The End of FIRE AND MOVEMENT Magazine

Farewell to a faithful friend--in Issue 150 of FIRE AND MOVEMENT magazine, its editor, Jon Compton, announced he was leaving AND Chris Cummins dropped the news that this was the last issue of the publication (those with issues remaining would be issued a credit voucher). As some of you know, Jon moved from the West Coast to work with Mark Herman over at Booz-Allen Hamilton doing wargaming and so it's to be expected that he doesn't have the time he once had. Doc Decision relates in his publication termination announcement that with electronic venues such as Consimworld and Boardgame Geek, the day of printed reviews has long since passed--and the shrinking circulation of F&M has been testament to that.

While Decision Games has been careful to say that this is the end for F&M "in print," I can't quite get over the fact that I will bind up this last issue with all the other issues I have, going back to the very first one, and know I won't have to make room for any more on the wargame magazine shelf. It's now with mixed pride and sorrow I can say I have a complete collection of all FIRE AND MOVEMENT magazines ever published.

One wonders--are the days of print reviews really gone? I can't speak to the business decisions at Decision Games, but one looks at BATTLES magazine and sees a renewal/resurgence in that quarter. We'll see if it can be sustained past a few issues. And, despite such websites as this one, Consimworld and Consimworld Forum, Boardgame Geek, Web Grognards, and others, I've yet to see the kind of in-depth reviews and analyses that I'd taken for granted in the pages of FIRE AND MOVEMENT.

To all the staffs, publishers, and contributors of FIRE AND MOVEMENT--both past and present--thanks for so many wonderful years and 150 terrific issues.

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Comment by Smitty on January 6, 2010 at 9:46pm
For my three cents worth, Jon was a great editor to work with - considering what we knew and suspected, Jon put out a qaulity magazine with good interviews. He built a good staff and team - a number of which, Jon included, I include among my friends.
Comment by Michael Dorosh on January 5, 2010 at 6:59pm
Well, the fact that the final issue's masthead has instructions on how to write away to become a writer for F&M may say something at the very least about the quality of the proofreading! Point taken about the difference between layout and illustration. The ironic thing is that MacGowan set the tone for the whole industry as far as graphic design in the mid 1970s.

I sympathize with low budgeting and how finicky the detail work is - because if it is done right, no one knows it is done at all. I hate "ragged edges" and broken up articles, etc. (rags like World War II Magazine are notorious for having all their articles end in little paragraph clusters at the end of the magazine in behind the advertisements). So, I will give you credit where credit is due. Thank you for pointing it out.

It is too bad that DG didn't see the folly in publishing a magazine with giant blocks of white text. Wargamers are tactile creatures attracted to graphics - MacGowan's work has always been a good example of what "gamers like". To attempt to illustrate a magazine with handfuls of black and white blobs, in the first place, and compete with billions of bytes of free information on the Internet - AARs, discussion, downloads, blogs, you name it - in the second place - seems crazy at first blush. But the points that I think are consistent here are:

a) people will generally read all they can get on the things they are passionate about, in whatever form
b) cream rises to the top
c) printed material has ascendancy over more fleeting forms of communication

Seems like a chicken-and-egg situation; resources are starved and readership dwindles, so revenue dips meaning resources need to be cut. F&M's advantage was its place in the pantheon - history, tradition, standing.

Perhaps one day it will come back in a better form. Moves made a comeback - not necessarily a "better" one, but a successful one nonetheless. Time will tell.
Comment by Jon Compton on January 5, 2010 at 2:34pm
In case you missed it, I blogged about this a while back:
Comment by Jon Compton on January 5, 2010 at 2:25pm
The entire budget for the editing, art, layout, proofing, and contributor issue shipping was all of 550 dollars per issue. I did what I could with what I had. That said, by any real standard the layout was not bush league, although the printing and over-saturation of everything certainly was. I'd dare say that more attention was put into the layout of F&M than any other DG pub. No trapped white space, solid widow and orphan control, even margins, and no broken-up articles in any issue. But the graphics were what they were since we had to take what we got and had no budget to do anything more professional. DG starved F&M of resources until it just wasn't possible to continue. The printer continued to cut the pages wrong until I finally gave up complaining about it.
Comment by Michael Dorosh on January 4, 2010 at 7:13pm
F&M's quality really declined physically in recent years. The articles were good - the James Day interview stands out among recent fare for example - but the physical quality looked like something a high school print shop was putting out. There was no wonder it couldn't stay competitive, if indeed that was the problem. The photos were murky and blurry, the margins were right up the edge of the paper, the layout was bush league. It was like watching an old friend die a lingering death.

I would far prefer to read a magazine than see idiots flame each other on the internet, so this is a loss. But it's also a reason I started my own Tactical Wargamer's Journal - partially in response to the decline in quality of pubs like F&M. I had not intended to compete but to complement magazines like F&M - if you like reading about something, you tend to buy everything you can, so the notion of "competition" is silly - so this is still sad news - but it would have been sadder to see it linger and get even worse.
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on January 4, 2010 at 12:43am
I have some happy memories of the magazine. Back in high school, a friend introduced me to it, and the magazine was a revelation -- an independent journal of reviews, covering the whole hobby, and not just boosting one publisher, as were the cases with The General and Moves. That first issue convinced me to buy Advanced Squad Leader, which I drove home five miles on the back of my bicycle.

I went on to write for the magazine years later, right after grad school. That got me hooked on Kevin Zucker's operational Napoleonic games, starting when I covered The Emperor Returns (Clash of Arms), and another review subject, The Siege of Jerusalem (Avalon Hill), became one of my favorite monsters of all time.
Comment by Dave Smith on January 3, 2010 at 10:46pm
It was an issue of F&M that my wife called my attention to (in a "Barnes and Border's" store) that brought me back to board wargaming a decade ago. (My wife held it up to me, thinking it would spark some sort of interest in the hobby: "Didn't you use to play these games?" She said, in a very encouraging voice.... God bless her, I'm a lucky man, indeed!)
When the format changed from extended reviews to its current format, I lost interest in the magazine. (The switch to "euro-game" Moves was a similar failure, in my eye.) F&M couldn't even print pictures in focus, and I was left wondering why I was paying $8 (I think) for the "improved" magazine (with some reprinted Dunnigan articles of old, I believe).
What will happen next? If there is a need for such a magazine, then I imagine that someone will pick up the fallen standard and bring a new incarnation to press. (One that, hopefully, will cost less than Battles!) If someone can do it well, I'll be the first to subscribe. I enjoy Grognard and Consimworld, but there's nothing like print.

Dave Smith
Comment by Smitty on January 3, 2010 at 1:03pm
The story as those of us who wrote for F & M these past 5-6 years can relate has been a strange ride. I think Jon Compton did very well and of course, I will miss F & M.

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