Philippa Irving


I PAID only a flying visit to The PCW Show and it was on a trade day, so I didn’t meet many CRASH readers. I did, though, get the chance to talk to representatives of the strategy-producing software houses, and I was struck by the fact that the American exhibitors, who promote blookbusting and expensive disk-based strategy software, were much more voluble, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their products than those who might give us Spectrum games. To be fair, I could find no representatives of PSS, Lothlorien or CCS, but I was disheartened to get no news of interesting forthcoming Spectrum strategy games. And I didn’t even get a shot in MicroProse’s flight-simulator machine.

In this issue and the last I’ve written only one game review: this month it’s nothing more than a budget reissue of a golden oldie. A couple of months ago I was filling up space with reviews of compilations; it’s not that I wish to decry compilations, but it would have been healthier had they been squeezed out by more urgent reviews of new releases.

Meanwhile, I receive parcelfuls of goodies for Manoeuvres, the strategy section in ZZAP!. Glossy, expensive, elaborately-packaged disk games, resplendent with fold-out maps and chunky rulebooks, arrive regularly every month.

What can be deduced from this — and from my experiences at The PCW Show — is that the American software market is very different from the British. The Commodore releases I received are all American imports, and strategy games take a large chunk of the market in the USA.

The average American software-buyer is older than the average British gamer, thus preferring a more complex and intellectually stimulating game. And computer-owners in the States have disk drives (the Spectrum is hardly known there), which makes an enormous difference.

Though a strategy game or wargame needs a good operating system, once it has that it can expand infinitely in all directions. Wargamers revel in any complexity which doesn’t actually impair the playability of the game, but it’s always limited by available memory. Beautiful tricks can be played with just 48K, and programmers who have all the space of a Commodore disk to rattle around in are demonstrably lazier and sloppier with their techniques: but if a programmer has any sense at all he can put a lot more units, maps, parameters and scenarios on a disk than in a little Spectrum.

We have the 128, but who’s bothered to write specifically for the 128? Even expanded versions on the reverse side of 48K game tapes seem to be going out of fashion.

The Spectrum and its software have survived against some odds, and as I’ve said before I don’t think flashier 8-bit machines like the Commodore can match the Spectrum when it comes to single-load arcade games. But the wargamer — and adventurer, indeed — has to face the fact that there are much more exciting things happening on machines with disk drives.

I’m sure that the recent paucity of releases has just been a temporary lull, or the result of a couple of software houses forgetting to send review copies, and that things will pick up again in the run-up to Christmas. But that doesn’t alter the physical facts of computer nature.



The majority of my letters this month were replying to the Issue 44 letter from Robert Lines, who expressed in strong terms his moral objections to wargames. The correspondents disagreed with his views, in equally strong terms...

Dear Philippa
I, like Robert Lines, am not a ‘wargamer’. Hopefully that is where all similarities end.

To say that it was the constant glorification of war that ‘sent millions upon millions of men to their deaths’ and that these men were ‘merely attempting to survive’ is most insulting. We may not know the ‘pain, anger, sadness, horror, frustration and sheer evil of war’, but you only have to see the atrocities committed at Auschwitz and Belsen to realise that there was something worth fighting for. The freedom to hold your own beliefs and live your own life is basic to any civilisation, and if going to war is the only way to preserve these rights, then that is the way life is...

In your forward, you refer to ‘strategy games’, and to the pleasure of beating the computer with a good strategy. Perhaps it is this that wargamers enjoy, rather than the ‘how many people can I kill’ of Mr Lines.
Andrew Wilson

Dear Philippa
Firstly, war, in fighting for ones rights and beliefs, is not always wrong. In the First and Second World Wars, the German armed forces and her allies attacked Great Britain and her allies who rallied together and fought back; this reaction was morally right. I am sure that you would have let the Nazis walk all over your face without reacting (except maybe complaining a bit).

Secondly, how dare you tarnish the names of those who fought and died for their beliefs and what was right by saying that they were not brave? Yes, they were frightened and often led by bigots, but nevertheless they still carried on fighting and I for one am very proud of them. I am also surprised at the way you call them all conscripted as a vast proportion were volunteers.

Thirdly, don’t lecture us on legalised killing. If it were not right it would not be legal. When someone does something wrong they must be punished in proportion to the crime, no more and certainly no less. This system is used in all stable legal systems and religions. You seem to have the wrong idea about cadet forces also, in my air cadet squadron we are taught how to fire a rifle but the first thing we were told and retold every lesson is NEVER POINT A GUN AT ANYONE...
D A Schofield

Dear Philippa
The thing that upset me most about the letter was the following passage: ‘We are told every 11th November that these men were patriots, that they were brave. THEY WERE NOT.’ Who the hell does this insensitive, inhuman halfwit think he is?

My own grandfather joined the army in the First World War... He was 15 when he enlisted and he knew he might get killed. Obviously this Lines person does not appreciate what bravery that took. Later in the war my grandfather won the Military Medal for saving the life of his captain by running into ‘no-man’s land’ and dragging him back. My grandfather did not have to do this. He was not ‘merely attempting to survive’, he risked his life for another’s. He was lucky, others weren’t — but all who fought there were brave. COWARDS like Lines and myself are not really fit to criticise anything these men did. Perhaps this Lines person would like to come round to my house and explain to my grandfather’s daughter and her husband how much of a lonely, unhappy frightened man my grandfather was...
Christopher Cooper

Dear Philippa
Being a wargamer, unlike Robert Lines, I feel more qualified to comment on the subject.

War is morally right when people’s freedom, loves, lands and lives are at stake. Past wars are a guide to present and future generations not to wage war. To forget the horrors of war is both dangerous and naive.

Authentic wargaming like Theatre Europe gives the players a better understanding of human conflict than most books and films. In wargaming, the so-called good guys don’t always win and when the casualty figures come pouring in a sense of loss, guilt and failure prevail, thus keeping alive the hopelessness of war in people with no personal experience of such carnage...
Terry Goater

Finally, I’d like to thank the three people who have kindly supplied me with copies of Chaos: Ian Harrison, Damian Zablocki, and Paul Fulcher, whose letter started it all. I am now abundantly swamped in Chaos, and have no excuse if future listings I publish don’t work.