Golden SPI Oldies We'd Like to See Re-Released

Since Decision Games is republishing classic SPI titles, are there games you wish they'd get back into circulation?

While Doc Decision and his friendly folks have been doing major redesigns of some games (e.g., WACHT AM RHEIN 2, DESTRUCTION OF ARMY GROUP CENTER, BARBAROSSA), other games have only gotten relatively minor tweaks (e.g., BLUE AND GRAY, BATTLES FOR THE ARDENNES, NAPOLEON'S LAST BATTLES, THE SOLOMONS CAMPAIGN, WAR BETWEEN THE STATES) and been republished either as magazine games in STRATEGY AND TACTICS, WORLD AT WAR, or as boxed games. It's been fun revisiting some old favorites, but there are some titles we have yet to see that still are good and would likely do well if brought back. Here's a couple of mine:

BREAKOUT AND PURSUIT. This "WW II Divisional Series" game covered the Allied breakout from the Normandy peninsula and the mad scrambling dash to the Westwall. It posed a number of asymmetrical challenges to both players and maintained a high tension level throughout. Surprisingly, there's nothing in print today that quite covers this topic at this scale, scope, and ease of play. Indeed, the only game that closely compares was the old TSR/SPI ONSLAUGHT: D-DAY TO THE RHINE game, also long out of print. You can find the best review of the game at Joseph C. Beard III's outstanding "Map and Counters" blogsite here along with his superb piece of analysis on how to play here.

TURNING POINT: THE BATTLE OF STALINGRAD. This is yet another "WW II Divisional Series" game and perhaps the most successful of them, dealing with the Stalingrad campaign. Lots of variability, but the best scenario started with the Soviet counteroffensive, playing without the Hitler "stand fast" rule to highlight the sort of risks the Soviets ran in conducting this operation. Yes, you can play this game on Hexwar.com here, but many of us want to see it back in print. For the best review of the game, once again refer to Beard's "Map and Counters" blogsite here and companion analysis piece here. Unfortunately, the name of this game is very similar to the later published TURNING POINT: STALINGRAD game on the urban fight, published by Avalon Hill. But the two are very, very different and not comparable at all.

I've already belabored my wishes to bring back GRUNT! in another blog a long time past....

What old SPI games do you wish to see back in print with minimal redesign/revision?

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Comment by Roger Morley on December 16, 2010 at 3:04am

I would go for El Alamein as a solitaire. That would be a fantastic idea and a very mouth watering prospect!

Comment by Eric Walters on December 15, 2010 at 9:55pm

Oh, and then there's I SPARTACUS by Compass Games, which has the Spartacus player also handling the external challengers to Rome...

 

I wasn't enamored with THE KAISER'S BATTLE when that came out in S&T; imagined that was going to be redo of the old 1918.  Sigh.  It was an okay enough game, but didn't do anything for me, really.  Wrong scale for me.

 

EL ALAMEIN as a solitaire game?  Now, there's a cool idea!  The player is the Axis, trying to get through the Commonwealth defenses...I'd be tempted to use the solitaire system Decision Games used in their titles on Omaha Beach and for Dieppe in a recent issue of S&T...

 

 

Comment by Joseph C. Beard III on December 15, 2010 at 9:41pm

I think your suggestion of a "block" version of THE FALL OF ROME is an absolutely great idea!  There have been, as you so correctly note, a slew of different titles that deal with various aspects of Rome's agonizingly slow collapse, but none have really attempted to cover the subject in the same way that John Young's ambitious failure of a design did.

 

Your comments about both OPERATION MICHAEL and KAISERSCHLACHT as worthy replacements for 1918 are, of course, right on the mark; nonetheless, neither of these newer games seems to really convey the historical "feel" of Germany's last chance in the west that I, at least, would like to see in a finished game.

 

EL ALAMEIN is one of those titles that -- at least, in my experience -- never seemed to work all that well FTF, but, nonetheless, always delievered an interesting and challenging gaming experience when I played it solitaire.  If nothing else, it is one of the very few operational-level titles to actually treat the important effects of minefields on the battle space seriously.  For that reason, if for no other, it would be nice for someone to take another swing at this game topic.  

 

One title that I forgot to mention is Dunnigan's early hypothetical treatment of a NATO-Warsaw Pact clash in Europe:  NATO.  Although this title is deeply flawed (basically, it is little more than a rechristened World War II game with "nukes" and airmobile units grafted onto the KURSK game platform), I really like the scope and scale of this title.  Other games -- I seem to be parroting Goldilocks, here -- are either too big (THE NEXT WAR) or too limited in scope (the CENTRAL FRONT Series or FULDA GAP, just to name a few); I guess what I would personally like to see is a completely redesigned NATO-scale game with a more nuanced (and realistic) combat/movement system and a reasonably well-integrated set of air rules.   Unfortunately, the trend in the hobby seems to be drifting away (at least, for the moment) from this particular game scale. 

Comment by Eric Walters on December 15, 2010 at 8:33pm

Well, FALL OF ROME has seen various incarnations in STRATEGY AND TACTICS since the first game. There was the FALL OF ROME redesign by Joe Miranda in Issue #181, for starters.   LEST DARKNESS FALL, ROME IN CRISIS, A.D. 235-285, published in Issue #234, was the first.  Second--and most recent--is JULIAN in Issue #266, covering Rome in the 4th Century, A.D.  Granted, they aren't exactly like the original game.  But both deal with barbarian incursions.  So, with three efforts covering various aspects, we think it's been attempted--if not exactly done--enough that Decision Games probably wouldn't have any interest in going back to the John Young design concept.

 

1918, too, got "recovered" in STRATEGY AND TACTICS Issue #223 with 1918: IMPERIAL GERMANY'S LAST CHANCE, even though the scope and scale of the game is completely different.  MMP's OPERATION MICHAEL in the SCS series is the closet approximation of the original game and is much, much better (and not too hard to obtain these days).  Perhaps closer to home for the Decision Games bunch, Excalibur's reissue of the venerable KAISERSCHLACHT in 3rd Edition probably means nobody there wants to create much competition for that game, if this was even possible.

So, I'd guess neither of those titles will attract much commercial attention, at least right now.  Maybe in five or ten more years or so, it might come back.  I particularly think FALL OF ROME could be a great topic for a fully redesigned game, but I imagine it more as a block game in the Worthington Games or Columbia Games style, I must confess it.

Now, EL ALAMEIN and LOST BATTLES are definitely titles whose time for redesign and reissue has come!

Comment by Joseph C. Beard III on December 15, 2010 at 7:05pm

Okay, I'll bite.  How about a total remake of LOST BATTLES (an interesting concept and neat counters, but without a playable game to go with them)?  Or what about a complete redo of John Young's worst design ever, THE FALL OF ROME (a great title in search of literally everything)?  While they're at it, the boys at Decision Games could always take another swing at EL ALAMEIN (a fascinating game problem, but poorly and unimaginatively realized)? Or finally, what about 1918 (now there's a title that could certainly use some serious help)?

Comment by Roger Morley on December 15, 2010 at 5:50pm

Are there any games from SPI that should be given a second chance, so instead of touching up the map & counters and making the rule book look nice, what about a total rethink/ re-vamp to make games that promised so much and delivered so little?

Eric mention World War II. Any other candidates for and complete strip down and rebuild?

Comment by Eric Walters on December 15, 2010 at 4:28pm

I'd certainly go for a remake of the original SPI WORLD WAR II; it was far better than their WORLD WAR 3 game which tried to abstract strategic warfare in roughly the same way (of course, that game was more analogous to GLOBAL WAR, which didn't work very well).  Certainly AH's production of HITLER'S WAR didn't seem to hit the mark.  Interestingly, that TSR/SPI version certainly did well, transforming into WORLD WAR II: EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS, or ETO for short.  Then it became ADVANCED ETO, or AETO.  But yes, it was a different breed of cat having more in common with THIRD REICH/ADVANCED THIRD REICH!

 

If the Decision Games pledge page is any indication, it appears that RUSSIAN CIVIL WAR is indeed going to be redone.  Hopefully it won't be tinkered with too much, "zany" as it is.  My only gripe about the game was that I had a severe identity crisis; it was hard to imagine myself as some sort of "faction" within either the Reds or Whites, hoping "my side" wins when either side triumphs.  But it was the only way to do this conflict in a multi-player format where everyone had a relatively even chance of winning (sure, I might dream of being the Czech Legion fighting through Siberia to Vladivostok, but it wouldn't be very hard for me as a player compared to what everyone else would be doing)!

 

 

Comment by Joseph C. Beard III on December 15, 2010 at 2:18pm

Oops!  I just noticed that I recommended the wrong title:  I meant SPI's THE RUSSIAN CIVIL WAR (1976).  Sorry about that.

Comment by Joseph C. Beard III on December 15, 2010 at 12:46pm

At the risk of being drowned out by the guffaws of other players, I would like to see Dunnigan's original WORLD WAR II (not the 3rd Reich-Panzerkrieg clone published by TSR) reissued with cleaned up maps (for example, actually putting the borders in the east where they belong, fixing some of the coastlines, and adding a little rough terrain in Finland and Russia, particularly above the Arctic Circle).  While this title is certainly no match for Third Reich, it is an interesting and quite pleasing little puzzle of a game; and best of all, it can be played to conclusion in an afternoon.  And yes, I am aware of the many other later-appearing titles that have all attempted to simulate the same subject; but, given my druthers, I would still rather play this game than HITLER'S WAR, AXIS & ALLIES, or any of the many other games that have found their way into print, over the years.

 

In a completely different vein:  how about a remake of THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION?  I can't think of anything on the market presently that is really comparable to this admittedly zany multi-player game.

Comment by brian s. b. on December 14, 2010 at 11:44pm

never played but have read everything i can-have also heard praise regarding the maps. if i ever find a copy for a reasonable price i will but it and "tinker" with the rules. and probably create counters, OOB-use the original as a "sketch". i have no problems with abstracted air rules.-think its appropriate for this scale....i don't really hold much hope for the decision games "4th" ed but will see-hope springs eternal!!!!

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