Yes, I think this is art.
The OSR and the Old School products that it draws from is as much about aesthetics as anything else. And in turn, aesthetics is as much about the overall presentation as it is about, say, any particular illustration. Finally, fun cover hype (when it is justified) is part of the overall presentation.
Here it is for $9.00 (or $22.20, adjusting for inflation). Why should you buy it? Here are a few reasons:
- It's a fascinating Swords & Sorcery World!
- There's a Huge 34" x 44" Judge's Map of the City State!
- Also, there's a 17" x 22" Player's Map!
- With a Forty Page Guide!
- it's a Huge Referee's Guide for Fantasy Games!
- And it also includes Thunderhold, a 11" x 17" Castle of the Dwarven King!
- There are Two Booklets of Rules, Rumors and Renegades!
- And Ten Dungeon Levels!
- It's endorsed by Dave Arneson, Famous Fantasy Game Author!
- And The Entire Playing Aid Includes Seven Mapsheets & Eighty Pages...
It's like an ad from your one of your childhood comic books: 500 plastic soldiers AND 15 pieces of artillery AND 500 enemy soldiers AND three individually molded, authentically designed jeeps, for only $2.99 plus shipping! (please allow 7-12 weeks for delivery, no C.O.D.s).
I also love those circles--each filled with such promise--that show you what's being so enthusiastically described.
The cover hype of City State was justified. This is not the first edition, but it's substantially similar. Apparently when it first came out it blew everyone away. It blew me away when I first saw it.
An entire city?!! And Ten Dungeon Levels?!! And Thunderhold (just in case)?!!
Okay, so in small print we read: "Fantasy Game System Not Included". Presumably you have one of those if you've managed to get this far. Also, the "Recommended Age" is "15 and up". That just makes it all the richer if you're younger.
Speaking of fifteen-year olds, that warrior on the flying horse was drawn by someone who was still two years away from that. I'm going to quote a full passage on this from Fight On! #3:
The Origin of the "Flying Turkey" by Bob Bledsaw II: I was a lad of thirteen when the first boxes of printed Judges Guild product got stacked in my bedroom. I had aspirations of being an artist, with some talent in cartoon-ing. My father came to me and said that he needed a logo for the company, perhaps a man riding a dragon instead of a horse, “waving a cutlass like one of Teddy Roosevelt’s Roughriders.” A dragon felt a bit too TSR-ish, so I offered a Pegasus, as it was horse-like enough, and he agreed. I drew the “flying turkey” in 30 minutes, and off he went to have it printed. It was in pencil with intricate shading and detail, but the printer informed him that it would work better in multipurpose application if it was inked. Dad took out an engineering .00 pen from his pocket (a leftover from his work at General Electric) and inked it quickly on the counter while the printer looked on. Because of his rush, he failed to ink the fingers of the raised right hand and accidentally faced it back. That is why the ‘flying turkey’, as he called it, has, if you look closely, a left hand on his right arm.
Well, those days are gone, obviously, with all of their associated stories. And I can only feel a bit melancholy when I read about them.