Monday, August 30, 2010

Cardboard Empires

Ah, board games.  I spent many an hour in my youth commanding legions from various kitchen tables.  Squad Leader, Third Reich, Risk, Axis & Allies, Diplomacy and many more. Boxes stacked up on bookshelves or under beds, with folding maps, combat resolution tables and trays or baggies filled with little cardboard chits or tiny plastic figures. 

A lot of these games came from a little company called Avalon Hill, and all of them were inspired by that company's success.  While there were some definite duds, there are a number of old boardgames that are definite classics that still hold up today, and new board games are coming out all the time. 

Sadly, the person who launched this section of the hobby, Charles S. Roberts, recently passed away.  Aside from his interest in wargames, he was an avid railroad enthusiast, the combination of which resulted in games such as Rail Baron. 

For the story of the early days of Avalon Hill and board wargames check out Mr. Roberts' own telling of the tale.

Rest in Peace Mr. Roberts.


  1. I remember my first wargame was an Avalon Hill gem about a duel between submarines. I don't remember the name. It had cards for opening/closing range, sonar pings, different types of torpedoes and helicopter support. I think I sweated more over that game than a real sub skipper ever did.

    Those games launched a whole bunch of us into the hobby.

  2. I started out with Axis and Allies. After our third game that ended up lasting two weeks, I found 40K...
    ...and it had mini's. However, it was that original Axis and Allies game that launched my love for wargames.

  3. My favorite part of that article:

    "Gettysburg, by the by, was notable because it was the first modern historic wargame. More ruefully, it was also the first and last wargame to be introduced with no playtesting whatsoever, an omission which plagued it through numerous futile redesigns. However, it sold very well and in spite of its flaws has to be counted as a successful title."


  4. I love Rail Baron. I friend owned it and introduced me to it a couple of years ago. At that point I spent a good 6 months looking for a copy that did not cost $70 incomplete.

  5. @CounterFett - reminds me about an old War at Sea cardgame, where you drew various battleships then needed to draw the right kind of ammo. Fun, but I'm sure I never played it right!

    @Mags - I'm sure that A&A was the entry drug for many.

    @Papa - I laughed at that part too. Proof that something doesn't have to be "good" to be popular.

    @MMesno - I've seen people play the rail games before, but never got into them. If you like those kinds of games, I recently saw a review for a game called Indonesia that you might like.


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