So Frankly...

So Frankly...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Publisher Profile: Hasbro, Part I -- Mass Market Brands

My father used to tell a joke, “Where does the 800 lb. gorilla sit?  Anywhere he wants!”  This is Hasbro, who could have such a positive influence on the boardgaming hobby with all of their size and money.  We all know their games, since we grew up with them as kids: Monopoly, Clue, Risk, Ants in the Pants – the list goes on and on.  Some of these had, and may still have, Parker Brothers logos, but that label is owned by Hasbro.  So are Milton Bradley, Wizards of the Coast and Avalon Hill.  Wizards of the Coast and Avalon Hill have always had their niche, so I will specifically talk about the mass market divisions in this post.

First, I have to say that Hasbro has singlehandedly given boardgaming the reputation in the United States as a children’s activity.  In that way, the company has caused a lot of harm: maybe more than can be undone in my lifetime.  This is primarily due to the large number of sub-par kid’s games they have produced.  There have also been a lot of cheesy movie tie-ins, which tend to bring down the reputation of boardgaming.

Image by Bruce LeCompte
Prior to 1998, Hasbro had a few truly great games, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer (based on the TV show), Survive! and the immortal game Scrabble.  They were lost in a sea of drivel, however.  In 1998, Hasbro purchased the Avalon Hill brand, and bought the company Wizards of the Coast a year later.  This seems to mark the beginning of Hasbro taking a more serious approach to games.  Several of the Star Wars games are excellent (just try to find a copy of Star Wars: Queen’s Gambit for under $150.00 USD).  Furthermore, Hasbro has taken Risk and turned into several very successful, first-rate games (including Star Wars editions and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition), some of which were published under the Avalon Hill brand.  The revised version of Risk is an excellent game.  Plus, while I haven’t played it, I have heard great things about Sorry! Sliders.

Much of this is due to two specific designers, Rob Daviau and Craig Van Ness.  Many of these better titles are due to the efforts of one of these two gentlemen, sometimes working in concert.  A list of currently in-print, superb games which carries one or both of their names would include:
  • Heroscape– arguably their all-time biggest hit.  There are four different master sets, and lots of expansions.  Each set or expansion can be played interchangeably with the others.  (Okay, technically this is now out-of-print, but you can still find sets in stores, so I am counting it!)
  • Battleship Galaxies – This game has an extremely high Awesomeness Factor index.  Awesomeness just oozes out of the box.  Seriously, I might have to buy this game just because of how cool it is.  I don’t need to know how it plays (which reputedly is equally awesomely).  I just want the miniature space ships!
  • Sorry! Sliders– Again, I don’t know much about this one, since my son would probably look down on it, and so we haven’t played it. 
  • Risk (Revised Edition) – This is a must-own game for me.  Risk with all of the fun in less than half the time.
  • Clue: Discover the Secrets – I have never played it, and only know that it has a good reputation.

Promotional Image from Amazon
From a practical perspective, knowing how good a mass-market Hasbro game is (including Parker Brothers or Milton Bradley) will not be easy to determine.  I still get teased by my wife for passing up on Star Wars: Queen’s Gambit and Star Wars: Epic Duels back in the day.  These are both Daviau/Van Ness designs also.  However, since Hasbro doesn’t list designers on their games, it will take a little research to determine who worked on the design of any given game.  In the end, that’s going to be the answer for any Hasbro game: research.  That is, unless it has a movie tie in and isn’t too expensive.  If that’s the case, buy one to try – odds are good you will eventually be able to sell it on eBay for $150.00 if nothing else.

It’s Your Move


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