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Wargames Illustrated at 300

October 26, 2012

Wargames Illustrated has celebrated reaching both its 300th issue and 25th anniversary with a super-sized issue. Having collected it regularly for at least half its run, I am glad it has kept going for so long and looks set to keep going for another 300, whilst maintaining its high standards.

Wargames Illustrated has long been my favourite gaming magazine and always my favourite wargaming magazine. In a sense, it is a surprise that this is so – given the clue in its title, being driven by its illustrations and photo-content, it would be easy to assume that it would be mainly about entertainment value, full of pretty pictures, but lacking in substance. But, that isn’t true – although the articles are always well illustrated, I have found that they are always extremely useful and informative. Its rivals never seem to fascinate or inform me in the same manner. If you have any interest in historical or modern wargaming (and the occasional alternate history and gothic horror), then this is a magazine that you should be reading.

The 300th issue is bumper-sized (which does mean an increased cover price) with the theme of “last stands and against the odds” – a can see where they’re coming from (thriving against the seeming odds), yet last stands seems unintentionally pessimistic for an anniversary issue!

There are over 25 articles in this issue, ranging across time and even, in one instance, into an alternate timeline where Britain has been invaded by Nazis intent on stealing a prize pig (well, the High Command is intent on conquest, but this particular scenario involves stealing a prize pig – yes, it’s as silly as it sounds and yet absolutely wonderful!), including some non-scenario articles. Most of the articles are entirely self-contained, with only one being the first part of a longer article and a couple referring the reader to the magazine’s website for further information (a trend that, whilst useful for providing additional titbits that didn’t fit in the issue, I find slightly irksome, although, if you are reading this review, it is unlikely you will find checking their website too great a difficulty!).

Some of the articles are somewhat predictable – Little Bighorn and Black Hawk Down – although still good pieces, nonetheless, but some are anything but obvious – for example, the brief clash between Britain and Zanzibar that was the shortest war in history. Although a little wearisome when multiple articles labour the same point, there is a good stab at making even doomed factions gameable (so, rather than a traditional stand-up fight, one side is ‘wins’ when it reaches its specific victory conditions, which might involve holding out for a set number of turns so that the rest of the army can arrive or escape, or achieving acts of glorious heroism).

Of the various articles, those that particularly entertained me were the Roman attack on the isle of Mona, a recreation of the raid recounted in Y Gododdin, the French Foreign Legion in Mexico and the gunboat diplomacy against Zanzibar, but there were none that I didn’t enjoy. An extremely interesting issue that was well worth reading!

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