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Subject: Games & Puzzles, first issue rss

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Eamon Bloomfield
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Games and Puzzles was the brain child of Graeme Levin (he has designed a couple of games but he was primarily a businessman). He opened a shop in London called Games Centre, way ahead of his time. It certainly attracted me and, eventually, I ended up buying a shop from him and 'flying solo' you might say. Games & Puzzles might have been the first professional games magazine in the world, it definitely was in England.

In 1982 I wrote the following piece, which might interest some Geek readers. Most of the games mentioned are now on the Geek so you can look them up if it interests you. Don't forget, some of the references to 'still available' etc. relate to the situation in 1982, not now.

TEN YEARS AFTER
Christmas is a time for remembering acquaintances and times past, so I thought it might be appropriate to look back at the first edition of Games & Puzzles, which will be 10 years old in 1982
Games & Puzzles made it's debut in May 1972. The cover, all in varying shades of red, proudly announced 'Free competitions and cash prizes'. On the first inside page, Martin Chivers ( a famous footballer back then) urges us all to buy Big League, a football game from Chad Valley. "It really scores with me" beams Big Chiv.
The magazine proper starts on page 4 with a survey of football board games, written by Gerald Sinstadt, one of ITV's leading football commentators. He starts with Goal!, a card game by Pepys. Rather a nice little game, still on sale. As Gerald says "What fan has not at some time wished for the opportunity to sit in the chair of a famous manager?" Next he moves to Penalty (now marketed as Kick-Off by Milton Bradley) and I agree with the writer that this old game deserves much praise. Moving from card games, he mentions the Alan Ball sponsored effort, Soccerama, now defunct. Wembley next, and still produced today by H P Gibsons.Wembley was made at the time by Philmar, who also manufactured Soccerboss, an ambitious project but lacking something, I know not what. Our surveyor (is that the right word in this context?) next mentions a game I have never seen (but want) called Top Team, which evidently was highly complex, even by today's standards. Now we come to an old favourite of mine, World Soccer, also extinct. I have added several ideas to the basic game, mostly culled from Avalon Hill's Basketball Strategy. Gerald rounds off with Subbuteo which is superficially about football but more about being dextrous enough to flick little men around by hitting their weighted bottoms!
Reading on, Barbara Sim explains a gambling card game called Racing Demon, closely followed by a review of Contraband, an old classic, now called Smuggle and again marketed by Milton Bradley.
Next on the agenda was a review of the, then, controversial World Chess Championship, between Fischer and Spassky, setting the scene for the fireworks to follow. Was that hoo-hah really 10 years ago?
The president of the British Go Association, Francis Roads, tried hard but, unsuccessfully in my case, to persuade readers that Go was The game. The next expert was John Tunstill, starting a series on miniature wargaming. John now owns a highly specialised shop called Soldiers, in Kensington, next to the War Museum.
Gyles Brandreth started what seemed a never-ending series on Scrabble, together with the first Scrabble competition, with a first prize of 25 pounds, the top prize in the magazine. Incidentally, whilst mentioning Gyles Brandreth, I was sorry to see him associated with a group in the Sunday Express that looked at games this Christmas, and who described Hare and Tortoise as a game "suitable for three year olds and down".
Don Turnbull, now the lynch-pin behind TSR's push into the UK role-playing market, regaled readers with stories od postal Diplomacy, probably the first time the subject had been covered in any periodical other than a fanzine. On the next page, Don wore another hat, and launched a series on board wargaming. It shows how far this market has advanced. He mentions a few titles, some current, some out of print; Anzio, Stalingrad, Panzerblitz, Normandy, U.S.N., Kursk, Waterloo, 1914, Jutland, Centurion, Leipzig and Grenadier. He says "The range is, in fact, enormous - there are perhaps 50 or more titles commercially available." 50!!! There must be hundreds now and more by the week!
I suppose the first issue had to have an article on Monopoly, almost a sort of sign one should hang over any game shop door. I wonder though, was it neccessary to have two full pages "correctly interpreting" the rules?
One of the best parts of the magazine was the Readers' Games section. It kicked off with Fighting Sail, a game by Eric Solomon. This was fairly advanced for the time but needed rather too much preparation by the average reader. It was a simulation of Napoleonic naval warfare and very playable. Now that models of the period are fairly easy to obtain, it might be an idea to repeat the game so that it could reach a wider market.
Mr Brandreth popped up again, with a small piece on Odds and Ends, a sort of G & P ramblings. He mentioned Scrabble, of course, and Subbuteo (did they invest in the first issue?). A new party game was suggested, called Famous Last Words, where players invent the last words of famous people. As an example, a player came up with the Famous Last Words of the Fatted Calf. "I hear the young master has returned."
Continuing the party game theme, Alan Allkins introduced a game for six-year olds and the more sophisticated readers, called Predicaments. This was closely followed by the Classified Ads. alongside two letters praising the idea of the magazine. Incidentally, one of the letters was from Brian Wides, much later to become a director of the Games Centre business, although he has since left the firm.
The puzzles now begin with cash prizes from two to ten pounds. One of these featured John Arlott (a very famous cricket commentator), later to be prominent in a series of adverts for Graeme Levin's Card Cricket game.
And so that was that except for the advertisements. I briefly mentioned one, and there weren't many, this being the first issue. However some you might recognise. Waddingtons, with a full page, promoted their jigsaw 'A Young Lady Seated at a Virginal'. Wembley was there, "the most outstanding football game", the cost being 2.27 pounds including purchase tax, now about 7 pounds. Wargames Research Group pushed their various rule-books, at an average price of 50 pence each, one quarter of their current cost. Subbuteo, yet again, reared it's head, the entire range being available from 1.20 pounds to 2.70 pounds. Hamleys started a long association with the magazine, showing off their fine range of Piet Hein up-market games, one of which we still sell. It is called Roulette but is no relation to the gambling game. Sadly, Piet Hein have faded away to the Dutch Carey Street. Spears spent a lot of money promoting just one game, Multipuzzle. This advert was repeated in Issue 2, an expensive way to sell a game that cost only 55 pence. Finally, on the back page, were two adverts, one for The London Game, still going strong, and one for a complete Croquet set by Invicta, for a staggeringly low price of 5.25 pounds.
The prices of games then and now are the most striking thing one notices. In 1972 I noted the following (the prices in brackets are the average price today). All prices are in pounds; Feudal 5.95 (10.95), Philmar Go 2.40 (6.50), Regatta 5.95 (10.95), 4000 AD 2.60 (7.50), Acquire 5.95 (10.95), Diplomacy 2.89 (9.00), Penalty 70p (3.95), Monopoly 1.85 (6.95), Contraband 70p (3.95), Origins of WWII 4.00 (9.95), Formula 1 1.50 (6.95), Scrabble 2.05 (5.50), Anzio 4.50 (9.95) and Thinking Man's Golf 5.95 (9.95).
Makes you think, doesn't it?
The best advice this article can offer is that you come into the shop tomorrow and buy as many games as you can. Keep them in mint condition and you are on your way to quadrupling your investment in ten years!
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