Fantasy Wargaming, cover-to-cover (II)

Another small difference between editions of this book is that the acknowledgments (“Gramercy!”) and foreword (“Revelation”) are in different orders. I’ll just cover both here.

Revelation, (or, “in which all is revealed”)

This is signed by all the copyright holders, further emphasizing that this was a group effort and the product of a real gaming club playing its own game. It is dated 1981, and since these things are typically the last part of a book to be written, often at the publisher’s request, I’m going to guess we should really date the whole game to at least a couple years before the publication date. The only particular games mentioned by name in the book are Dungeons and Dragons (not Advanced) and Tunnels & Trolls, so this may well place the writing in the mid-late 1970s, say 1977-1979. It also begins with the claim that fantasy wargaming began in America “a few years ago.” Considering D&D was published in 1974, we again should think 1970s, not 1980s, when reading this book. Before the days of computerized layouts and all that, books often took several years between submission and print.

Anyway there is then a short comparison/contrast between fantasy and historical wargaming (and they say that the big advantage of fantasy is that all that is required is imagination, as opposed to the research and painting of masses of armies for historical!), and it is evident that the term “role playing game” has not really caught on, at least among the authors. All RPGs, apparently, will be generically referred to as “fantasy wargaming” with lowercase letters; the game presented here is variously refered to as FW or Fantasy Wargaming with capitals. They add, “It is probably safe to say that if you enjoyed reading The Lord of the Rings, you will also enjoy fantasy wargaming.”

They also note that of the possible RPG worlds, the most popular kind is simply what we might nowadays call the “megadungeon.” Much of the remainder of the foreword deals with why the authors were dissatisfied with megadungeons (lack of logic and motive, mainly) and how they developed their own rules.

They say they actually started out with Tunnels & Trolls, which was indeed very popular in England (from what I’ve seen in White Dwarf), and they mention their own adventure “Leigh Cliffs” which they promise to publish next. Evidently it was as a scenario involving mysterious goings-on in a village and the PCs all had secret motivations… it sounds a bit like a Braunstein or even a How to how a murder type game, but there are no details and I do not think it was ever really published. It would be fascinating to see.

They outright reject the “law vs. chaos” worldview of Moorcock that informs D&D, and instead tout their “unified field theory” (they in fact use this terminology!) that eliminates the need for spell lists. (Modern reviewers frequently complain that such a list is lacking!)

They also mention their wargame rules for mass battles, which are included herein, and which accommodate small miniatures collections by allowing the man:figure scale to be variable. This, they claim, is a major innovation. It is interesting that with all the interest nowadays in finding a mass battle system to lay on top of an RPG campaign, this was so central to their ideas. Of course, being a group of wargamers to begin with, this is hardly surprising.


Thank-yous to: Adrian Palmer, Pete Tamlyn, Andy Strangeways, Gail Smith, Kevin “Igor” Prior, Ian & Lawrence Heath, Bob Whittaker, “Teddy”, Maggie, Margaret, Verity, and David Stein.

Lawrence Heath, as mentioned earlier, did the chapter frontspieces.

Ian Heath is another relatively famous writer who wrote and illustrated many, many wargaming books, including several WRG “Armies & Enemies” books, a lot of Osprey books, and also an excellent series of army books for The Foundry, a miniatures company.  The wargaming roots are clearly deep, and here is another big name in the hobby who contributed.  Perhaps he did some of the unsigned illustrations, or helped with the army and weapons lists?

Pete Tamlyn wrote A green & pleasant land, a Call of Cthulhu sourcebook, and also contributed to or wrote several “Fighting fantasy” gamebooks.

Kevin Prior was another Cambridge student at that time.

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 5:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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