The Laughing Roundhead (Review)

Edited by Duncan Adams

by Stephen Agar

After five issues, I think I can now safely review The Laughing Roundhead without being seen to slag off a new zine.  The format was quite pleasing, A3 folded and stapled (unlike Age of Reason), but the layout… Let’s be honest, issue 1 was quite dreadful.  The basic idea behind the zine was supposed to be humour and of course what one person finds funny someone else may think banal and lavatorial (if they were being unduly generous).  It reminded me of Ferkin (does anyone else remember Ferkin?), though I don’t think that Mike Jervis even made it to 5 issues. 

But that was issue one.  Issue 2 saw Duncan reviewing the general negative reaction from other editors and showing unexpected stoicism by not getting too upset by it.  The zine improved in appearance, out went the large titles and mixed typefaces, in came two column layout, a short historical article (the start of a series on UK castles) and a more consistent style throughout the whole zine.  Hobby news was dotted around the zine and a nice spoof variant appeared.  Frank Slight’s subzine still continued to sink to depths as yet uncharted in Diplomacy fandom, but it had some of the charm of a perfectly dreadful ‘B’ movie, so it could be forgiven. 

Issue 3 saw Duncan well on the road to turning The Laughing Roundhead into a perfectly respectable and regular 4 week Diplomacy zine.  OK, there was still the odd “humorous” article, but the drift away from turds towards satire was welcome.  I enjoyed the article on Bamburgh castle, the scene of many of my school trips as a kid. 

The next issue arrived dead on time again.  The layout was more under control than ever, lots of hobby news and even an attack on Spring Offensive which showed that Duncan was still smarting from the fact that I insisted on referring to his zine as “The lAghing rounded” (in honour of all the typos).  Duncan, where’s your sense of humour?  At least he was nice enough to say that Spring Offensive contains “excellent articles on Diplomacy and variants.” 

At MidCon Duncan gave me issue 5, in which he reveals that he doesn’t like Spring Offensive because he would rather read about “Dip variants and other related articles”.  Err, yes.  Anyway, in the four months between issue 1 and issue 5, The Laughing Roundhead has matured from an ugly duckling into… quite an OK looking duck.  The zine is still full of contradictions (Duncan can spell “cunnilingus” but not “dyke”), but now that the clip art is fully under control, and there are more articles on things that interest Duncan (as opposed to things he thinks are funny) it is a zine that I think would be fine to play in, provided the style appeals.  Duncan has been successful at starting some fun games (Postal Snap, Fictionary Dictionary and Russian Roulette), but Diplomacy has been slow to fill. 

It is worth noting that despite the mixed press The Laughing Roundhead appears to be doing fairly well.  I would guess that quite a few of the subscribers are from among Duncan’s friends in the Sealed Knot, but the more the merrier.  All in all, I think that the hobby is the richer for having the likes of The Laughing Roundhead around.  Ask Duncan for a sample copy and decide for yourself. 

Reprinted from Spring Offensive 7