Issue #17 is not dated. Instead, it's called simply "Final Issue," though, since issue #16 is listed as "Winter 1983" and the first installment of "the Ares Section" in Dragon is April 1984, it's safe to assume that it appeared sometime between January and April 1984. The cover art is by Mitchell O'Connell, whose artwork I so strongly associate with Pacesetter's Star Ace RPG. The interior layout of the issue looks even more like what we'd eventually see in the pages of Dragon, which only makes sense. For me, seeing it in a full-length magazine is somewhat thrilling, given my fondness for the Ares Section and my wish back in the day that Dragon expanded its coverage of science fiction even further.
The issue begins with an editorial explaining why Ares is ceasing publication:
Production costs (in terms of time, energy, and money), compared to the actual readership, were major factors; the circulation was not high enough to justify the workload in making it go.This is hardly surprising, given the relative unpopularity of science fiction compared to fantasy in the gaming world. Likewise, the handling of TSR's takeover of SPI, while not done maliciously, was bungled, alienating a great many of the people who might otherwise have supported Ares. At the same time, I do think TSR genuinely tried to make Ares successful, even if some of the changes they made probably also alienated some of its existing subscriber base.
In terms of actual content, issue #17 includes an article called "Of Writers, Editors, and Horror Stories" by David J. Schow, in which he talks about his experiences as freelance writer. It's a fine piece for what it is, though it's an odd one to include in the final issue of Ares. Meanwhile, James M. Ward provides "Fun Among the Mutants," which discusses games and pastimes of the cryptic alliances of Gamma World. "Sword in the Dirt" is a bit of short fiction by Henry Melton, while Steve Winter's "Pancake Alley" provides guidelines for rally racing in Car Wars. "A Friendly Game of Hoople" is a second -- and lengthier -- piece of fiction (by Timothy Robert Sullivan).
The significant portion of issue #17 is taken up by "Mongoose & Cobra," an adventure for Universe written by Nick Karp. The adventure takes place in the Chara system, on the planet Gardenia, which has recently been menaced by space pirate attacks, which the characters are hired to deal with. For its length, I can't say I found "Mongoose & Cobra" particularly inspiring. Like so much material for Universe, there are a lot of good ideas here but they're presented in the driest, most unexciting way possible. William Tracy offers "The Zamra," which describes a racial weapon of the Yazirians from Star Frontiers. Carl Smith pens "Fire at Will!," which describes methods of using miniatures to play Knight Hawks. Marvant Duhon's "The Federation Strikes Back!" is an expansion to Universe's starship construction and combat rules.
"Sword and Sorcery in Supergame" is an odd article. Written by Jay Hartlove, it provides rules and advice on adapting Supergame to the fantasy genre. Supergame is apparently a superhero RPG, but I've never heard of it. I find it difficult to imagine that it had a very wide currency in 1984 either, so its inclusion here suggests that Ares had difficulty finding articles to publish in its pages. Rounding out the issue are a number of reviews of both books and games. Not included this time around is an integral game/simulation, making issue #17 different than all of its predecessors. I suspect that the cost a lot of the cost prohibitions that spelled the end of Ares stemmed from its integral games, so it's hardly a surprise to see it missing.
The story of Ares magazine becomes more interesting with each issue I read. It's quite clear that, ultimately, its demise was born in the great differences between the cultures, both corporate and consumer, of SPI and TSR. Even under the best of circumstances, it seems unlikely that the periodical would survive its takeover by TSR, which, as I've said repeatedly in this series, is a shame, since I think there was much potential in Ares.