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Subject: Golden Age of Wargaming? rss

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Michael Dorosh
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DarrellKH wrote:
mrbeankc wrote:
SPI was gone by 1982 however meaning the 80s and most of the 90s Avalon Hill was largely unchallenged. I think the loss of SPI was significant as it was the demise of SPI that left Avalon Hill pretty much alone as a publisher of wargames for about 15 years.


A few minutes with the BGG search engine doesn't support your assertion.

Between the years of 1982 and 1999, the following companies produced the number of wargame titles indicated:

Avalon Hill 34 (not counting ASL modules and expansions) or 56 (counting them)
Victory Games (the old SPI guys, working for Monarch Publishing) 30
West End Games 29
3W Games 119
GDW 54

So, out of just four companies, AH (without expansions and modules) sold 12.7% of the games, or (with expansions and modules) 19% of the games.

That might be an even lower percentage than it was in the seventies.


Victory Games was an Avalon Hill subsidiary, so you can probably count them as AH, too. Still, your numbers do make the point I raised earlier - there were definitely other companies working in this period. But the numbers don't tell the whole tale - distribution was another element, and it may be that AH/VG had better access to that end of it.
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Namrok wrote:
Personally as a newcomer to wargames, I can't really say the newer games are "better" exactly, but I vastly prefer them. Many of the new wargames like Twilight Struggle,


surprise He mentioned Twilight Struggle. :-)

I just hope to find a ftf partner before the "Golden Age" ends.

I agree about the impact of the Internet, I would not know of the quantity of wargames available if it wasn't for it, and most of my wargaming against an opponent have been through the Internet (around 99.9%)
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Enrico Viglino
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ermj1986 wrote:
pete belli wrote:
Take away the internet and wargamers would be like randomly dispersed barbershop quartet enthusiasts with each guy singing alone.


True, but I prefer singing alone.


Even so, it is nice to be able to share.

You and I both post playthroughs - and I know I get pleasure from
sharing the singing, and being able to hear others.
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mrbeankc wrote:
In the 70s, 80s and 90s Avalon Hill basically had a monopoly in the wargame market.


Only if you lived under a rock. SPI (Simulations Publications, Inc.) was publishing and selling more games than AH for much of this period. If you missed out on SPI in its heyday I feel sorry for you. It was a great time.
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Arrigo Velicogna
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I am in the camp that says Internet is conspiring in creating the so called 'golden age'. Awful games were produce dint he 60, 70, 80, 90 and so on...

I think Twiliight Struggle (also called Twilight Vomit) is a clear example of something that is utterly bad as wargame are concerned. I do not care if it is a good game, but as Cold War simulation it fails. Now this will put me firmly on the old grumpy camp, but read on... bad things were going out even before (Eagle and the Sun anyone?). I will even consider ASL a failure (I will confess that I can play it only with Retro and have some enjoyment, otherwise I think it is a monumental failure ignoring the basics of simulation cool .

What I think 'critical' nowadays is communication and offering. Internet allow both. Communication between players and between players and producers. In the past you were exposed to new offerings only through FLGS or magazines (and still you had to buy the magazines somewhere). If your FLGS was more a Not So FLGS and pushed specific games and companies your exposure to offerings was limited. In the past we were forced more or less to buy what was presented to us, now we have more choices.

Still I do not think that everything is fine. The hoppy is more rather than less fractured (we cannot even agree on sales shares in 1982!), and to be quite honest a lot of people here and there that call themselves wargamers are not IMHO (ok this does not matter with them but they do not matter with me, so is this small communities that just use the same communication media). In the last days I was playing Jim Day's MBT. I like the components too...

Newer games often receive higher ratings, and lighter ones get more and more ratings, but this does not mean that they are better (subjective approach). Being blunt to the extreme I would say that I will tend to cross all ratings expressed by Kyle as not relevant to me. Before people ban me this is just a reflection of how our tastes are different. It is like food, I am allergic to mushroom, I do not care how good people think they are, I just go sick if I eat them. I have seen ratings that reflect more personal opinions rather than objective qualities. I have stopped to heed to rankings longtime ago (how by a politician climbs the ranking in Italy? Every member of his party is ordered to buy one!) . I think ratings are more useful to understand game communities than games!

About components... again one people poison is someone else blessing. I have no problems with half inch counters, often they are superior to large ones. Paper maps? Usually better than mounted horrors, especially for larger games and so on. I would find very difficult and overly expensive to have an OCS game with 1" counters and mounted maps.

To be quite honest I do not think that we are in a golden age because the recent games are rated higher, I think we are in a good wargaming age because we have a lot of games to rate. Everyone of us is able to find his/her own games rather than being force-feed on specific games.



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Enrico Viglino
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Mad Archeologist wrote:


I think Twiliight Struggle (also called Twilight Vomit) is a clear example of something that is utterly bad as wargame are concerned. I do not care if it is a good game, but as Cold War simulation it fails.




I think TS does a better job than any other power-politics treatment
of the whole of the coldwar that I've seen. Now, I think it fails to
qualify as a wargame - but not because it fails to simulate well; just
because of the focus of the simulation. Yeah, there's a gamey mechanism
with the card management - but the intention seems to be to provide
players with opportunities to which they must react.
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Steinar Vilnes
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If we look locally, the period around 1990 were certainly the golden age her in Norway, and by "golden age" I really mean the only time quite a few people played these games i Norway. We had three dedicated wargame shops in Oslo and more in other cities(none today) and it was even possible to find face to face opponents in small cities. In retrospect, the reason was that everyone that wanted to play any kind of "deep" game tried and played wargames. The hobby declined because more complex PC multiplayer strategy games and not least Magic stole the gamers attention.
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Bill Eldard
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Da Debil wrote:
Along those lines, the internet allows easy and very effective criticism of bad products, which forces companies to improve and maintain a higher standard.


Conversely, it also facilitates the release of poorly playtested games with the ability of publishers to post errata in the form of "living rules."
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Arrigo Velicogna
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SteViln wrote:
If we look locally, the period around 1990 were certainly the golden age her in Norway, and by "golden age" I really mean the only time quite a few people played these games i Norway. We had three dedicated wargame shops in Oslo and more in other cities(none today) and it was even possible to find face to face opponents in small cities. In retrospect, the reason was that everyone that wanted to play any kind of "deep" game tried and played wargames. The hobby declined because more complex PC multiplayer strategy games and not least Magic stole the gamers attention.


Sad problem, but same in Italy. In the 90' in Bologna we had two well stocked shops, now there is zero (ok one game shops has a little FOW miniatures and some GMT real wargames but 2-3 boxes of GMT meatier games in total). On the other hand in my forward HQ I have the most excellent Leisure Games...

Anyway while Internet has improved wargaming communication it has also played a part in losing local shops. I think the community of players now is smaller than once but, perhaps, stronger.

Another problem is lack of history-minded young people and a lot of dumbed down historical abominations around. I am also a miniature players and I have to say that I am completely put off by the style of historical information in games like Flames of War
ans some of its supplement (but on the other hand some of the information provided is good). There is indeed a tendency to present complex games as boring and not fun supported by the idea that only computers than provide real simulation thus added complexity is just redundant chrome(as there is the opposite tendency to confuse detail with realism). Still you see Case Blue and OCS quite up... so it is not all clear cut.
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Arrigo Velicogna
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Michael Dorosh wrote:
Wilhammer wrote:


You must be looking at different games.... Production was as good as anything AH did, except not being mounted.



The artwork was substandard, if you really want to compare to AH.



You could have mounted that, but I don't know many people who take dime store post-cards down to custom frame shops and pay for the low-glare glass.

Avalon Hill's maps at the time were hand-painted. For example, MBT:



Quote:
Besides, who would invest using the traditional methods in a product that could not take on the Behemoth?


According to Darrell below, 3W, over 100 times.

TSR, WEG, and others, but as noted in other posts, I don't know that it was a competition at all. Niche hobbies tend to fill up with people who accumulate lots of products - you don't just buy one, you buy as many as you can, because they all interest you.

So while I agree ASL is for some a "lifestyle" game, there are plenty of ASL players who do other things. Don Greenwood himself promoted the idea, but then again, he had a pretty vested interest in doing so.



I am an MBT fan, but soldiers'map is very nice!
 
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Kyle Smith
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Arrigo, I can respect that opinion. It's the reason I said that I would never consider the games I like "better" than older wargames. And you are likely onto something when you say more accessible games get more ratings and end up rated higher due to how BGGs rating algorithm works, among other possible factors.

It's probably most important to find reviewers who's taste you have verified you agree with and respect.

But even in the face of that, at least for me, this appears to be a golden age of wargaming just because more wargames make an honest attempt at being accessible. Even if they have to give up some of their realism, simulation qualities, or rule complexity to do it. And for me that's a great thing, because otherwise I, and I suspect many people, would never have touched a wargame.

But I can see how that would be viewed as a bad thing in light of the games you enjoy being pushed aside to make room for games people like me enjoy. If that is in fact a thing that happens. I'm not sure it does.

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Arrigo Velicogna
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Eldard wrote:
Da Debil wrote:
Along those lines, the internet allows easy and very effective criticism of bad products, which forces companies to improve and maintain a higher standard.


Conversely, it also facilitates the release of poorly playtested games with the ability of publishers to post errata in the form of "living rules."


It also allow for drum marketing and creation of hype (I have seen designer/playtesters rating their games without writing who they are on BGG or similar behavior elsewhere). In the end we do not know how large is the player base of a certain game but we realize how vocal is. Internet is a double edged sword.
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Arrigo Velicogna
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Namrok wrote:
Arrigo, I can respect that opinion. It's the reason I said that I would never consider the games I like "better" than older wargames. And you are likely onto something when you say more accessible games get more ratings and end up rated higher due to how BGGs rating algorithm works, among other possible factors.

It's probably most important to find reviewers who's taste you have verified you agree with and respect.

But even in the face of that, at least for me, this appears to be a golden age of wargaming just because more wargames make an honest attempt at being accessible. Even if they have to give up some of their realism, simulation qualities, or rule complexity to do it. And for me that's a great thing, because otherwise I, and I suspect many people, would never have touched a wargame.

But I can see how that would be viewed as a bad thing in light of the games you enjoy being pushed aside to make room for games people like me enjoy. If that is in fact a thing that happens. I'm not sure it does.



I used you just as an example. No ill feelings! And I agree that the fact today games can afford to be more 'accessible'. In part is a technology factor. At UK game convention often I chat with Stuart from Great Escape Games. They did some very nice miniature rules. Their first product was a WW2 skirmish games, rules of engagement. Nice game, very nice book (hardback, color section, good production value). Second product,Clash of Empires, is full color. Stuart told me the costs involved were roughly the same (and also the Retail price ). Then you have more product that cater for different tastes. also less detail do not mean less realism by default. I would say that CC and ASL are not really different. I do not like them both (ATS is a bit better, LnL has some good points, but if I have to say my favorite tactical games are TCS and Panzergrenadiers). I do not like CC mechanics based on card play rather than tactics and the combat system is plainly boring IMHO. On the other hand ASL has detail that is spurious and become awfully slow. Once I mastered a session of Phil Sabin's Fire and Maneuver where the players were serving LtCs (and an RN Commander) and civilian staff of the MoD. They did not complain too much about the lack of details as they complained about the lack of firepower in WW2 companies!

Also I do not think that at the moment the second part is happening. We are in a golden age because both sides of the crowd are happy. I cannot say my games are pushed aside. If something like that will happens we will enter the dark age... still I feel that there is people that want to push one or the other side out. There was an article by the designer of Britannia in a recent issue of Against the Odds that was subtly arguing just that; complex game had to make way for simpler one. I thought at the time that was just silliness (or marketing push in attempt to justify certain styles of products).

If you can play TS, I can play The Blitzkrieg Legend, and someone else ASL I think we are all fine and in a golden age.

PS: have you realized how people have slipped in discussing aesthetics (subjective) as they are a matter of fact? Truly a golden age!
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Bill Eldard
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Mad Archeologist wrote:
. . . Internet is a double edged sword.


Agreed.
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Enrico Viglino
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Mad Archeologist wrote:
... also less detail do not mean less realism by default.


Likely the opposite in fact. The more detail you put into
a game, the more complex things you are modeling, and thus the
more likely you are to get them wrong. People who like a lot of
detail (and I'm amongst them) do it for the depth of detail itself -
the additional insights it can bring into the subject. This gets wrongly
termed as realism by some - because there is a negative connotation to
what is actually driving this desire. But, a very simple model doesn't
tell you as much, however plausible its outcomes; so, I'd say that
detail IS a positive in and of itself, to those who wish to really
study a subject matter. Even when the detail turns out to produce
ahistorical results, it gets one thinking about possible flaws in
the model, which can provide more than just playing the game.
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Namrok wrote:
Arrigo, I can respect that opinion. It's the reason I said that I would never consider the games I like "better" than older wargames. And you are likely onto something when you say more accessible games get more ratings and end up rated higher due to how BGGs rating algorithm works, among other possible factors.

It's probably most important to find reviewers who's taste you have verified you agree with and respect.

But even in the face of that, at least for me, this appears to be a golden age of wargaming just because more wargames make an honest attempt at being accessible. Even if they have to give up some of their realism, simulation qualities, or rule complexity to do it. And for me that's a great thing, because otherwise I, and I suspect many people, would never have touched a wargame.

But I can see how that would be viewed as a bad thing in light of the games you enjoy being pushed aside to make room for games people like me enjoy. If that is in fact a thing that happens. I'm not sure it does.



This sums up my feelings. If Washington's War, For the People, ASL, Combat Commander and a myriad of other games are not wargames because they are not accurate simulations, then I guess I'm not a true wargamer and I'm not sure I want to be one... Agreed that the word "better" does not mean a more accurate simulation. To me it means a more enjoyable game to play. Although the use of the word "better" in that context may be more subjective, it is nonetheless backed up by the volume of sales and ratings of the games falling into that category.
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The golden age is now*

*One exception IMHO: Rulebooks. In general I don't see the fat rulebooks with copious designer's notes as much anymore.

The books may use more color and be glossier, but I miss the "meaty" nature of the old books, e.g. AH's Jutland, 1914, etc.

And, of course, with the old S&T you had an entire magazine of background and historical material related to that issue's game.

Even Broadside, a kid's game about the Naval War of 1812, contained a little color American Heritage history booklet about the era, ships, and tactics that would put many modern-day games to shame.

Some rulebooks today are terrific (like Where Eagles Dare in MMP's Grand Tactical Series, which even has color photos of the battlefield as it looks today!)

One could argue that much of this content is freely available on the web today, so why bother to put it in a rulebook. I suppose that's true -- but what I really liked were the ways designers like Joe Balkoski (St-Lô) or Eric Lee Smith (Panzer Command)
used designers' notes and historical examples copiously throughout a rulebook to illustrate the real-life situations and show what the game rule was trying to simulate.
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Adam D.
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Say what you will, but I'd cough up a chunk of change if it would let me go back and sit in on a Friday night playtest at SPI.

(and this site being what it is, "playtest" "SPI" and "wargame" all tick off the spell checker, lol).
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Arrigo Velicogna
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mille1212 wrote:
Namrok wrote:
Arrigo, I can respect that opinion. It's the reason I said that I would never consider the games I like "better" than older wargames. And you are likely onto something when you say more accessible games get more ratings and end up rated higher due to how BGGs rating algorithm works, among other possible factors.

It's probably most important to find reviewers who's taste you have verified you agree with and respect.

But even in the face of that, at least for me, this appears to be a golden age of wargaming just because more wargames make an honest attempt at being accessible. Even if they have to give up some of their realism, simulation qualities, or rule complexity to do it. And for me that's a great thing, because otherwise I, and I suspect many people, would never have touched a wargame.

But I can see how that would be viewed as a bad thing in light of the games you enjoy being pushed aside to make room for games people like me enjoy. If that is in fact a thing that happens. I'm not sure it does.



This sums up my feelings. If Washington's War, For the People, ASL, Combat Commander and a myriad of other games are not wargames because they are not accurate simulations, then I guess I'm not a true wargamer and I'm not sure I want to be one... Agreed that the word "better" does not mean a more accurate simulation. To me it means a more enjoyable game to play. Although the use of the word "better" in that context may be more subjective, it is nonetheless backed up by the volume of sales and ratings of the games falling into that category.


More sales do not mean better. Otherwise junk food will be the best thing on earth, or bad movies, and so on. Again we are mixing a given indicator with some subjective term. For me CC is not enjoyable at all. I think that, probably without any real intention, there is a slip in the idea that what we like is better. More sales simply mean bigger market base. Taking the other idea to the extreme we would have to accept the idea that Monopoly is indeed a better game than CC or TS.

Often accuracy is in the eye of the beholder. Phil Sabin maintains that his Eastern Front 2 is a good portrayal of the war in the East, for me is not... . Also I see you have mixed a lot of wargames in your 'Myriad' so I cannot really say you are not a wargamer, surely in the myriad there are some we share!

Anyway I think that we tend to agree that the fact there is a massive offering catering to all tastes creates the so called 'golden age' (or at least an age were we can really enjoy our hobby. I think we are reinforcing our points.
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Michael Dorosh
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Mad Archeologist wrote:
mille1212 wrote:
[q="Namrok"]Arrigo, I can respect that opinion. It's the reason I said that I would never consider the games I like "better" than older wargames. And you are likely onto something when you say more accessible games get more ratings and end up rated higher due to how BGGs rating algorithm works, among other possible factors.

/q]

This sums up my feelings. If Washington's War, For the People, ASL, Combat Commander and a myriad of other games are not wargames because they are not accurate simulations, then I guess I'm not a true wargamer and I'm not sure I want to be one... Agreed that the word "better" does not mean a more accurate simulation. To me it means a more enjoyable game to play.


More sales do not mean better. Otherwise junk food will be the best thing on earth, or bad movies, and so on.


More sales mean exactly what he says it does. More people find the product enjoyable than other products.
 
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Bill Eldard
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TheCollector wrote:
Say what you will, but I'd cough up a chunk of change if it would let me go back and sit in on a Friday night playtest at SPI.

(and this site being what it is, "playtest" "SPI" and "wargame" all tick off the spell checker, lol).


In a sense, we did just that at our annual Wake event back in 2000 (the first Wake in '98 marking the sale of AH to Hasbro).

Jim Dunnigan (JFD) had suggested to us at the 1999 Wake that we could recreate an SPI Friday Night Follies.

So for the 2000 Wake (an SPI dedication), he brought an unclassified order of battle for Russian and Chechnyan forces, and I brought in a blown up map over which we taped a blank mapsheet. We taped map/blank sheet to a large window for backlighting, and Wakesters (and former SPI playtesters) Mark Herman and Al Nofi traced over the terrain with colored pens.

JFD walked us through the principles of game design as other Wakesters took the orders of battle and created unit counters. Another team wrote down some rules, and (as JFD then told us) "take the CRT from any folio game and you're done save for some playtesting."

We had ourselves a '70s-style Chechnya folio game. It took less than two hours.

According to JFD, that's how it was done in the heyday of SPI. And to think I bought folio games by the car-load back then.

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I agree that we are living in a Golden Age, but I also notice that many of us still yearn for something more than what we have:

1. We've had electronic spell checkers for 20 years now, so why don't we have less counter, map, table and rules errata?

2. We've had computerized manufacturing and printing for years, so why can't publishers offer a "Jumbo" alternative of their more popular games - larger counters and maps for those of us with poor eyesight and shaky hands!

3. I'm sure I've missed something...

When will we see this "Diamond Age"?
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Benny Bosmans
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The golden age in NUMBER of games sold was certainly in the 70's to early 80's.

Avalon Hill sold 200.000 copies on a yearly basis in 1962 already.

Panzerblitz alone sold 100.000 copies in the early 70's.

Jim Dunnigan said in his overview of the industry that the monthly Strategy and Tactics SPI wargame magazine with a wargame included reached a peak at ... 36.000 subscriptions in the early 80's...

No one comes even close these days to these numbers...

Reason of the decline ?

I was there:

1. Home computers entered the scene as early as 1980/81. Atari 800, Commodore 64, later followed by ST's and Amigas in 1986.

2. Fantasy entered the scene and went massively played : D@D...sold better.

3. The final blow to the mass market was with the entry of the multi million players of Magic the Gathering and all other CCG's. Starting in 1993 the collectable card game made what board wargames never could do: go for the million + markets.

Rest is history.

Today the wargame industry only survives ... Tx to the computers that killed it and the way these computers are connected to the internet.

But the sales are a fraction of a mediocre AH game of the 70's and early 80's.

So while I applaud Vassal, wargaming days are really niche compared to the millions of wargames sold through the 60's, 70's and 80's...

Who knows perhaps there will be a revival with these giant new tablet screens shown in the latest CES shows. Who knows ...

But until that "new golden age", present day wargames are doomed to get a print run of 500 to 2000 copies max...

... That was peanuts for an AH Game in the 70's.



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DarrellKH wrote:
mrbeankc wrote:
SPI was gone by 1982 however meaning the 80s and most of the 90s Avalon Hill was largely unchallenged. I think the loss of SPI was significant as it was the demise of SPI that left Avalon Hill pretty much alone as a publisher of wargames for about 15 years.


A few minutes with the BGG search engine doesn't support your assertion.

Between the years of 1982 and 1999, the following companies produced the number of wargame titles indicated:

Avalon Hill 34 (not counting ASL modules and expansions) or 56 (counting them)
Victory Games (the old SPI guys, working for Monarch Publishing) 30
West End Games 29
3W Games 119
GDW 54

So, out of just four companies, AH (without expansions and modules) sold 12.7% of the titles, or (with expansions and modules) 19% of the titles.

That might be an even lower percentage than it was in the seventies.


Number of published titles does not equal total sales or market share. Using that logic we would have to conclude that Stronghold Games was as big as Fantasy Flight because they published a similar number of games titles in 2012.
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I thought that the Golden Age of [Cardboard] Wargaming was the 70's and 80's. Most of my cardboard wargames and cardboard wargaming experiences are from that era. However, I'm willing to adjust my thinking and call the 70's and 80's the Bronze Age of [Cardboard] Wargaming. Maybe we are in a Golden Age now, or perhaps we are in an Iron Age.

No doubt this is a great time for miniatures wargaming. Figure availability is amazing.
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