Strategy & Tactics Magazine

Strategy & Tactics (S&T) was founded in 1966 as a wargaming fanzine published by US Air Force Staff Sergeant Chris Wagner, at first in Japan, then moving to the United States with Wagner. It was intended as independent competition with the Avalon Hill house organ The General. The magazine did not meet with commercial success, and James F. Dunnigan arranged a purchase of the magazine in 1969, founding Simulations Publications, Inc. (SPI) to publish S&T. The purchase price of the magazine was one dollar.1

Issue 18 marked a radical change in the wargaming industry, and S&T introduced many innovative concepts to the hobby as a whole. Whereas Avalon Hill was producing an average of two new wargames every three years, Issue 18 included a wargame within the pages of the magazine, and promised a new game in every issue - in other words, every eight weeks. The magazine also pioneered tactical subjects, printing Tac Game 3 in 1969, the first tactical level game covering modern warfare (which the next year became PanzerBlitz) and the next year publishing a set of miniatures rules called T-34.

In March 1971, S&T produced its first issue with die-cut counters, and the very first board wargame featuring the infantry squad as the basic unit of command. Grunt was also "the focus of SPI's first big advertising campaign."2


Volume II, No. 6 (#16), Mar-Apr 1969 issue. After the buyout later that year, the consecutive numbering system was continued and volume/issue numbers were dropped. Webmaster's collection.

SPI also produced box games during this period, and other tactical titles found their way to market in the early 1970s, including Grunt, Red Star/White Star, Soldiers, and Combat Command, either in boxed form, in the magazine, or both. The magazine served as an advertising vehicle for the boxed games not released in its pages.

By 1973, S&T's circulation was 20,000 (as compared to Miniature Warfare (8,000), Moves (5,000), The General (5,000), Panzerfaust (1,000), and The Courier (1,000).)3

Greg Costikyan, in an online opinion article dated 1996, remarked that

It is hard to overemphasize the importance of S&T to the history of wargaming; indeed, the rise and fall of the hobby can virtually be correlated with the rise and fall of S&T. SPI's staff freely discussed future plans, down to details of marketing and distribution, in the pages of the magazine; its subscribers began to feel a personal stake in the company's survival, going so far as to write long letters of advice and volunteering time and effort to help the company survive. The historical articles were of the highest quality, and quite unlike anything being published in the historical magazines of the period, since SPI, befitting its gaming orientation, tried to quantify almost everything, providing copious tables of comparative data on, for instance, the merits of World War II-era tanks. Other journals tended to be far more descriptive. As a result, S&T acquired a readership even among military history devotees who had no interest in the games.4

By the mid 1970s, S&T's circulation exceeded The General's and paid staff at SPI numbered as many as forty individuals, with as many games being produced annually included boxed titles. Despite annual income declared at two million dollars, SPI's sales declined, and increasing inflation decreased profits. James Dunnigan left SPI in the late 1970s, and the departure of marketing manager Howie Barasch's was never properly addressed. Founder Chris Wagner returned as a consultant and found poor communication between the company and its own sales representatives was a major concern. When full-blown recession hit the US, financial mismanagement led to SPI seeking a buyout. The Christmas season in 1981 hit SPI hard, who had borrowed large sums of money from three investors. Work stopped in January 1982 and by March "the company sought financial relief in the form of someone who might lend money to buy or acquire Simulations (Publications, Inc.)."5

TSR indicated initial interest, and SPI, desperate for cash, asked for the loan of a few thousand dollars to meet its payroll. TSR agreed, requiring that the loan be backed by SPI's assets, making it a secured creditor. Shortly after SPI paid its employees, TSR demanded repayment of the loan. SPI agreed to be taken over by TSR, for no cash money.

 

TSR sent out a press release announcing that they had taken over SPI. Soon, however, they realized the extent of SPI's liabilities; and, horrified, "clarified" their own initial announcement, claiming that, instead, they had assumed SPI's assets but not its debts.

 

Now, while TSR had been a secured creditor, it was a tiny one. SPI's printers and the venture capital investors were owed far more money. Legally, TSR's position gave them first crack at SPI's assets, but hardly entitled them to take over the company, lock, stock, and barrel, without assuming any liabilities. However, no one in SPI's management was going to sue over the ownership of a bankrupt company, and TSR's takeover seemed the only shot at keeping the company together. And TSR quickly paid off the major creditors, at some cents on the dollar, to avoid the possibility that anyone else would challenge the transaction.6

By the time of the buyout in 1982, SPI was selling, it is estimated, some 60-70% of all wargames in the world. Avalon Hill remained a bigger company, but only because it sold many more sports and general interest games than wargames. By this point, S&T boasted 30,000 subscribers and the magazine was truly the flagship of SPI.

In Issue 91 (Winter 1983), S&T announced that SPI had been too ambitious:

Simulations Publications lost money on every copy of S&T and Ares magazine. This loss was written off as "advertising expenses" since the magazines were intended to promote the SPI line of games. The trouble was that putting out twelve issue games per year cut down on the number of non-issue products Simulations was able to create...As fewer boxed products were available, less money came in from these products. Without this profit coming in to offset the loss from the magazines, there was an inevitable downward spiral to collapse.

TSR contemplated selling three issues a year without games, and three with games, but were quickly told by their sales representatives that their customers would not approve of such a scheme. Instead, S&T moved to a quarterly format, so that a new game could still be included in every issue.

Another innovation of S&T during its history was its feedback system, in which readers could answer various multiple-choice questions on a return card, whose data would then be entered into a Burroughs minicomputer for analysis. Thus S&T always had good information about which games readers were looking for.

Again, from Greg Costikyan:

Perhaps S&T's most important innovation...was its feedback system. Using primitive Burroughs, later IBM, minicomputers, Dunnigan put together a highly sophisticated system to obtain marketing information from his customers. In every issue of the magazine, there was a response card, with 96 numbered blanks. At the back of the magazine were a series of questions, to which a reader could respond by entering a number between 0 and 9 on the blanks of the card. Some questions provided marketing data, e.g., average age of the readership; some were used to provide competitive rankings of SPI's and other publishers' products, charts that S&T's readers pored over when deciding what game to buy next. And some were used to ask the readers what kinds of games they'd like to see. Indeed, every issue provided brief write-ups of game ideas, and SPI would design the games which received the highest ratings.

 

This kind of market research was astonishing for the field, remains astonishing for the field, would be astonishing in any field. SPI had immediate, timely data telling it precisely what its most valued customers thought. For years, the sales of SPI's games correlated very closely with the feedback results; SPI could predict, with virtual certainty, a game's sales before embarking on its design.

Through this feedback, it became obvious that S&T's readership included many of the avid wargamers - over 50% of readers claimed to own 100 or more games; many bought a dozen games every year on top of those contained in the magazine. SPI estimated that 250,000 people in North America had ever bought a wargame based on the total number of games sold by all companies to date, and felt that its subscribers probably owned a disproportionate share of those games. In other words, these subscribers were the key market audience for the entire wargaming industry. And SPI had its finger on their pulse through the feedback system in S&T.

SPI's assets included a company library of 5,000 volumes, including Jane's Fighting Ships for various years, the official US Army military history of the Second World War (the "Green Books") as well as other official histories, and other academic and populist accounts in addition to technical works, atlases, maps, and other reference material in addition to a large library of wargames, back issues, and game design materials, all of which was shipped to TSR at the time of the takeover. However, when TSR took over SPI, they refused to honour commitments to existing dedicated S&T subscribers, about 1,000 of whom had been granted "life-time" status with entitlement to all future issues without any further payment. Greg Costikyan claims that this was the turning point in the wargaming industry; few S&T subscribers renewed, even though the magazine continued to be published (TSR published issues 91 through 111); as importantly, Costikyan further claims that these disenchanged magazine subscribers also refused to buy any TSR titles due to bitterness over the handling of their subscriptions.

SPI's design staff moved on to Avalon Hill to form subsidiary Victory Games. Although TSR continued making games in hopes of recouping its investment, and even despite a more efficient distribution chain than SPI had established, its wargame line was never successful. S&T Magazine was eventually sold to World Wide Wargames (3W) who at that time was publishing The Wargamer, a direct competitor that also put a game in each issue. By this time, the wargame market had splintered and 1970's era sales of 50,000 copies per title were gone in favour of 10,000 being considered successful and 20,000 astronomical.

3W continued publication of S&T from issue 112 to 139 under three editors (Keith Poulter from issues #112 to #119, Ty Bomba from #120 to #129, and a returning James Dunnigan from #130 to #139). Though circulation began to increase again, subscriptions never recovered, and third parties cut into profits since most sales were via retail outlets. In Issue 140 in February 1991, it was announced that Keith Poulter "has had enough" and sold the magazine to Decision Games. beginning with No. 176 S&T was introduced for sale on newsstands (without a game) and by No. 216 more copies were sold without the game each issue than game editions.7

Modern Era Tactical Games Published in Strategy & Tactics

Year Title Type
1970 T-34 (S&T 23) Miniatures
1971 Grunt (S&T 26) Board
1972 Combat Command (S&T 30) Board
1973 KampfPanzer (S&T 41) Board
1974 Tank! (S&T 44) Board
1977 October War (S&T 61) Board
1977 Raid! (S&T 64) Board
1979 Panzer Battles (S&T 73) Board
1979 Paratroop (S&T 77) Board
1983 Rapid Deployment Force (S&T 91) Board
1988 Pegasus Bridge (S&T 122) Board
1990 Iron Cross  (S&T 132) Board
2013 Soldiers: Decision in the Trenches, 1918 (S&T 280) Board

Cover Gallery/Issue Listing - Regular Issues

Jan 1967
Vol 1 No 1
Feb 1967
Vol 1 No 2
Apr 1967
Vol 1 No 3
May 1967
Vol 1 No 4
Jun 1967
Vol 1 No 5
Jul 1967
Vol 1 No 6
Aug 1967
Vol 1 No 7
Sep 1967
Vol 1 No 8
Nov 1967
Vol 1 No 9
Dec 1967
Vol 1 No 10
Jan-Feb 1968
Vol 2 No 1 (No. 11)
Mar-Apr 1968
Vol 2 No 2 (No. 12)
May-Jun 1968
Vol 2 No 3 (No. 13)
Jul-Aug 1968
Vol 2 No 4 (No. 14)
Jan-Feb 1969
Vol 2 No 5 (No. 15)
Mar-Apr 1969
Vol 2 No 6 (No.16)
May-Jun 1969
Vol 3 No 1 (No. 17)
Sep-Oct 1969
Vol 3 No 2 (No. 18)
No. 19 No. 20 No. 21 No. 22 Sep-Oct 1970
No. 23
No. 24
No. 25 Mar-Apr 1971
No. 26
No. 27 No. 28 No. 29 Jan 1972
No. 30
No. 31 No. 32 No. 33 No. 34 No. 35 No. 36
No. 37 No. 38 No. 39 No. 40 Nov-Dec 1973
No. 41
Jan-Feb 1974
No. 42
Mar-Apr 1974
No. 43
May-Jun 1974
No. 44
Jul-Aug 1974
No. 45
Sep-Oct 1974
No. 46
Nov-Dec 1974
No. 47
Jan-Feb 1975
No. 48
Mar-Apr 1975
No. 49
May-Jun 1975
No. 50
Jul-Aug 1975
No. 51
Sep-Oct 1975
No. 52
Nov-Dec 1975
No. 53
Jan-Feb 1976
No. 54
Mar-Apr 1976
No. 55
May-Jun 1976
No. 56
Jul-Aug 1976
No. 57
Sep-Oct 1976
No. 58
Nov-Dec 1976
No. 59
Jan-Feb 1977
No. 60
Mar-Apr 1977
No. 61
May-Jun 1977
No. 62
Jul-Aug 1977
No. 63
Sep-Oct 1977
No. 64
Nov-Dec 1977
No. 65
Jan-Feb 1978
No. 66
Mar-Apr 1978
No. 67
May-Jun 1978
No. 68
Jul-Aug 1978
No. 69
Sep-Oct 1978
No. 70
Nov-Dec 1978
No. 71
Jan-Feb 1979
No. 72
Mar-Apr 1979
No. 73
May-Jun 1979
No. 74
Jul-Aug 1979
No. 75
Sep-Oct 1979
No. 76
Nov-Dec 1979
No. 77
Jan-Feb 1980
No. 78
Mar-Apr 1980
No. 79
May-Jun 1980
No. 80
Jul-Aug 1980
No. 81
Sep-Oct 1980
No. 82
Nov-Dec 1980
No. 83
Jan-Feb 1981
No. 84
Mar-Apr 1981
No. 85
May-Jun 1981
No. 86
Jul-Aug 1981
No. 87
Sep-Oct 1981
No. 88
Nov-Dec 1981
No. 89
Jan-Feb 1982
No. 90
Winter 1983
No. 91
No. 92 No. 93 No. 94 No. 95 No. 96
No. 97 Nov-Dec 1984
No. 98
No. 99 No. 100 No. 101 No. 102
No. 103 No. 104 No. 105 No. 106 No. 107 No. 108
No. 109 No. 110 No. 111 Jun 1987
No. 112
Jul-Aug 1987
No. 113
No. 114
No. 115 No. 116 No. 117 Mar-Apr 1988
No. 118
May-Jun 1988
No. 119
Jul-Aug 1988
No. 120
Sep-Oct 1988
No. 121
Nov-Dec 1988
No. 122
No. 123 No. 124 No. 125 No. 126
No. 127 No. 128 No. 129 No. 130 No. 131 Jan-Feb 1990
No. 132
Mar-Apr 1990
No. 133
May-Jun 1990
No. 134
No. 135 No. 136 No. 137 No. 138
No. 139 Feb 1991
No. 140
Mar 1991
No. 141
May 1991
No. 142
Jun 1991
No. 143
Aug 1991
No. 144
Sep 1991
No. 145
Nov 1991
No. 146
Dec 1991
No. 147
Jan 1992
No. 148
Feb 1992
No. 149
Mar 1992
No. 150
May 1992
No. 151
Jun 1992
No. 152
Aug 1992
No. 153
Sep 1992
No. 154
Nov 1992
No. 155
Dec 1992
No. 156
Jan 1993
No. 157
Feb 1993
No. 158
Mar 1993
No. 159
May 1993
No. 160
Jun 1993
No. 161
No. 162
Sep 1993
No. 163
Nov 1993
No. 164
Dec 1993
No. 165
Jan-Feb 1994
No. 166
No. 167 May 1994
No. 168
Jul-Aug 1994
No. 169
Sep-Oct 1994
No. 170
Nov-Dec 1994
No. 171
No. 172 No. 173 May-Jun 1995
No. 174
Jul-Aug 1995
No. 175
No. 176 No. 177 No. 178 No. 179 No. 180
No. 181 No. 182 No. 183 No. 184 No. 185 No. 186
No. 187 No. 188 No. 189 No. 190 No. 191 No. 192
No. 193 No. 194 No. 195 No. 196 No. 197 No. 198
No. 199 No. 200 No. 201 No. 202 No. 203 No. 204
No. 205 No. 206 No. 207 No. 208 No. 209 No. 210
No. 211 No. 212 No. 213 No. 214 Mar-Apr 2003
No. 215
May-Jun 2003
No. 216
Jul-Aug 2003
No. 217
Sep-Oct 2003
No. 218
Nov-Dec 2003
No. 219
Jan-Feb 2004
No. 220
Mar-Apr 2004
No. 221
May-Jun 2004
No. 222
Jul-Aug 2004
No. 223
Sep-Oct 2004
No. 224
Nov-Dec 2004
No. 225
Jan-Feb 2005
No. 226
Mar-Apr 2005
No. 227
May-Jun 2005
No. 228
Jul-Aug 2005
No. 229
Sep-Oct 2005
No. 230
Nov-Dec 2005
No. 231
Jan-Feb 2006
No. 232
Mar-Apr 2006
No. 233
May 2006
No. 234
Jun 2006
No. 235
Jul 2006
No. 236
Aug 2006
No. 237
Sep 2006
No. 238
Nov 2006
No. 239
Jan 2007
No. 240
Mar 2007
No. 241
May 2007
No. 242
Jun 2007
No. 243
Jul 2007
No. 244
Aug-Sep 2007
No. 245
Oct-Sep 2007
No. 246
Dec 2007-Jan 2008
No. 247
Mar-Apr 2008
No. 248
May-Jun 2008
No. 249
Jul-Aug 2008
No. 250
Jul 2008
No. 251
Sep-Oct 2008
No. 252
Nov-Dec 2008
No. 253
Jan-Feb 2009
No. 254
Mar-Apr 2009
No. 255
May-Jun 2009
No. 256
Jul-Aug 2009
No. 257
Sep-Oct 2009
No. 258
Nov-Dec 2009
No. 259
Jan-Feb 2010
No. 260
Mar-Apr 2010
No. 261
May-Jun 2010
No. 262
Jul-Aug 2010
No. 263
Sep-Oct 2010
No. 264
Nov-Dec 2010
No. 265
Jan-Feb 2011
No. 266
Mar-Apr 2011
No. 267
May-Jun 2011
No. 268
Jul-Aug 2011
No. 269
Sep-Oct 2011
No. 270
Nov-Dec 2011
No. 271
Jan-Feb 2012
No. 272
Mar-Apr 2012
No. 273
May-Jun 2012
No. 274
Jul-Aug 2012
No. 275
Sep-Oct 2012
No. 276
Nov-Dec 2012
No. 277
Jan-Feb 2013
No. 278
Mar-Apr 2013
No. 279
May-Jun 2013
No. 280
Jul-Aug 2013
No. 281
Sep-Oct 2013
No. 282
Nov-Dec 2013
No. 283
Jan-Feb 2014
No. 284
Mar-Apr 2014
No. 285
May-Jun 2014
No. 286
Jul-Aug 2014
No. 287
Sep-Oct 2014
No. 288
Nov-Dec 2015
No. 289 (mag ed.)
Nov-Dec 2015
No. 289 (game ed.)
Jan-Feb 2015
No. 290
Mar-Apr 2015
No. 291
May-Jun 2015
No. 292
Jul-Aug 2015
No. 293
Sep-Oct 2015
No. 294
Nov-Dec 2015
No. 295
Jan-Feb 2016
No. 296 (game ed.)
Mar-Apr
No. 297
May-Jun 2016
No. 298
Jun-Jul 2016
No. 299
       
Sep-Oct 2016
No. 300
Nov-Dec 2016
No. 301
       

Cover Gallery/Issue Listing - Special Issues


Special Issue 1

Special Issue  2

Special Issue 3

Special Issue  4

Notes

  1. Strategy & Tactics #83, interview by Chris Wagner. Apparently payment was not made until 1975.
  2. Kosnett, Phill. "From Grunt to Search & Destroy" (Moves, Nr. 23)
  3. Phillies, George and Martin Campion. "A Guide to Conflict Simulation Games and Periodicals" (Moves, Nr. 7)
  4. A Farewell to Hexes, Greg Costikyan, 1996
  5. Strategy & Tactics #91
  6. Cosikyan, Ibid
  7. S&T website

 

 

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