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Subject: Grail games that were merely average when released rss

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Matt Gustafson
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I have been following some of the grail wargames list recently, and I began to wonder, "what grail games were not all that warmly received initially, but they gained grail status after many years had passed?"

I am a newer wargamer, so I pose the question to more seasoned wargamers. I am interested in how a grail game is created from an average game or if it ever is.

Thanks.

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Magic Realm, Up Front definitely were
not big successes on release.

Civilization became a hit soon after, but the first
impressions in The General were VERY negative, and it took
some time for sales to permeate to non-wargamers.

There are a lot of games which were never well known,
which have become 'grails' too - some had audacious designs,
without ever really being ready for prime time. They end up with
cult followings. The fact that something is a grail, doesn't mean
that the game is any good.
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gamesgocrazy wrote:
I have been following some of the grail wargames list recently,


There is a grail wargames list ?
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Matt Gustafson
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Mallet wrote:
gamesgocrazy wrote:
I have been following some of the grail wargames list recently,


There is a grail wargames list ?


Excellent retort

This question was inspired by your forum thread The ONE Wargame that nearly every Wargamer likes to play.
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Paul O'Connor
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calandale wrote:
Magic Realm, Up Front definitely were
not big successes on release.

Civilization became a hit soon after, but the first
impressions in The General were VERY negative, and it took
some time for sales to permeate to non-wargamers.

I don't remember it that way. For one thing, the General was a house organ, and VERY negative reactions to AH games weren't published. Well thought out criticism, when it wasn't seen as likely to hurt sales, yes, but there was never any doubt that the General existed primarily to sell games.

All three games of the games mentioned were paradigm shifts, and as such were seen by some individuals as one less hex-and-counter east front title on the publishing schedule, but I think they were all well received. I know I ordered them, and other hard core wargamers I knew did as well. A second printing of Civ, with a different cover, appeared within a very short time of release, which is an indicator of strong sales.
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goldenboat wrote:


Yeah, totally flew past the radar of me and my gaming buddies back when it first came out.

"Cards? What the hell kind of war game is that?"
"Where's the map?"
"You can't play a war game with cards. Now let's go play some poker!"


Go fig.
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Sphere wrote:
calandale wrote:
Magic Realm, Up Front definitely were
not big successes on release.

Civilization became a hit soon after, but the first
impressions in The General were VERY negative, and it took
some time for sales to permeate to non-wargamers.

I don't remember it that way. For one thing, the General was a house organ, and VERY negative reactions to AH games weren't published. Well thought out criticism, when it wasn't seen as likely to hurt sales, yes, but there was never any doubt that the General existed primarily to sell games.


The reaction was captured in the user feedback numbers.

There were also letters to the editor complaining about
focusing on fantasy and other non-wargames.

Quote:
All three games of the games mentioned were paradigm shifts, and as such were seen by some individuals as one less hex-and-counter east front title on the publishing schedule, but I think they were all well received. I know I ordered them, and other hard core wargamers I knew did as well. A second printing of Civ, with a different cover, appeared within a very short time of release, which is an indicator of strong sales.


I didn't know any other hard-core wargamers at that time
(whether or not I was/am such, with my enjoyment of fantasy
and SF themes is debatable).

That second printing on civ is pretty telling though.
Indeed, it's the second cover which was featured on the
issue which sparked a lot of grousing. I guess it was doing
pretty well. I know by that time it had already won some
kinda award - but from the sound of the letters, it sure
wasn't popular.
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calandale wrote:
The reaction was captured in the user feedback numbers.

There were also letters to the editor complaining about
focusing on fantasy and other non-wargames.

What you're missing is that the same segment of the wargaming population that didn't like those games then still doesn't like them now. There are folks who are only interested in historical simulations, and they post on ConsimWorld today, just like they wrote letters then.

The thread isn't about whether there was a segment that didn't like those games and pushed pure historical sims to the top of the ratings, but about whether games were less favorably received initially than afterwards.

The overlap works both ways - people who dug Magic Realm but weren't into the military sims weren't likely to be General subscribers at that point, but AH put out more and more fantasy titles because they were popular and sold well. Magic Realm was a significant part of that.

Advanced Civilization and Banzai wouldn't have been published if Civ and Up Front weren't popular.
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Magic Realm was the game that I thought of as well for this list. I think the complexity of the game turned some people off initially and that it was so different from other wargames.

That's my 2 cents though
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Part of the "Holy Grail" aura that surrounds Up Front and, I think also Civilization, Magic Realm and Dune is the fact that they're unlikely to ever be reprinted or otherwise appear in the same or even similar form again. Hence all the ones that were made are all the ones that will ever be. I don't think, therefore, that they are necessarily thought of more highly now, it's just that anyone who wants one cannot easily get one -- and they are generally considered good games even now. It's scarcity, in other words, not quality, that gives them this cachet.

Aside from Magic Realm, all of them had expansions published, for example, which only happened for popular games.


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"Grail" sets the standard rather high, but I thought of "Campaign for North Africa" immediately. And, to your point, it isn't that the game was considered average at the time of its release--far from it! If my fleeting memories are accurate, the problem was that the game was both ridicuously expensive and impossibly complex. (Not difficult to understand as much as burdensome to execute, given the game's emphasis on logistics.)

If I found CNA within my grasp today, I would be tempted to enter an arrangement with the Devil to have it. (God help me resist!)
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Sphere wrote:
calandale wrote:
The reaction was captured in the user feedback numbers.

There were also letters to the editor complaining about
focusing on fantasy and other non-wargames.

What you're missing is that the same segment of the wargaming population that didn't like those games then still doesn't like them now. There are folks who are only interested in historical simulations, and they post on ConsimWorld today, just like they wrote letters then.


I had my money on it taking at least a bit longer before someone stretched for a cheap shot at CSW or BGG....
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patton1138 wrote:
I had my money on it taking at least a bit longer before someone stretched for a cheap shot at CSW or BGG....

Cheap shot? I'm just saying the 'letters' column is online now, and that the content hasn't changed much. A lot of us who wrote letters then are still in the hobby.
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Sphere wrote:
calandale wrote:
Magic Realm, Up Front definitely were
not big successes on release.

Civilization became a hit soon after, but the first
impressions in The General were VERY negative, and it took
some time for sales to permeate to non-wargamers.

I don't remember it that way. For one thing, the General was a house organ, and VERY negative reactions to AH games weren't published. Well thought out criticism, when it wasn't seen as likely to hurt sales, yes, but there was never any doubt that the General existed primarily to sell games.

All three games of the games mentioned were paradigm shifts, and as such were seen by some individuals as one less hex-and-counter east front title on the publishing schedule, but I think they were all well received. I know I ordered them, and other hard core wargamers I knew did as well. A second printing of Civ, with a different cover, appeared within a very short time of release, which is an indicator of strong sales.


As a General subscriber, I know I grabbed a copy of all of these the minute they became available. They did lead to grumbling in the letters to the editor, where "real" war gamers groused about fantasy games and non-war games taking up space therein and in the development process. They could have been doing Squad Leader stuff for gods sakes!!!

But yeah, not how I remember things...
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I have an old SPI catalog from 1978.

There is a section in the back entitled "Lower Rated Backlisted Games" selling for $12. The prices were slightly higher (about $2 or $3) because the games were almost out of print. All games were rated below 6 on the SPI 9 point scale.

The list includes Minuteman: The Second American Revolution.



These sell on eBay for $50+ today and several Geeks want this game in trade. I would like to have a copy.

Another lower rated backlisted wargame offered at $12 is Solomons Campaign (first edition) which recently sold for $40 on eBay and might qualify as a grail title for some Grognards.

So... maybe yesterday's lower rated wargame really is today's treasure.
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CountDeMoney wrote:
goldenboat wrote:


Yeah, totally flew past the radar of me and my gaming buddies back when it first came out.



If UP FRONT had remained in print, though, would it really be a "Grail" game, or is that just attributable to the fact no one can find it?
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Windopaene wrote:
Sphere wrote:
calandale wrote:
Magic Realm, Up Front definitely were
not big successes on release.

Civilization became a hit soon after, but the first
impressions in The General were VERY negative, and it took
some time for sales to permeate to non-wargamers.

I don't remember it that way. For one thing, the General was a house organ, and VERY negative reactions to AH games weren't published. Well thought out criticism, when it wasn't seen as likely to hurt sales, yes, but there was never any doubt that the General existed primarily to sell games.

All three games of the games mentioned were paradigm shifts, and as such were seen by some individuals as one less hex-and-counter east front title on the publishing schedule, but I think they were all well received. I know I ordered them, and other hard core wargamers I knew did as well. A second printing of Civ, with a different cover, appeared within a very short time of release, which is an indicator of strong sales.


As a General subscriber, I know I grabbed a copy of all of these the minute they became available. They did lead to grumbling in the letters to the editor, where "real" war gamers groused about fantasy games and non-war games taking up space therein and in the development process. They could have been doing Squad Leader stuff for gods sakes!!!

But yeah, not how I remember things...


I think it depends on your definition of "very" perhaps. The GENERAL published negative comments as a counterpoint to fawning praise. The letters column was one page, perhaps two on special occasions, and the editor's...editorial...also sometimes included letters to the ...um...editor as well. The "negative" letters may have been specially selected, and perhaps they were not the harshest ones available (we will never know, of course, since those that were never published are now lost to history, unless fellows like Mark Nixon who have kept filing cabinets decide to publish retrospectives). But they did exist, and gave the editor(s) a chance to respond, if only to cast themselves in a better light, or to explain editorial choices.
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Scarcity certainly contributes the the Grail Factor of a game. Games that only made it through a single print run are more likely to become a Grail Game because there just aren't as many copies around.

On to Richmond! is a perfect example of a great game whose value is even higher because of the overall scarcity of copies available.
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Michael Dorosh wrote:


If UP FRONT had remained in print, though, would it really be a "Grail" game, or is that just attributable to the fact no one can find it?


Uhm...that's just silly.

Grail games aren't in print (although a version might
be the 'grail' version - but that involves special
aspects, or, as with say Cosmic Encounter, the game taking
what many see as extreme wrong turns).
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Sphere wrote:
calandale wrote:
Magic Realm, Up Front definitely were
not big successes on release.

Civilization became a hit soon after, but the first
impressions in The General were VERY negative, and it took
some time for sales to permeate to non-wargamers.

I don't remember it that way. For one thing, the General was a house organ, and VERY negative reactions to AH games weren't published. Well thought out criticism, when it wasn't seen as likely to hurt sales, yes, but there was never any doubt that the General existed primarily to sell games.


This is true of the articles, but a game's popularity can be gauged by the Rating Chart included in every issue. In Volume 21, #5 (1985), Civilization ranked 29 out of 52 titles rated - certainly in the "mediocre" range.

In Volume 17, #5, Magic Realm fared far worse - 47 out of 50, lower than Tactics II.

Up Front, on the other hand, seems to have been consistently highly rated: 7 out 52 in Volume 21 #2 and again in Volume 25 #5.
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Even later on, scrolling through Volume 25, No 2 (Tac Air), Upfront was ranked #7, with Civilization at #12 in the "So That's What You've Been Playing" ratings.

And World In Flames, not even an AH title, made the list at #10.
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