Age of Reason
by Andrew Moss and Garry Lea
By Stephen Agar
first glance Age Of Reason does look different to most other Diplomacy zines; in
terms of appearance and format only the Small Furry Creatures Press and Electric
Monk come close. A4 booklet (A3
folded in half, but unfortunately not stapled) and DTP presentation.
Andrew and Garry are proud of the zine's appearance, though occasionally
I do think they can make the zine a little fussy through over-use of the
you delve deeper into Age Of Reason you find that despite the occasional dodgy
grammar it is innovative as far as the content is concerned.
Alongside the usual letters column, hobby news and Diplomacy articles,
there is a regular fake "news" cover story developed from some
dramatic event or other from one of the Diplomacy games they are running, eg.
Russia moves to Silesia in S01. Andrew
then writes the cover story in a fake newspaper style describing how the
incompetence of the German army has allowed thousands or Russian troops to cross
over the border etc. This is all
very well if you don't mind someone commenting on your games (and I for one
don't mind at all, and I was the Germany in question), but some players would be
very unhappy. My problem with this
regular feature is that I no longer find it entertaining.
The usual story is someone has stabbed or has not stabbed someone else,
so however talented Andrew may be when it comes to inventing news columns, there
is not much scope for real invention or humour. Once you have told a similar
story over and over again, the joke does wear a little thin.
innovation in Age Of Reason is the fact that Andrew bases Diplomacy strategy
articles on the events occurring in the Diplomacy games he is currently running.
Thus, if you play in Age Of Reason your every move could be commented on
in a serious examination of your game (as opposed to the frivolous cover story
referred to above). This wouldn't
bother me either, but would it bother you?
I sympathise over the desire to write Diplomacy strategy articles.
I foolishly included a strategy article in issue 1 and have had to keep
writing them due to public demand (I kid you not). Like Spring Offensive, Age Of Reason has a high proportion of
newcomers to the hobby who have not seen it all before and do find such articles
it is true that Andrew has recruited many newcomers to the hobby due to
advertisements in wargames magazines, do not believe the circulation figure
printed on the front page of Age of Reason.
Garry Lea's idea of a circulation figure is how many copies he prints,
not how many paying subscribers he has. The
real circulation figure for Age Of Reason is just under 100, but given that
Andrew only has a handful of trades, that is really a very high figure by
today's standards. Andrew has
worked hard to increase Age Of Reason's circulation and the consequent meteoric
rise may surprise many editors given Age Of Reason's disappointing 33rd out of
34 in the Zine Poll.
most recent Mission From God rather misleadingly compared Age of Reason to
Smodnoc. This comparison is all the
more puzzling given that Smodnoc is a multi-games zine in the finest tradition
of Chimaera, while Age of Reason is an unabashed Diplomacy purist zine, which is
only now opening lists for Diplomacy variants almost a year after the zine
started publication. If you want to
play Railway Rivals, Sopwith or even postal Snakes & Ladders, this is not
the zine for you.
of Reason does have some very good qualities in that it is reliable and offers a
first class service to players. These
days, that is a virtue not to be sniffed at.
It is, slowly but surely, maturing into a more interesting zine because
it is developing a character. Until
recently, Andrew and Garry were almost anonymous souls whose personality you
could only guess at. Now that they
are putting more of themselves into the zine, Age of Reason is becoming more
I think I have struck up a reasonably good friendship with Andrew, this review
would not be honest if I did not say what I do not like about Age Of Reason.
First and foremost, I do not like zines that relegate their games into
extra photocopied sheets taking them out of the zine proper, even if Andrew does
print a quick summary of what is happening in the zine one move in arrears.
Games are the reason why zines exist, if the games are not in the zine
then why bother, you might a well just circulate the photocopied sheets and have
done with it. It is difficult as a
player to identify with a zine if your game is not physically in it.
I didn't like it when Dolchstoß went down this route in the 70's and I
still don't like it. It is not a pleasant sensation to open a zine and have lots
of pieces of paper fall out of it (no doubt the promised variant sub-zine will
mean even more bits of paper - sigh). The
last issue of Age Of Reason even included a model form for players to write
their orders on. This is
bureaucratic madness and I will not use it on principle (even if I could
also don't like the various attempts to initiate discussion on politics or
current events just for the sake of it. Rather
than write political editorials of some length or using their Soapbox column to
goad their readers into responding, I think more subtle methods for encouraging
feedback are often more successful. If
the political comment from Garry came across as being deeply felt rather than
contrived I would be more sympathetic.
I didn't like the 'O'level history articles, but they appear to have disappeared
by whatever standards it is reasonable to use, Age Of Reason is getting better
all the time, even if moaning minnies like me would prefer it if they edited
their content more severely to make space for all their Diplomacy games.
Age Of Reason appears to be running no less than 11 regular games and a
variant, which is larger than most. With
the promised variant sub-zine things will get bigger still.
Andrew Moss is a nice guy. Everyone
says so, so it must be true. Even I
think that he is a nice guy. Garry
Lea is also quite nice. Age Of
Reason is a nice zine. Really nice.
Then why has Age Of Reason received such a lukewarm response from the
hobby in general? Puzzles me.
Reprinted from Spring Offensive 3