Return Home

Explore History Through Tiny Cardboard Counters with Against the Odds Magazine

Thursday, May 16th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Against-the-Odds-magazine-35-smallI discovered something fascinating while I was trolling eBay for vintage fantasy board games this morning: Against the Odds, a magazine published out of Southeastern, PA, which includes a complete game in each issue.

Now, it’s true that I get a little giddy around magazines. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have published one for a decade. And I also love games. So magazines that include games? I had to go have a bit of a lie down.

Against the Odds is a quarterly periodical of history and simulation, and it looks remarkably similar to the great gaming magazines published by SPI, Strategy & Tactics and Ares, both of which included a game with each issue. Ares, published between 1980 and 1984, was one of my all-time favorite magazines. In that short span it brought over a dozen highly regarded games into the world, including Barbarian Kings, Star Trader, Nightmare House, The High Crusade (based on the Poul Anderson novel), Citadel of Blood, and many others. All 17 issues are currently available as free PDFs at Archive.org.

Against the Odds doesn’t have the same focus on fantasy and science fiction as Ares, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fascinating. The first issue I came across, #35 (December 2011), includes the game Boudicca: The Warrior Queen, featuring an historical clash between the Roman Empire and a loose collection of Celtic tribes on the barbaric island of Britannia in 61 A.D.

She meant “trouble” for the Roman occupation of Britain. After her revolt succeeded in burning three major towns and slaughtering tens of thousands of Roman citizens and allies, the Emperor Nero seriously considered whether this distant land was worth the cost to stay. Governor G.S. Paulinus’ remarkable victory – perhaps at the location later known as “Watling Street” – reaffirmed Roman domination. They would remain in Britain for over 300 more years.

But it might have been different. Can you as the leader of a various cluster of independent Celtic tribes cause enough trouble and loss to make the Romans leave your island? Can you as the commander of scattered Roman troops snuff out the rebellion more effectively than Paulinus? Will London burn or be saved? These are your challenges in ATO issue #35, Boudicca: The Warrior Queen by Richard Berg.

Boudicca is an upgrade of West End Games’ Druid, originally published in 1984. They appear to have kept the high quality components, including the counters and the beautiful map, and added streamlined rules, more sophisticated possibilities and “what ifs?”, and updated gameplay with a card-based mechanic.

You can compare the games at Board Game Geek, where the components of both are photographed in detail. Druid is examined here, and Boudicca here.

I haven’t played the original Druid, but I’m a big fan of West End Games, including their Star Trek titles, Bug-Eyed Monsters, and especially Junta and Eric Goldberg’s masterpiece, Tales of the Arabian Nights. They did quality work.

Issue 35 of Against the Odds also includes articles on General Pershing and the AEF, Combat Results without Die Rolls, the Revolt Against Roman Rule in Britain, and other cool stuff, which seems to fit it with its historical focus. The website claims:

Against the Odds magazine investigates military history from a broad perspective. The economic, political, religious and social aspects of warfare are examined in concert with events on the battlefield.

Each issue of ATO features:

  • Informative and insightful articles showcasing the history behind events, plus regular columns by noted game designers providing insight on the latest trends and events.
  • A challenging, fun wargame that drops the players into truly desperate situations but gives them multiple options to alter history.
  • Professionally printed graphics, complete with large playing map and 200 to 360 die cut playing pieces.

Here’s a color snapshot of the Table of Contents for the issue.

Boudicca: The Warrior Queen include a full color 22″x34″ maps, 240 full color counters, and 36 operation and action cards. The rules are 10 pages, and playing time is 3 to 4 hours.

Against the Odds is edited by Andy Nunez and published by LPS, Inc. It appears four times per year, yearly subscriptions are $80 in the US. Individual issues are priced at $34.95; issue 35 is around 56 pages.

18 Comments »

  1. I didn’t know about Ares, but definitely need to check it out. To bad the issues at archive org don’t seem to include the maps or scans of the tokens of the games…

    Comment by Oliver.Klages - May 16, 2013 5:17 pm

  2. Oliver,

    For many years there was a publisher selling a complete ARES archive on CD on eBay – including high-res scans of the maps and counters.

    I just went to check for the link now, and it seems to be no longer listed on eBay (or anywhere else). If I can find it, I’ll post it here.

    Comment by John ONeill - May 16, 2013 5:35 pm

  3. That would be great. Ares #1 starts with a game called “World killer”. I would love to get my hands on a game with that title.

    And while we are on the subject on small cheapish games, is the new Ogre Pocket edition out yet?

    Comment by Oliver.Klages - May 16, 2013 5:50 pm

  4. I just checked ebay and found the collection you mentioned. It is a DVD containing Ares magazine and Heroes magazine.

    Comment by Oliver.Klages - May 16, 2013 5:54 pm

  5. And i forgot the link
    http://www.ebay.de/itm/Ares-and-Heroes-Magazine-Collection-Reference-DVD-Science-Fi-Fantasy-Wargame-/370798662087?pt=Games_US&hash=item56555291c7

    About 4 hours, 8 DVDs left.

    Comment by Oliver.Klages - May 16, 2013 5:55 pm

  6. > That would be great. Ares #1 starts with a game called “World killer”. I would love to get my hands on a game with that title.

    I think SPI eventually published a boxed edition. You can buy the original Ares mag for under $20 on eBay – though it may take some patience. I have an eBay Watch List, and stray Ares issues come up every few days. I just bought three this week. Just ignore the ones posted for more than $50. :)

    > And while we are on the subject on small cheapish games, is the new Ogre Pocket edition out yet?

    Um, what? The only upcoming OGRE release I know about is the massive Steve Jackson Games Kickstarter. Is there another one?

    Comment by John ONeill - May 16, 2013 5:59 pm

  7. > I just checked ebay and found the collection you mentioned. It is a DVD containing Ares magazine and Heroes magazine.

    I knew it was out there! What’s the link?

    Comment by John ONeill - May 16, 2013 5:59 pm

  8. Yes, sold in a little plastic back :-)

    http://www.sjgames.com/ogre/products/pocketogre/

    Part of the kickstarter stretch goals i think.

    Comment by Oliver.Klages - May 16, 2013 6:03 pm

  9. Oliver,

    > And i forgot the link

    Thanks! Sorry, your comment took a while to show up — WordPress asks me to approve any comments that include a URL as an anti-spam measure.

    That’s definitely the one I remember. And look, it includes a marvelous collage of every issue of Ares ever published, even the two special issues that included no games:

    http://www.blackgate.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Ares-magazine.jpg

    Comment by John ONeill - May 16, 2013 6:23 pm

  10. If you are looking for wargame magazines, there is also the awesome Battles magazine, published on an irregular schedule in France.
    http://www.battlesmagazine.com/eshop/index.php

    I am in particular waiting for issue 9.

    Comment by JLB - May 16, 2013 6:24 pm

  11. > Yes, sold in a little plastic back

    Holy cats, you weren’t kidding.

    This is pretty amazing. It looks just like the Metagaming version I bought 30 years ago. And it has the same price — $2.95!

    Boy, I really want one of these.

    Comment by John ONeill - May 16, 2013 6:25 pm

  12. >And look, it includes a marvelous collage of every issue of Ares ever published, even the two special issues that included no games

    I just love those old painted covers. I could browse the pulp section of coverbrowser.com all day…

    >Boy, I really want one of these.
    Yeah, me too. I hope they start showing up on ebay or amazon,otherwise i need to start badgering one of my buddies in the USA to buy and sent me one or two to germany.

    Comment by Oliver.Klages - May 16, 2013 6:30 pm

  13. > If you are looking for wargame magazines, there is also the awesome Battles magazine, published on an irregular schedule in France.

    Jon,

    Thanks — this looks terrific!

    What’s special about issue #9?

    Comment by John ONeill - May 16, 2013 6:33 pm

  14. > Yeah, me too. I hope they start showing up on ebay or amazon

    Oliver,

    I’m sure they will eventually. Hopefully not as expensive collector’s items!

    Comment by John ONeill - May 16, 2013 6:34 pm

  15. > If you are looking for wargame magazines, there is also the awesome Battles magazine, published on an irregular schedule in France.

    Dammit, i just spend four days in Paris and could have bought this, had i known about it. Oh well, at least i found a whole street of comic book shops there. Heaven compared to the single one in my hometown… which is not bad and the owner goes out of his way to get me even the more far out stuff. But… a whole street…

    Comment by Oliver.Klages - May 16, 2013 6:42 pm

  16. I still have the wonderful comics I brought back from the year I lived in Belgium (late 1992 to 1993) — all in French.

    France is a mecca for comics, and no mistake.

    Comment by John ONeill - May 16, 2013 7:09 pm

  17. […] Explore History Through Tiny Cardboard Counters With Against the Odds Magazine […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » The Top 50 Black Gate Blog Posts in May - June 30, 2013 11:13 pm

  18. […] Kings was originally published in Ares #3. I’ve mentioned Ares before — it was the short-lived (and today, highly collectible) magazine published by […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » Unleash your inner Conan with Barbarian Kings - August 10, 2013 3:28 pm


Comments RSS  |  TrackBack URI

 

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Black Gate Home
This site © 2018 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.