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Subject: SPI or AH: which is best and why? rss

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Severus Snape
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Between these two giants of my gaming past, which gave you the best gaming experiences, game for game?

goo

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Steven Goodknecht
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I played my first Avalon Hill game in 1964, Tactics II, of course. I continued playing nothing but AH games through 1975. Then I discovered SPI and I was hooked.

I wouldn't say it was because SPI games were superior to AH games. It had more to do with the game subject. I had gotten into the Napoleonic Era because of AH and Waterloo. But AH gave me nothing else on the subject. I think I bought seven or eight Napoleonic games within three months after I discovered SPI.

The same was true of the Civil War which was another period I was interested in.

Both companies games' continued to improve as time went by. I liked AH's The Russian Campaign and still do. I'm not a big East Front enthusiast and it was all I felt I needed then and I still feel the same now.

SPI's Terrible Swift Sword was a revelation. The same with Napoleon's Last Battles. I still play both today.

SPI was more boisterous, especially during the 'monster game' craze. AH didn't seem to want that market. Then they came out with The Longest Day when the craze was beginning to fade.

I suppose I miss both companies. But I miss SPI more.
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Warren Bruhn
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My first reaction was: AH of course. Probably some of the best wargaming I did in the past was with games like:
Squad Leader/Cross of Iron
Wooden Ships & Iron Men
1776
Empires in Arms (the AH version of the older ADG game)
Samurai
Jutland
Gunslinger

However, I also immediately thought of fun plays of SPI games:
Mighty Fortress
Conquistador
Great Battles of the American Civil War series
Wellington's Victory and Ney vs Wellington

Generally I liked multiplayer experiences, and both companies offered some good multi-player games.
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Robert Wesley
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I'm the "Avalon Hill"-'builty' sort, as what impressed myself MOST with these, were their overall components qualities. Some others imitated this quite decently, and even SPI had to release some "Designers"-version later on with very few for theirs as well, but I enjoyed those also along with plenty of that.
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No Expectations wrote:

I suppose I miss both companies. But I miss SPI more.


Same.
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John Bradshaw
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It's akin to asking a parent which is their favourite child.

Impossible to choose between them. They were both instrumental in building my enthusiasm for the hobby. I loved the quality of the AH games, and I loved the diversity and sheer volume of stuff brought out by SPI. It would be invidious of me to select either one as being second best to the other.

Both are sorely missed.
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calandale wrote:
No Expectations wrote:

I suppose I miss both companies. But I miss SPI more.


Same.
Agreed.
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bentlarsen wrote:
Between these two giants of my gaming past, which gave you the best gaming experiences, game for game?



Yes.
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Leo Zappa
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I started wargaming when I was 10 years old, playing Waterloo with a buddy. In those early days, in comparison with contemporary SPI games, the AH games were a) much more accessible in terms of being able to buy them at common outlets such as drugstores and hobby shops, and b) much more accessible in terms of easy to grasp rule books. This was especially so for the "classics", a.k.a. Waterloo, Gettysburg, Afrika Korps, Battle of the Bulge. Today these classics can be derided as poorly researched war-themed games with only a loose association with the battles that were depicted. However, they were well-produced, fun games that could be played in a reasonable timeframe, and were fairly readily available.

While I still love those AH games (and I still play them), I have gained a great deal of appreciation for the SPI titles from those times. Games that appeared too esoteric or complicated when I first started wargaming now seem fascinating. Last year, I played a campaign of "Drive on Stalingrad" with a friend and we had an outstanding time with it. Having said this, I would still maintain that SPI games were still less noob friendly, and beyond that, I always had the impression that SPI quality control was not up to AH's standard. That was probably explained by the fact that SPI had a much more ambitious publishing schedule than AH did at that time, which may have led to less playtesting and poorly editted rules, often followed by considerable errata.

In the end, I think the AH games were a better means of bringing people into the wargaming fold, and personally, AH games dominated my formative wargaming years. However, it may be that at least some of the SPI games from those days may have aged better than their AH counterparts.
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SPI, both for breadth and innovation.
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zuludawn wrote:
SPI, both for breadth and innovation.

AH--because of SPI's breadth and innovation.

Though even the best wargame had components that looked cheap compared to games like Risk and Stratego, I liked the idea of crafting and publishing a game that would stand the test of time and be satisfying generation after generation. When I heard that SPI intended to publish a new game every few months, I shook my head and told my buddy, "They won't be any good."

Well, I was wrong--in some cases. But I still resented the glut of wargames that soon manifested. In 1970, I could hope to someday own and play every wargame in existence, and maybe even get good at all of them. By 1975, it was clear that wouldn't happen. By 1980, I felt overwhelmed by the volume of available wargames.

If they'd all shared just a few basic "game engines," it wouldn't have been so bad. But it seemed every new SPI game had to have an innovative game system. They wanted customers to believe the system was created just because that particular battle or campaign called for it, but I considered that BS at the time, and I still do. Oftentimes they were just experimenting--trying out new stuff willy-nilly to see how it would work. I got sick of learning new rules all the time.

Having said all that, though, I really can't say, looking back, that either company was better than the other. Both published some great games as well as some so-so games. Neither gave me what I wanted to see in wargaming (the closest thing to my dream is probably the Simmons games that are coming out now).

It'd really be too close to call. But if I had to choose, I'd pick AH, because at least they published fewer games and almost always stuck to mounted mapboards. And they kept the classics alive as long as they could.
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Richard Boyes
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They were both great.

AH had fewer games with seemingly better development and high quality components.

SPI had a large variety of titles and excellent innovations in graphics and rules formatting (general rule/procedure/cases).

I miss them both. The good old days (of 3 to 1 odds) always seem so memorable today.

But I'm over it! GMT, MMP, Columbia, Compass, Worthington, Decision, L'nL, ATO, Clash of Arms, etc. are makin' me happy!
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M King
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Seghillian wrote:
It's akin to asking a parent which is their favourite child.

Impossible to choose between them. They were both instrumental in building my enthusiasm for the hobby. I loved the quality of the AH games, and I loved the diversity and sheer volume of stuff brought out by SPI. It would be invidious of me to select either one as being second best to the other.

Both are sorely missed.


I agree with this comment. I loved the variety of eras and battles that SPI covered--and I loved some of their goofy experiments like Scrimmage. But Avalon Hill games were so much more polished. And they brought out my all time favorite wargame, Up Front. And don't forget that a lot of the mechanics that are popular in the wargame scene now originated with AH, like CDGs and area-impulse games.

One thing I love about Victory Point Games now is that they remind me of SPI in the day--games coming out all the time, on the craziest subjects, with new an innovative mechanics.
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John Kovacs
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Avalon Hill and SPI both had their strengths and weaknesses and I would be hard-pressed to choose one over the other.

I started in the hobby with Avalon Hill's Panzer Leader in the mid-1970s and became hooked. My first SPI game was Air War: Modern Tactical Air Combat some four or five years later and I really loved it (and the differences from Avalon Hill). I believe both companies benefited from the competition (especially Avalon Hill when SPI folded and AH took on some of their staff under the Victory Games banner).

I, like a lot of the grognards here, miss them both - greatly.
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Bill Lawson
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I was an SPI guy! whistle

I was in my early teens when I first discovered SPI through S&T. I would read Outgoing Mail and it made me feel like part of the team.
After I discovered them, Avalon Hill felt kind of old and stodgy. The General was a House Organ that ignored the other game companies. If that was all you read you would never have known about SPI (or anybody else!).
In S&T I heard about GDW (bought my first monster game Drang Nach Osten through an ad in S&T) , West End, Rand and all the others.
They made it feel like a hobby!
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Even though I had more AH titles, I didn't knowingly favor one over the other. Guess it just came down to what caught my interest at the time...
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J.L. Robert
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SPI was defunct before I even got into the hobby in '82. Even then, the flat trays I saw on convention flea market tables were beat up, cracking, discolored. The game components themselves were dull, thin and uninspiring compared to the AH games that I was familiar with. As someone just getting into the hobby, with no knowledge of history, or how to compare gameplay with visual qualities, these were all turn-offs.

In the 30 years since, I've come to appreciate many of SPI's designs. While nowhere near as expansive as my AH collection, I happily have a modest assortment of SPI games.

I'll play games from either company. And while AH will always be my wargaming "first love," most SPI products will have my respect and admiration.
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Lawrence Hung
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Yes, I was also thinking that there were only AH games in the world when I was still a boy. I heard of the name of SPI at a time when S&T was in a transfer process to TSR. SPI might be too American-centric to the rest of the world - in that they just focused on the U.S. local market. That's why Victory Games was so successful - the better SPI design team melded with AH's better graphical representations. I don't have many SPI games though I did buy a few from eBay. With limited exposure, one would naturally tend to think AH's games were better than SPI.
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I would have said SPI, but my shelves tell a different tale.

Boxed games are 2 to 1 in favour of AH, and I have about the same number of SPI S&Ts as AH ASL Modules.

These have all been bought (replaced) within the last 10 years, so are probably a decent reflection of how I think - as a Scot, I think with my wallet, of course.
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J.L.Robert wrote:
SPI was defunct before I even got into the hobby in '82. Even then, the flat trays I saw on convention flea market tables were beat up, cracking, discolored. The game components themselves were dull, thin and uninspiring compared to the AH games that I was familiar with. As someone just getting into the hobby, with no knowledge of history, or how to compare gameplay with visual qualities, these were all turn-offs.

In the 30 years since, I've come to appreciate many of SPI's designs. While nowhere near as expansive as my AH collection, I happily have a modest assortment of SPI games.

I'll play games from either company. And while AH will always be my wargaming "first love," most SPI products will have my respect and admiration.


thumbsup

+1

(I got in the hobby the same time. I couldn't have worded it any better).
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desertfox2004 wrote:
I started wargaming when I was 10 years old, playing Waterloo with a buddy. In those early days, the AH games were a) much more accessible in terms of being able to buy them at common outlets such as drugstores and hobby shops, and b) much more accessible in terms of easy to grasp rule books. This was especially so for the "classics", a.k.a. Waterloo, Gettysburg, Afrika Korps, Battle of the Bulge. Today these classics can be derided as poorly researched war-themed games with only a loose association with the battles that were depicted. However, they were well-produced, fun games that could be played in a reasonable timeframe.


I'll go a tad further - in their day, those classics were
the cutting edge of wargaming. The hobby needed something like
that to build upon. Just because AH didn't push that formula
until SPI's market pressure forced them to, doesn't mean they
weren't a prerequisite.

This is why I'm usually more willing to cut those games
some slack in the wargame or not argument - even if modern
designs which don't exceed those standards may be left behind.
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Games I own printed by SPI - 11
Games I own printed by AH - 11

So I guess I'm a fence sitter.

I do own one Victory Game that could be a potential tie breaker save that it isn't a wargame.

Note I use the word printed rather than published because AH published several games I own that weren't printed by them. Like Go and Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign, 1815 (Gamma II/Columbia).
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Until someone sent me an old copy of SPI's Empire of the Middle Ages, I'd never heard of them but I had heard of AH. I've not been buying old games since then for various reasons, both financial and geographical. So it's not a fair comparison for me.

FWIW the reputation I've seen referred to here on BGG (which I'd love corrected if need be) is that AH often had less complex rules and fewer errata or omissions but that SPI was often more creative in what they'd represent in a game. I have of my own knoledge no idea if the impression or the reputations is even correct, let alone the actuality. I was alive and playing games in the heyday but to my knowledge I never saw either an AH or an SPI game for sale in a store in my life.
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Steven Goodknecht
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whac3 wrote:
FWIW the reputation I've seen referred to here on BGG (which I'd love corrected if need be) is that AH often had less complex rules and fewer errata or omissions but that SPI was often more creative in what they'd represent in a game. I have of my own knoledge no idea if the impression or the reputations is even correct, let alone the actuality. I was alive and playing games in the heyday but to my knowledge I never saw either an AH or an SPI game for sale in a store in my life.


Well, both companies had their fair share of games with problems. I bought AH's Third Reich in 1974. It was very complex, needed lots of errata and had many omissions.

I played it but I was never sure if I was playing it correctly.
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No Expectations wrote:
whac3 wrote:
FWIW the reputation I've seen referred to here on BGG (which I'd love corrected if need be) is that AH often had less complex rules and fewer errata or omissions but that SPI was often more creative in what they'd represent in a game. I have of my own knoledge no idea if the impression or the reputations is even correct, let alone the actuality. I was alive and playing games in the heyday but to my knowledge I never saw either an AH or an SPI game for sale in a store in my life.


Well, both companies had their fair share of games with problems. I bought AH's Third Reich in 1974. It was very complex, needed lots of errata and had many omissions.



It was also pretty darned creative.
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