A while ago, I decided to read through and review the entire print run of Dragon from beginning to end. (at least, the physical issues, as I want to be able to complete this, not get stuck on an endless treadmill.) Five months later, I'm about a fifth of the way through, and have found out quite a lot of cool stuff about the early history of gaming. As this is a ridiculous amount of work, naturally I want to share my findings, and get other people's perspectives on the events in gaming's history. Hope you guys enjoy it.

So without further ado, lets get started, with the precursor to Dragon, The Strategic Review. This little newsletter ran for 7 issues over 1975-6, before being superceded as they expanded rapidly, and split their output into wargaming and RPG magazines. There's quite a bit of impenetrable stuff on long dead wargames in there, but that doesn't make it any less interesting to discover. Any info on those from people who lived through that period would be welcomed.


The strategic review 1: Spring 1975

So here we are, right back at the dawn of D&D periodicals. First impressions are that they tried to do it in a newspaper style, with a baroque heading and captioned sections. My second is on how short and succinct it is. Only 6 pages long, with no artwork, and obviously typewritten, it gets right to the point, explaining what they are trying to do with the zine (and apologizing for the lack of stuff, as its their first issue, and they don't have any letters or advertisers. )

The rest of the issue contains the following:

An advert for new editions of their wargames (3rd edition chainmail, now featuring the fighting men of the east! And people complain about the animeisation of games now. Says it all really.)

Mind flayers! Their first appearance. Still recogniseably the same basic monster, with almost impenetrable magic resistance, and quick kill brain eating, although they lack the later depth and descriptive detail. Their mind blast is a classic of idiosyncratic OD&D design, with a unique saving throw based off the victims intelligence, rather than level.

Edition change stuff for Tractics (which I've never heard of before, by by implication is another miniatures game, so people who already have the previous edition don't have to buy a whole new copy. How nice of them.

Gary Gygax talking about the underpoweredness of spears in Chainmail, saying people shouldn't complain about it because it is Historically Accurate , and also that they intend to introduce expanded details on polearms, rather than just having one generic entry for them. I think most of us know how that one pans out in the future. Oh yes.

2 pages of random dungeon generation tables, easily making up the biggest section. Shows where their priorities are. These are probably still usable today, as very little is system specific, and what is is easily convertible. Maybe I will use them at some point.

More adverts on the final page.

Funny how many of the things here would go on to be significant later on in the game. There is very little flavour text anywhere, and you are obviously expected to take things and make them your own. They also don't have the skill with layout and making things stand out that they would later develop. Despite its smallness, there is a tendency towards block of textiness. But It was still an entertaining and informative read, and the lack of padding could be seen as a benefit, because it does allow you to get right to the important stuff.