When we last left this tale of gamer-parenting, I was explaining how our gaming time had evaporated for my wife and I, and how I was beginning to explore solo gaming, and how my son was beginning to take notice of our games. Our collection is located in the office upstairs, stacked on IKEA shelves that reach up to the ceiling, and filled with hundreds of boxes. There is no door to this room. My son, now 3 years old, has long since perfected the art of climbing the stairs. He can (and does) sneak quietly into this room without notice, at any time. He knows this is where the good stuff is stored.
Designed by Gregory M. Smith and published by Consim Press and distributed by GMT Games. I bought a copy of The Hunters on a whim back in 2013 during the later days of my wife’s pregnancy. I was starting to feel my gaming opportunities slip away, so solo gaming was a thing I began investigating. Nevertheless, The Hunters sat on my shelf for a couple of years before I finally tore off the shrink wrap and dove in (or under).
When opening up the box, my initial impression was that this didn’t look exactly like a wargame. There is no board or map in the box. There is a 24 page rulebook, some player boards that track the status of your U-boat (double-sided boards for different U-boat models), and about three double-sided charts that contain tables for you to roll against when performing actions and looking up results. There are also a variety of very nice counters to track torpedos, deck gun ammunition, damage, crew status, targets and escorts, etc, and a half dozen dice. It almost looks… like a roleplaying game.
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. This was originally written in 1998 and published here in 2002 (seemingly with some updates). I reached out to Peter and got his permission to repost the article here, along with a short addendum I asked him to provide.
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.
I’ve joked a lot on Twitter and social media recently about how I simply have no time to play boardgames these days. Since the birth of my two and a half year-old son, it’s been tough to muster the time or energy to play games. It’s also been challenging to keep any kind of a group together. His mom and I used to play quite a few games leading up to the pregnancy, and even through the course of it, but once that baby boy dropped into my arms, I fell in love…
…oh, and all our free time disappeared. I mean, it literally vanished.
In this series, I’m going to talk about what I’ve learned and experienced on my short but ongoing adventure as a gamer dad. I’m not sure how lengthy this will be, or how often new parts will appear, but we’ll take our time and pepper these around. It’s a journey, after all.
One of these days I’m going to make it to Essen to see Spiel first hand. Heck, one of these days I’m going to make it to any boardgame convention. What I’ll do in the meantime is continue my Naked Anticipation geeklist over at BGG, which is a reminder list of all the cool looking games coming out at Essen and beyond, into 2017.
There’s a lot of stuff on the list. Not all of it is coming out at Essen, and I’m obviously not going to add all these titles to my collection. I’ve become a lot more discerning about what goes in my collection, since games that enter it are usually slow to get played. Notable games premiering at Spiel are Guilds Of London, A Feast For Odin, The Colonists, and Great Western Trail. These are the perhaps the big boys of the con.
Check out the geeklist above and let me know what you think of some of these games, and let me know if there’s anything I missed over at Twitter.