In which Peter Shields is well and truly hammered by FRONTLINE readers on the offensive; tips for Chaos and Rebelstar and the great computer opponent debate are all dealt with in inimitable fashion. Roll up, roll up!

Dear Sean,
Putting anti-strategy game letters in your Forum is undoubtedly strategic itself because it promotes further letters of anger/defence etc! A few notes therefore follow which I feel are relevant to the pro/con debate.

First, I subscribe to CRASH only because it reviews and takes seriously strategy games.

I wonder how many people reading CRASH have ever actually had a chance to become involved with good strategy? Two player/multi player content is what the vast majority of computer games lack and I can therefore only determine that if CRASH readers aren’t unsociable or dull they simply haven’t yet experienced the far greater permutations and challenge that having a human opponent provides.

To anyone interested, the major value that a game such as Rebelstar Raiders provides, is that while the computer does what it is best at (the donkey work and representation), the fun stems from out-thinking another mind — far more unpredictable and emotional than even the best computer opponent can provide. Try bluffing the computer or expecting it to learn from your decisions! (One day?!!!)

A second major point in strategy/tactical games is that they have a far less linear plot than even the most flexible of adventures, because you tend to begin with the whole story and work within it.

There can be several paths to success in a single game. It must be admitted that there is not, at present, much good material around but I feel sure that we are only talking about a matter of time. (Well done Firebird!) Which brings me to the most important point. Who can say what the future of computer, (or other) games may be? The most certain fact is that the existing situation will change and today’s minority, (as was suggested last month), may yet become a majority. I think this is particularly relevant to the multi player aspect of game interaction.

Well done CRASH for staying at the front, and full marks for printing the articles about other game areas. It’s only a matter of time before they merge.

And to any who still doubt the wisdom of CRASH Towers, I predict when the computer game world changes, if they keep up this superb diverse approach, whatever happens, the magazine will be the leader. Don’t knock the games if you haven’t fully tried them. I bet Derek B didn’t play Chaos with some merry friends or he would have surely been won over by the fun.

Here’s to the future.
Andrew Hughman

PS Do search for RED SHIFT expanders.

Thank you for the kind words Andrew. I tend to hold similar views about the increasing importance of strategy games for whatever machine you care to mention. The multi-player aspect of games like these is never really considered fully but it is the element that most closely links the genre with conventional wargaming and also provides by far the most enjoyment when playing a game. As for RED SHIFT expanders, I’m looking, honest!

Dear Sean
Having read the FRONTLINE Forum in Issue 31, it appears that someone else has discovered the super fantasy wargame Chaos (G Havenhand’s letter). I feel that it is unique amongst wargames in its spectacular presentation and user-friendliness and it has not spared complexity at the cost of these. The small graphics are animated beautifully, and the sound is better than in most arcade games. The computer opponent handles its forces very skilfully, and it is a joy just to watch eight computer players slugging it out between themselves. Many more people could gain from Chaos, and so I urge you to give it a proper review in FRONTLINE and award it the Smash that it deserves.

Here are some tips for any new players: early players (the 1st or 2nd in a large game) have the attacking and spell casting initiative, but later ones can cast an illusion with less chance of following players disbelieving in it. Illusions are no good towards the end of the game, since wizards cast disbelief often, when they have few other spells. Protect your wizard with armour and a shield, or shadow form and a castle, since they are very weak at the start. The computer is very cautious with its wizards, and they do stay alive for a long time!

Also, try to get a magic weapon so you can attack undead creatures. If you have no magic weapon and wish to disengage combat with the undead, try pressing I for info and then enter a direction. You will attack that empty square and move onto it.

Magic woods allow you to get some new and powerful spells but remember they are not anybody’s property and any wizard can use one. Fire and Gooey Blob can win (or at least save) the game if they are used properly. Walls can be used to build fortresses to hide in, but can be flown over. A good way to start is to magic bolt another wizard, or to cast something next to him. Players 2 and 7 can have an attack on five players by casting a shadow wood tree next to them.

The final trick, discovered by a friend of mine, is how to get an undead wizard. If you can become undead, you stand a good chance of winning. You must raise a mount of some kind from the dead (a horse is easiest), then get on it. If your mount is slain or vengeanced then you yourself are undead!

I would also like to start a new argument in your pages. How important is the computer opponent anyway? Because of memory problems, if the opponent is not to be a dumbo then the game must have severe restrictions imposed upon it. A game which is ultra-complex would need about 20K of Artificial Intelligence for the computer to learn and improve enough to keep the challenge to a player. So how about some games which are for humans only, with the computer acting as a rule-book. It would make for more variety in play, would it not? I wish to write a wargame without a computer opponent, in order to make the game as big as possible. What do other readers think? I always find playing humans more fun anyway.
Anthony Bailey

Interesting plans for an interesting games. I plan to meet up with some old colleagues from Games Workshop very soon to discuss the availability of the game now that GW has pulled out of software production. If the situation warrants it, I’ll prepare a full review of the game immediately afterwards. One of the advantages of computer wargaming is the option to play solitaire. Perhaps the best option is the kind used in Rebelstar where one side of the tape has a single player option while the other is a two player game.

Dear Sean
I have got to reply to the stupid letter written by Peter Shields in last month’s issue. It annoys me so much that he can be so single minded, and it also surprises me that you should print such trash, or is it that you want to receive a whole lot of angry letters like this, then ask for a pay rise because of all the extra workload? (It’s a fair cop, guv — SM)

Peter Shields seems to want everything arranged for him and has no consideration for other people. Even humble me, who hardly ever reads any of your section or CRASH COURSE can see the usefulness of these to people who play wargames or are parents.

But while I’m here I might as well give you some aggro. Don’t worry, it’s only a bit of constructive criticism. The main reason for people disregarding your measly three or four pages is the appearance. It is too grey and drab. Why don’t you press for a colour page or two, or even a few colour photos. I mean, Derek Brewster did it, why not you?

For instance just take a quick look at last issue and compare the CRASH Smash Rebel Star with the CRASH Smash Bobby Bearing. You have to agree there is a big difference in colour and razzamatazz.

I think it’s time to revolt. The only way to get more readers is to attract them, and if the other slime eaters at the CRASH Tower say you don’t have enough readers to warrant spending a little cash, then either kick their feet away or stick your fingers up their noses.
Stuart Bedford

PS Do you really look like Don Johnston of Miami Vice as your portrait by Oli suggests?

Let’s make a deal shall we? I won’t mention clothes pegs again so long as everybody keeps their mouths shut about that drawing. I’ve been compared with everybody from Jesus Christ to Don Johnston, and I’m not paid that much! Okay?

As for the presentation of FRONTLINE, it always comes down to what space is available when I get games in to review. If a good game arrives while there’s colour space free, nobody minds me grabbing some of it. However; as was the case with Rebelstar, all the colour had gone. When this occurs, I have a choice. Do I hold the review for a month to ensure colour but risk being late reviewing the game, or do I get the review to you as fast as possible and make do with monochrome pages? I normally go for for the latter option. However, I do hope to brighten these pages over the next few months so stay tuned. The case for the defence rests.

Dear Sean
I can’t help but write to you complaining about the letter from a Mr Peter Shields of Manchester. He asked whether war/strategy games are worthy of their own regular column in CRASH. I say yes, very much so in fact. I’d rather have a specialised person who knows his job well, giving his criticisms or comments about a wargame, than an arcade freak doing so amongst the other arcade games. I know that wargames don’t appeal to everyone; nor are they as widely produced as arcade games (pity though!), but it’s just no reason to have their column ‘abolished’. Although the column may be bare at times or mightn’t have a CRASH Smash every month, it still should exist, after all is CRASH always absolutely packed to the brim with CRASH Smashes every month.

He also said about wargames being far inferior to arcade games. Yes, I admit that too for a majority of them but not so for such games as Shadowfire, Lords of Midnight and so on, which were highly acclaimed and got into the CRASH Readers Awards.

Having cleared that up, I’ll put forward some of my views on the Forum. I was very glad to see you take over from Angus, as your reviewing system is far better, and I very much liked the idea of the Forum. I think the Forum is just too small, and although space is a limitation it could be enlarged by using up the wasted space that a Mr Minson writes his gobbledigook on (no offence White Dwarf!.)

Generally wargames on the Spectrum are improving, but agreeing with Steven Cook’s point that they are generally slow. For instance in Lothlorien’s The Bulge, I find that the computer is slow to respond to the order key, etc. Another point I would like to make is that some people were complaining about the S&S system being very similar to D&D or AD&D, yet nobody has complained about HotM (Heavy on the Magic) using the FF books’ fighting and requisite system, that of SKILL, STAMINA, AND LUCK?

Finally, I would like to ask you a few questions. What type of wargames, RPG’s etc do you like/play?

Is there any news of any other games coming out from J. GOLLOP soon?

Will you be reviewing Dark Sceptre? and Do you PBM?
David Kelly

Ooh, my head is getting so much bigger! In answer to your questions, Traveller, Skyrealms of Jorune, Call of Cthulhu, Rolemaster, AD&D are my favourite RPGs in that order, though I play and collect many more. Conventional wargames include SPIs Starforce Trilogy, Star Fleet Battles, WRG modern miniatures rules, Warhammer and my favourite game overall is Go. Yes I do PBM but the games I play are my business. I never form alliances or make my presence known when it can be avoided. At present it would appear that I’m not reviewing Dark Sceptre though that isn’t definite.

Dear Sean
I have long held the opinion that people who dismiss wargaming and RPGs as boring must be unintelligent and/or unimaginative. Peter Shields sounds like one of this cursed kind. He sounds as if he cannot enjoy computer games unless half the universe is destroyed by him in the first five seconds.

I am not knocking Arcade games indeed I enjoy a good many, but I do like to have some measure of intelligence in my games, I am happy to set a new house best at Quazatron, but much more enjoyed winning Arnhem against the computer.

Point 2: Swords & Sorcery can not be a true RPG because you can not use the standard Role play technique of lying your way out of trouble. An example of this follows:

In one game a friend and I were caught searching the baggage carriage of a circus train. Two guards came in... in a computer game we would have had to get into a dangerous fight and kill them to stop them sounding the alarm.

In the RPG we explained we were the flying Karamazor Brothers, and were checking over trapezes for that night’s performance. Computer games just cannot handle the aspects of a) conversation and b) all the natural laws such as gravity.
Ian Hopping

I agree that current computers cannot possibly ever create a true RPG. The point is that computerised RPG development isn’t being carried out on Crays. It’s being handled on machines of comparable power to the Spectrum. It will have a very important role to play in the future of home entertainment as games become ever more realistic. Role playing is the most sophisticated form of leisure invented by man. Its birth in the home computer field (which will expand) is surely worthy of coverage.

Finally this closes the case for FRONTLINE. Peter Shields’ opinion was not backed up by any of the correspondents. In fact, I’ve never had such an enthusiastic response to the column. Thank you to everyone who wrote. I guess it was the acid test. FRONTLINE will continue to grow and improve while I’m writing it. As a famous Vulcan once said, ‘Live long, and prosper!’