The Readers Buyer's Guide (RBG) was a rating system in which subscribers to the Avalon Hill GENERAL magazine were invited to rate AH games in a number of categories. A numerical rating range of 1-9 was used, where 1 = "excellent", 5 = "average", and 9 = "terrible". The complete list of ratings for every AH game was published in each issue of the GENERAL, along with a form for rating one newly released game.
One weakness of this rating system was that AH usually asked subscribers to rate a game shortly after its release. This meant that sometimes they would not get too many responses. But, even with limited responses, these old ratings give us an interesting "first impression" snapshot that shows what gamers thought of the title at the time of its initial release.
Streets of Fire was the first of the Deluxe ASL modules, which featured large-scale mapboards with spacious 2.2" hexes and a tremendous amount of fine detail in the buildings and terrain. There were two motivations for Deluxe ASL: (a) at this size the maps are compatible with 1/285 scale miniatures; and (b) if played with the regular counters instead of miniatures, the large hexes have so much room that there is little need to stack counters... making the game much easier to manage and play, and visually more interesting.
Streets of Fire has long been out of print, and it is unlikely that it will ever be reprinted. Apparently there is little interest in Deluxe ASL: Chapter J in the ASL Rulebook (the Deluxe ASL Chapter) has been reduced from six pages in the 1st edition to a mere one page in the 2nd edition.
But these old ratings tell a completely different story! Not only did the initial RBG rating place Streets of Fire as the number two game in the list of 60 rated games (the ASL Rulebook was number one), but Streets of Fire also out-rated Beyond Valor in every single category. And even today, the scenarios from Streets of Fire are widely acknowledged as being among the best ever created for the ASL system.
So what happened? How could such a highly rated, and seemingly popular, module have sunk so far into obscurity?
Well, playing with miniatures never really caught on like AH thought it might, and perhaps that made Deluxe ASL appear to be a failed experiment. But there is no denying the ease of play that the large hexes provide, particularly in scenarios with high counter density. The fact that many players today are going to the trouble and expense of enlarging the regular mapboards reinforces the view that large hexes make the game easier to play and more appealing.
Perhaps Deluxe ASL was just ahead of its time...
Here are the original RBG ratings for Streets of Fire, along with comments from AH, that appeared in issue 24-3 of The GENERAL:
Streets of Fire ($28)
The first Deluxe ASL module, STREETS OF FIRE was rated rather well by the collective readership. Indeed, its overall rating places it second on the RBG listing -- just behind the ASL rulebook itself. The ratings in every category for STREETS OF FIRE are well above average, a testimony to the care by all concerned in the design of this unique experiment, a board game that can be played with miniatures.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Kibler's highly detailed mapboards are the centerpiece of the game. And, not surprisingly, they received the best rating for "Map" (1.37) yet, beating out even the vaunted FLIGHT LEADER. Certainly, a great number of compliments have already been received, along with pleas to do more ASL mapboards in this scale (2.2" hexes).
Of equal importance as its appearance, the playability of a game determines its potential. The scenario designers were agreeably surprised by the high ratings for "Excitement Level" (1.46) and "Authenticity" (1.70), each best in its category to date. Obviously, our attempt to re-create the minute-by-minute action and high drama of World War II fighting in the cities struck a responsive chord among the ASL aficionados. These challenging, well-researched scenarios can be numbered the best to date for the system.
To sum up, those who responded found STREETS OF FIRE to be exciting to play, with accurate scenarios, graced by beautiful large-scale mapboards. Every ASL devotee owes it to themselves to take a look at this module, and to play a couple of the scenarios.
1.84 : Overall Value
1.54 : Components
1.37 : Map
n/a : Counters
2.32 : Player's Aids
8.21 : Complexity
1.89 : Completeness of Rules
2.27 : Playability
1.46 : Excitement Level
2.33 : Play Balance
1.70 : Authenticity
Shortest Game Length: 2 hrs, 57 mins
Longest Game Length: 7 hrs, 16 mins
Sample Base: 79
I think the greatest criticism leveled at these boards was the hexes being a little too big. Some find it hard to get a broad strategic overview.
Personally I prefer the size of the CG maps, they're a good compromise. I might make a set of shrunken Deluxe maps one day