So Frankly...

So Frankly...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Publisher Profile: Hasbro Part II – Avalon Hill

Avalon Hill is a venerated name in the boardgaming hobby, particularly amongst wargamers.  Started in 1954 by Charles S. Roberts, the father of modern recreational wargaming, the company is alive today as a brand owned by Hasbro.  Current titles tend to be traditional Avalon Hill games and games within the Axis and Allies family.  These are produced for the hobby industry as opposed to the typical Hasbro mass-market game.

There are several memorable games from the Avalon Hill line that many remember seeing as teenagers.  Tactics is the first published game, written by Roberts himself.  Many of these games still have a following: Squad Leader (and Advanced Squad Leader), Panzer Leader, Kingmaker, Dune,  Civilization and Wooden Ships & Iron Men.  (None of which have I ever played, though I own a few!)  The purchase of 3M’s gaming line brought several non-wargame titles to the company including Facts in Five, Twixt and Sleuth.

An earlier version of Diplomacy (Bradley Eng-Kohn)
Some of these games are still in print, and are almost legendary.  Diplomacy, one the earliest titles, is still in print after over fifty years.  Acquire, one of my all-time favorite games, will be fifty years old next year.  Several are being printed by other companies who have acquired the license, including Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage, Britannia and The Republic of Rome.  Fantasy Flight is putting together a reprint of Dune, though under a slightly theme due to licensing issues.  Several companies have simultaneously announced a reprint of Merchant of Venus, and while it’s not a wargame, it appears to be setting up quite a legal battle. 

The current version of A&A (Promotional Image)
In the last ten years, Avalon Hill has still represented a line of games that are geared toward the hobbyist.  In addition to Diplomacy and Acquire, best selling games include Battle Cry, Betrayal at House on the Hill and Nexus Ops.  The largest publication efforts have been in marketing the Axis and Allies brand of lighter wargames.  The original Axis and Allies was a Milton Bradley game published in 1983, however revised editions were released as Avalon Hill titles.  The Axis and Allies rule set was then adapted to other WWII games, including Axis & Allies: Pacific, Axis & Allies: D-Day, Axis & Allies: Battle of the Bulge and Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal.  Naval and land miniature systems were also created.

One of Hasbro’s latest offerings, Battleship Galaxies: The Saturn Offensive, was released under the Hasbro line despite the fact that it really is a hobby game.  Given the fact that Hasbro has another game line, Wizards of the Coast (which actually operates the Avalon Hill line), it could be the Avalon Hill brand will not see new titles, but only continue to publish the titles it already has.

Are Avalon Hill games family games?  Generally, I don’t believe so.  Acquire could certainly be played and enjoyed by a family with older children, but often an Avalon Hill game is either too complex or simply too long for casual gaming.  Many of the older wargames are strictly two-player affairs.  If you are looking for family games, this brand is one where a little extra research on the game is necessary. 

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