The Avalon Hill Game Company
 


The Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC, usually shortened to Avalon Hill or even just AH) was the original commercial board wargaming publisher, with occasional forays into miniatures and RPGs, and an early publisher of PC games. In 1962, the company became a subsidiary of Monarch Avalon printing, giving the company access to professional printing services that gave it a qualitative edge over the competitors that began to seriously vie for attention in the 1970s. Avalon Hillís focus always remained divided between wargames and other genres, including sports, family and other titles.

Early History

The company was founded in 1958 by Charles S. Roberts, who successfully marketed the first commercial board wargames Tactics and Tactics II. (The game was inaptly named, as it was an operational level game depicting combat between two fictional countries with each counter representing entire divisions.)

Founded: 1958
Produced: ►Tactical Wargames
►Computer Games
Demise: 1998, trademark still used by Hasbro

 

Avalon Hill set the stage for modern recreational wargaming by making games that were graphically attractive and of high quality, easy to learn, affordable, and could be played in a single sitting. Many of todayís now conventional concepts of board wargaming were introduced by Avalon Hill, including the use of hexagonal grids, zones of control (ZOC), stacking of multiple units, combat results tables (CRT), terrain effects on movement, troop strength, morale, and board games based upon historical events. More complex games could and did take days or even weeks, and AH created a play by mail system to facilitate long distance play.

In order to further bring the new board wargamers together, Avalon Hill launched The General, a house organ, in 1964. The magazine featured an opponent finder column, articles on existing and upcoming Avalon Hill games, discussed tournaments and other hobby events, and forged a sense of community.

Monarch Avalon Printing

As a way of combating accumulated debt, Roberts allowed Avalon Hill to become a subsidiary of Monarch Avalon Printing in 1962, a status it maintained until 1998. Avalon Hill acquired the rights to the very first commercial board wargame with a tactical theme, Tac Game 3, and reprinted it as PanzerBlitz in 1970. The game was a departure from conventional wargames to that point in time on many levels, introducing a multiple scenario format, isomorphic mapboards, and open-ended scenario creation abilities. Designer James F. Dunnigan had meanwhile went on to acquire Strategy & Tactics Magazine at about the same time, and began what was to become their biggest competitor: Simulations Publications, Inc.

Charles S. Roberts concentrated as much on his non-military line, considering the game Management to be the game of his own creation during his time with Avalon Hill as his favourite. Other non-military titles were acquired through the purchase of 3Mís titles in 1976, and Avalon Hill often acquired games from smaller companies including Battleline Publications and Jedko Games.

A brief flirtation with role playing games produced no military titles, but early entries in the computer gaming market did result in titles such as Close Assault, Under Fire! and Tanktics. Early games were hybrids requiring mapboards and counters, and later titles were standalones, but almost all were crude even by the early industry standards of the time.

Victory Games

In the wake of the buyout by TSR of SPI in 1982 Avalon Hill acquired some of their design staff and formed them into a subsidiary company called Victory Games. SPIís raison díetre had been games that were more complex and detailed than those generally found in the AH line, and Victory Games followed suit. Amidst a string of successful operational-level games came the tactical solitaire title Ambush! and a string of sequels and companion games which were unique and very well received. As VG staff left for other companies, they were not replaced and the line slowly died, disbanding officially in 1989.

Tactical Titles

As far as tactical wargames go, Avalon Hill is probably best known for introducing some of the most notable titles in the history of that genre. These include the trilogy of PanzerBlitz/Panzer Leader/Arab-Israeli Wars, Tobruk, and Squad Leader. While Tobruk was quickly eclipsed a year later by Squad Leader, it later rose in popularity by a reboot at the hands of Raymond J. Tapio and Critical Hit. Squad Leader, however, became a phenomenon, with three sequels, a reboot as Advanced Squad Leader, and an incredibly successful run that is still producing new and marketable products.

Hasbro

After costly legal missteps in 1997 and 1998, Monarch ended its direct participation in the games industry, disbanding Avalon Hill in the summer of 1998. Hasbro Games purchased the rights to the Avalon Hill titles and back inventory and the name "Avalon Hill" for $6 million and published a select number of Avalon Hill games while several individual titles were licensed to interested publishers. The rights to Advanced Squad Leader were licensed to Multi-Man Publishing.

Hasbro has also released new titles under the Avalon Hill name in addition to rebranding older titles such as Axis and Allies with the AH logo. The games published under Hasbro ownership have been targeted for a wider general audience, and are less hobbyist oriented than had been published previously. In a sense, the brand has come full circle; titles in the 1960s were marketed as non-specialist military-themed entertainment. Advanced Squad Leader was about as far from that image as one could get.

Location

Avalon Hill moved its corporate offices to 4517 Harford Road in Baltimore in the 1960s, while maintaining a second address on Read Street where playtesting was conducted and inventory maintained.

Avalon Hill is now a division of the game company Wizards of the Coast, which is itself a subsidiary of Hasbro.

References

Charles S. Roberts: The Founding Father from the CSR Awards site.
The Complete Wargames Handbook
Chapter 5: History of Wargames - Into the 1980s
 

Tactical Games Published by Avalon Hill
 

Year Title Type
1970 PanzerBlitz Board
1974 Panzer Leader Board
1976 Tobruk Board
1977 Squad Leader Board
1977 Arab/Israeli Wars Board
1978 Cross of Iron (Squad Leader) Board
1980 Crescendo of Doom (Squad Leader) Board
1981 Tanktics Computer
1981 Storm Over Arnhem Board
1982 GI: Anvil of Victory (Squad Leader) Board
1983 Up Front Board
1984 Banzai (Up Front!) Board
1984 Desert War (Up Front!) Board
1984 Firepower Board
Close Assault Computer
1985 Under Fire! Computer
1985 Streets of Fire (DASL 1) Board
1985 ASL Rulebook Board
1985 Beyond Valor (ASL 1) Board
1986 Paratrooper (ASL 2) Board
1987 Hedgerow Hell (DASL 2) Board
1987 Raid on St. Nazaire Board
1987 Partisan (ASL 4) Board
1987 Yanks (ASL 3) Board
1987 Patton's Best Board
1987 Thunder at Cassino Board
1987 Platoon Board
1988 West of Alamein (ASL 5) Board
1988 The Last Hurrah (ASL 6) Board
1989 MBT Board
1989 Hollow Legions (ASL 7) Board
1990 Red Barricades (HASL 1) Board
1990 Code of Bushido (ASL 8) Board
1991 Gung Ho! (ASL 9) Board
1992 Croix de Guerre (ASL 10) Board
1993 Kampfgruppe Peiper I (HASL 2) Board
1993 Kampfgruppe Peiper II (HASL 3) Board
1993 IDF Board
1997 Pegasus Bridge (HASL 4) Board
1998 Doomed Battalions (ASL 11) Board

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