And I find myself drawn to the same pursuit, though it's my intention to create a game that isn't specifically a retro-clone of any edition, per se, rather a game that somehow manages to capture the feel of 3rd edition for me, with elements cherry-picked from other games I've loved. In musing on how to evoke the Oldhammer feel with a new system I was reminded of one of the early forerunners of the RPG "Old School Renaissance", Mazes & Minotaurs. First appearing online in the heyday of the D20 glut, Olivier Legrand's M&M took an incredibly novel approach: it posited the existence of an alternate history, where the first RPG, instead of being based on the Tolkienesque pseudo-medieval fantasy of Dungeons & Dragons, was instead directly inspired by Classical Greco-Roman myths. This eminently playable nostalgia piece was presented with the caveat of being an "Anniversary edition" of this classic game, complete with liner notes from the editor discussing the history of the game and its fandom.
In this I found the approach I wanted to take with my game, even to the point of including M&M in the fictional history I developed for it. As I inch towards completion of the system (which, for those who are interested, is based on a mad combination of WHFB 3rd Edition, 6th Edition, D.B.A., and Hail Caesar), I thought I'd take an opportunity to share with you the following excerpt from the game's Introduction:
9TH Edition of the Classic Game of Fantasy Battles
CLAYMORE: A Retrospective
The late 60s and early 70s saw an explosion in interest in fantasy wargaming, largely initiated by the films of Ray Harryhausen, and culminating in the release of Olivier Legrand and Paul Elliott's Mazes & Minotaurs by Legendary Games Studio (1972). The success of Mazes & Minotaurs in a hobby previously dominated by historical wargames led to an ever increasing demand for fantasy miniatures and giving rise to numerous specialty companies such as the legendary Pax Sparta, Bombardier Models Inc., and, of course, Culloden Moor Castings.
Founded in 1969 by J. MacStephens, Ian Levingston, and Joan Airde, Culloden Moor Castings (CMC) originally mainly produced replica swords and armour. Their primary customers were members of the Society for Creative Anachronism and those interested in H.E.M.A. (Historical European Martial Arts). Airde noticed a large crossover between these customers and those interested in the hobby of wargaming and first suggested getting involved in the miniatures market, initially with a few limited edition figures offered in their 1973 catalogue. These proved quite popular and by the late 70s, the majority of CMC’s resources were put into the production of miniatures.
In February of 1975, CMC provided the funding for Bottega Games, a small publishing firm. Located in Inverurie, an Aberdeenshire market town, Bottega Games’ main purpose was to offer mail-order games, as well as expand the wargaming hobby in general by starting games clubs and provide a British wargames news source correlating to the War Games Digest in America. To that end, in February of that year they released the first issue of the newsletter Stoat & Raven.
Joan Airde, who was particularly interested in the fledgling RPG industry, left CMC in the hands of MacStephens and Levingston, and began working exclusively at Bottega studios. She served as general editor of Stoat & Raven and even began exploring computer-based gaming, contributing to the development of early text-based games for the PDP-11 mini-computer.
In 1977 Bottega gained official distribution rights for Mazes & Minotaurs in Britain, and in the same year Stoat & Raven was superseded by Subgiant (Originally titled The Church of the Subgiant, but this apellation was dropped by the third issue).
Around this time MacStephens and Levingston, who never had much interest in miniatures nor gaming, approached Airde and asked her to buy them out. Airde was unable to initially, and there were briefly talks of a merger with LGS, but this never came to fruition. The pair finally departed CMC in 1979, at which point Bottega Games was officially merged with CMC and Bryan Deville was hired on as Managing Director. Deville had previously ran the small but successful Yggdrasil Minis, and published the short-lived but well-regarded fanzine Goblinsmash!. Shortly thereafter, Bottega Games opened their first retail store in Edinburgh. The name “Bottega Games” was maintained for the retail side of the business, but all publishing was now down under the CMC moniker. They became the main distributor in the UK for a number of RPGs, including the seminal Phaserip superhero game and the occult horror investigative game, Carnaki: Ghost Hunters.
In 1980 CMC released their first original fantasy wargames rules-set, Grimm. Co-authored by Deville and Dean Richards, Grimm was essentially a small skirmish game for a dozen or so miniatures, and its release was largely eclipsed by Heritage Games’ Knights & Magick. Both Deville and Airde saw the potential, however, and work was begun on a new set of fantasy combat rules. Slightly more successful was the release of CMC’s first boardgame, Dale of the Zephyrs, wherein two players fought for control of the Realm of Hilympia, one side featuring Spartan-esque elves and Athenian Dwarves, the other demonic-looking Satyrs and animated skeletons.
Though CMC continued to release miniatures, that side of the company was greatly downsized and largely placed in the hands of the Pomeroy Twins. Sean White, a freelance artist who’d regularly contributed covers to Subgiant magazine was officially hired on as art director for the company. In 1983, CMC released the first edition of Claymore: The Game of Fantasy Battles.
By this time, Airde, who’d more and more taken a hands-off approach, finally left the company to focus on the fledgling videogame industry. Joining Pallisade Games with her new husband, Robert Williams, she would go on to create a number of influential “point-and-click” visual text adventures such as the highly popular Baron’s Voyage series. Deville assumed sole ownership of CMC.
Originally, Claymore featured nothing in the way of a setting, beyond some colour descriptions of magic items, but the following year an expansion to the game began to describe factions, and the quickly-following second edition provided the first glimpses of The Otherworld. This would be further fleshed out in the large campaign boxed sets The Tragedy of Manannan Mac Lir (very loosely based upon Shakespeare’s King Lear, with elements from Richard the III), Horrors of the Witchlord, introducing the world’s first major villain, Koschei the Deathless, and Massacre at Magh Tor, featuring the first appearance of the iconic Fomhoire, one-eyed half-demons based on creatures from Irish myth.
On the side, CMC had acquired the rights to produce gamebooks based on esteemed properties such as television’s Professor When and the Women of T.I.M.E. and the popular comicbook Constable Doom. CMC began contracting out miniature production to such companies as Annis Claw Designs and Berserkr Miniatures. But in 1987 CMC would come to dominate the industry with the release of the seminal third edition of Claymore along with Claymore Fantasy Role-Playing. Written by Dean Richards and Nick Hollowell, with editorial input by Bryan Deville, for many fans, this is considered the first “true” edition of Claymore, as the final image of The Otherworld associated with the game to this day finally took on a clear shape and definition.
The next year Star Pirates: Claymore XXVC introduced a dark future variation of the Claymore rules. Though fondly regarded by fans to this day, the science fiction setting never really achieved much success and survived for only a few years even as the fantasy game continued to dominate the market. The setting would be revisited with a stand-alone skirmish game in the late 90s, Space Grenadier, but never managed to capture the wide audience that the fantasy game enjoyed.
Claymore Third Edition received expansions in the form of Otherworld Armies (1989),
Claymore: Siege! (1990), and the highly-regarded The Forsaken and the Doomed (1991). When it came time to discuss a fourth edition of the game, a battle within the company began between Deville, who wanted to revise the game to appeal to a younger audience, and Richards, who thought this would alienate the strong fanbase the company had built up and unnecessarily limit the game. Deville saw a potential expansion towards a mainstream audience, whereas Richards believed that the success of Claymore was based around it being a game “by gamers for gamers”. In the end, Deville left with the Pomeroy twins to Annis Claw Designs to focus primarily on miniatures, while Richards and several of the other staff writers pooled together to purchase CMC outright.
This led to a massive revision of the company, and CMC ceased to produce miniatures altogether, though they developed and maintain to this day a very close relationship with Myer Thomas’s Pax Sparta Enterprises. Richards, now acting as managing director, downsized and refocused CMC. The retail side of the company, Bottega Games, became more general game stores offered to franchise partners. Andrew Doorman became the new head of the writing staff, and when a new edition was released in 1993, it was largely just a revision of third edition. The Claymore Role-Playing game was given equal attention to the wargame as a sister product, and continued to expand The Otherworld with supplements such as The Thrice-Tenth Kingdom, exploring the area based on Russian and Slavic mythology, and Yōsei Teikoku, focusing on the mythic Otherworld of Asia.
A curiosity of this new edition of Claymore is that it was identified as “Fifth Edition” in the game’s text. This led to rumours of a secret, unreleased fourth edition that has never seen the light of day. Stories from people working at CMC have been contradictory and vague on this point, with Richards only ever cryptically saying that “Deville took 4th edition with him when he left”. References in the game text of subsequent editions to this “Lost Edition” have become a running in-joke.
Claymore Fifth Edition was to include another revolutionary concept within its pages, one that would forever change the future of Claymore. Richards, who saw at one point the possibility of CMC being bought out by a larger company and Claymore falling victim to the world of corporate IP decided to take steps to ensure that Claymore would forever stay in the hands of its fans. Hence, included in the now famous “Appendix X” was the OWGL, or “Open War Gaming License”. The OGWL is a public copyright license that grants individual and amateur game developers permission to copy, modify, and redistribute the rules of Claymore, royalty-free. This license is perpetual and non-exclusive as long as a copy of the OWGL is included in the work.
1993 was also the year that CMC introduced the very first “Crystal Claymore Awards”, an annual worldwide miniature painting competition that continues to this day.
Its been 20 years and 3 editions since that time, and Claymore is still going strong. The rules have gotten a few tweaks and the Otherworld has been expanded, but largely the game has remained the same. “If it's not broke, don’t fix it” is CMC’s official position, and has earned them any number of lifelong fans. Ninth edition has brought with it the classic game millions have come to love, expanded now to include rules for Sieges, Maritime Battles, Solo play, and much more of what makes Claymore great. And rumour has it we may even soon see a new edition of Claymore XXVC...