Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ares Magazine: Issue #8

Issue #8 of Ares made its debut in May 1981, featuring another cover by John Pierard, this one featuring a depiction of Odin, Thor, and Vidar as they prepare to do battle on the Plain of Vigrid. It's not a particularly good illustration in my opinion, looking more than a little stiff and goofy, but perhaps I'm insufficiently appreciative of its virtues. Much better, I think, is Pierard's interior art accompanying the first article, "Ragnarok, The Mythic Story of the Twilight of the Gods" by Susan Schwartz, which provides "historical background" for this issue's integral wargame. Also by Schwartz is another installment of "Facts for Fantasy," along with more of John Boardman's "Science for Science Fiction."

Justin Leites offers up a game variant, "Pandora's Link," which shows how to connect the two games, Voyage of the Pandora with Wreck of the Pandora. Given the similarity of the two games in terms of rules and subject matter, this makes good sense. David Ritchie provides another installment of "DragonNotes" for DragonQuest. Speaking for myself, I find these articles do little to enthuse me about trying to grasp the rules of DQ, as they seem even more persnickety than those of Chivalry & Sorcery, which is saying something. John Butterfield previews SPI's SF RPG, Universe, through another short "Designer's Notes" article. This one includes reference to the game's planetary generation system, which is one of my favorite parts of the game and something I seriously considered swiping for Thousand Suns.

Ragnarok: The Twilight of the Gods is a wargame by Darryl Esakof and Redmond Simonsen (of course!) dealing with the ultimate battle between the Aesir gods and the giants led by the traitorous Loki. Its map represents the Plain of Vigrid, the Norse Megiddo, where the two forces will engage in warfare. Two things stand out about Ragnarok. First, there's the unique powers of the various "heroes" on each side. For example, Thor can throw thunderbolts and his hammer, Mjolnir, has special traits as well. Second, the Aesir are more personally powerful than the giants, but fewer in number. The trick for the giant player is to try to get as many giants into play as quickly as possible. However, giants can enter Asgard only by means of Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, and the more giants brought across it at a time, the greater the chance the bridge will collapse and thus cut off the giants from their fellows.

As is so often the case, just before SPI releases a product of its own, there's a review of its competitors. Since issue #9 will feature Universe's starship combat rules, Steve List gives reviews for eight different starship combat games already on the market. These are: Starfall, Dark Stars, Time Lag, Warp War, Starfire, Starfire II, Starfleet Battles, and Starfleet Battles Expansion #1. Though a lot of the reviews are negative, they seem evenhanded to me rather than snarky hatchet jobs I've come to expect in Ares. Eric Goldberg also reviews Dark Stars as well as Quirks and these reviews are also uncharacteristically positive and sedate. The same can be said of Christopher John's movie reviews of Scanners, Hangar 18, and Starblazers and Greg Costikyan's many book reviews. I can't help but wonder if this seeming shift will last and if it was the result of an editorial mandate based on reader feedback.


  1. Going by the cover, who would have thought the Norse Gods were so camp! :)

  2. It were the 80's my friend, we were all camp.

  3. "It's not a particularly good illustration in my opinion, looking more
    than a little stiff and goofy, but perhaps I'm insufficiently
    appreciative of its virtues."

    No, you're right and it's awful

  4. They made it to #8! I'm assuming the editiorial change must be a result of people losing interest in hobby magazines that do nothing but pretty much s*** on everything in the hobby. *Crazy.*

  5. You are missing all the subtleties in that cover. It is an entrancing blend of the elegant lines of Thundarr the Barbarian sweatshop animation with the anatomical accuracy of Rob Leifeld during a massive stroke. It makes it look like the Twilight of the Gods was brought on by a interruption in the supply of Geritol.

  6. They're goofy-looking, but I actually find that kind of charming. It's a different style than you'd normally see, that's certain.

  7. Plain of Vigrid? Neat! that is Vigr (meaning: to battle) so to Battle on the Plane of Battle?