Gallimaufry (Review)

by Stephen Agar

Steve would probably forgive me for saying that Gallimaufry has seemed a little depressed of late.  For the last couple of issues Steve has seemed rather dissatisfied with how Gallimaufry has been progressing, with circulation dropping to 34 subscribers and 11 trades.  That such an established and occasionally innovative zine should be so poorly supported is a great shame. 

Admittedly, Steve has had some problems due to his very hectic work schedule (and some ill health), but although such problems have sometime affected the length of Gallimaufry, they have not affected its frequency or its capacity to entertain.  You don’t get to issue 122 without having some staying power. 

Steve has been interested in variants since the year dot and is probably best known for designing the classic two-player diplomacy variant Intimate Diplomacy along with Adrien Baird.  Other inventions from Steve’s twisted mind include Timelords, Fall of Empires, Five Dynasties (a Chinese variant), Millenium, Beleriand, Dark Tower and numerous rule change variants.  Steve is the thinking man’s variant designer who often explores new concepts both for Diplomacy variants and new games.  Recent issues have seen articles on game design and Timelords tactics.  Sadly, probably because of Gallimaufry’s low circulation, Steve doesn’t always get the feedback from his subscribers that he needs to inspire him. 

Contrary to what some commentators have said, Gallimaufry is not in need of improvement, it is just in need of additional vitality.  Steve’s writing style is friendly, concise and witty as you would expect from someone who has been editing a zine for fifteen years on and off.  However, there’s no getting away from the fact that what Gallimaufry really needs is some new subscribers who want to play Diplomacy, are interested in the theory behind new games and variants and who will be willing to really participate in Gallimaufry and lift the zine’s spirit. 

I know that Richard Sharp and Steve Doubleday are two very different people and that DolchstoƟ and Gallimaufry are two different zines, but I still somehow feel that because the two zines use the same fonts, the same reduction, similar lay-out and neither use coloured paper, it is impossible not to end up making comparisons.  DolchstoƟ has a large circulation and mass feedback, which sometimes makes Gallimaufry look like the poorer relation.  Maybe it would help if the zines looked more distinct visually. 

I am conscious that Spring Offensive has an unusually large number of subscribers who don’t see any other zine.  That is a pity, because I think the hobby does become a lot more enjoyable when you see two or three zines.  If you are considering branching out (and I really would encourage you to do so) then take a look at Gallimaufry.  The zine is an undiscovered gem. 

At the moment Gallimaufry is running only 3 games of Diplomacy and one variant, though lists are open for Timelords (a hyperspace variant), Fall of Empire (an Alexandrine successor historical variant) and Scrabble, as well as good old-fashioned Diplomacy).  Write to Steve and ask for a sample copy and see what you think. 

Reprinted from Spring Offensive 4