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My days at the end of Avalon Hill
JC Connors
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In 1996 I was hired as a designer at Avalon Hill and this would be one of my first jobs out of college. Originally brought on to develop the new RuneQuest RPG, I juggled many different roles there during my time, and worked on a huge number of those final boardgames AH would produce.

While I wasn't the one to "turn out the lights" (that honor would go to producer Bill Levay), I was one of the half dozen employees that was let go on that final day. I still remember how angry and sad we all were that final day -- I was angry enough to post the demise of AH on the website without permission! Despite that, my final words to Eric Dott were "you know, while it lasted, this was the best job I ever had." His own response, and to his credit an authentically emotional one, was "It sure was. It was, wasn't it?"

But years have past, and I now look back at those last two years with great fondness. I worked with a great team on a lot of games I'm proud of. Now in my 12th year in the game industry, I look at that time as my apprenticeship with some amazing talent.
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1. Board Game: Dragon Pass [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:2288]
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RUNEQUEST SLAYERS

I was originally hired to be the lead designer of a new version of RuneQuest (soon redubbed "RuneQuest Slayers"). A deal had been struck between Avalon Hill and Chaosium, where AH got the rights to the name, Chaosium got the rights to the world of Glorantha, and both companies could use the system.

Mark Hall was brought on quickly afterwards as the development manager of the project, and we agreed that we needed to steer away from the original system since we were nervous Chaosium would launch their own game with an identical one.

Mark and I brought on Christopher Lawrence as a second designer and Jason Behnke as the official RuneQuest artist. Ben Knight was to be the editor of the new game, and we all agreed to refocus the game on runes (absent from previous editions) and bring a grittier, more sword and sorcery feel to the game. This project absorbed most of my time for the next two years, though like everyone else at Avalon Hill, I spent quite a bit of time helping to develop many of the boardgames that would be released, and much of what I learned about boardgames from the masters there would be brought back into the new RuneQuest mechanics.

While it was incredibly painful when Avalon Hill shut down (with RuneQuest Slayers, sitting half-printed on the press!), RuneQuest quite literally marked the start and end of my career at Avalon Hill.
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2. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1526]
JC Connors
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ISRAEL BRITANNIA

This was my first official playtest at my new job at Avalon Hill. A designer had submitted a Britannia-like game based around the history of Israel. It even had an Ark of the Covenant you could cart around from territory to territory to destroy your foes. After playing the game, Ben Knight asked my opinion before anyone else at the table. I told him I thought it was great, and it was innovative to have you playing all these different nations.

You see, I had never played Britannia or History of the World before, so this mechanic was brand new to me. The guys at the table sighed and mostly ignored me. Needless to say, we passed on the game because it was too niche, but it did cause me to immediately start reading the rules of a bunch of the old AH classics I had never played before.
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3. Board Game: Colossal Arena [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:536]
JC Connors
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TITAN: THE ARENA

Titan: The Arena was another one of the first games I had the pleasure of helping to playtest during my tenure at Avalon Hill. We had just hired Mark Hall as one of our development directors, whose previous experience was from Games Workshop, and he pushed the company hard to establish a strong "fantasy brand" for the company. Since Titan was the logical choice, Mark and Don Greenwood quickly converted Grand National Derby into what would be known as Titan: The Arena.

The game formed very quickly, with most of the playtesting revolving around tweaking the powers. Don did a great job inventing those powers and managing everyone's suggestions, and we all knew it was going to be a blast to play from the very beginning.

Kurt Miller poured a lot of time and energy into the art of those cards. Mark and Don insisted that the creatures look "cool and mean." Mark insisted that the game get printed by Carta Mundi for the best quality, which irritated the Dotts as everything back then was printed in-house at Monarch Printing, but Monarch clearly couldn't duplicate the print job offerred elsewhere.

When the game was released, a lot of our customers were really irritated that the game wasn't MORE like Titan. Even as far back as 1997, a lot of Titan fans were hoping for a fancy Titan reprint, and when this turned out to be "just a card game" a lot of those fans expressed their frustration to us at various conventions. Many even refused to play it when they saw it wasn't a true sequel to Titan. Mark Hall had a big Titan boardgame revisit up his sleeve for later when the original went out of print, but that never came to fruition.

I think Titan: The Arena is now known as much for its gameplay as its original, massively confusing rulebook. I don't know what to say (other than Don's style is far removed from today's streamlined Euro rules!). Maybe because we all knew how to play so well, no one spotted how harsh the rules were to anyone but the most hardcore AH gamer. Certainly, no one tried giving the rulebook to a new player. Shortly after release, we tried to make amends, and I helped put an illustrated "example of play" up on the website to address some of the confusion. I remember at the time, posting errata and game help on the web was considered fairly revolutionary!
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4. Board Game: Princess Ryan's Star Marines [Average Rating:5.33 Overall Rank:10040]
JC Connors
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Redmond
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PRINCESS RYAN'S STAR MARINES

This game was really fun to work on, but when it finally shipped, I don't think a lot of us wanted to play it again. A big reason for that is that Don Greenwood was the ultimate "dungeon master" when it came to playing this game. He was brutal, cruel, and always seemed to be two steps ahead of anyone that would challenge his evil Black Guard. I clearly remember seeing his knowing smirk as you advanced along the gameboard... one step closer to one of his deadly traps. He was that good.

Mark Hall applied quite a bit of pressure to management to up AH's production standards on this game. This resulted in the Larry Elmore artwork and the included metal miniature. Kurt Miller, the artist assigned to the project, really pushed using 3D artwork on the game to give it a feel that was brand new to boardgaming. While the 3D art looks primitive today (it was all done in Bryce), and resulted in some bizarre, garish color combinations on the gameboard, it was definitely groundbreaking in that area.

This was also the first game that I was asked to write a "quick start" version of the rules. The thinking about boardgaming was changing (and Mark was a key catalyst here), but almost everyone recognized that there was an audience that might buy this sci-fi game but would struggle with a typical AH ruleset. I have to admit, the streamlined rules were barely playtested (I even think I got a major mechanic wrong...), but we received enough kudos from new players that we all agreed making games more accessible was a good strategy. There would be a lot of that influence in the last years of Avalon Hill.

There was also a backlash about this game's $55 price tag, which a lot of fans blamed on the single miniature and the art, which was really frustrating for Mark to hear.

We had a really hard time at Gencon that year explaining this game to people. Ben Knight and I took turns demo'ing it (practically drawing straws, as it wasn't the easiest game to explain in a short amount of time, and about half the time people would walk away severely confused). I think I eventually settled on describing it "like Talisman, but sci fi and mostly cooperative" which isn't too far from the truth... but it was a tough sell next to Titan: The Arena.

I haven't played Princess Ryan since my days at Avalon Hill. Maybe I should bring it out again with a new group and see how it holds up.
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5. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1526]
JC Connors
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NINJA

As Mark was building the RuneQuest team, I was splitting my time brainstorming RPG ideas and working the tech support lines (which mostly involved mailing out patches for Third Reich...). I asked Don and Mark if there was something I could help develop, and was promptly handed... Ninja.

I'm not sure what Ninja was supposed to be. It was literally a huge box of floor tiles, random rulesets, cards, and miscellaneous design notes. I was told that everyone thought it was a good idea for a game, but no one could really make it work, including the last designer, whose name escapes me, who worked at AH and made it his baby. "Good luck," they said. "Let us know if you can make it fun at all."

(And that was the moment where I thought to myself, "Man, I have a job people would kill for!")

From what I could tell, Ninja was originally intended to be an ASL-like game, but with, well, ninjas. One player would play the ninja, sneaking alone through the daimyo's palace, the other player would play all the guards and samurai. The complexity of the game wasn't anywhere near ASL's (thankfully, I bet you're thinking) but the game just wasn't ever that fun. It played out too much like a miniatures game without the cool miniatures and powers -- the game was originally intended to be as "realistic" as possible. The ninja player just didn't anything to do, and the daimyo player didn't either, other than rush the ninja with everyone in the palace. And the game was loooong.

I tried desperately to make this game fun, upping the cinematic nature of the game (cool ninja powers!) and broadening the missions, but the game just seemed to lack something. I had one version of the game that was close, where each player would have their own palace and would be sending ninjas at each other's palaces on card-drawn missions in an attempt to dishonor the opponent so much, he commits seppuko!

Eventually I gave up in frustration when the pacing just seemed off. I may have failed, but I failed alongside other truly great game designers!
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6. Board Game: Successors (second edition) [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:1656]
JC Connors
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SUCCESSORS

I worked really closely with Mark Simonitch on this game and learned a cubic ton of design sensibility from him. I look back at this time working on this game very fondly, as Mark basically apprenticed me in game design, and walked me through a lot of the decision-making going into its development. By the time I was "attached" to this project as one of the main playtesters, I think Richard Berg's work was mostly done, and Mark was carefully balancing the game, writing the rules, and working with Kurt on the gorgeous artwork. Mark Hall again influenced the direction of this game, and the original bloody cover (which many people actually found slightly offensive, believe it or not) was meant to invoke a Braveheart-ish, "historical Games Workshop" feel. "More blood!" I recall Mark telling a grinning Kurt.

Successors was another game where I was asked to write a "quick start" of the rules, and this time I opted for a simpler version of the game that removed many of the more complex elements. I worked with owner Jack Dott's stepson Ryan Shannon (who was in middle school, the perfect target audience) on testing this simple version of the game, so it avoided some of the pitfalls of the Princess Ryan quick rules fiasco.

Needless to say, Ryan absolutely hated that Princess Ryan game for obvious reasons.
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7. Board Game: Plague! [Average Rating:5.39 Overall Rank:9232]
JC Connors
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Redmond
Washington
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RATS!

The less said about this project, the better. The Dotts licensed this bizarre game based on the plague, and myself, Ben, and some others played it a few times to see if it was any fun. It was not. It was long, boring, and weird. And it was my first glimpse into some of the poor management decisions being made: "we bought this already without playing it????"

Mark tried some variants to no luck then handed it over to me. I tried really twisting the design, trying to play up the humor and the weirdness of the game, figuring that was the only direction to go. In my version, players had their own dead-body carts and raced around town, grabbing bodies and sabotaging each other with gruesome "weapons" (think sticking severed arms into each other's tire

spokes, or unleashing plague rats to chase after each other). Lots of dice were rolled, and carts could spin out of control and crash.

I think I got mostly -- and rightfully -- eye rolls on this version of the game, and by the time I had it to a point where it was reasonably playable, the senior designers told management that we were not ever, ever touching this game again.

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8. Board Game: Atlantic Storm [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:2206]
JC Connors
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Redmond
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ATLANTIC STORM

Man, Atlantic Storm games got rowdy. So rowdy, in fact, that some of our PC game tech support guys couldn't work the phones because of the noise! In fact, one guy even got banned from playing this game, because he would ignore the phones, and I'm pretty sure the Girl's Life staff complained more than a few times.

Ben Knight's creation was mostly finished when he started developing it -- he had actually submitted it to Avalon Hill prior to his full time employment there -- so it was a labor of love for him to perfect the balance. Our early games used a "winner take all" approach to the spoils, which made the games especially cutthroat and brutal. People would keep track of their endgame scores and mock those who didn't come close. Steve Holmes, one the PC artists who did much of the Achtung Spitfire and Over the Reich art, was king for a long time, and this probably prompted Ben to adjust the scoring system.

When the spoils system came into place, I think we were all a tad disappointed that we could no longer win by monstrous margins. Steve was definitely depressed for a few days. Better for the game, not so much for our competitive streaks.

I think we were all a bit surprised when this game didn't get rave reviews. On reflection, however, I think a lot of that was because it's one of those games that plays better with a large group of gamer friends who don't mind begging and threatening each other in good fun. And that's what everyone was at Avalon Hill. Atlantic Storm just isn't as good if played straight. Steve Holmes should have been shipped in every box.

Even before the game shipped, Ben was thinking about Pacific Typhoon, though he hadn't worked it all out (his design thinking is written up in the Pacific Typhoon rules, in fact).
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9. Board Game: Freedom in the Galaxy [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:1934]
JC Connors
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Redmond
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FREEDOM IN THE GALAXY (PC)

This was one of the computer division's big projects for 1999 -- a PC version of Freedom in the Galaxy. Bill Levay assigned me lead designer of the project, and given a small team to get it done in a little over a year. By today's standards, that team wasn' big enough to make a DS game (I think it was around 5 people), but back then... well, we had a lot of enthusiasm and the times were different!

Since we had really bad sales with our direct-conversions of boardgames (both History of the World and Third Reich hadn't sold all that well), and the quasi-real time Wooden Ships & Iron Men was selling like hot cakes (over 35,000 units -- take a look at today's NPD numbers and laugh!), we decided to depart from the boardgame quite a bit for this one.

You' create six characters, Fallout-style, and issue actions to them on the various planets of the galaxy. For the rebels, it was an entirely character-driven game; they'd use their various stats to influence planets, sabotage bases, and spy on the evil empire. For the empire, they had characters, too, but also giant fleets to suppress rebellions. In addition to this strategic game, players could also "zoom in" and go on X-Com style tactical missions with their characters.

The game got as far as a prototype before the company shut down. Though it was my first videogame design, and like other rookie-designs was massively overscoped, I think the approach showed promise. We were all relieved when the official LucasArts' Rebellion game came out and turned out to be boring and ugly... we knew we could outdo that, though I guess we'll never know for sure!

A boardgame release was supposed to follow the PC game that basically tossed the old design and used the PC game as inspiration. I think Stuart Tucker, editor of The General, was a bit disappointed with this approach, as he was one of the only ones left at AH who really understood the original, complex boardgame. The new boardgame version of this had an unplayed prototype when we left, and was unfortunately accidentally tossed out.
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10. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1526]
JC Connors
United States
Redmond
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FANTASY CIVILIZATION

1997 was the Age of Civilization. Age of Renaissance was selling well, Don was working on a collectible card game version of Civilization, the civ-like Cave Wars PC game had gotten some good reviews, and the legal woes with Microprose and Activision were still a year off. There was a definite desire for "more Civ" and management asked me to use some of my fantasy and RPG expertise to

try coming up with a fantasy version of the game. Certainly not an "official" project, I spent some time over a few months experimenting with a game where each player would take on a fantasy race (elf, dwarf, et cetera), and advance them from the stone age into a sort of late-medieval era. Different races had different paths of advancement, with elves steering more towards magic and dwarves taking the tech route.

The game bore more of a resemblance to the original Civilization as opposed to Age of Renaissance, but it also shared the same critical flaw -- game length. Even though I only playtested this once, for about an hour, it quickly became obvious that it would be another 8 hour game. Though I was a big fan of Civilization, Age of Renaissance's reduced playing time was getting a lot of kudos, and I felt like the game had to be under 4 hours to be worth doing, especially as it would be as likely to appeal to the D&D crowd as the Civilization buffs.

Mark Hall wanted a boardgame of similar ilk coming out sometime after the new RuneQuest RPG, so I stopped working on the game, hoping to pick it up again after RuneQuest's release.
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11. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1526]
JC Connors
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WIZARD TOWERS

Feeling that my two-palace design for Ninja had some merit, I decided to "port" the game over to a different theme and add some "real-time strategy" elements to the game. The result was Wizard Towers, a game that almost made it on to the release schedule, but was bumped by Monsters Ravage America.

The premise of the game was that you were all wizards, each with a tower on hex map of a fantasy land. You'd run around the map with your slaves, gathering resources, and using them to bid on monster servants and tower levels. You'd build your tower off to the side of the board with tiles, adding trap rooms, alchemy labs, and other cool segments. The object of the game was to destroy each other's wizards or build a tower of a certain height. Inevitably, the game would end with your monsters storming someone else's tower in an attempt to kill off your foes' wizard.

I really liked Wizard Towers and was disappointed it didn't make it on to the release schedule. Looking back on it, however, it seems pretty primitive by today's standards, even though some of its mechanics -- fast playtime, Euro-style bidding, resource cubes -- would be right at home today.

We considered this game for a while to be the RuneQuest boardgame followup, but decided it was too magic focused (RuneQuest Slayers had no wizards in it). To avoid the fantasy theme, I started to reskin it into an Arabian setting, but that version was never completed.
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12. Board Game: Starship Troopers: Prepare For Battle! [Average Rating:5.69 Overall Rank:7586]
JC Connors
United States
Redmond
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STARSHIP TROOPERS: PREPARE FOR BATTLE

Avalon Hill inherited the rights to the movie-based game since the rights to the original never lapsed. Ben put a solid design together that was much more of an abstract boardgame where players would play cards to advance on a track and eventually capture the Brain Bug. The movie guys rejected that original version (apparently, the producer's young son didn't like it) and asked us to create a more tactical game.

Ben quickly raced this version together, and we all chipped in to playtest the heck out of it before the movie's release. Kurt Miller did some amazing Bryce work for the game, building on what he had learned from Princess Ryan, and the movie guys were really good at giving us assets from the film to use. There were daily debates on whether you were a Dizzy guy or a Carmen guy! (I'm a Diz guy, all the way, for the record).

Mark Hall again crusaded for solid production values, which resulted in the "plastic" standups used in the game. Management wasn't really happy about this, since they couldn't be printed at Monarch (a theme starting to develop), but the pieces were well received and I think the game stood up fairly well against the king of this category, Space Hulk.

Christopher Lawrence and I set up a MASSIVE version of this game at 1998's Avaloncon, which used giant sheets of martian red Styrofoam, action figures, and giant 12" toy warrior bugs. It drew a big crowd, and I'm still mad at Chris for losing the film with which he took pictures! This event is one of my final memories of Avalon Hill, as we were all let go immediately after the convention.
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13. Board Game: Monsters Ravage America [Average Rating:5.86 Overall Rank:5023]
JC Connors
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Redmond
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MONSTERS RAVAGE AMERICA

Ever since I was a kid I had this idea of a boardgame where you could play giant monsters. I never had a prototype I was happy with, but one day when driving on the beltway to work, I had the idea of playing both the monsters AND the military at the same time. Monsters Ravage America (or, originally "Monsters Ravage Whole World") was born.

Ben Knight really shepherded me through the design of this game. He focused on the board and movement system, I handled the combat system and the mutation and research cards. We really worked well together and the next few months were spent layering new, funny elements into the game, like the You Are Here marker, Lake Geneva, and Hollywood.

I'm sure this will come as little surprise to people who have played this game, but the endgame was much debated, even back when it was a prototype. I think we went through at least five endgames before we had one that we were mostly happy with. We knew we wanted the monsters to win (most of the time) and knew that the monsters had to engage each other for victory, but really struggled making the end as fun and compelling as the mid-game.

We tried letting monsters fight each other along the way, tried it with and without challenge spots, tried it with a scoring system, but nothing really stood out as exceptional. (For the Monsters Menace America rerelease, Ben and I discussed it again... but believe it or not, most of the focus testers actually preferred rolling tons of dice and shouting monster noises).

Ben and I were really disappointed with the art situation n Monsters. Kurt had left at this point, and management had rejected Jason Behnke's, the only remaining artist, black and white front cover (it can be seen on the back of the rulebook). The mapboard was all public-domain clipart or photos done by some Girl's Life staff, I did the card art (and no, I'm NOT an artist!), and we had to deal with only half the pieces being plastic. It was a graphic Chernobyl, and we knew it. Still, it was a game that we were all really proud of and felt that it was a solid "fresher" direction for Avalon Hill.

If the game was successful, we briefly talking about some sequel possibilities. Chris Lawrence had a zombie version, and I was taking notes for "Aliens Abduct America" and "Monsters Ravage Japan" (which would have AI-controlled alien monsters slowly appearing and vying with the players to win the game), but there was never much development on those.
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14. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1526]
JC Connors
United States
Redmond
Washington
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CONAN CDG

After Dune fell apart, Christopher Lawrence and I attacked our marketing department (one game named Ed Weiss) and begged him to try to land us the Conan license. Chris had a great early design started for a Conan card-driven-game similar to Successors. Each player would take over one of the great nations of Hyboria, and the various card events would send Conan himself around the map destroying everyone's plans. Great idea that never came to fruition, as Ed was terminated shortly afterwards and the company would close down before anymore traction could be made on this concept.


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15. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Merchandise [Average Rating:5.88 Unranked]
JC Connors
United States
Redmond
Washington
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DEFIANCE (PC)

Though a PC game, this game's role in the downfall of Avalon Hill is often forgotten. With the PC game sector growing incredibly fast, Bill Levay and Mark Hall decided to take a huge risk -- invest real money into a first-person shooter. Previously, all PC development at AH was done for a straight-up royalty deal (i.e. developers wouldn't get paid until the game was at market). As can be expected, this resulted in Avalon Hill only publishing small "garage band" games, though some of those garage bands were darned good. It was even rarer that a developer would want to work for AH a second time under this system, as I'm sure very few of them made much money off this arrangement due to the overall lack of marketing and shrinking distribution system.

Mark and Bill wanted to push hard into the growing action sector, so a shocking $1M was invested into Defiance, a hover vehicle-based FPS. A brand new label "Visceral Productions" was invented for the game, and the developer, LogicWare, went hard to work on the title.

In the end, the game was mediocre, and couldn't compete with Doom, Duke Nukem and some of the other early FPS games. It was innovative in some ways, such as having a story told through voiceovers and interactive cutscenes (similar to Half-Life, which was still years off), but ultimately the gameplay was repetitive and it was burdened with a poor save system. Avalon Hill lost a lot of money on that deal and management was forever scared off by the high-risk, high-reward business of videogames. Mark Hall and Ed Weiss were dismissed soon afterwards, Bill Levay didn't have much of a department to run, and a lot of the staff felt that the wrong lesson was learned.

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16. Board Game: Battle Cry [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:391]
JC Connors
United States
Redmond
Washington
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COMMANDS & COLORS

I didn't pay much attention to this game until one day the entire office started talking about it. Ben and Christopher Lawrence must have played dozens of Battle Cry games in just a few days, and soon everyone agreed it was one of the best games we had ever received. We were amazed at how fast it played, how well-balanced it seemed, and how many battles could be represented with the flexible system. I remember bringing in the Glory soundtrack to put on in the background while we played.

Everyone knew that convincing management that this game needed miniatures was going to be a big problem. I'm not sure how far those discussions got before the place closed down, but we knew Richard had a huge hit on his hands if it got produced right. But we all wondered aloud at this point if Avalon Hill could produce a game like that right. If Mark Hall had still been around, I'm sure he would have stormed the Dotts' office demanding high-quality miniatures, but no one could fight that battle like he could.

One of my fondest memories of this game would be at Gencon after we all got laid off. I got to watch a game between Kurt Miller and Richard Garfield while Richard Borg was off playing another game at another table. Kurt was absolutely merciless, and not especially diplomatic when pointing out errors in Richard's strategy. When he found out who exactly, Richard Garfield was, after the game (and this was at the height of the Magic craze) he was absolutely horrified. I kid him about that for days afterwards.

Needless to say, we were all thrilled when we heard that Hasbro had picked up this game after the acquisition.
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17. Board Game: For the People [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:496]
JC Connors
United States
Redmond
Washington
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FOR THE PEOPLE

We were all huge fans of Mark Herman's We the People, and of course Hannibal was a huge success, and Successors was being received reasonably well. Many at AH really wanted to start moving our wargames more in this direction -- games that could be enjoyed by both hardcore historical gamers and average gamers alike. When we finally received Mark's For the People, which had been on our radar for many months... well, we were really disappointed.

That probably sounds hard to believe, especially since it's now considered a near-classic. But many of us then were really trying to push Avalon Hill towards more casual games. Games like Titan: The Arena, We the People, Monsters Ravage America, and Battle Cry were a big step in that direction. We really felt strongly that if Avalon Hill was going to survive, it had to compete with games like Settlers of Catan. In retrospect, I'm amazed that we were actually so sensitive to the changing boardgame market as early as 1998.

For the People was a return to the more complex, long games of the AH's past. Ben and I really hoped that For the People would be something more in line with We the People, and it simply wasn't. We had a conversation with the Dotts about this, but they didn't care -- they wanted the game out as fast as possible. While this confused us at the time -- the Dotts authentically wanted to broaden our market in the past -- it's now obvious they knew AH wasn't going to be around for the long haul.

Because of these reasons, For the People didn't get a lot of development at Avalon Hill compared to some of our other games. Bitter Woods fell into this category as well, but I only watched one game out of the corner of my eye while working on a RuneQuest expansion, so I don't know the full story there.
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18. Board Game: The Napoleonic Wars [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:1194]
JC Connors
United States
Redmond
Washington
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THE NAPOLEONIC WARS

I think we all had a sense that something was wrong at this point... production had slowed down, we weren't being given much of a budget for our games. Many games of Napoleonic Wars were being played, though it seemed like everyone knew that it wasn't likely to get released. Don really threw a ton of effort into this game in the end, and a lot of people spent long hours playing it through.

This turned out to be one of the final games I played with Don and company, and even though I was on the bad side of this game's fragile balance, I was really impressed sheer energy Don devoted to this multiplayer CDG. I know this game also kept many of the staff busy after they were all laid off and looking for jobs, but by that time I had already moved from Baltimore to Seattle.

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19. Board Game: Dune [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:129]
JC Connors
United States
Redmond
Washington
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DUNE REVISED

Christopher Lawrence briefly worked with Stuart Tucker on a revised version of this game. It had been years since most of us had played, so we started some playtest sessions and planned to streamline the game nd incorporate all the optional rules, errata and the best of The General into the new game. I think the team was mostly finished when we were told our Dune license had expired... and that was the end of that.

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20. Board Game: Betrayal at House on the Hill [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:332]
JC Connors
United States
Redmond
Washington
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HOUSE ON THE HILL

This was another game we were REALLY excited about when we got it. Since RuneQuest work was wrapping up, Christopher Lawrence was assigned as the developer. I remember myself, Ben, and Chris looking at the scenario book and saying "we have NO idea how we're going to ever playtest all of these!" Compared to our normal playtesting, we did the math and this one would need about 20-30 times our usual.

Suffice to say, when the WotC version came out (with less scenarios, no less, than the one we had) I wasn't surprised there were some issues with those endgames.

But it was tremendously fun. One of the biggest differences between the current version and the prototype is that you had a "hand" of floor tiles you'd play from. One of the floor tiles in the deck was a fake one, with the word TRAITOR! written on it. That's how the game's traitor was determined originally, and while I prefer the new way, there were a lot of poker faces when we first played it.
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21. Board Game: Galaxy: The Dark Ages [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:2594]
JC Connors
United States
Redmond
Washington
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GALAXY: THE ARENA

Titan: The Arena was one of our best sellers, so Don immediately went to work on a sequel. We were all shocked and amused when Don showed up with a game completely based on Star Trek. ("Don? You're a Trek fan?!?") Nobody knew!

I only played this game a few times, and I think it wasn't too dissimilar to GMT's release a few years later. I bet you can figure out what Trek races corresponded to the "original" races. Kurt started on the artwork (he had grown pretty savvy with 3D tools, and Galaxy worked perfectly for that approach with the spaceships that were needed), but soon left the company to work at the newly-formed TalonSoft. Jason Behnke took over some of the alien artwork, which would also double for use in the Freedom in the Galaxy PC game, but the game didn't get very far artistically before AH would shut down.
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