Category Archives: Ares Magazine

Citadel of Blood (SPI, ARES magazine) now in digital rules library

The original ARES #5 cover

I guess I’m on a roll! Making DEATHMAZE for epub format recently had me re-reading Citadel of Blood, the Deathmaze-style tile-laying dungeon crawl game that was published in ARES Magazine, issue 5, in 1980. This magazine can be found in the Internet Archive as a PDF download, and an EPUB download. However, the epub download is of very poor quality, so I remade it from scratch.

I’m fairly pleased with the results. I added a few graphics here and there and that bumped up the file size a little. I think it’s far better than the epub that was on the Archive, and easier to read than the original PDF on the archive, as it’s based on an old scan.

However, if you are interested in a high quality READABLE PDF (graphics intact!) of Citadel of Blood, I strongly suggest you check out the great Todd Sanders’ re-imaging of Citadel of Blood he completed in 2012. The graphic update is splendid, the tiles and counters excellent, and you just need to invest in some glue and cutting time. FILES ARE HERE (in the FILES section).

You will find the EPUB in the DIGITAL RULES section of this website, under “Commercial games, out of print”.

NOTE! This is JUST an Epub file, for use when playing the physical game and you want to read the rules on a tablet. It does not have any counter images, map tiles, or anything other than the rules themselves. If you want to play the actual game instead of reading it, you’ll need the physical components for the game. I don’t think there’s a better set around for this game than what Todd Sanders has created (including the originals published by SPI). Check out the links above.


ARES #1 has arrived

One Small Step’s KICKSTARTER ARES #1 arrived last night. I really didn’t have time to do a thorough examination of the contents, but it broke down like this:

MOSTLY science fiction short stories and articles. Nicely laid out, perfect bound. Haven’t read anything yet, Hope there’s some talent in the stable.

ARES #1 cover

One gaming insert, WAR OF THE WORLDS by Bill Banks.  Not much on this yet, either.    It’s hex-based, individual units of the standard Artillery, Infantry and Cavalry mix versus units of Tripods– hard to say what size yet.  Hexagonal counters.  Large hexes. Folded map insert, counter insert.

Cover page of insert game, WAR OF THE WORLDS by Bill Banks

Overall a very nice first effort. They’re really pushing to get a subscription (which is in the neighborhood of a hundred bucks). I may just purchase the next one to see if they can continue to keep up the standard and decide then. I’m a big fan of the idea of a SCIENCE FICTION based magazine with game in every issue, and this is the first one of these since, well, since OSS’s own GAMEFIX was being published (most of their games were SF, near future or just kind of silly).

I’ll try to get some time in to do a solitaire game review of War of the Worlds next week, God Willing and the creeks don’t rise.

OSS Games Celebrating Launch of ARES Magazine First Issue



Mission Viejo, California (April 17, 2014) – One Small Step Games announced a contest to give away a free copy of SPI’s vintage Ares Magazine signed by bestselling science-fiction author Timothy Zahn, who wrote a short story featured in the 1983 issue.

The contest coincides with the premiere of the first issue of OSS Games’ Ares Magazine, which shares the same name as the vintage 1980s publication but proclaims a new vision—one updated and streamlined for today’s reader and tabletop gamer. The first issue of the science fiction magazine with a standalone tabletop board game in each issue comes out next month.

“Many of those who have shown support for our venture have fond memories of the SPI magazine,” says OSS Games owner and Editor-in-Chief Michael Anderson. “This contest is a way of both honoring the past as well as celebrating our vision for the future.”

The contest features issue #13 of the vintage science fiction and gaming magazine that was published in the early 1980s by SPI, a popular game publisher at the time. Zahn’s short story, “Damocles Mission,” appears in that issue.

Damocles Mission Countersheet

The six-week contest runs through May 31, culminating in a drawing for the autographed copy on June 1. People can increase their chance of winning through options like posting about the contest on social media and referring others to the contest. Subscribers to Ares Magazine, which launched after its successful Kickstarter in January, get an additional chance to win.

While Anderson appreciates the nostalgia for the vintage magazine, he is looking forward to getting his own magazine into the hands of subscribers.  The first issue features nine original science fiction and fantasy stories, an interview with game designer and author Bruce Cordell, and an article on singularity written by best-selling science fiction author William H. Keith (who also writes under the pseudonyms Ian Douglas and H.J. Ryker).

The issue also includes Bill Banks’ War of the Worlds, a two-player game of conquest and survival that pits the military forces of Queen Victoria against Martian forces under the command of the evil Martian overlord. The game also includes a rule book, die-cut playing pieces, and a large map.

“All of that wrapped up and delivered to subscribers next month,” says Anderson.

Contest information, rules and the online entry form are on the website of Ares Magazine. To enter the contest, go to To subscribe to Ares, go to


One Small Step Games has been around since 1996 and has published dozens of games, including designs from Bill Banks, Dan Verssen, Joseph  Miranda, and Richard Berg. More information is available at


OSS Games website:
Ares Magazine website:
OSS Games Facebook:
Ares Magazine Facebook:
Twitter: @AresMagazine

ARES magazine funded by Kickstarter 03 Feb 2014

Press Release:


Mission Viejo, California (February 3, 2014) – Backers pledged $26,185 to the Kickstarter campaign for Ares Magazine, sending the One Small Step Games project $1,185 over the goal in its final hours on Sunday.

“Last night was amazing,” says OSS Games owner Michael Anderson, who is also editor-in-chief. “We learned a lot this month—not the least of which is that there are a lot of people out there who share our enthusiasm for this project. Our backers are our heroes.”

Anderson says the project team has already begun production for the full-size, science fiction magazine combined with a ready-to-play board game.

The magazine has more than enough short fiction stories to fill the first issue, ranging from horror and fantasy to hard science fiction. Design details are being finalized for Bill Banks’ War of the Worlds, the flagship game.

“We send the files to the printer in April,” says Anderson, “and it should ship to subscribers by May 1.”

Anderson says the project team has also begun work on the future issues, selecting stories and games. Submissions for games are being accepted on the magazine’s website.

For those who missed getting in on the Kickstarter, OSS Games is offering pre-orders for subscriptions at reduced rates on its web site.
More information is available on Ares’ Facebook page and the Ares Magazine website.


One Small Step Games has been around since 1996 and has published dozens of games, including Millennium Wars and Politics as Usual. More information is available at




Twitter: @AresMagazine
Press Kit:


Ares Magazine Returning: that is, if all goes well…

Remember my uber-enthusiastic “The Return of Ares Magazine.. sort of” post?  Well, this is the follow up.  One Small Step’s crowdfunding campaign that was being planned to relaunch the magazine has commenced. I’m excited about the Bill Banks WAR OF THE WORLDS game. Great topic, considering Alien Dungeon will be releasing something similar as a miniatures game in 2014, it would make a good tie in.

Here’s the pertinent information (source: OSS Press release):



Mission Viejo, California (28 December 2013) – One Small Step Games released a new trailer today in advance of its crowd-sourced funding campaign for Ares Magazine at Kickstarter, which launches next week.

The full-size magazine will publish bi-monthly and each issue will include 80 pages of fiction and other content that will wrap around a pull-out, complete, and ready-to-play board game.

The two-minute trailer not only gives glimpses of what the magazine will look like but also reveals images from the game to be included in the first issue, War of the Worlds by independent game designer Bill Banks (Ancients, Imperator).

The Kickstarter launches on 01 January 2014. The success of the Kickstarter campaign will put the magazine’s production into gear with a target delivery date of 01 May 2014 for the first issue.

More information is available on the Ares Magazine website The new Kickstarter trailer is available here:


One Small Step Games has been around since 1996 and has published dozens of games, including Millennium Wars and Politics as Usual. More information is available on the OSS website


Website: Inquires/Press:
Twitter: @AresMagazine
Press Kit:


Trailer 1:

Trailer 2:

More about this Ares Magazine thing…

I don’t claim to be any kind of industry insider, but I do remember Jon Compton of One Small Step days, and I was pleased to see he is actively involved in producing the rebirth of ARES MAGAZINE.  There is now a Facebook page for the magazine, and some clarification on the blog post I referenced in an earlier post:

The Mission

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
-Dwight D. Eisenhower

I am an engineer. I don’t feel things — waste of time and effort. But my coworkers and vendors feel something. They are energized about this project. They’re broadcasting the energy. And I feel it.

We’re on a mission.

What are the mission parameters? What are we trying to accomplish? Where are we going? How long will it take to get there?

All good questions, and I hope to find answers as we venture down the path set before us.

The big idea is to fill a void — to publish a new magazine that combines a stand-alone, unique, playable board game in every issue with a collection of fiction. The focus is science fiction, but we aren’t zealots. We will publish select other genres, including pulp adventure, fantasy, and alternative history.

We would like to squeeze out at least four issues per year, with each issue crammed full of enough amazing content to keep you busy until you receive the next issue.

We are soliciting content — games, fiction, and art — we need it all.

Our first attention is to funding, and our first method of funding the project is Kickstarter. We’ll let you know when our Kickstarter release is getting close.

If our Kickstarter effort is successful, we should go to press on Issue 01 within about 90 days of its conclusion.”

To which Greg Costikyan, who had a huge hand in the earlier incarnation of ARES, replied:

1. Think of this as not so much as a magazine as guaranteed sales of x copies of 4 or 6 games a year, where x is your subscriber base. Charge accordingly; I imagine we’re talking paper maps and no wood, but don’t go cheap and wind up having to mortgage your homes.

2. Pay a per-word rate for fiction that qualifies as a professional sale by SFWA’s standards. Find someone knowledgeable about the field and good at networking at SF cons; pay them as little as possible, but a good editor is essential.

3. Contact designers who contributed to Ares and are still prominent in the field; John Butterfield springs to mind. Chris Taylor, who is well known in digital gaming did a tabletop game for Victory Point Games; contact him as well. Allen Varney. Anyone else you can think of; get some commitments to design games for your project before you launch the Kickstarter; some can be ‘stretch goals’ perhaps. I’ve already said I’d be willing to do something. BTW, maybe consider tabletop RPGs in addition to boardgames.

4. Consider what remains of the retail channel as potential allies, even if you really want subscriptions; bagged magazine sales can be a small but useful increment.

As I have said before, Greg Costikyan has been there and done that as far as ARES is concerned, and that’s good advice.

Myself, I’m concerned about the fiction emphasis that keeps popping up.  Just speaking as a consumer of both SF/Fantasy literature AND games, I would prefer a gaming magazine with some fiction in it over a fiction magazine with some game material every issue– unless they hire a real, honest-to-God editor with the chops to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Digital publishing is releasing a lot of “bestselling authors” in a firehose stream; that doesn’t mean they are particularly good.

Still, fingers crossed.. I will back it!

The Rebirth of Ares Magazine… well, hopefully

Simulation Publications, aka SPI Games, Inc, the late and still lamented games publisher, was an innovative and incredibly prolific publisher of games that existed between 1969 and 1982. I liked their approach– their forte was military conflict simulation games, of which I owned plenty, and they published maybe the best gaming magazine of that distant era, Strategy and Tactics, a magazine with a wargame in every issue. S&T (as it is commonly abbreviated) outlived its parent company, and has lived on under a variety of owners, the most current being Decision Games. S&T was a great magazine and a great marketing tool that allowed the parent company to stay in touch with the core audience’s likes and dislikes using a simple feedback mechanism using postcards in every issue. The magazine would poll the audience about future game proposals and generally make decisions about what to publish based upon that feedback. A simple system, and it worked very well.

say whatever you like about 70s graphic styles, this is colorful and memorable.

say whatever you like about 70s graphic styles, this is colorful and memorable.

One market niche that was taking root and growing fast in the late 70s and early 80s was the desire for fantasy and science fiction games, a niche that SPI did very well, in my humble opinion. Their version of War of the Ring, John Carter of Mars, War in the Ice, even supposedly “lowbrow” stuff like The Creature that Ate Sheboygan… well, maybe they weren’t genius designs, but they sure were fun to play, and the market was growing by leaps and bounds back then. Remember, D&D had been out for just a few years (from roughly 1975 onward, but really 1977). The market wasn’t nearly as saturated as it is today for F&SF game products, so SPI did reasonably well in that niche. To support their expanding hobby base, SPI decided to create another magazine, specifically themed for fantasy and science fiction games, with the intention of supporting the existing SPI F&SF game products, adding in short fiction and science articles, and of course product reviews from inside and outside of SPI. Best of all, there would be a game included in every issue, just like S&T managed to do. Thus, SPI could field a publication that could included in different marketing outlets that might not support a military history themed gaming magazine, like comic book stores. The new magazine was called ARES. From the start it was big and bright and colorful, displaying Redmond Simonsen’s particular genius for evoking themes from simple images and bright colors.  Individual issues retailed in the six dollar range.   A grand total of 17 issues were printed before the parent company SPI, facing disastrous financial issues, was swallowed up by TSR, the company that published D&D.   TSR, though in the fantasy business, of sorts, didn’t know what to do with a gaming magazine that was a former competitor to their own in house magazine, THE DRAGON (1976-2007 in printed format, online thereafter).  So they added an “Ares Section” to each issue for about a year or so (focusing solely on TSR Science Fiction games like Gamma World! and Star Frontiers), then even that died out, and that was that for ARES magazine.  During its short and productive life, ARES created some fun games and a magazine that was genuinely entertaining to read.  The fiction pieces were no slouches, either, with some genuine talents here and there.  John Boardman’s science essays were generally very informative.  One in particular, “No, you won’t be going to the stars”,   which was featured in the premiere issue, has stuck with me my entire life as a reference for just how LONG travel between stars will be.

Greg Costikyan, who contributed his share of F&SF games to SPI’s output, published a canonical List of Ares Issues and contents on his website.  He’s what I would call an authority.

Nowadays, if you’re interested in revisiting individual issues from that long ago era, you can download every issue published before the TSR takeover in various formats from ARCHIVE.ORG, though I recommend the PDF version.  The Epub conversion are less than optimal.

One Small Step Games (who I had thought folded tents a long time ago) is a not very prolific publisher of small format games that used to fit in the “Microgames” niche– noticeably from their own (long defunct) gaming magazine, GAMEFIX/COMPETITIVE EDGE (ceased publication in 1998).  Like SPI of old, their magazine also had a game in every issue while it lasted, which was 13 issues.  I liked GF/CE games– many of them designed by some reputable designers like Richard Berg and Joe Miranda.   I had lost track of this little company a while ago and thought they had jumped on the road to palookaville, like a lot of small game companies.  I’m glad they are still around, as it turns out– they recently announced on their blog that they are in the process of acquiring publishing rights to ARES MAGAZINE, the great old Fantasy and Science Fiction themed magazine-with-a-game product from SPI’s past.   I’m a little apprehensive of the language being used, here.. 

The vision we hold is for an all-new Ares magazine, published bi-monthly, with 80 pages of fiction, 20 pages of OSS nonsense, and a complete game in every issue.

If you remember the old magazine fondly, the new edition will retain the portion of the original formula that makes sense, but provide more content and higher quality. If you don’t remember the original edition . . . well, you still get all of the delicious nutrition, but without any of the nostalgia.

There are still a hundred things that can go awry with our plan, but if we can stay on course, you should see our Kickstarter program before the end of the year. 

A little snippet of the map from ALBION: LAND OF FAERIE (Issue 11)

A little snippet of the map from ALBION: LAND OF FAERIE (Issue 11 of ARES Magazine)

100 pages a month?  That’s a lot of pages to fill.   80 pages of fiction and 20 pages of “OSS Nonsense?”  Did I get that right?  So is it.. what.. a gaming magazine with a LOT of fiction included, or a SF magazine with a tiny bit of game content??

Oh well, count me in as one of those people with “fond memories of the original magazine”.  When the inevitable Kickstarter is announced, I’ll be in on this one.

This little snippet has inspired me.. I might do an issue by issue review, like I did with Metagaming, here in this blog.  Especially now that it’s archived on