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Creator / Avalon Hill

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"Classic" logo from their years of peak success.

Avalon Hill is a board game company famous for its pioneering wargames. Founded in the mid-twentieth century (less than a decade after the end of WWII), they were one of the first companies to have much success marketing board games for adults. Their first game, Tactics, is generally considered the first commercially successful wargame. While they were not only a wargame company, it was wargames which made their reputation. They introduced innovative techniques like the hex grid board, and zones of control, and they soon became famous for their elaborate and complex rules—many of their games took days to play. Within a couple of decades, the terms "serious gamer" and "Avalon Hill fan" had become nearly synonymous. They cemented this by buying the rights to the extremely popular abstract wargame, Diplomacy.

In the 1970s, they began branching out more seriously, when their then-parent company Monarch also acquired 3M Games. Some older, well-established games like Acquire and TwixT were released under the AH brand, which helped the company move into new markets. The company went from dominating a niche to being a major player in tabletop games in general. By the early 1980s, they were experimenting with the new fields of video games and role-playing games. Also during the 1980's, the company started a subsidiary, Victory Games, which was staffed mainly by former employees of its rival Simulations Publications Inc. (SPI), which had run into financial troubles and been bought out by TSR. Victory Games, or VG, put out a string of games during the 1980's and early 1990's, such as The Civil War, NATO, Gulf Strike, Across Five Aprils, The Korean War and Hell's Highway, which are regarded nowadays as some of the best games ever to be produced in the hobby. VG also produced, under license, the official James Bond role-playing game.

They also published a fairly successful gaming magazine, The General.

In the 1990s, though, financial struggles led to the company's purchase by Hasbro, who eventually placed them under its Wizards of the Coast division, which continues to release games under the brand.

Avalon Hill games with a page on this wiki:

Selected other AH games:

  • 1776
  • Achtung Spitfire! (their most successful computer game)
  • Afrika Korps
  • Civilization (not the video game)
  • Dune (see Dune)
  • Fortress Europa
  • The Great Campaigns of the American Civil War series (now published by MMP).
  • Blitzkrieg
  • Kingmaker
  • Magic Realm
  • PanzerBlitz
  • Panzer Leader
  • Powers & Perils (RPG)
  • Rail Baron
  • The Russian Campaign
  • Third Reich (aka Rise and Decline of the Third Reich)
  • Starship Troopers (see Starship Troopers)
  • Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit
  • Tactics and Tactics II
  • Waterloo
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men (for which we named our trope)

Tropes in their other works:

  • Capital Offensive: In Third Reich, capturing the capital of a minor country puts it immediately under a player's control. If the capital of a major country is captured that country's player can try to retake it on their next turn. If the attempt fails the country falls. The Soviet Union is the only exception: they do not surrender if the Axis captures Moscow.
  • Can't Catch Up: In both the computer and tabletop version of Third Reich, the French army never improves, ever. Normally this isn't a problem, because France usually falls to the Germans no later than Spring 1941. But sometimes, especially if the Axis player decides to go east and attack the Soviet Union first, France may hold out more or less indefinitely, in which case this trope becomes very noticeable. Every other country gets new units in 1942 or '43; even the Italians get a paratrooper and another 9-factor fleet. The French are stuck with mostly 2-3 infantry and a few 3-5 armor units, plus two 5-factor air fleets, and they never get a paratrooper. There's just not a lot they can do at that point. Although this may be more a case of "Can't Avoid Falling Behind".
  • Chariot Race: Circus Maximus had this as one of its two gameplay options. Players would pick their horses, driver, and cart, and then compete to see who could get around the quickest.
  • Close-Range Combatant: In PanzerBlitz and Panzer Leader, infantry units have very short range, usually only 1 hex (adjacent), compared to the much longer ranges of tanks and artillery.
  • Combat Tentacles: Powers & Perils RPG, Heroes magazine Volume 2 #2 article "The Sea of Tears". The Kraken is a sea monster with four long octopoid tentacles that extend from their head. They use them to grab and crush things they want to eat, including ships (to eat their crews).
  • Defenseless Transports:
    • Starship Troopers. Air Cars and Retrieval Boats have no attack capability.
    • 1776. Bateaux (boats) and Transport Fleets (ships) can't attack other units.
    • Panzerblitz and Panzer Leader. Trucks and wagons have no weapons.
    • Panzerarmee Afrika. Truck units have no combat capability.
  • Demonic Spiders: In Magic Realm, the giant bats are among the most dangerous of all monsters. They are too fast to run away from or hit reliably, kill unarmored characters instantly, and wound to death those with heavy armor.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: In Rise and Decline of the Third Reich the German counters are black with bone-white markings, evoking the colors of death. Their minor allies are a dull, lifeless-looking gray, while the Italians are a sickly light green. The Western allies are much more colorful, while the Soviets are a neutral-looking brown. In most other World War II games, both AH and other publishers', regular German army units (the Wehrmacht or Heer) are usually printed in field-gray (a greenish-gray tone called Feldgrau in German), and SS units are printed in the white-on-black scheme used in Third Reich. This distinction has occasionally sparked controversy among gamers worried about glorifying the SS; the counterargument is that the distinction makes sense because the SS were essentially the private army of the Nazi Party and had a separate high command from the regular army (and often competed fiercely with the Heer for equipment and supplies).
  • Hyperspace Lanes: In the boardgame Merchant of Venus, travel goes along hyperspace lanes (unless one manages to find usable jumpgates). Finding routes (successions of systems) that allow for especially lucrative voyages is a main key to success.
  • Kingmaker Scenario: Kingmaker is (unsuprisingly) based on this trope. Set during the War of the Roses, each player controls a group of nobles, and tries to capture the royalty in each of the two conflicting houses. Once one of the houses is wiped out, the winner is the one with the most senior member of the surviving house.
  • Morale Mechanic: Squad Leader had extensive rules for handling unit morale: how and when troops broke and rallied.
  • No Immortal Inertia: In the Powers & Perils RPG, Heroes magazine Volume 1 #2 adventure "Doom Manor". Anyone who lives in Doom Manor will cease aging for as long as they stay there. However, if they ever leave they will immediately become their true age. Several of the NPCs in the Manor have been in it for so long that they will die of old age if it happens to them.
  • Programming Game: Gunslinger. The players program action sequences (much like in Robo Rally), but different actions take different time. You can spend actions totalling up to 5 segments, representing two seconds of game time.
  • Railroad Baron: Each player of1830: The Game of Railroads and Robber Barons is one. Players of the computer version even choose portraits of historical ones.
  • Rapid Aging: In the Powers & Perils RPG, Heroes magazine Volume 2 #2 article "Shadow Magic". The Wasting Hand spell can age the target by (1-10) x (EL + 1) months. So if the caster's magical Experience Level is 9, the target will instantly age up to 100 months (about 8 1/3 years).
  • Red-plica Baron: The Red Baron was the inspiration for 1970s board game Richthofen's War, one of the first World War I aerial combat board games.
  • The Siege: Caesar at Alesia is based on Julius Caesar's siege of the town of Alesia, where the Gaul leader Vercingetorix is holed up. The Gauls have a large off-board force—the Romans know which off-board zones have at least one enemy force, but not how many are in each one.
  • Single-Biome Planet:
    • The General magazine =Volume 15 #1, Starship Troopers article "Mission Scenarios". Some of the planets that missions can take place on are Desert Planets, Ocean Planets and Swamp/Jungle Planets.
    • The Merchant of Venus game featured interstellar trading by tramp merchants. It had a Desert Planet, an Ice Planet, a Water World and a Jungle World.
  • Springtime for Hitler: In 1965, they created a game called $quander (Squander), in which each player started with a million Squanderbucks. The first player to lose all of his money won the game. After some changes, it came to the US as well as other countries under the title Go for Broke!
  • The Squad: Players of the Ambush! series, published by AH subsidiary Victory Games, control one.
  • Target Spotter: In PanzerBlitz, if a unit could see an enemy unit out in the open or was adjacent to an enemy unit hidden in cover, it could allow another long range unit (such as artillery or self-propelled artillery) to attack the enemy unit even if the long range unit didn't have line of sight to the target.
  • Too Awesome to Use: Third Reich (both the table-top and computer versions) has elements of this:
    • The double move: With a little judicious spending, it's possible to move twice in a row, which can be a huge advantage. The only problem? It tends to set up the other side to do the same exact thing, so most players will never use it unless they can be pretty certain of knocking a major enemy country out of the war.
    • American units: These are the best Allied units in the game, but they have a drawback. American units that get eliminated have to be rebuilt in the United States and then initially deployed to Britain (or France, in the unlikely event that France is still standing), but the United States can only initially deploy six units per turn, and those units cannot be strategically redeployed to any place outside of Britain until the next turn. So there's a temptation for the Allies to let the British carry the brunt of the fighting, since any British casualties can return to the front a turn earlier than any American casualties.
    • French and British units in the Mediterranean theater: This is the same principle as the previous point. British units are generally stronger than French units, but British units require two nine-factor fleets to be transported to the Mediterranean front, whereas French units require only one (assuming the French navy has been based in Marseilles). So if the war in North Africa heats up while France is still standing (granted, it usually doesn't), there is a temptation for the Allies to let the French to bear the brunt of the fighting there.
  • Urban Warfare: Siege of Jerusalem (about the Jewish Revolts) has a city map which allows quite a bit of space for Urban Warfare.
  • Variable Player Goals:
    • In Dune, not every side gets a special victory condition, but includes two sides (Spacing Guild and Fremen) which win in case of final scoring; the Fremen require additional conditions to be met, however, and the Spacing Guild wins only if they are not (or if the Fremen are not playing). Also includes the Bene Gesserit, who can steal the win if they correctly guess before the game starts who will win the game and on what turn.
    • The victory condition of Magic Realm was labyrinthine, but essentially came down to getting a sufficiently high total among the game's several scoring tracks, some of them mutually exclusive. Certain characters were significantly better at raising certain variables, thus giving different tracks to victory.
  • Weather of War: The Russian Campaign had extensive rules for the effects of weather on the battle for the Eastern Front, reflecting the very real difficulties the German invaders had.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: In the Powers & Perils game, Heroes magazine:
    • Volume 1 #2 adventure "Doom Manor". The wizard Valanas Victorian cast powerful spells on his mansion to protect it from barbarian attack. At midnight on the Vernal Equinox, his soul was trapped between life and death and his mansion became Doom Manor.
    • Volume 2 #2 article "The Sea of Tears". While sailing on the Sea of Tears, the PCs can encounter a ghost ship at midnight under a full moon. Anyone who boards the vessel must escape by dawn or be trapped aboard for eternity.