Owl and Weasel
||This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (August 2013)|
|Editor||Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone|
|Categories||Roleplaying, Wargames, Board Games|
|Frequency||Monthly (with a two month gap for GenCon IX)|
|First issue||February 1975|
Owl and Weasel was a newsletter published in London, England, by Games Workshop for board gamers, role-playing gamers and wargamers. It was published from February 1975 until April 1977, running 25 issues, and was edited by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. It was superseded by White Dwarf, which has been published on a monthly basis as of 2008[update].
The reasoning behind such a "cultishly-monikered" choice of title has been stated to be a mystery by the co-editors, although anthropomorphism may have been a factor. Belatedly, in a 2009 interview Steve Jackson stated that "it represented the characteristics you need to be a good games player: wise like an owl and crafty like a weasel", although this explanation had not been given in any previous editorial or interview.
The publication was initially launched to run alongside their own business of producing hand-crafted wooden board games. Because of this, there was a clear stated interest in print regarding "progressive games" including computer gaming and abstract games. The magazine issued a clear message for British producers to challenge the major game producing countries of the United States and Germany in what was, at the time, a relatively "traditional" marketplace. Copies of early issues were also sent speculatively to anyone within the industry in order to help generate business and nurture longer-term connections and partnerships.
The sixth issue, a key point in Games Workshop's early history, was released as a Dungeons & Dragons special - a first in the UK - and issues #11 and #23 doubled as programmes for their early Games Days, leading to coverage in The Times both of these events and of their magazine.
The editors had expected that the publication would run on beyond issue #25 (in #23, for Games Day II, results for a competition were to be announced in #27), but it was soon after decided that a more professional image was required in order to move the company into a new "phase", in line with what TSR had carried out the previous year (when TSR transitioned their first periodical, The Strategic Review, into the "glossy" roleplaying and wargaming magazines, The Dragon and Little Wars).
Although Owl and Weasel's circulation would be considered tiny by modern day standards (having only exceeded 200 "nicely", including 80 direct sales through hobby shops, by early 1976), its influence in expanding what were previously niche hobbies into the general British marketplace dominated by traditional games was considerable, and it played a key role in setting up Games Workshop for an extended period of rapid growth.
The first few issues covered mostly traditional games and wargaming as well as running postal games, attempting to create a games club and providing an alternative source for games news with a scope set deliberately as wide as possible. Later issues provided coverage of fantasy and roleplaying games in general.
In the beginning, promotion of Games Workshop's own hand-crafted games boards was supplemented by reselling of wargames and small press games. Marketing of fantasy and science fiction games was expanded first by an exclusive deal with TSR in mid-1975 and further following the return of Livingstone and Jackson from GenCon IX in August 1976. There they had signed-up additional exclusive European distribution rights for many American publishers which were still at an early stage of their development—in part owing to the apparent lack of any other European companies at that convention. Traditional boardgames such as Monopoly and Scrabble, whilst continuing to be covered in news items even after this expansion, were never sold through the pages of the magazine.
Although D&D, as the first modern-day commercial roleplaying game, had been introduced to Britain no later than Autumn 1974, such playing groups and societies as existed within the country were still on a local basis by 1975 or early 1976, sometimes co-existing with traditional wargaming societies. The aforementioned exclusive deal with TSR thus gave Games Workshop increased impetus to promote their flagship product by the creation of a nationwide D&D society which was carried out through the pages of Owl and Weasel. The society was first proposed in issue #9, but did not commence until issue #12. This further increased the roleplaying content of the publication which had previously included variant rules and short essays on rules and gameplay. Although D&D society members provided tournaments for conventions such as Games Day, this arrangement was not run in as formal a manner as carried out, much later, by TSR's RPGA.
In addition to promoting early postal D&D gaming, other postal fantasy games were co-ordinated by veteran Diplomacy aficionado Don Turnbull, later of TSR (UK), who had recently been the inaugural inductee to the Origins Hall of Fame (for his work on postal gaming, having started the first British postal diplomacy magazine in 1969). Further articles on game mechanics by Turnbull were accompanied by contributions from other well-known hobbyists such as Hartley Patterson and American, Lew Pulsipher, as well as introducing new names whose works continued to be printed in Games Workshop's subsequent publication, White Dwarf.
Editorial responsibilities were shared between Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone on an issue-by-issue basis. Although the first couple of issues were edited by Jackson, later numbers were more usually edited by Livingstone. This trend continued through until he became the lead editor for the first 74 issues of White Dwarf.
- Interview with Vice Magazine
- Jackson, Steve (February 1975). "Introducing...". Owl and Weasel (Games Workshop) (1): 1.
- "Play time" (The Times Diary). The Times (London). Mon, December 22, 1975. (59584), col G, p. 10.
- "The games big people play" (Shopping). The Times (London). Tue, December 14, 1976. (59886), col C, p. 16.
- "Games at Games Day". Owl and Weasel (Games Workshop) (23): 3. February 1977.
- "Editorial". Owl and Weasel (Games Workshop) (13): 2. February 1976.
- Livingstone, Ian (April 1975). "Editorial". Owl and Weasel (Games Workshop) (3): 2.
- Laws R.D. (2007). "The Last of the Lake Geneva Years: 1975-1977". 40 Years of Gen Con. St. Paul, MN: Atlas Games. ISBN 1-58978-097-3.
- Buckell, Graham (Aug 1975). "Letters". Owl and Weasel (Games Workshop) (7): 10.
- Livingstone, Ian (February 1975). "Letters". Owl and Weasel (Games Workshop) (12): 10.
- Jackson, Steve (Sep 1975). "History in the Making!". Owl and Weasel (Games Workshop) (8): 1.
- Buckell, Graham (Nov 1976). "Adventures in Dungeonland : Postal D&D". Owl and Weasel (Games Workshop) (20): 9.
- Ian Livingstone: Silver Lodge Interview