Y Ddraig Goch (Review)

Edited by Iain Bowen

by Stephen Agar

Y Ddraig Goch is the Oscar Wilde of the postal Diplomacy hobby being witty, camp, pompous and smug. Iain is the past master of the put-down, an expert at irony, the self-appointed inventor of disparaging hobby nick-names and a renowned hobby bĂȘte noir of the first order.  Which all in all makes for an interesting, if occasional, read. 

YDdG is A5 reduced photocopy using Gill Sans, Courier and Palatino Italic fonts, though the combination of typefaces may have more to do with Iain’s fondness for casually dropping the name of various fonts and software packages in conversation in order to make sure that we are all reminded of the expensive hardware and software that he has at his disposal.  Average length is 24-28 A5 pages, carrying 3 games of Diplomacy, 1 variant, 2 games of Railway Rivals and games of Empire of the Middle Ages and Government.  Iain’s waiting lists do seem to be talking some time to fill on the Diplomacy front.  I get the impression that the GMing is erratic, in YDdG #66  Iain was apologising for all the GMing errors he was making, while in issue #67 out of the three games of Diplomacy he is running there were errors in two games and the third held over because Iain lost the orders.  Maybe he is just going through a rather prolonged bad patch. 

A few issues ago I thought that Y Ddraig Goch may fold, as Iain was muttering all sorts of dark thoughts about how little time he had to devote to the hobby and his diminishing satisfaction in putting the zine together, but such shadows seem to have disappeared over the summer. 

Iain trades fairly widely both in the UK and abroad so YDdG is quite informative when it comes to hobby news and gossip, though the longish gap between every appearance of YDdG sometimes means that things are a little stale.  Iain walks a tightrope in that he likes to appear to be a hobby elder-statesman who is above all this games nonsense and only reads Diplomacy articles out of a sense of duty, yet occasionally his guard slips and he finds himself enjoying being immersed in a lot of “wank and toss” (his words – I would never be so uncouth) in YDdG over how the title of World Diplomacy Convention should rotate through the various national cons throughout the world over the next few years.  Who cares?  It would not bother me if we had as many WDC’s as boxing has world championships for the difference it would make. 

Issue 50 undoubtedly raised Iain’s profile in the hobby to new heights, having as it did a photograph of two naked men fondling each other on the cover.  Presumably this is why Iain proclaims in every issue of YDdG that it is only for sale to those who are 18 and over.  Regrettably there has been very little sleaze in recent issues, so I hope that Iain comes up with something for issue #69 to restore his increasingly flaccid reputation for the outrageous.  Of course Iain’s big secret is that he is really rather prudish about sex, despite his exhibitionism. 

On the basis of the last seven issues I am a little at a loss to explain why YDdG should have come second in last year’s Zine Poll (which is of course run by Iain, which must help), though that may be more of a reflection on the competition.  It is certainly a good and entertaining zine, I wouldn’t deny that, but is everything else really that much worse? 

Reprinted from Spring Offensive 6