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Subject: 1970s Wargame Availability rss

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Mark Clover
United States
Lake Geneva
Wisconsin
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A conversation came up elsewhere about hobby game availability through mainstream channels in the 70s. I recall sometimes buying Avalon Hill games at Sears and also Woolworth in the Midwest USA. How about anyone else?
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Adam D.
United States
Suquamish
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My friends and I had to go to specialty stores in the Puget Sound area like American Eagles and Heritage Bookshop. Sadly, neither are still there, though American Eagles only recently closed down.
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Joseph
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Ewing
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I remember buying games at the Toys-R-Us. I would sit on the floor reading the game boxes while my mom was shopping.
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Osprey
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West Virginia
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Most all of the hobby shops carried AH and possibly SPI games when they entered the scene. They carried both lines where I grew up. They were also available at Toys R Us as mentioned previously. I used to buy all of my stuff from the hobby shop...mmmmm....well, maybe a few from Toys R Us.
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Ron A
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California
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Always bought AH games at Toys-R-Us, the $10 bookcase games (Panzer Leader, 3rd Reich, etc) went for $7. That was a big deal for me as my only source of income was a paper route.

If I wanted SPI or GDW (both companies were a MUCH smaller part of my buying) then I had to go to the game store.
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Greg S
United States
Pipersville
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I remember seeing AH and SPI games at Toys R Us and Tiny Tots (East Coast USA toy store - now gone).

I also remember various book stores carrying select AH and SPI titles.
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Mike Sullivan
United States
South Windsor
Connecticut
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Yep - my Dad's games have a few Woolworth and Kay-be (sp?) stickers on them - I can recall 1776, Anzio and Richtoften's amongst others.
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Gregory Johnson
United States
Rockford
Illinois
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Got my first AH game at JC Penney.
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Andy Beaton
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Toronto
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I found my first wargames at the hobby store where I went for parts for my model train set. This was back in the early 70's, but I don't recall ever seeing real wargames (not Risk) in a mainstream store.
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Rick Lopez
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Hollister
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I remember getting AH's "Luftwaffe" from the local Wapples' Pharmacy. Tactics II and "Blitzkrieg" were also there, along with a few others that I don't recall. That was from back in the day when the AH bookcase games were $10, and the flat box games were $6.
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Bill Eldard
United States
Burke
Virginia
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I bought AH's Afrika Korps in a discount department store back in 1965 (for $4.95 no less). We continued to by through retail outlets as long as we could buy them, and considering the variety of AH games we amassed, the selection was evidently good.

I first saw SPI advertise in a history magazine in the early '70s. They were offering several games via mail order like Korea: The Mobile War 1950-51, Kursk: Operation Zitadelle, 4 July 1943, and I bought both of them. Inside the games were subscription order forms to Strategy & Tactics, and that's how I got started on that.

Later I found AH games and flat box versions of SPI games in a little hobby store in Blacksburg, VA, and Brentano's bookstores on Long Island.

In the '80s, I found AH bookcase games in Kay-Bee Toys, and in the early '90s, I found them in an Army Exchange at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart.
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Rich Keiser
United States
Waunakee
Wisconsin
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Local pharmacy, hobby store, kiddie city, kaybee toys, boscovs department store
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Scott Gillispie
United States
Chamblee
Georgia
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TRU was where I got my first games (SL and KM), in the late 70s.

Circa 1994, when poking around the Toy Liquidators (linked to KB) at the Peach outlets south of Macon, I found a stack of Starship Troopers (yes, the old one).

I think there might have been a bunch of Merchant of Venus also, but I might just be imagining those in retrospect, and wishing I had picked one up...
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Eric Walters
United States
Chesterfield
Virginia
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Bought my first wargame, MIDWAY, in the Bethesda, Maryland, hobby shop where I'd get plastic model kits to assemble (my fascination at the time was for 1/700 scale waterline Japanese WWII naval ships). Around 1973 or so. Paid $7 for it, if I remember correctly.

Found a copy of Avalon Hill's 1914 game in perfect condition for $6.95 cents in a Dart Drug at Aspen Hill shopping center, Maryland, in 1975.
That was considered quite a find, even back then.

If I wanted SPI games, I found them in two places: The Squadron Shop, a well known chain of hobby stores that specialized in military stuff (model kits, model rockets, miniatures, etc.), and Brentano's Book Store. The one I frequented was in Wheaton Plaza in Maryland and it had a whole bookshelf devoted to wargames--most of which were SPI titles. Not only did I buy quite a few games there, I'd drag my parents over and show them titles I wanted for birthdays and Christmas. I invariably got them.

Kaybee Toys and Toys "R" Us would get Avalon Hill titles in bulk and sell them at a discount. I bought three and four copies of STARSHIP TROOPER, NAPOLEON AT BAY, FREDERICK THE GREAT, and AIR ASSAULT ON CRETE for $2.99. I think this was in 1979 or thereabouts and later.

When I sauntered off to college, the college coop/bookstore had quite a few SPI games--within the first few days of freshman year, I'd already scarfed up a copy of AIR WAR and the WAR OF THE RING trilogy that I found on the shelf. This was in September of 1977.

I am trying to remember when I started seeing wargames disappear from hobby shop and bookstore shelves. SPI disappeared first because they collapsed earlier...but I think it was when Avalon Hill went away (1989?) that one began to have a hard time finding wargames in outside of stores that specialized in them (Game Towne in San Diego, The Compleat Strategist in Falls Church, the Game Parlour in Chantilly, etc.).

I got into wargaming by accident when seeing that copy of MIDWAY when I was at the hobby store to get a model ship. It was a great way to attract new players. Now, its the players themselves that have to attract new players....

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Kent Reuber
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San Mateo
California
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I remember the SPI Sorcerer and War of the Ring being in a Sears catelog
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Don Barree
United States
New Jersey
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I got my AH games in the '60s and early '70s mostly from local hobby shops and K-mart. My earliest games all came from Unkel Joe's Woodshed, a discount store that carried a lot of odd stuff that you couldn't find elsewhere. They mostly had clothes, camping equipment and sporting goods but they had a small section for hobbies that consisted of model trains and Avalon Hill games. Once SPI started publishing, the only place I ever found those was in hobby shops.
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ROGER DEAL
United States
Oak Ridge
Tennessee
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I found AH's STARSHIP TROOPERS at Waldenbooks. They had a bunch of the "bookshelf" games but the science fiction theme hooked me. I bought it, then and there, in 1978 and still have that copy today.
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Paul Aceto
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Fairfax
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Got Anzio from a Sears outside Albany, NY in the early 1970s. I also remember buying Soldiers form a Brentanos bookstore in NYC. They had a large collection as I recall.
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Confusion Under Fire
United Kingdom
Warrington
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Here in the UK it was a specialist boardgame shop or nothing. I do remember buying my airfix plastic models and figures from Woolworths. Toys R Us did not reach us until the mid 80s. I did once buy Omaha Beachhead: Battle for the Bocage in the mid 80s for sale for about £3 in Prestos, a supermarket which ceased trading in the late 90s.
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Mark Guttag
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ericmwalters wrote:
Bought my first wargame, MIDWAY, in the Bethesda, Maryland, hobby shop where I'd get plastic model kits to assemble (my fascination at the time was for 1/700 scale waterline Japanese WWII naval ships). Around 1973 or so. Paid $7 for it, if I remember correctly.


I'm assuming the hobby stor in Bethesda was Loewen's Toy Store? I have great memories of that store. The games and hobby stuff was downstairs. AH games were in the center aisle at the back. Models were in the aisle off to the left.

For a brief period of time in the mid-70s Bethesda also had a game store called The Grenadier where I bought my first SPI games. They also sold games from GDW and TSR, including D&D, and miniatures.
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Edmund Hon
Canada
Maple
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My copy of AH's Luftwaffe and Raid on St. Nazaire was bought in Toys-R-Us in Hong Kong.
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Max Coffey
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Victoria
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In September of 1977, I purchased my first wargame that I had ever seen at WH Smith, a chain bookstore in the Ottawa Bayshore Mall. It was $9.88. I had a ten dollar bill on me from babysitting the weekend before. The next month I was desperate to find Tobruk, but the other AH game they had was Third Reich, so I bought it. Woooooh... It took me a couple of months to get the money together to get Tobruk at WH Smith. Later, after talking to schoolmates, I found a much larger selection at the downtown Hobbyland. By then I was thoroughly spoiled for mounted maps, so I looked at SPI offerings as "cheap". I was fascinated by Drang Nach Osten, in its thick ziploc... $29 ... too rich for my blood. If only I knew what I would go through to collect Europa later, I would have begged, borrowed or stolen it. Finally, later there was Fandom II, a dedicated game store. The best ever, I purchased almost everything else from them until I started buying direct from publishers in the late 80's 'til now.

In the 70's, it was serendipity that brought wargames and myself together. After that, I hunted for them desperately to fill my growing obsession. Thanx to WH Smith for taking the chance on a lifestyle product.
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Karl Kreder
United States
Nuevo
California
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Gamesmanship in the South Coast Plaza Mall in Santa Ana California. I would jump on the bus #57 in Laguna Beach and ride the two hours up, buy my games, and read the rules on my ride home. Those were the days (but that was the early '80's not '70's whistle )
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Michael Lucey
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Ellington
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I purchased my first AH game at Toys R Us, it was Statis Pro Baseball. Do not remember what else they carried. I purchased Squad Leader and its first 2 expansions at Kings I believe the K-Mart competitor chain was called at the time.
I remember downtown Springfield had a huge bookstore that had a lot of AH titles.

This would all be 1980's timeframe so not sure about TYR but the bookstore was open in the 70's.
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Alex Henderson
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In 1961 I walked into Morgan's, a large department store in Montreal, with my mother and saw a new "Adult Games" section on the ground floor. They had Le Mans and Tactics II (which I bought with proceeds from my newspaper route) and proably others: I think I recall Dispatcher and the lawyer game.

By the late 60s and early 70s, wargames had been dropped by the large department stores in Canada but special purpose hobbyist stores picked up the slack. The last game I bought in a department store was Quebec, 1759 (Gamma Two Games) in 1974. By that time, there were a number of well-stocked hobby stores carrying wargames or, if you prefer, "adult strategy games". AH was never just about wargames.
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