Zine Poll 1995 – Top Ten

by Stephen Agar

1.  On The Game (94.521 Points) 

A very reliable neatly presented multi-games zine which was only launched in mid-1994. A5 booklet size, good quality copying, my only criticism would be that it is a rather light on reading material, so if you don’t want to play one of the games on offer the zine becomes far less attractive. Paul Cockayne comes over as being very witty and the letter column can be entertaining, but although all the usual hobby news is dutifully reported, there is very little comment on what the rest of the hobby is up to (zine reviews etc.). Still, when all’s said and done this is, by common consent, the best zine in the hobby which appeals to the broadest cross-section of readers. 

2.  Spring Offensive (86.593 Points)

 A reliable zine, in the sense that it turns up more or less on time, which has been around for 3 1/2 years now – well presented, with a lot of general hobby comment and a distinct Diplomacy bias. This zine has particular interest for those interested in variants and the postal Diplomacy zine sub-culture. It is one of the few zines to run Diplomacy tactics articles and features on hobby history, although it is perhaps a little games heavy. The largest circulation in the hobby by a considerable extent. 

3.  Take That You Fiend! (82.797 Points) 

Another zine noted for its reliability and, good presentation. John Harrington and Kevin Warne are good writers with a wry sense of humour, and the zine successfully houses a rather eclectic selection of postal games actually developed for the postal medium. No Diplomacy content at all and has never been known to run a game of Diplomacy. 

4.  Dolchstoß (77.973 Points)

 A zine which now seems as if it will go on forever. Richard Sharp used to be at the very centre of the hobby during Dolchstoß’s early days, but now he just does his own thing, putting out a very reliable Diplomacy zine with a healthy letter column. While many Diplomacy players of my generation will continue to be in awe of Richard for what he achieved in the 70’s, Dolchstoß doesn’t have the broad hobby appeal that it once did. Richard’s control of the Diplomacy hobby stats still gives him an insight into the broader hobby, even if he chooses not to promote his views in the way he used to. One of only two zines centred on Diplomacy to make the top six of the Diplomacy Zine Poll. A sign of the times? 

5.  Greatest Hits (75.894 Points)

 Not so much a games zine as a personal Pete Birks zine. No games are run in Greatest Hits and although Pete does review some of the zines he receives and does feature some interesting articles on Hobby history, the days of this being a Diplomacy zine are now long since gone. Rather than discussions on the merits of the Juggernaut, you are more likely to find an article on British cooking habits or reviews of the books that Pete has read recently. Entertaining. 

6.  Hopscotch (74.252 Points)

 Another zine to do well which doesn’t run Diplomacy at all, though it does provide a very efficient all round games service. A previous Diplomacy Zine Poll winner back in 198?(ad it didn’t run Diplomacy then, either), Hopscotch has withstood the test of time and if you are interested in playing non-Diplomacy games by post and aren’t too bothered about general hobby chat (of which there is very little). The zine is famous for it’s cramped layout, which looks rather old fashioned compared to On The Game or Cut & Thrust. 

7.  The Ides of March (74.100 Points)

 The highest new entry, despite its relentless efficiency and copious quantities of reading material, its position suffered because of its pure Diplomacy focus (something which is a handicap in Diplomacy Zine Poll terms) and Chris Palm’s insistence of winding up his subscribers through his own brand of moral Conservatism. Personally, I think that this zine is arguably the best Diplomacy zine in the UK at the moment, though if Chris’s growth continues at such a remarkable rate then the zine does risk collapsing under its own weight. 

8.  SNOT (69.493 Points)

 What can one say about SNOT which hasn’t already been said? The postal Diplomacy hobby’s alternative to Viz is alive and well. James writes with great charm and directness and the letter column can sparkle on occasion. SNOT undoubtedly has a Diplomacy focus, although James is far from being s Dip purist. To a non-player like myself, the zine seems frequent enough, though the quality of the layout is variable. Undoubtedly a zine with character, though Mary Whitehouse would probably not approve.  

9.  A Little Original Sin (67.933 Points)

 SNOT grew out of Vick Hall’s summer break from producing ALOS, so they must have a substantial subscriber overlap and the results of this poll suggest that readers find it hard to choose between them. Unlike SNOT, Vick is usually very reserved in his opinions, and comes across as quite mild mannered compared to the outrageous views of some of his subscribers (well, Alan Frost, anyway). A little variable in terms of layout quality, Vick’s cut and paste technique for long letters has mixed success. Not quite as quick as some would like, but still not that bad. Basically a Diplomacy zine, though there is a bit of a multi-games feel to it. I like the artwork. 

10.  Cut & Thrust (64.971 Points)

 Strange that in a Zine Poll which was won by On The Game that Cut & Thrust isn’t higher, in that I would have thought that they would have a similar subscriber base with similar interests. C&T is, like On The Game, very reliable, well presented and multi-games in approach. Perhaps C&T is a little more serious that OTG, and certainly C&T doesn’t have a letter column to speak of, but I wouldn’t have thought there was that much between them. 

Reprinted from Spring Offensive 39