20 October 2021

Review: Wyrd Science #2

tl:dr; get this to know what's on, what's coming, what's good and who is up to interesting things in tabletop gaming.

I backed the kickstarter for this "magazine about RPGs, wargames, board games & the culture around them..." and it just arrived. Est. delivery was August so ~ 6 weeks late during the shipping apocalypse that is 2021 is pretty good going.

freshly arrived copy, cover art by Mat Pringle

I really like the chunky art-house feel of these magazines "thick un-coated stock" and I have a deep fondness for the particular printing smell of whatever set up they are using. I backed the first one, liked it enough that I came back for the second and am pleased to continue doing so. I think this magazine sits in a niche that seems to be a peculiarly East-side of the Atlantic one - where it assumes an omniverous gamer that is interested in lots of things. Compare this to Knock! which is the OSR blog-o-sphere in your hand or Arcadia which is monthly chunks of gameable content, this is covering more than just game reviews and actual plays but also the people putting it all together and what is coming down the pipeline. I see shadows of old Arcane magazine in here but that may be just me.

What is in these 112 pages?
21 pages of news and info
70 pages of feature articles
13 pages of reviews of wargames, boardgames, RPGS, film and TV
1 page Timeslip - a shot from 1976 when Games Workshop encountered Gygax

For the first section, highlights were a playthrough of 1000 year old vampire journaling game; an interview with Connor Alexander on how Coyote and Crow is doing after the huge success of its kickstarter; an interview with Jon Petersen, author of the Elusive Shift, talking about he got into gaming; and a lookahead into how the shipping snarl-up is going to affect kickstarters in general in the future. All interesting pieces, does what it says on the tin of getting us up to speed on what is going on around tabletop gaming at the moment.

The next section is the features section, longer form pieces with the core article being on the D&D BX 40th anniversary. Other highlights for me were the interview with Kit Walsh on the genesis of Thirsty Sword Lesbians; an update from Cubicle 7's Emmet Byrne on Soulbound and the new Warhammer universe; the impact of social media on miniature painting; Ellen Knight talking to 4 women who have carved a niche in tabletop; the new generation of indie wargames and Diogo Nogueira talking about the RPGLATAM scene.

One of the best things in this issue is the two sets of comparisons done - first on 'if you like old school dungeon crawlers, you might be interested in...' flagging a range that spans from Knock! magazine to OSE to Mothership. Second is the 'so you want to get into indie wargames?' spread which includes Forbidden Psalm (linked to Mork Borg), Space Wierdos and Blaster. I am a big fan of people distilling out comparisons for others coming new to use as a guide, kudos!

For me this cross pollination between the different nooks of tabletop gaming is fantastic - particularly I love the weird and inspirational miniatures that come out of the new wargaming places and am amazed at how painting techniques like object source lighting seem to propagate like wildfire across social media. I neither play wargames nor paint the minis but I love to see it out there. There is something special about an actual mini someone has customised and painted up to inspire gaming ideas. I think mini-painters and skirmish wargamers having an ear to the settings and lore of the concept artists and RPG homebrewers and vice versa can only be a good thing.

The reviews section gives us mostly concise reviews, varying from page to quarter page, covering a lot of ground at high level and in a useful way. Highlights for this were getting a view on the new Dune game from Modiphus, OSE advanced fantasty, the Dee Sanction and Oath. I was also interested to read about The Watch, inspired by Pratchetts books, which I had not been keen on and was unaware had arrived viewable to mortals. I will take the 'shame if this were not to be checked out on its own merits' verdict from the review and probably go have a look.

To close we get a photo of the olden times - 1976 - when Steve Jackson & Ian Livingston went to the US to meet Gary Gygax and talk distribution. There are a surprising bunch of known faces in that photo, truly the world is the size of a stamp.

Overall this is a great overview of what is going on (outside WotC), seeing the trends and being aware of what is coming. This is not giving you gameable content to take directly to your table, instead it is trying to tell you what is out there and - most usefully - compare the options to help you decide what is for you.

If you want to get a copy - they can be ordered from Wyrd Sciences online shop. For another review, check out Boardgamer. For a view on issue #1, see Reviews from Ryleh.

cheery little envelope stamp, creator unclear

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