I came across this fantastic article about the history of Avalon Hill, published on a small Earthlink site called the Academic Gaming Review, by Peter L. de Rosa. By all accounts, this was originally written in 1998 and published here in 2002 (seemingly with some updates). It doesn’t appear to have been updated since then, so some of the information in the essay is aged. I reached out to Peter to find out if he could write an update and to get his permission to repost it… but I didn’t receive anything back. I hope he doesn’t mind my reposting it here, though if I hear he does, I will certainly take it down.
In the subsequent 15 years since the article, boardgaming has blown up. Ticket To Ride, Puerto Rico, Agricola, Dominion, Pandemic… all released after this was written. Comparing the boardgame industry/hobby from 2002 to 2017 is like comparing the airline industry in 1950 to today. There are now over a thousand new games coming out every year, from both major and minor publishers and through self-publishing channels. GMT has grown into the premiere wargame publisher, flanked by companies like Consim Press, MMP, Legion Wargames, Compass Games, and Osprey Games. Decision Games and Flying Buffalo, noted within the article as some of the stronger players in 2002, are also still active.
The story of Avalon Hill, which published a lot of important titles in the 70’s and 80’s, is a good one for interested gamers to know. Peter gives a thorough account of the messy details of what happened to the giant, as well as a bit of conjecture about the future.