Many of us were first introduced to wargaming by seeing an Avalon Hill game in a store. I know I was. MIDWAY was my first introduction to wargaming, and while I bought and played games by other companies in those early 1970s, such as titles published by GDW and SPI (to name the most prominent), I bought most of the wargames AH put out. Can't say that about the other companies. A lot of the best designs were not ones that AH created in house but those acquired elsewhere (PANZERBLITZ, RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN, WOODEN SHIPS AND IRON MEN being some of the best examples). Share some nostalgia about AH games you cut your wargaming teeth on, those you loved, and--yes--those you loved a lot less. Talk about AH personalities and conventions....

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Eric,
For a long time as far as I was concerned Avalon Hill WAS wargaming. I started with 1914, then my next games were D-Day, France 1940, Midway, and Panzerblitz, as far as I can remember, Luftwaffe , Caesar (Alesia) and Wooden Ships. The only SPI titles in those days were StarForce and my first, Soldiers, and I was probably in the hobby for a good five years before I started buying from anyone else.

One reason was that I knew what I was getting, and I was happy with the quality. Prior to my sixteenth birthday I wasn't working, and had a very small allowance, so every game purchase was a major cash outlay; this made me extremely risk-adverse at the time.

Hence Avalon Hill became a very dependable source for my favorite hobby.
The first game I ever bought was MBT. I was a senior in high school. The year....1988. I remember I bought the game because I had read Red Storm Rising and really wanted to play a game with tanks and helos. It took me a few months to be able to understand the rules enough to play it. I then showed the game to a buddy of mine. He looked at the font of the rule book and started laughing. We went back to playing Axis and Allies.

I was finally able to figure out the game and loved making up scenarios on battles from all the WW3 books I was reading. I then picked up TAC AIR. Now, I know a lot of people hate that game but I was in heaven with it. I have two copies of the game and you can hardly read some of the pieces on my 1st copy.

It has been downhill ever since with me and wargames. I know AH is gone but I still love their games. The new game companies make some fantastic work but, those beautiful hand drawn maps that AH did are still some of my favorites. Russian Front, 3R4, A3R, TAC AIR, the Fleet Series, Bitter Woods (1st ed), NATO, Wizard's Quest........brings a tear to my ey.
My First AH's Game was ''Wizard's Quest'' and ''D-Day(3rd)''.Afterwards, a considerable number was bought.......''Air Force,Flight Leader,Elric,SL,Thunder at Casssino,Flat Top,Bismarck,Jutland,FirePower,Hannibal''.
However, there is little being playing now.
For Jim--Wow, I can only imagine what it must have been like to START wargaming with the venerable old 1914. That was one of my favorite games, slightly flawed as it turned out to be after a lot of repeated playings, but the historical color was incredible to me. Of course, it was a Dunnigan design! FRANCE 1940 and PANZERBLITZ also had a high degree of historical color, if nothing else due to the packaging and extra background material packed into the bookcase box. I'd have to agree with you; AH rarely did a bad game or even a mediocre one. Plus they tended to make games you could play more competitively. Physical quality counted for a lot in those days, too--AH games had hard gameboards compared to SPI's and GDW's paper maps...they just seemed more substantial to this teenager's judgment.

For Dan--I love TAC AIR as well and used it a lot when I was a captain in the Marine Corps to train folks with. No other game did such a great job showing air-ground integration at the grand tactical level. And the map was gorgeous--the game just begged to be played. I liked this game much better than FLIGHT LEADER which also was gorgeous but just didn't work for me nearly as well.

For Blue--WIZARD'S QUEST wasn't a bad game, but it never seemed to take off. Most of the games you listed don't see play now because other titles have passed them by. FIGHTING WINGS and AIRPOWER games by J.D. Webster have long passed by AIR FORCE and FLIGHT LEADER; ATS, COMBAT COMMANDER, and even ASLSK have trumped the venerable old SQUAD LEADER (and I still love that game!); the Avalanche Press naval games have arguably (very arguably I might add) overtaken JUTLAND, BISMARCK (not FLATTOP or MIDWAY, to my mind); at least HANNIBAL is getting a new lease on life with a second edition. FIREPOWER? Love that game but too few play it. THUNDER AT CASSINO just doesn't excite anyone given the system refinements in the later TURNING POINT: STALINGRAD and BREAKOUT: NORMANDY.
Ive parted with many games over the years, but never an AH one! Games which actually PLAYED, (OK, OK I know about Anzio), didn't keep bringing out errata every month, and had a decent mounted map board that didnt have counters sliding down the ridges where a paper map folded.

Of course there were limitations. Accuracy was often traded for playability and fun in the classic games, and some of them were decidedly anti-British! Fun though, nice to own, and compared to the monotonous SPI colours of the day, looked the part as you played them. God bless em!
Hmmm...which ones were anti-British? Only one I can think of was 1776! Which makes it all the more fun to trounce those troublesome rebels in the campaign game (Lockwood Thesis, anyone?). No, you simply CAN'T be talking about the old TOBRUK...or STORM OVER ARNHEM...AFRIKA KORPS...or even the venerable ANZIO....and we all know we'd rather be playing with the Sherman Firefly counters in PANZER LEADER (what, and not Cromwells?)

Give me the "Funnies" any day. Anybody makes jokes about Monty, tell them about how Bradley screwed up the Bulge so badly that Sir Bernard had to bail the Americans out. Anybody say Monty was too cautious hasn't read COLOSSAL CRACKS and obviously forgot all about MARKET-GARDEN--a daring (some would say nearly recklessly so) concept if ever there was one. C'mon, who wouldn't rather play with ALL THOSE DIFFERENT KINDS OF VEHICLES IN ADVANCED SQUAD LEADER? The Brits have TONS of different makes and models!!! Even more (it seems) than those nasty Nazis!

And my BEF divisions in the venerable old 1914 and FRANCE '40 games still kick butt.
I learned to appreciate the British army through Avalon Hill games, starting with 1914. In it and France '40 the BEF were the heavyweights of the Allied cause, hardass professionals. Even 1776 didn't seem that anti-British, just pointing out the difficulties of beating the Americans in a protracted war, and in Wooden Ships, the Royal Navy is the best all-around force in the game. The American frigates might be the best ships of their type, with the best crews, but you don't see American ships of the line.

I guess it's up to me to design War of the Overcooked Vegetables and Warm Beer.
It all started for me when a friend bought Waterloo in the summer of 1968. We'd never seen a game so big or complicated, though we both agreed he'd been gypped: imagine paying $5.98 for a game that's all paper and cardboard, and where you have to punch out the game pieces!

I borrowed the advertising flyer from the box and dreamed over it for a long time afterward. Kriegspiel had just come out when I was ready to buy, so my first purchase was that intro wargame. And it served its intended purpose for my friend and me. After a few games of Kriegspiel, we were ready to give Waterloo a real try.

My first "real" wargame was Battle of the Bulge (1965 edition). It was special to me because my dad had been there in the actual event (he was in the 101st Airborne and helped defend Bastogne). I'd grown up on his war stories, and I got him to play the game with me once, a year or so before he died.

My high-school years (1969-73) were the heyday of AH wargaming for me, I guess. This same friend and I bought a number of games, and around 1972 we started a wargaming club in northern California and got together with other gamers. But I kept being drawn to the more complex titles: e.g., 1914, Anzio, PanzerBlitz. And my friend never liked those as well as the simpler games: e.g., D-Day, Afrika Korps, Tactics II.

After college, I became a solitaire wargamer. Couldn't stop buying and trying games, even though I didn't have anyone to play them with anymore. I belonged to a game-of-the-month club, and they sent me a free copy of Wooden Ships & Iron Men due to an error in one of my orders. I'd never have bought it for myself, as I had no interest in naval warfare. But I tried it anyway--and it turned out to be one of the best wargames I'd ever played! I even managed to have fun with it solo.

By the end of 1979, I decided I owned too many games. There were well over a hundred in my closet (many of them SPI games at this time); I hadn't played most of 'em, and I knew there were some I'd never play. So I made up my mind to keep just three wargames. It seemed like a manageable number to concentrate on. One would be WS&IM. And since it's a tactical naval game, I thought I'd complement it with a tactical land game and a tactical air game. So, after selling all my other games, I went out and bought Squad Leader and Richthofen's War.

SL took over my wargaming life. I was resistant to it at first, because I had become fed up with complicated games. Also, WWII was never my favorite period. But it was such a game that I got completely sucked in.

My obsession with SL didn't stop me from buying other games, though. I picked up War & Peace, Bulge '81, Advanced Third Reich, Russian Campaign, Victory in the Pacific, The Longest Day, Up Front, Caesar: Alesia, Bull Run, and a number of other titles. Found some time for all of them somehow.

Around 1995, I'd finally had it with ASL. Too much work. I couldn't put the game on a shelf for three months, then take it out and just play; I'd have to spend lots of time refreshing myself on the rules. And by this time, all the scenarios started to seem alike to me. I got tired of working so hard to do the same basic thing over and over.

Then I decided I'd get rid of any game that takes more than a half hour to have up and running (including time to refresh my memory of the rules). Testing all the games in my closet, I found that very few fit the bill. Mainly I was left with some of the AH "Smithsonian" games.

I soon found those lighter wargames weren't very satisfying to me, so I stopped playing altogether. In 1999, I sold off all the wargaming stuff I owned, including a big collection of "The General" dating back to the thin, glossy-covered format.

So, by the time the old Avalon Hill was bought out, I had already reached the end of my wargaming heyday anyhow. It was a fun ride while it lasted.

I still dabble at wargames sometimes today. And I have fond memories of the old days. But when I think about it, I really wouldn't want any of my old stuff back. Truth is, I'd never find time to do anything with it; it'd just be a collection of boxes.
Probably the highlight for me was preordering Squad Leader, waiting forever for it to be done, and discovering what I consider AH's crown jewel of the 70's. Once in a while I'll run across an old AH catalog in a game, with those familiar 'free shipping' coupons. Mail order use to take forever back then.
From the 70's to the 80's wargamming was AH. God they made great games! My first game has mostly fallen apart..it is still in a printer box at my dad's. I do not remember its name, but it was one of the first AH games. It was very hard to get this game, since I was too young to earn money myself, and my parents had to be badgered to death. Later I picked up Panzer Leader, Panzerblitz, Squad Leader. In fact with Panzer Leader and Panzerblitz I bought sever games and then picked up blank counters, so that I could fill up a ping pong table and fight Division level. The next game was 3R and later A3R, this game and its second version, has become a mainstay in my gaming. I have two bookshelves of wargames, BTW does anyone else like the fact that AH's games often were book size?

Hi Jim,

I have been looking through my collection and found some interesting playtest copies. The first Bismarck included cruisers and a two square range battle board. Alexander which was originally Gary Gygax's Arbela was done in several waves. I had a lot of contact with Gary back then and was his "apprentice" in the IFW. The first Dunnigan 1914 playtests had a movement rate of 1! OK, everybody move left. Let's see how the enemy responds. Anzio was done by Dave Williams of Connecticut, one of the members of our club. So I have many versions. They didn't change as much as you think. And of course, I have my bomb playtest version of Four Roads to Moscow: Mongols, Swedes (Charles XII), French (Napoleon), and Germans (Hitler). Does anyone know of playtest copies from around this time? Maybe we could photocopy and swap?

Joe

If you all manage to collect up some of these old playtest materials, there ought to be a museum of sorts to show them.  Maybe a traveling one that can be set up at PrezCon, WBC, CONSIMCON/Monster.con, etc.  Oldest playtest stuff I've got is ASL Rules and some BEYOND VALOR stuff from 1984 and TURNING POINT: STALINGRAD from 1988 or so.  Not exactly ancient history (yet!).  At least not compared to this stuff! -- Eric

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