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The General Magazine

The General was first published in 1964, as a bi-monthly periodical devoted to supporting Avalon Hill's line of wargames, with articles on game tactics, history, and industry news. Wargaming in the modern recreational sense was in its infancy, and The Avalon Hill Game Company had been producing wargames for a mass market for only five years. The first issue was published on 1 May 1964; twelve pages in length with a six-issue (one year) subscription valued at $4.98 US dollars.

The third issue featured a $0.25 discount coupon that could be used in any purchase direct by mail from Avalon Hill (with small print indicating a minimum of four coupons had to be redeemed at a time); these coupons would be a regular feature of the magazine. Volume 2 featured the addition of area editors based geographically around the United States; article submissions started to appear with such frequency that area editors were dropped after Volume 2 Issue 5.1

Volume 3, Number 1 boasted an expansion to 16 page format. By the fourth year of publication, many fanzines and amateur publications began cropping up, and Avalon Hill promoted the sale of such, wisely suggesting that these amateur publications were good for the growth of the wargaming hobby. Volume 4 also marked a change from dull paper stock to glossy paper.

Editor Tom Shaw described the magazine in 1969:

Each issue of the General could reach a total circulation of 15,000 if you include individual sales. However, the subscription rate is much lower than that. It is not offered for sale on the newsstands and that, as you know, is where the bulk of magazine sales take place in a profitable operation. It loses money because it is printed on high speed, offset presses at Monarch Services. This process is geared to runs of 50 to 100 thousand copies, and therefore  it is unprofitable to use it for 15,000. But we do it because Monarch is a member of the conglomerate owning Avalon Hill. We sell no advertising, and mailing costs for a small run such as the General incur a low profit margin.


The General was printed on attractive heavy duty paper for the majority of its print run, but the true favourites of the tactical wargamer that saw heavy wear and tear generally didn't stand up well to it. Webmaster's collection.


Avalon Hill also sold black and white reprints. Webmaster's collection.

While in itself it is a losing venture, in the long run the General makes money for AH because it is an advertising and promotional vehicle for Avalon Hill's products. But because it deals strictly with AH products and is primarily written by those who own the games, it appeals only to wargamers owning Avalon Hill games, obviously. Appeal to more people by dealing with more wargaming subjects would, of course, increase the marketability of the General, but we do not have the editorial wherewithal to do that.2

As with their games, then, their magazine benefited from close relationship with a printing company, guaranteeing high quality product that the competitors of coming years would find hard pressed to match. Throughout its run, The General also maintained a relatively stable printing schedule, meeting deadlines in a manner that other magazines sometimes struggled with. In 1972, editorship passed from Thomas N. Shaw to a young Don Greenwood, who was just graduating from college. Volume 9 Number 1 would be his first issue, and he would remain at the helm until January 1982 when Rex A. Martin took over. (Volume 18 Number 5). In July 1992, the editorial duties were passed on to Don Hawthorne (Volume 28 Number 1).3

In 1973, an independent reviewer writing in Moves wrote:

During (1972), the Avalon Hill General gradually changed its organization, presentation, and typography. Articles have tended to become longer. Donald Greenwood, the founder and former editor of Panzerfaust, was hired by Avalon Hill. When he returns from Basic Training with the Maryland National Guard, he is expected to take a major part in producing the General. The possibility of changing the magazine's format or length has been raised; it would not be surprising to see a switch from 16 to 24 pages. On the other hand, inflation has had an interesting effect; the General is no longer the "incredibly expensive" magazine that it was in the early 60's - most of the other professional magazines have a higher subscription rate. Editorial comments in the most recent issue suggest other changes; articles on variants on AH games will be seen less, while articles on game tactics will apparently be seen more.4

The same article pegged the magazine's circulation at 5,000.5

By the 1980s the format had become remarkably stable. The cover featured the boxtop art from one of Avalon Hill's games. The Avalon Hill Philosophy contained industry news from the editor (in early issues, it was common to mention projects by other companies, but this practice slowly died out, making the magazine a true, dedicated house organ). A set of articles might contain variants, historical background, or game tactics/strategy discussions for the feature game. The format by this time was 60 pages. A contest in each issue focussed on one particular game in the AH line, and the answer to a previous contest would appear. Each issue also had So That's What You've Been Playing showing statistics of mail-in surveys included in each issue, where players rated the Avalon Hill (and later, Victory Games) titles they had been playing according to frequency. A Reader's Buyers Guide rated Avalon Hill games on overall value, components, complexity, completeness, playability, availability, and game length (again, based on the bi-monthly surveys). The Infiltrator's Report featured news on games in the Avalon Hill pipeline as well as industry news. The magazine also contained full page advertisements for Avalon Hill Games (and for a brief period, a pull out section called The Victory Games Insider featured news and information on Victory Games products). The Question Box featured questions and answers regarding rules of various Avalon Hill Games, published to clarify game playing procedures. Sports and Computer Games had their own sections, though the meat and potatoes of Avalon Hill's line were board wargames. Certain flagship games had semi-regular feature columns, such as Diplomacy's "The Compleat Diplomat" or Advanced Squad Leader's "ASL Clinic".

The editorship changed once again in this period also:

Don's (Don Greenwood) work load(sic), too, had become impacted by tremendous product growth. Not so reluctantly he relinquished control of The General after 60 issues when Rex Martin came on board as full time editor in '81. A "man of letters" and dyed-in-the-wool "Diplomacy" player, Rex handled it until the time he left in the mid-90's.6

As Avalon Hill increasingly expanded into non-wargaming titles, coverage of same increased in the page of The General, often to the dismay of correspondents published in the Letters to the Editor column.  However, ASL fans found that they could find their appetites whetted by ASL Annual, which began publication in 1989 and was published semi-regularly until 1997, briefly becoming a twice-annual.

Don Greenwood returned as managing editor for a single issue in 1994, credited as "Executive Editor" (Volume 29, Number 2). In that issue he wrote:

For some time now, we have been struggling with dwindling boardgame sales. Critically acclaimed though they may be, time marches on and the younger generation has voted overwhelmingly with their entertainment dollars...Every passing season brings news of the next wave of computer hardware more wondrous than its predecessor...And so it happens that Avalon Hill is seriously embracing computer games for the first time. Many of our previous efforts in this field were admittedly half-hearted and it showed...We buried our heads in the sand while the entertainment industry passed us by.

He continued to speak of a "transition from a predominantly boardgame company to one depending primarily on computer games." Editorship passed to Robert Waters, with Gary Fortenberry (former editor of the ASLUG fanzine) becoming an Associate Editor, acknowledging the importance of the Advanced Squad Leader property to Avalon Hill. Fortenberry's duties were editorship of the ASL Annual as well as ASL content in The General, which Greenwood noted would continue to be one article and two scenarios in every issue.7 A short notice in Volume 30, Number 3 indicated that Robert Waters had ceased his editorship after just seven issues due to "personal considerations." Stuart K. Tucker was announced as the new editor in the next issue (Volume 30, Number 4). Gary Fortenberry began to share editorship with "Multi-Man Publishing" and beginning with Volume 31, Number 2, MMP appeared alone as the ASL editorship.

The General ceased publication in the wake of the Avalon Hill buyout by Hasbro in 1998. The last issue was Volume 32, Number 3.

Cover Gallery/Issue Listing - Regular Issues

May 1964
Vol 1 No 1
Jul 1964
Vol 1 No 2
Sep 1964
Vol 1 No 3
Nov 1964
Vol 1 No 4
Jan 1965
Vol 1 No 5
Mar 1966
Vol 1 No 6
May 1965
Vol 2 No 1
Jul 1965
Vol 2 No 2
Sep 1965
Vol 2 No 3
Nov 1965
Vol 2 No 4
Jan 1966
Vol 2 No 5
Mar 1966
Vol 2 No 6
May 1966
Vol 3 No 1
Jul 1966
Vol 3 No 2
Sep 1966
Vol 3 No 3
Nov-Dec 1966
Vol 3 No 4
Jan-Feb 1967
Vol 3 No 5
Mar-Apr 1967
Vol 3 No 6
May-Jun 1967
Vol 4 No 1
Jul-Aug 1967
Vol 4 No 2
Sep-Oct 1967
Vol 4 No 3
Nov-Dec 1967
Vol 4 No 4
Jan-Feb 1968
Vol 4 No 5
Mar-Apr 1968
Vol 4 No 6
May-Jun 1968
Vol 5 No 1
Jul-Aug 1968
Vol 5 No 2
Sep-Oct 1968
Vol 5 No 3
Nov-Dec 1968
Vol 5 No 4
Jan-Feb 1969
Vol 5 No 5
Mar-Apr1969
Vol 5 No 6
May-Jun 1969
Vol 6 No 1
Jul-Aug 1969
Vol 6 No 2
Sep-Oct 1969
Vol 6 No 3
Nov-Dec 1969
Vol 6 No 4
Jan-Feb 1970
Vol 6 No 5
Mar-Apr 1970
Vol 6 No 6
May-Jun 1970
Vol 7 No 1
Jul-Aug 1970
Vol 7 No 2
Sep-Oct 1970
Vol 7 No 3
Nov-Dec 1970
Vol 7 No 4
Jan-Feb 1971
Vol 7 No 5
Mar-Apr 1971
Vol 7 No 6
May-Jun 1971
Vol 8 No 1
Jul-Aug 1971
Vol 8 No 2
Sep-Oct 1971
Vol 8 No 3
Nov-Dec 1971
Vol 8 No 4
Jan-Feb 1972
Vol 8 No 5
Mar-Apr 1972
Vol 8 No 6
May-Jun 1972
Vol 9 No 1
Jul-Aug 1972
Vol 9 No 2
Sep-Oct 1972
Vol 9 No 3
Nov-Dec 1972
Vol 9 No 4
Jan-Feb 1973
Vol 9 No 5
Mar-Apr 1973
Vol 9 No 6
May-Jun 1973
Vol 10 No 1
Jul-Aug 1973
Vol 10 No 2
Sep-Oct 1973
Vol 10 No 3
Nov-Dec 1973
Vol 10 No 4
Jan-Feb 1974
Vol 10 No 5
Mar-Apr 1974
Vol 10 No 6
May-Jun 1974
Vol 11 No 1
Jul-Aug 1974
Vol 11 No 2
Sep-Oct 1974
Vol 11 No 3
Nov-Dec 1974
Vol 11 No 4
Jan-Feb 1975
Vol 11 No 5
Mar-Apr 1975
Vol 11 No 6
May-Jun 1975
Vol 12 No 1
Jul-Aug 1975
Vol 12 No 2
Sep-Oct 1975
Vol 12 No 3
Nov-Dec 1975
Vol 12 No 4
Jan-Feb 1976
Vol 12 No 5
Mar-Apr 1976
Vol 12 No 6
Vol 13 No 1 Vol 13 No 2 Vol 13 No 3 Nov-Dec 1976
Vol 13 No 4
Jan-Feb 1977
Vol 13 No 5
Mar-Apr 1977
Vol 13 No 6
May-Jun 1977
Vol 14 No 1
Jul-Aug 1977
Vol 14 No 2
Sep-Oct 1977
Vol 14 No 3
Nov-Dec 1977
Vol 14 No 4
Jan-Feb 1978
Vol 14 No 5
Mar-Apr 1978
Vol 14 No 6
May-Jun 1978
Vol 15 No 1
Jul-Aug 1978
Vol 15 No 2
Sep-Oct 1978
Vol 15 No 3
Nov-Dec 1978
Vol 15 No 4
Jan-Feb 1979
Vol 15 No 5
Mar-Apr 1979
Vol 15 No 6
May-Jun 1979
Vol 16 No 1
Jul-Aug 1979
Vol 16 No 2
Sep-Oct 1979
Vol 16 No 3
Nov-Dec 1979
Vol 16 No 4
Jan-Feb 1980
Vol 16 No 5
Mar-Apr 1980
Vol 16 No 6
May-Jun 1980
Vol 17 No 1
Jul-Aug 1980
Vol 17 No 2
Sep-Oct 1980
Vol 17 No 3
Nov-Dec 1980
Vol 17 No 4
Jan-Feb 1981
Vol 17 No 5
Mar-Apr 1981
Vol 17 No 6
May-Jun 1981
Vol 18 No 1
Jul-Aug 1981
Vol 18 No 2
Sep-Oct 1981
Vol 18 No 3
Nov-Dec 1981
Vol 18 No 4
Jan-Feb 1982
Vol 18 No 5
Mar-Apr 1982
Vol 18 No 6
May-Jun 1982
Vol 19 No 1
Jul-Aug 1982
Vol 19 No 2
Sep-Oct 1982
Vol 19 No 3
Nov-Dec 1982
Vol 19 No 4
Jan-Feb 1983
Vol 19 No 5
Mar-Apr 1983
Vol 19 No 6
May-Jun 1983
Vol 20 No 1
Jul-Aug 1983
Vol 20 No 2
Sep-Oct 1983
Vol 20 No 3
Nov-Dec 1983
Vol 20 No 4
Vol 20 No 5 Vol 20 No 6
Vol 21 No 1 Vol 21 No 2 Vol 21 No 3 Vol 21 No 4 Vol 21 No 5 Vol 21 No 6
Vol 22 No 1 Vol 22 No 2 Vol 22 No 3 Vol 22 No 4 Vol 22 No 5 Vol 22 No 6
Vol 23 No 1 Vol 23 No 2 Vol 23 No 3 Vol 23 No 4 Vol 23 No 5 Vol 23 No 6
Vol 24 No 1 Vol 24 No 2 Vol 24 No 3 Vol 24 No 4 Vol 24 No 5 Vol 24 No 6
25th Anniversary
Vol 25 No 1
Vol 25 No 2 Vol 25 No 3 Vol 25 No 4 Vol 25 No 5 Vol 25 No 6
Vol 26 No 1 Vol 26 No 2 Vol 26 No 3 Vol 26 No 4 Vol 26 No 5 Vol 26 No 6
Vol 27 No 1 Vol 27 No 2 Vol 27 No 3 Vol 27 No 4 Vol 27 No 5 Vol 27 No 6
Vol 28 No 1 Vol 28 No 2 Vol 28 No 3 Vol 28 No 4 Vol 28 No 5 Vol 28 No 6
Vol 29 No 1 Vol 29 No 2 Vol 29 No 3 Vol 29 No 4 Vol 29 No 5 Vol 29 No 6
Vol 30 No 1 Vol 30 No 2 Vol 30 No 3 Vol 30 No 4 Vol 30 No 5 Vol 30 No 6
Vol 31 No 1 Vol 31 No 2 Vol 31 No 3 Vol 31 No 4 Vol 31 No 5 Vol 31 No 6
     
Vol 32 No 1

Vol 32 No 2

Vol 32 No 3      

Cover Gallery/Issue Listing - Special Issues

Special ORIGINS
Issue 1988

Notes

  1. Information in this section condensed from the articles in The General Volume 25 Number 1 (1988)
  2. Strategy & Tactics, March-April, 1969, interview by Chris Wagner
  3. "The Avalon Hill Philosophy Part 145" (The General, Volume 28, Number 1)
  4. Phillies, George and Martin Campion. "A Guide to Conflict Simulation Games and Periodicals" (Moves, Nr. 7)
  5. Ibid.
  6. Shaw, Thomas N. Confessions of an 84 Year Old Teenager: Trials Tribulations and Joys of Running "the Greatest Game company that ever lived" (Thomas N. Shaw, lulu.com, 2014) ISBN 978-1-312-87832-7 p.96
  7. "The Avalon Hill Philosophy Part 161" (The General, Volume 29, Number 2). Greenwood felt that the health of the hobby in general was indicated by the health of "fanzines" and that ASLUG had been a particularly well respected example of the latter. Fortenberry was also noted in the article as second place finisher at AVALONCON 93.

 

 

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