A Look at what Happened to the
Postal Games Hobby in 1982
By Mike Benyon
In a sense 1982 was quite an average year in the history of the postal games hobby.
Several zines folded, and a similar number of zines were started up. Many players dropped
out of the hobby, while many new players joined it. However, the hobby that enters 1983 is
significantly different to the one that entered 1982...
January started the year off badly with news of the folds of Voice in the Wilderness
and Duel Purpose. Both of these were highly popular zines and news of their departure form
the scene came as quite a surprise, especially in the case of Voice. However, both editors
were praised for the responsible manner in which they handed their games over to other
zines. January also saw the birth of the "Rusty Bolts" awards, which were
announced by Ken Bain in NMR!, and included such interesting categories as "The Chris
Tringham Upstart of the Year Award," the "Peter Doubleday Award for the Least
Welcome New Subscriber" and the "John Piggott Award for the Most Bigoted
Editor." Pete Birks announced the results of his record poll in Greatest Hits, with
"Vienna" by Ultravox being voted as 1981's top single and "Face Value"
from Phil Collins the top album.
February was also a bad month for the hobby, with the announcement of three more folds,
though two of these were not entirely unexpected. The major fold of the month was that of
Filibuster, which came both as a surprise and a disappointment. However, once again its
editors were praised for the highly responsible manner in which the games were re-housed,
this time to Geoff Challinger's Home of the Brave. The two folds which came as less of a
surprise were Stephen Addison's Sodd's Law and Steve Plater's The Orient Express. Richard
Gooch also expressed his disgust that the MidCon Committee had established themselves as
the hobby hierarchy and that there was no chance that anyone else would hold a major
convention in the future. This was a potentially explosive issue but fortunately little
else was said after Richard's initial outburst and a reply from Pete Birks in Greatest
Hits. Ken Bain also announced the results of the Rusty Bolts with, most notably, Terry
Hill voted as Least Welcome Subscriber, Simon Billenness voted as Upstart of the Year and
Richard Scott voted as Most Unpleasantly Bigoted Editor.
March saw a considerable lull in hobby activity, with little to report on. However, it
did see the introduction of two new publications Stick the Knife In and Twenty Years On.
Stick was notable for the fact that it was produced by fifteen year old Nigel McCabe whose
command of the English language was not exactly impeccable. Not surprisingly it did not
receive a particularly good welcome. Twenty Years On was produced by Upstart of the Year,
Simon Billenness, and was to replace Compendium as the magazine listing all zines that run
games by post. March also saw the first criticism of RYODA in NMR
April was another quiet month, though it did see the birth of Zine to be Believed from
Nick Kinzett and Shaun Derrick. This zine was established to re-house the Sodd's Law
games, and deservedly gained a warm welcome into the hobby. April also saw Toucon, an
event organised by Peter Calcraft, and incorporating the Universities Diplomacy
Tournament, which was established as an annual event to complement the National Diplomacy
Championship held at MidCon in the winter.
In May the first issue of En Gardian from Richard Clyne appeared, which despite an
appalling sense of layout, showed quite a bit of promise. This was also the month when
Don't Shoot Me re-emerged after a five month break. This came as quite a shock to the rest
of the hobby, even though its editor had promised all along that the zine would be back.
The most notable occurrence in May, though, was John Marsden's attack on zines containing
bad language, which sparked off a major row with a certain degree of offence being taken
by both sides of the debate. The argument much resembled the usual chatzine versus
gameszine debate, with the likes of David Watts and John Marsden trying to argue that bad
language should be kept out of zines, while the likes of Pete Tamlyn and Glover Rogerson
replying in no uncertain terms that they would print whatever they wanted in their zines.
Poor old Marsden then took offence in customary fashion by almost folding, and then saying
that he would no longer print news on hobby matters.
In June Richard Hucknall announced that he was running down Fall of Eagles, which while
not being particularly surprising, was a disappointment. However, Mike Sharpe redressed
the balance rather by producing the first issue of Panzerkreuser. This was of particular
interest to me, being that Mike joined the hobby through the CGS, and played one of his
first games in DSM. The language debate continued with almost all editors getting in on
July was a big month in the hobby with the results of the Zine Poll. It had seemed
almost inevitable that Greatest Hits would make it three in a row, but it was Ode that
emerged as a clear winner to the apparent surprise of all and sundry. Greatest Hits was
second, Fall of Eagles third, The Acolyte fourth and NMR! fifth. Despite being ineligible
for the poll, DSM was placed twenty-ninth equal, just three places from the bottom. The
other big news was the resurrection of Mad Policy, which had folded about five years
before, o issue 73. Richard Walkerdine's return was greeted with deserving glee. July saw
the return to the fold of Shellshock and Megalomania. Chris Tringham announced in Meg that
he would print an issue as and when he felt he had anything to say. Obviously Mr. Tringham
felt little need to say anything of significance in the last year.
In August the results of the Gladys Awards were announced. Most notably, Greatest Hits
won the Best Zine category - Ode wasn't even nominated!; Richard Hucknall was voted the
best Diplomacy GM, Pete Tamlyn the best Non-Diplomacy GM, DibDibDib the best letter column
and Ode was voted best for hobby news. Geoff Challinger was rather confused that Home of
the Brave won both the Most Improved Zine and the Best New Zine categories, though he was
no doubt rather pleased at the same time. Finally, Fall of Eagles was voted Best Diplomacy
Zine, The Acolyte Best Games Zine, and Ripping Yarns Best Looking Zine. August was also
notable for a staggering sixty page issue 100 of Greatest Hits with many articles
reproduced from zines throughout the 1970's, but also much original stuff from the
irrepressible Birks. It also contained the results of his all-time zine poll, with John
Piggott's Ethil the Frog just pipping Dolchstoss, with Birks's own Greatest Hits in third
September saw the first "general release" issue from Dave Thomas, who had
made a name for himself in 1981 by achieving 0 as Austria on both days of that year's
National Diplomacy Championship, and still only came two-thirds of the way down in the
official ratings thanks to Paul Simpkins's scoring system. Church Mouse has since
established itself as a popular zine. However, this was offset by the shock news of the
fold of Snorwood Gazette, Keith Loveys much under-rated gameszine. Keith Loveys decided
that he simply did not have the time to produce an efficient monthly games service, though
he has continued to run most of the games that he was actually running in SG. Colin Bruce
finally handed over his post as editor of Puppet Theatre News to Gary Piper, who also took
the opportunity to re-name the zine The Road Goes Ever On. September also saw the start of
the Novice Package debate, with Martin "Printer Chappie" Le Fevre of RYODA
proposing to advertise the zines he printed in libraries and other public places in the
North East and also in The Gamer. There was also a scathing attack on the Novice Package
itself from Malcolm Smith, who was so disgusted with the contents that he said he planned
to publish his own version.
The Novice Package debate continued. Simon Billenness wrote a very forthright letter to
NMR! Stating what he thought was wrong with the package, and Malcolm Smith did much the
same. It was made clear by both that they thought Diplomacy took up far too much of the
package, and that other popular games should be given a far greater coverage. The whole
question of whether this is the postal games or the postal Diplomacy hobby came to the
fore again. October saw first issues of Foiled Again from Alec Winton and Take That You
Fiend from Kevin Warne and John Harrington.
In November the second MidCon to be held at the Royal Angus Hotel in Birmingham was
held, together with the National Diplomacy Championship. It was generally agreed that this
was an overwhelming success, and I, for one, enjoyed the event even more than last year.
The National Diplomacy Championships were won by an unknown 17 year-old, Nick Carter, who
had just started his first postal game in Mad Policy. The MidCon quiz was won by the
Blackmail team of Mike Woodhouse, Colin Gamble and Richard Walkerdine, while Paul Simpkins
won the Les Pimley award for services to the hobby. MidCon also saw the conclusion of the
Novice Package debate with Paul Simpkins handing the job over to John Wilman (editor) and
Martin Le Fevre (printer). Paul will, however, continue to send out packages until the
present batch runs out.
And so to the last month of the year. Three new zines were born, all of which look like
a welcome addition to the hobby. Lokasenna is the zine of Brian Dolton, who has for a long
time produced a FRP zine called Death's Dance Taken Slowly. Certa Cito from John Chisholm
is notable for the fact that it is intended to be a three-week deadline zine, while War
and Peace from Derek Caws is far more in the traditional purist Diplomacy line. This month
also saw the eventual departure of Stick The Knife In, which was admirably rescued by
Martin Le Fevre and Willy Haughan under the banner of a relaunched Howay the Lads. Willy
thus follows Richard Walkerdine by becoming the second old-time editor to re-start in
1982. Finally, Peter Northcott announced the results of a rather disappointing Player
Poll, which suffered from the fact that only 22 people voted, and only four actually voted
for the winner, Mike Close.
And so, to general impressions of the year. I can't help thinking that despite all the
arguments, folds and new zines, that this has been a rather quiet year in the hobby.
Forgive me if I am wrong, but I get the impression that there is nobody in the hobby with
"big" ideas, with the result that the hobby has tended to drift in no particular
fashion. I am not saying that this is a bad thing; in fact in many ways it is good that we
don't have a Richard Sharp to lead us all by the collar. But in a sense it does disappoint
me that there doesn't seem to be a focal point in the hobby.
Reprinted from Don't Shoot Me No.10