #84 to issue #111 (July 1986), Ares was one of my favorite sections of Dragon, since I've always been more of a SF fan than a fantasy one. The section featured articles on games like Traveller and Star Trek and Space Opera, as well as Gamma World, Star Frontiers, and a host of superhero games, especially Marvel Super Heroes. Because sci-fi has always played second (or third) banana to fantasy, you'd have expected that the pool of articles would have been pretty shallow in Ares but that wasn't the case. In my opinion, the quality of the articles in this section was consistently high, higher even than that of the rest of Dragon (which is saying something). However, its appeal was definitely more limited, which is why I suspect it was eventually killed. Why devote some many pages of each issue to genres that are also-rans compared to fantasy, especially D&D's brand of fantasy?
To this day, though, when I look back on the years when I subscribed to Dragon, the Ares articles are among those that stick out most prominently in my mind. Its coverage of Gamma World, for example, was truly excellent and I used a number of its Traveller rules variants over the years. And of course Jeff Grubb's regular "The Marvel-Phile" column was invaluable if you were running a Marvel Super Heroes campaign (or even if you weren't and were just a fan of the comics). I've always thought it a pity that a non-fantasy-centric gaming mag never really gained any degree of prominence. GDW's Challenge, where my first published writings appeared, was a decent stab at such a thing, but it eventually folded, too, much to my disappointment. Like Ares, Challenge filled a hole in the hobby that needed filling. In my opinion, it still does.