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Subject: Golden Age of Wargaming? rss

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Brian Morris
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billyboy wrote:
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.


SPI was great! I think the loss of SPI was huge because it was an innovative company. I'm a strong believer in competition breeds innovation. I think after SPI folded Avalon Hill didn't have the competition to force it to create better games with better components that it might have otherwise. Today there are so many wargame publishers even with GMT being as big as it is.

In the end there are a lot of factors at work. I think the two biggest though is competition between so many publishers plus the Internet which changed the entire world. Back in the 70s and 80s usually you discovered a new game when you saw it on the shelf at your FLGS. For errata you had to wait a year or more until it was published in a magazine. Today we get reviews of new games before they're even published. Sometimes the errata online beats the game out too.
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Ben_Bos wrote:
Today the wargame industry only survives ... Tx to the computers that killed it and the way these computers are connected to the internet.

Dern 'perters, der tekin' er GHERMS!
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Warren Bruhn wrote:
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.


As I said: in sales the 60's, 70's and 80's were a gold mine compared to present day print runs.

Imagine having a 36000 print run for a monthly wargame in a magazine.

36000 is probably the total sales of GMT games in 2012 !

Panzerblitz alone sold 100.000 copies in just a few years time (1970-1972).

The computer killed board wargames in the early 80's, together with fantasy D&D and yep CCG 's...

Historical miniature gaming is really niche too.

You know what board wargaming really lacked was that ONE game that could break the multi million market.

Panzerblitz was the only game that breached the 100k gap, but frankly we needed a very popular yet highly polished game that reached the mass markets and ... this didn't happen...in time.

Something like Catan for Euro games or World of Warcraft for MMO's.

Probably because board wargames are simply too complicated and people are too lazy to learn rules these days...

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Warren Bruhn
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AlbertaClipper wrote:

I also think it’s hard to overestimate easy access to the designers themselves.


It's not just that players have access to the designers. The designers also have easy access to us. The designer can recruit an international team of volunteer playtesters and rules editors online in a small amount of time, picking people that the designer enjoys communicating with. And after publication the designers and developers can use the online community to wring out problems in games that the volunteer playtesters and rules editors didn't find, and respond with appropriate erata.
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Roger Hobden
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I believe the figure often quoted for Squad Leader is 200,000 games sold.

I wonder how many of these persons played more then 20 times, and how many are still playing wargames today ?

(If they are still alive ? )

PS : last year it was the 25th 35th anniversary of SL !!!

EDIT : corrected 25th vs 35th anniversary shake

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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).


I was a teenager living in the NY suburbs back then and was dying to go to one, but as I recall they called those friday sessions wargame "orgies'" and my parents refused to let me go!
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Chris Montgomery
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I would like to see the total number of wargames sold for any year from 2000 forward. While I agree (believe without any information) that no wargame of recent note has come close to the numbers you are citing individually, I am curious what the total number of game sales are. How many new games were released this year? 100? 200? I don't know, but it has to be far outstripping anything from the 70s, 80s, and 90s (see the above post citing total games released). With fewer titles, you will have more sales per title, assuming demand is the same.

But it is just a point of curiosity, not argument.

Is there current industry data on wargame units sold, number of titles published, etc.?

A quick search of the BGG database for self-described wargames, not including expansions, but not filtered for games that did not get published, miniatures rules, or other things.

That search resulted in the following data:

2002 167
2003 206
2004 245
2005 298
2006 271
2007 286
2008 301
2009 257
2010 136
2011 48
2012 62

Average Titles per Year: 207

Moderately interesting as a single datapoint. I think it fairly blows the number of titles produced in any one decade prior away. Assuming demand stays stagnant, and 1,000 copy printruns, and taking the average . . . that's 207,000 copies per year.

Taking it one step further, at a $45 average price, that's $9,315,000 gross per year.

And yes I know that all of these "estimates" are a bunch of conjecture.

But looking at the sheer number of games, I can see why total sales of individual titles might be much lower. It's not like publishers are releasing 20-40 titles per year anymore.
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roger miller
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I would suggest that print runs of 750 to 1250 are typical now days of smaller publishers like myself. Big ones like GMT run minimum of 3000. They printed or reprinted 25 games last year. Some current games sell quite well,say 6000 total sales and a few are really up there. So total sale are a little more robust than I think is appreciated.
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David Dockter
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True dat.

Also, ever wonder what the profitability (given p500, less inventory, etc) is today compared to the times of yore? I loved SPI, but, how long has GMT been pumping games now? I also wonder what the profitability of some of the boutique titles (2k - 10k print runs) vs the mass produced titles from the old days are. I think we know which model has been more sustainable.

A number of items; no Vassal, ACTS, etc in times of yore. I really wonder what the actual game play is today compared to then. In the old days, 1 copy of the game = 1 game play. Not today. Not by a long shot.

More of international component today also; I'd guess 33% to 50% of wargamers are not USA; that's a big change.

More bits to the hobby today: tourneys, mini cons, blogs, BGG/CSW, podcasts, vassal...a long list...all making it a richer experience; MANY more ways to participate vs times of yore (anyone still want to use "stock tables" to determine die rolls via snail mail?).

Also agree, generally, with the quality of games today; that they are better...much. Part of it is the iterative process used by many designers (and gamers). v1.0 issued...and then the improvements begin. This is good. And, designers today are innovating/stealing/borrowing from a base of 5,000 (at least) designs (50 years x 100 games a year).

Only thing I can't get my head around is that nothing has yet displaced World in Flames, ASL or Empires in Arms: nothing even close. Why (besides, no time for way of life games)? Despite that, the level just under those cornerstones of the hobby has witnessed a flood of great titles (Paths of Glory, For the People, etc.) the last 15 years. I don't see that letting up anytime soon giving the current tribe of wargame designers.

Anyways, Second Golden Age is now; enjoy it.

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Ben_Bos wrote:


You know what board wargaming really lacked was that ONE game that could break the multi million market.



Risk?

How many copies has Axis and Allies sold? Would you lump in its knock-offs?
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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).


Come to my house. It's like Friday night at SPI every month...



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Golden Age or not, here are some things I miss from the 70's and 80's:

Wargames at Origins.
Outgoing Mail in S&T magazine.
All the time I had
Opening my mailbox and getting the latest issue of S&T after an interminable two month wait.
Buying three SPI games for 8 bucks each minus the $2 per game discount for buying three.
Increasing my 6th grade vocabulary by learning words like: adjacent, simultaneous, partisan, errata and manifest.
War in Europe
World in Flames 5th edition
Reading EVERY word of the SPI and AH catalogs
Sneaking my Cross of Iron rule book into study hall
Teaching my dad to play Global War

The games are better now to be sure but the wonder of it all is.....diminished.
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David Dockter
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"Reading EVERY word of the SPI and AH catalogs"

Got me there; those were fantastic.
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Mark Humphries
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The First Golden Age was the 60s and 70s when the hobby was young and most wargamers were young as well.

The Second Golden Age is now as more and more wargamers reach retirement age and can once again dive back whole hog into the hobby.

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Benny Bosmans
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Mark_WH wrote:
The First Golden Age was the 60s and 70s when the hobby was young and most wargamers were young as well.

The Second Golden Age is now as more and more wargamers reach retirement age and can once again dive back whole hog into the hobby.



Agreed and ... Confirmed by the fact that in a recent survey on these forums ... it showed that almost 50% was wargaming for more than 40 years ...

Amazing. My son is now almost twenty and while I teached him the principles of wargaming he no longer touches ANY counters.

I played ASL with him at the age of 10. But in his puberty the only thing he touched was Warhammer Fantasy miniatures for 2 years and then he became hooked on computer games.

What will happen when we die ? It looks as if the market will dry up further unless something drastically will change...

This is the pension Age of board wargaming, perhaps the new tablet ranges and things like Vassal can attract younger generations. ...

But it is soooo much easier to take a video game and shoot things up in COD than to calculate odds in ASL. Although the latter CAN be as exciting, the younger dudes apparently no longer want to read rules.


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Herr Dr wrote:
True dat.

Also, ever wonder what the profitability (given p500, less inventory, etc) is today compared to the times of yore? I loved SPI, but, how long has GMT been pumping games now?


Profit was an alien concept at SPI. I read they were losing money on
every damned folio game they sold. Can't imagine they were making much
off the subscription issues either - except that they paid their
designers with cheetos.
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Darrell Hanning
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Michael Dorosh wrote:


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.


Since VG only existed as a means to subsidize the continued output of the SPI design staff, and given a different name to underscore the distinction, I considered it disingenuous to roll their numbers in with AH's. I felt the best way to handle them was as a distinct entity, something they fully deserve for the quality, character and volume of their work, during their brief existence.
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Darrell Hanning
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mrbeankc wrote:
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.


Confusing the two was not my intent, or I would not have used "titles" instead of games.

However, when discussing the possibility of a company having an intellectual monopoly, rather than simply pumping out more copies of the same games, titles is surely the more accurate metric. And in this AH could never, during its existence after 1970, be considered to possess anything resembling a "monopoly".
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TedW wrote:
Golden Age or not, here are some things I miss from the 70's and 80's:

Wargames at Origins.
Outgoing Mail in S&T magazine.
All the time I had
Opening my mailbox and getting the latest issue of S&T after an interminable two month wait.
Buying three SPI games for 8 bucks each minus the $2 per game discount for buying three.
Increasing my 6th grade vocabulary by learning words like: adjacent, simultaneous, partisan, errata and manifest.
War in Europe
World in Flames 5th edition
Reading EVERY word of the SPI and AH catalogs
Sneaking my Cross of Iron rule book into study hall
Teaching my dad to play Global War

The games are better now to be sure but the wonder of it all is.....diminished.


I think that has less to do with the games and more to do with growing up and getting old.
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Herr Dr wrote:
True dat.

Only thing I can't get my head around is that nothing has yet displaced World in Flames, ASL or Empires in Arms: nothing even close. Why (besides, no time for way of life games)? Despite that, the level just under those cornerstones of the hobby has witnessed a flood of great titles (Paths of Glory, For the People, etc.) the last 15 years. I don't see that letting up anytime soon giving the current tribe of wargame designers.



Choices. Those games operated in a relative vacuum of choices, for their type of game. ASL still does - how many tactical-level, WWII RPG-style games are there, after all?
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Jason Albert
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Herr Dr wrote:
Anyways, Second Golden Age is now; enjoy it.


Great point. Why does it have to be either-or? Then or now? While my zealot side wishes I could drive to Target and see wargames on the shelves, I’m not a games publisher, so I’m not going to spend too much time lamenting the sales numbers and used-to-beens.

All I know is that I have better access to community, games, face-to-face opponents, support, information, and designers than at any point in my life. So from my seat, anyway, all things wargame are looking relatively gilded.
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Herr Dr wrote:

Only thing I can't get my head around is that nothing has yet displaced World in Flames, ASL or Empires in Arms: nothing even close. Why (besides, no time for way of life games)?


The secret is that those games, especially ASL, have developed into hobbies of their own.
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Ben_Bos wrote:


Amazing. My son is now almost twenty and while I teached him the principles of wargaming he no longer touches ANY counters.

I played ASL with him at the age of 10. But in his puberty the only thing he touched was Warhammer Fantasy miniatures for 2 years and then he became hooked on computer games.

What will happen when we die ? It looks as if the market will dry up further unless something drastically will change...





Take heart. All is not lost. And most counter-pushers in my group are 30 or under.
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Chris Montgomery
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I would really like some somewhat hard-data on the number of active wargamers. It would be a great functionality for BGG for users to register as a gamer-type (even multiples of a gamer type) - does that gamer consider her- or himself X, Y, or Z type (and allow a user to check multiple boxes). That would at least generate some data.

An additional functionality would track "active" versus "inactive" usernames. If a user hasn't logged in for a year, it could be designated an inactive account, allowing dataminers to parse out users.

Having not really benefited at all from the "First Golden Age" of wargaming, I see the one we are in as the Golden Age - especially in terms of variety and innovation - admittedly, there are several old standbys of the bygone age that have withstood the tests of time, and in the current age, it is hard(er) to discover the gems due to the sheer volume of titles.
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Bill Wood
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Maybe we can start right here:

The EWR has 8 guys within 50 miles that show up on a somewhat regular basis.

In Yadkinville, NC, about 50 miles away, is another group - there is some bleed over - one - two guys.

another fellow in Kernersville host 2-4 guys.

Still another guy in K'ville has TDC and WED setup looking for players. Usually it is him and another guy (a regular in the EWR)

In Greensboro, I am aware of half a dozen other guys.

Assume we have 50 active gamers in the triad - in fact out social group on CSW has 27 active members.

50 out of 1.6 million people call themselves wargamers.

And I am not even getting into the very active General boardgaming activity around here.

So, that is a ratio of one in 32,000

The population of the United States is around 315,085,000.

9,800 wargamers is the result for the USA.

Now you guys try your own separate estimate.
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