The Arcane Top 50 – Where Are They Now?

Arcane, a short-lived British tabletop gaming magazine from Future Publishing which ran from December 1995 to June 1997, is a name to conjure by for many gamers of around my age. I came to the hobby after White Dwarf had become a Games Workshop in-house advertising platform, and just as Dragon was on the verge of dropping its coverage of non-TSR RPGs altogether; that meant I got a brief taster of TSR having a broader scope of coverage, and missed out on the golden age of White Dwarf altogether.

With other RPG-focused gaming magazines available in the UK either consisting of patchy US imports or a few local magazines published on a decidedly variable basis (whatever did happen to ol’ Valkyrie?), the arrival of Arcane was immensely welcome. Sure, even by this early stage the Internet was already becoming an incomparable source of both homebrewed material and cutting-edge RPG news, but much of that was in the form of Usenet and forum discussions of variable quality or ASCII text files. To get something which was informative, read well, and looked nice, print media was still just about where it was at.

Truth be told, taking a look back at Arcane in more recent years I’m less impressed than I was at the time. It took largely the same approach to its own subject matter (primarily RPGs, with some secondary consideration to CCGs – because they were so hot at the time they really couldn’t be ignored – and perhaps a light sniff of board game content) that Future’s videogame magazines took to theirs, particularly the lighter-hearted PC Gamer/Amiga Power side of things rather than the likes of, say, Edge. That meant it focused more on brief news snippets, reviews, and fairly entry-level articles on subjects than it did on offering much in the way of in-depth treatment of matters.

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You’re Indestructible, Always Believe In, ‘Cos You Are Gold(en Heroes)

Golden Heroes was first published in 1981 on a small press, hobbyist basis – a labour of love by Simon Burley and Peter Haines, its authors. Come 1984, it ended up getting a revamp and release by Games Workshop: they’d bought the rights to the system as part of a plan to bid for the Marvel Comics RPG licence, and then when their bid fell through (losing to TSR, whose Marvel Super Heroes took a very different approach) Games Workshop decided to not bother applying the Marvel-flavoured reskin and put out Golden Heroes as it stood, in a boxed set which was the basis for a short-lived product line which retains a strong fan following to this day.

In fact, that fan following is strong enough that even decades after the game went out of print, both the fan community and one of its original designers have kept the flame burning. Codename: Spandex is a full-blown retroclone of Golden Heroes, whilst Simon Burley has kept his hand in the RPG design game (focusing mainly on the superhero genre) and produced Squadron UK, a spiritual successor to the game based on many of the same principles. If you want the Games Workshop version, the original boxed set still pops up on EBay, or if you want to go a bit thriftier with it you can find the actual rulebooks (the only components you strictly need) separately.

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