Saturday, June 12, 2010

Top Ten Favorite Avalon Hill Games

Michael Curtis was recently waxing nostalgic about an old Avalon Hill game, Kingmaker. This got me thinking about my favorite Avalon Hill games, from my youth. Of course, it is self-evident that any top ten list of Avalon Hill games, that does not include Magic Realm, is flawed.

I give you my top ten Avalon Hill games, which you can take to the bank as the most authoritative list of the greatest Avalon Hill games ever created, as it includes my favorite game, Magic Realm.

10. Circvs Maximvs: What could be more fun that competing with your friends in a no-holds-barred, kill-or-be-killed chariot race? The game features a stadium that is the same shape as the actual Circus Maximus.

9. Richthofen's War: I was never a big fan of other dog-fight and aerial combat games, but Richthofen's War scratched my role-playing itch for World War I combat, as you could play the Red Baron or some other fly-boy, and earn your kills and medals.

8. Wooden Ships, Iron Men: Something about those little ship units, and having to take wind direction and speed into account when planning your attack. I no longer own this game, but would love to play it again. It might be fun to use these rules for a Pirates of the Caribbean game.

7. 1830: I'm sure the newer train-games are better than this, but this is my nostalgia list, so 1830 it is. I loved Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon game as well, and these two games just seen to go hand in hand. I enjoy playing Ticket to Ride, but there is something about being a Robber Baron in 1830 that puts Ticket to Ride to shame.

6. Acquire: Stock Ticker was a lot of fun, too (back in the day), but Acquire sneaks past it as my favorite capitalist game of yore. I havn't played this game in decades, but it was sufficiently popular that Hasbro reprinted this when they bought up the Avalon Hill properties.

5. History of the World: Sure, this isn't one of the grand-daddys of the history of Avalon Hill, but its a lot of fun to play with non-wargamers.

4. Kingmaker: I never owned the expansion cards, but the regular game was still a lot of fun. I loved the board of England: it uses what might be the actual county or district borders rather than a hex or regular grid.

3. Advanced Civilization: Oh boy. So many great memories here, sitting around the mediterranean game board. My two favorite civilizations are the Egyptians and the Babylonians: part of the fun of playing them is watching the floods wipe out half of your civilization! I can't recall a game that lasted less than six hours, most of them were closer to ten hours. The front runner is always ganged up on by the rest of the players, but pulls out a win anyways.

2. Squad Leader: While this World War II squad-level combat game is a lot of fun, when playing the various historical scenarios, most of our games were of the build-your-own-forces variety. Selecting just the right officer, who you imagined to be you, made the game that much more intense. Advanced Squad Leader both fixed, and killed this game for me.

1. Magic Realm: How could this not be my all-time favorite Avalon Hill game? The game breaks down after month two, as you have, by then, become so powerful that every monster is beatable, but most games only run for one or two months anyway. The highly deterministic Magic Realm combat system is a refreshing change from the D&D d20 combat system, and the open-endedness for both cooperative and competitive play makes for shifting alliances and exciting end-game planning.


Rognar said...

I played so much Advanced Civilization during my grad school days, it's a wonder I ever finished my degree. It did teach me how to be a good loser though, since I lost ever single time, and I do mean every single time.

Britannia would probably be my second favourite Avalon Hill game.

Clovis Cithog said...

Up Front
was a ground breaker

it used a deck of cards
to move and attack for your squad

quick to play
quick to learn
and easily expanded to include
armor and artillery

a masterpiece of design

Will Douglas said...

I remember a game of Civilizatin, back in the day (I don't think we had Advanced yet). Someone observed that the game was for 2-7 players, but that there were in fact 9 possible civilizations.

So, we decided to play all 9. We started at noon on saturday, and played until at least midnight. Full scale wars started breaking out on turn two.

I don't remember who all played, or who I played even, but we all had a blast.

And yeah, Up Front was a damn good game. I just wish I'd ever heard of the Desert War supplement -- I don't have that one and it goes for big bucks on ebay these days...

Jay said...

Paladin, your mention of Magic Realm just reminded me to ask--have you ever attempted to run the game with a different setting (i.e. use the rules, but with a different world)? Or would that be too cumbersome to try?

Just wondering if anyone's ever attempted an adaptation.

Roger the GS said...

Republic of Rome and Source of the Nile each in their own way are flawed classics. I've written enough about Source but RoR, as bogged down as it is under layers of simulationist "chrome", is an excellent pitting of cooperative against competitive goals, and has great political mechanics.

Oh, and Titan is for sure in my Top 10.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

@Rognar: I never played Brittania, as far as I can recall.

@Clovis & Will: Up Front was another game I never played. I wonder if The Sentry Box has it in their used game section.

@Jay: the Magic Realm world is supposed to be a generic setting, so I think you could apply any setting you wanted. The new setting might just be a flavour thing, because the mechanics behind the game are straight-forward and arguably quite rigid.

@Roiger: RoR is another AH game I never played. Avalon HIll put out so many games, there are many good ones that I never got to play.

The Rusty Battle Axe said...

Great post.

My AH favorites are Russian Campaign, Third Reich, Panzer Leader/Panzer Blitz, Acquire, and Starship Troopers (not necessarily in that order). I would have loved to play Jutland and Tobruk. I still have Third Reich and I've picked up the Hasbro version of Acquire.

Russian Campaign hit the sweet spot of strategic but still a bit tactical. It's my favorite in terms of game design but in the hands of two competent players, the Soviet side almost always wins. At least that was our experience...maybe I'm wrong in assuming we were competent.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

I played Panzer Leader, Acquire and Starship Troopers, great games all.

I was fortunate that my brother had a job and was a member of a couple of wargaming clubs: he brought several games home, and dragged me along to several club meetings as well. I was in my pre-tweens when I was first introduced to these games.