Zine Poll Top Twenty 1992

by Stephen Agar

1. Dolchstoß
2. Y Ddraig Goch
4. Spring Offensive
5. Take That You Fiend
6. C’est Magnifique
7. Age of Reason
8. Bloodstock
9. A Little Original Sin
10. Electric Monk
11. Greatest Hits
12. Cut & Thrust
13. Arfle Barfle Gloop
14. Borealis
15. Mark Nelson Experience
16. Smodnoc
17. Sidewalk
18. Ode
19. Realpolitik
20. Small Furry Creatures Press 

Straight in at No.4 

With this zine you will find the full results of the 1992 Zine Poll (including a copy of the infamous preference matrix) in the form of a special issue of Hobby News and an article on the Zine Poll that Iain sent me to examine at your leisure.  What can I say?  Thank you very much all of you who took the trouble to vote.  No less than 76 people voted for Spring Offensive, almost 50% more than the next zine, which is very impressive.  Admittedly, Spring Offensive does have the largest circulation of any current UK Diplomacy zine (and the most number of games and players) which must help when it comes to mobilising a large number of votes. 

There can be no doubt that however you look at it Dolchstoß was a clear winner in the 1992 Zine Poll and Richard Sharp deserves the warmest of congratulations.  Well done Richard, if I was wearing a hat I would take it off to you.  Richard’s continuing success is due to his long established reliability in knocking the zine out every month come hell or hard disc crash.  Of course, I also congratulate both Iain Bowen for coming second two years running with Y Ddraig Goch and William Whyte for managing third place with NERTZ. 

As you can see Spring Offensive came a very creditable fourth, which (to be honest) pleases me immensely.  Interestingly, Spring Offensive defeated both Y Ddraig Goch and NERTZ quite clearly on the direct preferences of those who see both zines, but came behind them both overall.  Fair enough, an upstart like me is more than satisfied with fourth place.  It does occur to me that if I had voted for Spring Offensive myself (which I did not) I could have pipped William at the post for third place, but that is not meant in any way to knock William’s achievement.  I can honestly say that I could never put together a zine like NERTZ. 

Despite being very happy with my showing in the Zine Poll, I feel I should say that I was disappointed when Iain revealed at the York Hobbymeet that those attending the pre-Christmas London Hobbymeet had deliberately conspired to vote Spring Offensive down because they feared I might win if they did not.  Do people really dislike me that much?  And if so, why? 

The results don’t contain many surprises (except possibly Electric Monk’s fall from grace), but some results are (in my opinion) completely unfair.  First, Gallimaufry (which I put top of my list) came 24th out of 32.  When Iain read this out at the Hobbymeet there were cries of “Shame!” with which I wholeheartedly concur.  Second, Smodnoc should be far higher than 16th and Ode should be far higher than 18th (both top ten at least).  Furthermore, given the frequency with which The Laughing Roundhead has appeared it seems unjust that Duncan should come 29 while Borealis comes 14th.  Finally,  Springboard came bottom and in all justice it shouldn’t have.  No doubt the Poll will fill editorials the length and breadth of the hobby for weeks to come, still while we are talking about the Zine Poll… 

One thing that the Zine Poll results suggest to me is that how well you do could be determined by which zines you trade with. Let me explain.  How well a zine does in the Zine Poll depends on the preference matrix.  Iain compares all the ballots that mention any given two zines and determines which one is generally preferred between them, the winner getting two points and both zines getting one point each in the event of a draw.  This is fine as far as it goes.  However, like it or not there is a division in the postal games hobby between the mainly Diplomacy zines and the multi-games zines.  Those who like Diplomacy tend to prefer the former, while those who want to play a wide variety of games not unreasonably tend to prefer the latter. 

Let me be honest.  As the editor of a purist Diplomacy zine with interests centred round Diplomacy and variants, I am probably going to give other purist Diplomacy zines such as Age of Reason better marks than multi-games zines such as Bloodstock or Hopscotch.  Although the latter are more impressive zines in many ways, they hold less interest for me.  This unfairly penalises Bloodstock and Hopscotch (though it could be mentioned that this is a DIPLOMACY Zine Poll after all).  On the other hand the editors of multi-games zines will inevitably prefer other multi-games zines to a purist Diplomacy zine like Spring Offensive.  Now you might think that this is not really important when you have a poll with 196 votes, but in fact the difference it makes is crucial because relatively few purist Diplomacy zines have a wide trading policy. 

On the preference matrix Spring Offensive lost to Dolchstoß, Cut & Thrust (by 3 votes), Bloodstock (by 4 votes), Take That You Fiend (by 2 votes), Shadowplay (by 2 votes) and The Small Furry Creatures Press (by 3 votes).  All, bar the poll winner Dolchstoß are multi-games zines, not Diplomacy zines.  By way of contrast another purist Diplomacy zine Age of Reason managed to beat all of the above except Dolchstoß and Take That You Fiend (and thus earn 8 preference matrix points denied to Spring Offensive).  Why did Age of Reason do so well against multi-games zines, while Spring Offensive fared so badly (given that Spring Offensive is rightly or wrongly far more popular than Age of Reason)?  The answer is easy: luckily for Andrew he doesn’t trade with any of them.  The only voters in a position to compare (say) Bloodstock with Age of Reason were those purist Diplomacy zine editors who do themselves trade widely (like me). 

If Spring Offensive had enjoyed the same voting pattern against multi-games zines as Age of Reason, then Spring Offensive would have come second only to Dolchstoß. 

The moral: if you run a purist Diplomacy zine and want to do well in the Zine Poll, only trade with other purist Diplomacy zines (and preferably those who themselves trade with multi-games zines).  The more multi-games editors who see your zine, the worse you will do against multi-games zines and thus you will do quite a lot worse in the Zine Poll overall.  Thus a wide trading policy will almost inevitably mean a worse result.  On the other hand, if you edit a multi-games zine and want to do well in the Zine Poll don’t trade with the editors of purist Diplomacy zines (like Spring Offensive), who will only end up putting you below Age of Reason anyway. 

Reprinted from Spring Offensive 10