by Toby Harris
By Stephen Agar
is a difficult zine to sort out because it is difficult to work out which part
of it is which. The format is A5
reduced photocopying on aesthetically interesting lime-green and pink paper,
issue 40 going to 56 pages. However,
a plethora of sub-zines means that there is a variety of type styles and type
sizes. As a guideline, in terms of
quantity (taking into account margins and typesize) 3 pages of Smodnoc = 1 page
of Spring Offensive.
welcome Toby's practice of incorporating all sub-zines into a single booklet, it
may be a devil for a newcomer to work out what is what, but at least it means
that the zine as a whole has some sort of identity.
A glance through Smodnoc No.40 reveals that Toby is carrying no less than
7 sub-zines namely:
(Punters, Designer Dice, Mornington Crescent, United - 4 pages all games
So let us subtract all the above from Smodnoc to work out the Toby Harris
content. I reckon that that must
mean that Toby is running Stratego, Cluedo, Fair Means Or Foul, Hare &
Tortoise, Othello, £10 Puzzle, 8 Regular Diplomacy games and 2 variants - 26
pages in total being 14 game reports, 3 pages of zine admin and 9 pages of chat
it may appear to be pretty silly to start a zine review with a quantitative (as
opposed to a qualitative) analysis of Smodnoc.
However, I wanted you to understand the flavour of this zine and an
analysis of the contents seemed the best way to do it.
There is no point in describing a zine as just multi-games and leaving it
must be a master of organisation to keep on top of this zine, the headaches of
relying on others to produce copy on time etc. and then assemble it must be
considerable. The sub-zine editors
can each just type out a page of edit-woffle and a few game reports and leave it
a that whereas Toby has to provide enough non-games material to keep the
interest of the general subscriber or trader.
Toby even has four different coloured stickers indicating your credit
status and whether or not you have a gamestart that issue!
Smodnoc is without doubt a formidable administrative achievement.
have no wish to start a debate on the merits of various games when played
postally - live and let live and all that.
The subject has been done to death over the years anyway. Personally, I would only play a game postally if (a) there
were practical reasons preventing me from playing it face-to-face, (b) there was
an element of player interaction to justify playing a game over a year instead
of an hour and (c) there was absolutely no GM interference at all in the
substance of the game - I hate a chance element in a game being replicated by
the GM (Eg. the GM threw a six and therefore I lose etc. - how do I know the GM
really threw a six? How do I know
that the GM bothered to throw a dice at all?).
However, I am obviously a killjoy and should not be taken seriously.
I do find it puzzling that many of the non-Diplomacy games carried in
Smodnoc are often simple games, whereas I would have expected the postal games
hobby to be mainly concerned with comlex games for which it is difficult to find
you want to play any of the above games then Smodnoc must be the zine for you.
Even if your interest is just Diplomacy, Smodnoc does offer a reliable
and efficient service, albeit running to five week deadlines, although unless
you are of a multi-games disposition much of the zine will be of little
interest. If you are a Diplomacy
player who is also into Hare & Tortoise, 1830, Railway Rivals and Soccer
simulations then Smodnoc is a must.
Diplomacy games and variants carry a picture of the Diplomacy board at the
relevant moment, which is usually readable.
I do find some of Toby's abbreviations in his Diplomacy game reports to
be a little misleading - for example if I see F(Nwy) S Russian F(GOB)-Swe in a
game report I would tend to assume that Russia did not actually order F(GOB)-Swe.
Not so. The dashed underline
apparently means that the support was cut.
However, when Toby really is faced with the situation of one player
supporting another player's non-existent moves he also uses a dashed underline
and then puts "((no such order))" in brackets.
In my book a cut support is a failed move and should be underlined.
Dashed underlines should be reserved for illegal or impossible moves.
I also found his use of "S" to means "stands" a bit
puzzling at first - "A(Den) S "
looks like an unfinished order to me. Many
other zines use "Std." to avoid such ambiguity.
Still, this really is nit-picking - as long as the players understand
what is going on, that is all that matters.
has waiting lists open for:
Hare & Tortoise, Fair Means Or Foul, 1830, 1853, Acquire, Railway Rivals,
Fictionary Dictionary, Sopwith, United, Mornington Crescent, Designer Dice,
Nosh, Punters, Splash, Civilisation, Shogi, Gunboat Diplomacy and regular
from Spring Offensive 1