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Subject: POLL: Who Was Best--AH or SPI? rss

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p55carroll
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OK, now that everybody has had a couple days to peruse the Geeklists on Avalon Hill and SPI games (see links below), I just have to ask your opinion. So, here goes with a poll.

But first, links to the Geeklists, for those who haven't looked yet:
SPI wargames.
Avalon Hill wargame lists:
Pre-1970
1970s
1980s
1990s[/q]

Edit: And a new Geeklist, for Victory Games.

And now the poll:
Poll
In your opinion, based on your personal experience and preferences, which wargame publisher ruled in its day--AH (Avalon Hill), or SPI (Simulations Publications, Inc.)? (Don't make too much of this. Really just asking what's your favorite.)
AH was the best ever.
AH was better than SPI, but there have been better publishers than AH.
SPI was the best ever.
SPI was better than AH, but there have been better publishers than SPI.
AH and SPI were about on par with each other; both ruled.
AH and SPI were about equal, but there's at least one better publisher.
I abstain (maybe I can't decide, maybe I'm not qualified to answer, maybe I just don't want to vote).
      312 answers
Poll created by Patrick Carroll


And a bonus poll, especially for Avalon Hill fans:
Poll
Which decade was best for Avalon Hill wargames? (Imagine that only the games from this one decade had ever become available. Or that you were limited to only playing games from this one decade.)

For purposes of this poll, go by the Geeklists: if a game was published by Battleline or somebody else in the 1970s, then published by AH in the 1980s, it counts as a 1970s game.
Pre-1970
1970s
1980s
1990s
      246 answers
Poll created by Patrick Carroll
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John Bandettini
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While Avalon Hill did make a few stinkers, in general () they managed to keep a pretty high standard. At worst the vast majority of their games are worth playing.

While SPI made some great game they were nowhere near as consistent and made some terrible games and quite a lot of fairly average ones.
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p55carroll
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For me, I think it's mostly a nostalgia thing. Some wargames bring back a flood of wonderful memories, so that I'd give just about anything to be transported back to when I first played the game. Those are the best wargames to me--even though they might be flawed or obsolete.

I owned and played more AH games than SPI games, so that tips the scale. But some SPI games really hit the sweet spot, covering just the historical subject that really interested me.

Kind of a moot point now anyway, I guess. But it's pleasant to reminisce.
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Michael Lavoie
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While SPI produced some marvelous games, I always preferred the games that Avalon Hill published. I can certainly understand why anyone would chose SPI, however. It's just that AH's games were more likely to hit my sweet spot.
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Brad Miller
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General rule: AH had better games, SPI had better simulations.
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I miss both companies.
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Steve Arthur
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For me both companies were the sum of their designers...if they went elsewhere to continue their good work after AH and SPI's demises great!...
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Ernest Schubert
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I started with Avalon Hill games... which probably biases me to a great extent. At first, AH was about the only player. Then I got hooked on SPI.. and was seduced by the variety and volume of their games. They also seemed to put a premium on 'realism'... which I fell for.

After a while though, I sort of lost interest in the high volume game producers and realized that I much preferred AH's more measured output.
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John Kovacs
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If I go by how many titles I have of each publisher, Avalon Hill is the clear winner. Of course, I bought most of the Avalon Hill titles when they were still in business, too. I really like the SPI games I own that I've actually played, though. I have to give Avalon Hill a slight edge because I also own two of their sports games (Football Strategy and Sports Illustrated Baseball aka Superstar Baseball) and both of them are really good - something I never heard about an SPI sports game.

It really is like comparing apples to oranges, though - both game companies had their strengths and weaknesses and I learned to love them both. I do have some games by other publishers (GDW, Task Force Games) but Avalon Hill and SPI are definitely tops in my mind.
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J.L. Robert
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For me, I appreciated the craftsmanship of Avalon Hill games more than the minimalism of SPI. Each AH game was a unique experience, while SPI games were often series-based, seemingly with a game being forced around some common set of rules. At some times, it seems that SPI was a victim of its own release schedule.

Also in AH's favor was its parent company. Being owned by a printing company, they were able to offer more value for money. It's my belief that their existence helped keep the price of wargames down all the way until their demise.

But, in all fairness, the two companies catered to two different types of wargamer.
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TAHGC were the best game developers in the world, comprising a team of remarkable talent the like of which does not exist today. Its success and corresponding value was surprisingly well understood by a non-game-playing business community. Having its own printworks should have been a massive advantage, but was in fact the opposite due to underinvestment and poor management.

Today we suffer a much lower level of developmental talent -- but its very hard to appreciate the comparison -- where poor basic designs and designers have been actively promoted by easy-to-use website pre-ordering systems. Inevitably there is a feeling amongst the uninformed that the production or even the proposal of a game is some sort of recommendation of it. As a result all companies float on a raft composed of a greater degree of crap than would have proved buoyant in the old days. Also I think the internet tends to make the uncertain repose more confidence in poorer games simply because it is more democratic and less dictatorial. Print reviews written by those who knew what they were talking about tended to have a good effect in the past. In those days, pundits lacking erudition had no platform since they wouldn't get printed, but now they have boardgamegeek.
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p55carroll
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J.L.Robert wrote:
For me, I appreciated the craftsmanship of Avalon Hill games more than the minimalism of SPI. Each AH game was a unique experience, while SPI games were often series-based, seemingly with a game being forced around some common set of rules. At some times, it seems that SPI was a victim of its own release schedule.

When SPI was just getting started, I shook my head at the screwy idea: no way could they produce decent games if they pushed themselves to come out with so many every year; and even if they did, who'd ever have time to learn and play 'em all?

OTOH, when they started the series concept--with PRESTAGS, the quad games, and so forth--I considered that brilliant. I wished they'd have done more of it, and I wished AH had followed suit. With a series, you can play many different wargames while having to learn only one set of rules. Very practical--and to me, very appealing.


Quote:
But, in all fairness, the two companies catered to two different types of wargamer.

Can you say more about that? What two types of wargamer?

I ask because, thinking back, I don't see much difference in the games. SPI games were what AH games would've been if AH had pursued a hectic production schedule and reduced the quality of the components.
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Darrell Hanning
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Patrick Carroll wrote:

I ask because, thinking back, I don't see much difference in the games. SPI games were what AH games would've been if AH had pursued a hectic production schedule and reduced the quality of the components.


The only aspect I saw AH even having only arguably better components was in having mounted mapboards - which I never particularly cared for, as they always had those "valleys" in them, and made the game way more heavy than it had to be.

I always thought the counters in SPI games were much better than those in AH games, because you didn't get glare off them, and because they didn't fade with use, like AH counters did.

And Redmond Simonsen of SPI was making more aesthetically pleasing maps than those found in AH games. AH going to multi-color maps looked to me to be more of a reaction to what SPI was doing, and wouldn't have happened as quickly, if SPI had never been there.

Most people I know pick AH simply because they had so little exposure to SPI - you didn't usually find SPI games in stores, because 75% or more of their business was by mail order, where AH was the complete opposite.

There is justification for saying that SPI made some klunkers. But at least they tried a lot of things. And 99% of their design was in-house, whereas AH invented nearly nothing, relying almost completely on outside designs they could pick up. AH was, IMO, guilty of intellectual provincialism, and only spurred out of their navel-gazing by the flurry of ideas coming out of SPI, Yaquinto, etc.

If you've ever sat and brainstormed with a few people, and had a flurry of ideas come spilling out as a result, you have some idea of what SPI operations was like. (I saw it firsthand, albeit only briefly.) That was special, to my mind, and unlikely to ever occur again. Were there some misfires? Of course, but there were also some fantastic successes, and new directions and ideas in wargame design that would never have happened, should we have had to rely on AH to come up with them.
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Umberto Colapicchioni
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
OTOH, when they started the series concept--with PRESTAGS, the quad games, and so forth--I considered that brilliant. I wished they'd have done more of it, and I wished AH had followed suit. With a series, you can play many different wargames while having to learn only one set of rules. Very practical--and to me, very appealing.



Yes, it was convenient but, sometimes, you had the feeling you were always playing the same game, from ancient Rome, to Medieval, to WW1...

AH did this initially, up to the point their CRT became a "standard", regardless if it was used at Waterloo or for D-Day, but they switched to more differentiation between games, later on. A game of Starship Troopers plays entirely different than a game of The Guns of August.

SPI was able to put out a huge number of games in a very short time (if you add the magazine's, the total is mindblowing), and it shows, for good and bad. With AH, you knew the game was at least properly tested, before being put to market.

Instead, I liked the map/counters art Red Simonsen did for SPI, way more than AH, they still looks good *today*, while AH graphics today looks dated.

However, nothing SPI ever put out, can be compared to the sheer genius that was the whole Squad Leader series, which was a perfect combination of innovation, simulation and playability/fun, that really raised the bar at that time.

Just check how many people still plays ASL today, more than 30 years after the first Squad Leader release.
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Charles Phillips
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The problem with this for me is that the majority of games I owned were Victory Games, the subsidiary of AH that consisted mostly of ex-SPI.
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p55carroll
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virtuali wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:
OTOH, when they started the series concept--with PRESTAGS, the quad games, and so forth--I considered that brilliant. I wished they'd have done more of it, and I wished AH had followed suit. With a series, you can play many different wargames while having to learn only one set of rules. Very practical--and to me, very appealing.

Yes, it was convenient but, sometimes, you had the feeling you were always playing the same game, from ancient Rome, to Medieval, to WW1...

AH did this initially, up to the point their CRT became a "standard", regardless if it was used at Waterloo or for D-Day, but they switched to more differentiation between games, later on. A game of Starship Troopers plays entirely different than a game of The Guns of August.

There's some truth to that, but it leaves me wondering:

How different, really, is one military campaign from another? Is it absolutely necessary for Afrika Korps, Fortress Europa, and Anzio to have such vastly different game systems? If you've got three WWII campaigns, roughly comparable in scale, couldn't the same "game engine" run all of them? I don't think there's anything special about the Italian campaign that requires step reduction, for instance. All three games could have that feature--or none of them.

For those who insist that variety is the spice of life, and who lust after innovation, I suppose it's great that each new game could be unique. And for them, I guess it'd be boring if the same set of rules were used to portray many different scenarios.

But I often wanted to do an apples-to-apples comparison of different campaigns or battles or periods of warfare or whatever. But if I play Devil's Den, and then play Panzer Leader in hopes of seeing how tactical WWII combat compares to tactical ACW combat, I have to contend with two very different game systems--each game highlights certain aspects of tactical warfare while downplaying other aspects; and the aspects they both handle are dealt with via different kinds of rules.

Hence, I always appreciate a series like Great Battles of History or Civil War, Brigade (CWB) Series, or even an open-ended game system like ASL. Armed with one basic set of rules, I can compare various engagements to each other, noting similarities and differences as I play.

What I really hated seeing was the concurrent publication of Stalingrad, The Russian Campaign, and Russian Front (plus at least a couple SPI games on the very same subject). Sure, each game design presents the subject in a unique way. But so what? All that meant to me is that I'd have to try all three games in order to decide which one suited me best. I couldn't be bothered to learn three different games on the same subject in the first place; and if I did make myself undergo that experiment, I'd want to get rid of two games afterward and just play the one I considered best.

So, AH's open-ended games (e.g., Panzer Leader, Wooden Ships & Iron Men, and Advanced Squad Leader) were the bee's knees as far as I was concerned. One set of rules, limitless possibilities.

On the strategic level, comprehensive games like Strategy I were what I looked for (and rarely found). Barring that, I'd prefer a fictional game like Blitzkrieg.

On the operational level, series games seemed to work best. I was instantly drawn to SPI's quad games, for example.

The bottom line, for me, is that I had only so much patience for learning new games. After the first dozen or so, I said to myself, "I'm only going to learn the rules to another wargame if it has many different scenarios; otherwise, it's not worth my time."

The year I subscribed to S&T magazine, I felt it was a waste of money. I got Armada in one issue. And for all I know, it might've been a good game--but I just glanced at it and put it away. No way was I going to study all those rules, then make my way through all the errata, just to play a game on that one historical event. Not worth my time.

Now, if S&T had been a quarterly magazine that included a different "quad game" each year (one folio per issue), I could've enjoyed that. Then I'd learn the rules once and be ready to play different games all year long.

I have nothing against innovation or improvement in game design. I'd just like to see it happen mainly behind the scenes. Publishers ought to serve their customers. And the way to serve me is not by forcing me to unlearn old rules and learn new ones all the time, so that hardly any two wargames in my collection are compatible with each other.
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Daniel Broh-Kahn
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HAVING ATTEMPTED TO COLLECT THEM ALL from both companies, I'll throw in my vote for SPI. Of course, I started with Avalon Hill, and discovered that my first game from them, PanzerBlitz was designed by the boys at SPI!

I originally thought that mounted mapboards were neat, but I now realize, they are a complete waste! First, unmounted maps lie flatter, especially under plexiglass! Secondly, there is nothing cooler than a magnetized game, up on the wall. Try that with a mounted board.

Look at an AH flatbox or bookcase game... and then look at an SPI game. The SPI game clearly says "store your counters in me!" I don't think that is possible in an AH game, unless you bought their trays, natch.

For me, the deciding vote was what others consider a strength: AH was owned by a Printing Company (Monarch Avalon.) That should have meant a much better printing experience. And yet, look at some of their disasters: the infamous Kingmaker map. The Civilization Western Map extension. Multiple shades of counters for the same games. Pink Panzers!

I love games from both companies, but AH, having a 10+ year head start, should have done a LOT better.

Daniel
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Quote:
I have nothing against innovation or improvement in game design. I'd just like to see it happen mainly behind the scenes. Publishers ought to serve their customers. And the way to serve me is not by forcing me to unlearn old rules and learn new ones all the time, so that hardly any two wargames in my collection are compatible with each other.


So you must have a big pile of EUROPA games littering your house, eh?
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Daribuck1 wrote:
Look at an AH flatbox or bookcase game... and then look at an SPI game. The SPI game clearly says "store your counters in me!" I don't think that is possible in an AH game, unless you bought their trays, natch.


I like AH games, but one thing I'd always wished they'd done is make their boxes a little bit bigger so you could put a standard 8'5" x 11" sheet of paper in them. If you printed out a variant or photocopied a scenario, you had to fold the sheet to get it into the box. A total PITA.

SPI's boxes on the other hand were perfect for this. GMT's are even better.
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
There's some truth to that, but it leaves me wondering:

How different, really, is one military campaign from another? Is it absolutely necessary for Afrika Korps, Fortress Europa, and Anzio to have such vastly different game systems? If you've got three WWII campaigns, roughly comparable in scale, couldn't the same "game engine" run all of them? I don't think there's anything special about the Italian campaign that requires step reduction, for instance. All three games could have that feature--or none of them.


I think you're perhaps asking the wrong question. Without getting into the "I enjoy the repetition" debate of realism vs. game play, a set of game rules will perforce emphasize certain elements over others.

For example, EastFront II is fundamentally a logistics driven game - how do you best use your HQ units to accomplish your military objectives?

Different game systems can thus let you explore different aspects of strategy and tactics. Again, entirely in a game context. This June, my friend Gerry and I are going to play four different versions of the battle of Bannockburn - Men of Iron, Robert at Bannockburn (from the Great Medieval Battles quad), Ancient Battles Deluxe, and Chainmail. It's the same battle, but we'll certainly get four different takes on it.
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DarrellKH wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:

I ask because, thinking back, I don't see much difference in the games. SPI games were what AH games would've been if AH had pursued a hectic production schedule and reduced the quality of the components.


The only aspect I saw AH even having only arguably better components was in having mounted mapboards - which I never particularly cared for, as they always had those "valleys" in them, and made the game way more heavy than it had to be.

I always thought the counters in SPI games were much better than those in AH games, because you didn't get glare off them, and because they didn't fade with use, like AH counters did.

And Redmond Simonsen of SPI was making more aesthetically pleasing maps than those found in AH games. AH going to multi-color maps looked to me to be more of a reaction to what SPI was doing, and wouldn't have happened as quickly, if SPI had never been there.

Most people I know pick AH simply because they had so little exposure to SPI - you didn't usually find SPI games in stores, because 75% or more of their business was by mail order, where AH was the complete opposite.

There is justification for saying that SPI made some klunkers. But at least they tried a lot of things. And 99% of their design was in-house, whereas AH invented nearly nothing, relying almost completely on outside designs they could pick up. AH was, IMO, guilty of intellectual provincialism, and only spurred out of their navel-gazing by the flurry of ideas coming out of SPI, Yaquinto, etc.

If you've ever sat and brainstormed with a few people, and had a flurry of ideas come spilling out as a result, you have some idea of what SPI operations was like. (I saw it firsthand, albeit only briefly.) That was special, to my mind, and unlikely to ever occur again. Were there some misfires? Of course, but there were also some fantastic successes, and new directions and ideas in wargame design that would never have happened, should we have had to rely on AH to come up with them.


Maybe your experience was different than mine. AH, sure, outsourced a lot of stuff during the mid to late 70's. However, before that, they did a lot of design work - and some of it is still great. Midway, for example, is a great game - better and more playable than any SPI title on the general topic of naval aviation. And after the great explosion in the late 70's and early 80's, AH did start doing some very good design work of its own - admittedly lots of it development work, but 1830 is a GREAT game, as is MAGIC REALM, and most of the Victory Games, CARRIER in particular.

And although some of the criticism of AH is warranted, the bigger problem was this - what was the result of all that in-house only design work?

1. Some very derivative work - bolted on modules and sub systems to games that clearly didn't work.
2. Use of general game systems that left you feeling with a "cookie cutter" feeling about the titles.
3. Overuse of some design elements - they went through different "waves" of this - think back - SIMOV - PANIC - Untried Unit Strength - QUAD game packages - and a lot of it, in my opinion, was crap.

On the positive side, SPI took chances in game design that AH didn't - maybe they had tried these elements and rejected them for some reason, but maybe they were more conservative. SPI put out some AMAZING stuff, but most of it, IMO, was not their more popular designs. SPIES, Empires of the Middle Ages, TITO (yes, I liked TITO), Flight of the Goeben, 1812 (wasn't that the one with the area movement game included?), Time Tripper, Citadel of Blood, Fall of Rome, Wolfpack... all IMO, excellent designs and games.

As far as SPI not being available retail - are you serious? This was part of what was responsible for SPI going under - they started dealing with the discount houses for their games. I can still remember Toys R Us carrying a huge part of their line, including such stinkers as After the Holocaust. What kind of marketing decision was that? I think they also started carrying the standard flat tray line as well. And in my area at least, many general hobby shops of the era carried tons of SPI games. For the first few years, sure, SPI was almost all by mail. But they went nuts in the mid to late 70s, and were EVERYWHERE. They advertised in national magazines, OMNI, I think I saw their ads in US News, Time, etc.

The kind of guys that you're talking about, anyway, unless they got into the hobby YEARS LATER, all knew about SPI. Even without the internet, the GENERAL talked about them. Guys who liked wargames all knew about these companies. GDW/Yaquinto/Battleline/Guidon Games/Jagdpanther/SDC/FGU/TSR/ZOCCHI/ATTACK (Dave Casciano wargames) and more - we knew about this and shared this information with each other, excitedly.
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leroy43 wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:
There's some truth to that, but it leaves me wondering:

How different, really, is one military campaign from another? Is it absolutely necessary for Afrika Korps, Fortress Europa, and Anzio to have such vastly different game systems? If you've got three WWII campaigns, roughly comparable in scale, couldn't the same "game engine" run all of them? I don't think there's anything special about the Italian campaign that requires step reduction, for instance. All three games could have that feature--or none of them.


I think you're perhaps asking the wrong question. Without getting into the "I enjoy the repetition" debate of realism vs. game play, a set of game rules will perforce emphasize certain elements over others.

For example, EastFront II is fundamentally a logistics driven game - how do you best use your HQ units to accomplish your military objectives?

Different game systems can thus let you explore different aspects of strategy and tactics. Again, entirely in a game context. This June, my friend Gerry and I are going to play four different versions of the battle of Bannockburn - Men of Iron, Robert at Bannockburn (from the Great Medieval Battles quad), Ancient Battles Deluxe, and Chainmail. It's the same battle, but we'll certainly get four different takes on it.

I understand that--and more power to you, if it's what you like. Me, I'm not that interested in the Battle of Bannockburn; I don't need four different takes on it.

For that matter, I'm not that interested in any particular battle or campaign or war. My interest in military history is pretty broad and eclectic.

I've been something of an American Civil War buff for decades, for example. But I've read more overviews of the war than accounts of particular battles or campaigns. Now and then I like to get a close-up look at something in particular, so I've read books on Gettysburg, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and such. And occasionally I'll read firsthand accounts to get a soldier's perspective. But I still need only one Gettysburg wargame, not several. Better yet, give me one good set of wargame rules that can reasonably simulate any ACW battle.

Because I really couldn't care less if Game X portrays the logistics of Gettysburg, while Game Y covers the command-control aspects, and Game Z is best at showing the effects of firepower and morale. I don't have time to learn three games on that one battle; I've got other battles to look into. So, give me a Game W which covers all the salient features of Gettysburg to a reasonable (i.e., playable, yet interesting) degree.

In short, as I said last time:
Quote:
The bottom line, for me, is that I had only so much patience for learning new games.


That's one reason miniatures always attracted me: theoretically you could learn just one set of rules and use them to re-create numberless scenarios. (Unfortunately, there are always competing sets of miniatures rules, and there's also a lot of do-it-yourself work involved.)
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Daribuck1 wrote:
HAVING ATTEMPTED TO COLLECT THEM ALL from both companies, I'll throw in my vote for SPI. Of course, I started with Avalon Hill, and discovered that my first game from them, PanzerBlitz was designed by the boys at SPI!

I originally thought that mounted mapboards were neat, but I now realize, they are a complete waste! First, unmounted maps lie flatter, especially under plexiglass! Secondly, there is nothing cooler than a magnetized game, up on the wall. Try that with a mounted board.

Look at an AH flatbox or bookcase game... and then look at an SPI game. The SPI game clearly says "store your counters in me!" I don't think that is possible in an AH game, unless you bought their trays, natch.

For me, the deciding vote was what others consider a strength: AH was owned by a Printing Company (Monarch Avalon.) That should have meant a much better printing experience. And yet, look at some of their disasters: the infamous Kingmaker map. The Civilization Western Map extension. Multiple shades of counters for the same games. Pink Panzers!

I love games from both companies, but AH, having a 10+ year head start, should have done a LOT better.

Daniel


I'll agree with some of what you say, but as far as counter storage goes, I hate the SPI flat trays. They don't lock, so if a game is tilted at ALL, or suffers some shaking, you've got counters all over the place. I actually prefer ziplocs. And do you STILL like those old trays? I haven't seen one in the last few years that hasn't either been re-glued, or isn't flapping in the wind.

As far as box size, yup, the book case games don't fit a standard 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. However, the flat boxes don't have this problem.

When you start pointing at AH mismanagement, I'll have to agree - they made a TON of marketing mistakes. They should have churned out gamettes for Panzerblitz - they would have sold like hotcakes. Instead, they ended up giving this market away to Spartan International, Jagdpanther, Campaign, and a ton of mimeos and hand crafted zines throughout the 70's. And the Dotts made some HORRIBLE decisions about microcomputer games. Don't know how it happened, but there were serious errors in the platforms they chose, at least initially. And then they never kept up... lack of investment in the printing business also caused problems with their product and profits.

However, SPI made HUGE marketing errors as well - and some pretty big printing and design errors too. Going away from their mostly mail-order to retail was an enormous error. Then some of the titles they threw into the retail outlets were horrible. The enormous rate of production was ill advised. The feedback system ended up directing their efforts towards fewer and fewer customers. The whole soap box title line was probably an error. How many of those things did they actually sell? How many people have the space or inclination to devote a pool table sized area to a game that will literally take a hundred hours or more to play? (I can hear the tribal drums beating on this right now - so many SPI fans loved those monster games - but with the resources they spent working on and developing these things, how many better and more playable normal sized games could they have developed and marketed? What was the return on investment?) You remember the capsule games? They were literally losing money on every one of 'em.

I guess its clear that you enjoyed SPI games more than AH. Good... I'm glad they were around to produce the titles you liked. Too bad both companies are no longer with us, as I really think that both would be doing amazing things with game design in the current world. I miss some aspects of old school SPI - I really enjoyed Dunnigan's outgoing mail, Simonsen's graphic treatments (most of the time), and SOME of the innovation. I didn't enjoy the monster games, didn't enjoy the generic look of the WW2 series games (Kursk/France40/etc. I miss some aspects of old AH - the time frame of around Vol 11 through 17 of the General - the additional variants, the series replays, the variants tossed into the magazine - those were wonderful. And the games they were putting out!

Ah... well, I will say this - modern graphics and software are allowing AMAZING things to be done by individuals and very small groups of people, and you gotta love some of the stuff coming out now. Its stunning in comparison to the stuff I was enthralled with when I was 12.
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I think outgoing mail from S&T was the best part of the magazine and maybe the glue that held many of us together in the 70's. It made you feel like part of a community in the pre-internet days even if you were isolated and playing all your games solo!
Ahh nostalgia!
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Daribuck1 wrote:
I originally thought that mounted mapboards were neat, but I now realize, they are a complete waste!

To each his own.

I discovered wargaming when a friend bought Waterloo in 1968. Before that, we had played the usual board games--Monopoly, Careers, Risk, Stratego . . .

When I first saw Waterloo, I said, "You've been gypped!" And my friend blushed and said, "Yeah, I know." He had spent $5.98 on a board game that came with punch-out cardboard pieces! The kind of thing you might expect to see in a children's magazine game. It looked cheap--really cheap.

If, in addition, it had had an unmounted mapsheet, we might never have pursued our interest in wargaming. We might have dismissed the whole thing as a scam.

In those early years, I always hoped--and half expected--to see improvements in wargame components. Something beyond all the paper and cardboard. Something more like Risk or Stratego. Components-wise, Risk and Stratego were vastly superior to any hex-and-counter wargame.

I was impressed when, in the 1970s, Lou Zocchi published an experimental game with plastic unit-counters. I thought, "At last--somebody is taking a step forward!" Much to my dismay, it proved a flash-in-the-pan.

Because of the utter shoddiness of board-wargame components, I became very attracted to miniatures. I never liked miniatures for what they were, though; I liked them because they made nice, weighty, three-dimensional game pieces--just like chess pieces. Over the years, I made several false starts into miniatures wargaming; I gave up each time because I saw that I was the only one seeing minis as being like chess pieces--everyone else treated them like toy soldiers, which struck me as juvenile.

I was also delighted when the first block games came out. I bought War of 1812 and at first thought, "Now, this is what a wargame is supposed to look like!" (Unfortunately, the point-to-point movement system offended my aesthetic sensibilities, as did the crowding of blocks. Excessive "block density" is far worse than high "counter density.")

Today, I've resigned myself to board wargames being cheap, overpriced pieces of crap. I've learned to enjoy them in spite of their shoddy components. One of my favorite wargames is a DTP-quality game from Victory Point Games that comes in a ziplock bag. I still think it's sad that wargaming is such a niche hobby that publishers can't usually match the component quality of the average Eurogame. But no matter; they're still good games.

So, to each his own. But don't try to convince me that unmounted mapsheets are better than mounted mapboards! They may be more practical in certain ways, but they look cheap. Compared to the components of the typical board game, they are cheap. So cheap that there are some you can download and print for free.
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