Avalon Hill Games Inc. is a game company that specializes in wargames and strategic board games. Its logo contains its initials "AH", and the company is now often referred to by this abbreviation. Before its takeover by Hasbro, it was known as The Avalon Hill Game Company and the initials TAHGC. It has also published miniature wargaming rules, role-playing games and sports simulations. It is now a subsidiary of the game company Wizards of the Coast, which is itself a subsidiary of Hasbro.
Avalon Hill pioneered many of the concepts of modern recreational wargaming. These include elements such as the use of a hexagonal grid overlaid on a flat folding board, zones of control, stacking of multiple units at a location, an odds-based combat results table, terrain effects on movement, troop strength, morale, and board games based upon historical events. Complex games could and did take days or even weeks, and AH set up a system for people to play games by mail.
The Avalon Game CompanyAvalon Hill was started in 1952 outside Baltimore in Catonsville, Maryland by Charles S. Roberts under the name of "The Avalon Game Company" for the publication of his game Tactics. It is considered the first of a new type of war game, consisting of a self-contained printed map, pieces, rules and box designed for the mass-market. Other war games published over the prior half-century, which Roberts drew inspiration from, were either not designed for the commercial market and/or used miniatures with self-made maps/terrain. Roberts sold Tactics by mail from his home in the Avalon neighborhood of Catonsville; his house overlooked the B&O railroad for which Roberts, his father and grandfather worked. Following the success of Tactics, Roberts changed the name upon incorporation from "The Avalon Game Company" to "Avalon Hill" in 1958 because of a naming dispute with another company. The number of games released per year was erratic until 1964 as the company released anywhere from 1 to 7 games.5-8
The first game published by the company under the name of "Avalon Hill" was the second edition of Tactics, titled Tactics II, published in 1958. AH published two other games that year, Gettysburg and the railroad game Dispatcher.
In 1959, Roberts moved Avalon into an office space on Gay Street in Baltimore and took on its first outside designed game, Verdict, by two corporate lawyers. After another office move, in Thomas N. Shaw, a high school friend of Roberts, was hired to design games.6
In 1960, Avalon published the first mostly dice-less sports game in Football Strategy designed by Thomas N. Shaw which was followed by two sister games, Baseball Strategy and Basketball Strategy. Of this sports strategy line, the football and baseball versions were previously privately published by Shaw in 1959.7 With a recession occurring, debt began to pile up starting in 1961.
Avalon launched a pre-school children's line in 1963 with four games, Imagination, What Time Is It?, Doll House and Trucks, Trains, Boats & Planes, which flopped. Roberts gave up and planned to file bankruptcy on.p7 Instead his creditors, Monarch Office Services and J.E. Smith & Co. interceded and took over. Monarch had printed all but the boxes, which were done by J.E. Smith. The company was reorganized by retaining only one staff member, Shaw, moved, cut costs and appointed J.E. Sparling as president.p7,8 In 1964, AH set a two-game per year release schedule.5-8
Avalon Hill published Blitzkrieg in 1965. This game was an abstract combat game, featuring two sides and some neutral countries. Many rules variants were created for Blitzkrieg. The company also published simulations of actual battles and campaigns, such as Midway, Afrika Korps, and The Battle of the Bulge.
Avalon Hill published PanzerBlitz in 1970, designed for the company by Jim Dunnigan's Simulations Publications, Inc. on a royalty basis from SPI's Tac Force 3 game.p9
Monarch Avalon divisionMonarch bought out J.E. Smith & Co., Avalon Hill's co-owner, on. Thus the company became a division of a renamed Monarch Office Services, Monarch Avalon.p10
The company acquired several successful games including Acquire, TwixT and Feudal from the purchase of 3M Games in.p5,12 Sports Illustrated line of sports games were purchased in. Both lines increased the retail outlets that would take AH games. The Aladdin Industries game line was another acquisition in. With the SI line, the company started a sports game division in with Bruce Milligan hired to head the division and launch All Star Replay sport games magazine. While from the 3M line, Facts in Five became its top selling game.p5,12
During the 1970s, the company's golden years, Avalon Hill published a number of popular games such as Outdoor Survival, Panzer Blitz, Squad Leader, and the Statis Pro sports line.
Avalon Hill also purchased many games from smaller companies and republished them. Heritage Models sold AH its Battleline Publications in.p5,15 Much of the Battleline line, including Wooden Ships and Iron Men and Machiavelli, was republished by Avalon Hill, along with the popular Diplomacy. AH also acquired Jedko Games' The Russian Campaign and War at Sea, and Hartland Trefoil's Civilization. 1830 was developed by Avalon Hill, but based on Francis Tresham's 1829.
In 1974, a new game developer attempted to pitch his concept to Avalon Hill. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson had co-developed a new type of co-operative game that used role-playing. But when Gygax pitched Dungeons & Dragons to AH, the largest company in wargaming did not understand the concept of role-playing, and turned down his offer. Gygax was forced to form TSR Inc in order to self-publish his game. In less than five years, TSR would be the dominant player in the new RPG market.
Avalon Hill finally entered the role-playing game market a decade later by publishing Powers and Perils in 1983 and Lords of Creation in 1984. The licenses to RuneQuest and the board games White Bear & Red Moon and Elric, were acquired in a complex agreement in 1983 with Chaosium, and Avalon Hill published the 3rd Edition in 1984. None of these role-playing games achieved the popularity of the long-established competitor, Dungeons & Dragons.
Avalon Hill became an early publisher of computer games in 1980 with its video game division Microcomputer Games, adapting some of its boardgame titles to various computer platforms on several data formats. Sales of these products were decent, but the only outstanding success was Achtung Spitfire!, published relatively late in the company history.
Gulf Strike was introduced by the company in and was based on the Iran–Iraq War then updated after the cease-fire in 1988. AH published The Dr. Ruth Game in which sold initially well then dropped off.
Facing an economic downturn in 1990 and a three year period of losses, Monarch Avalon closed its New York office, sold its toy division and reduced inventory. AH also published its timely game expansion, Desert Shield, that sold out in weeks after its release such that a second print run hit the market in. In 1991, Hobbycraft Canada was sharing office space with Monarch Avalon.
AvalonCon World Boardgaming Championships was first held by AH in 1991.
In December 1992, AH hired Jim Rose to lead its computer game division, with the goal of reviving this part of the business in the face of flagging board game sales. AH reentered the computer game market in 1994 with a good review of "Flight Commander 2". The company added Pogs to its game line up in 1995. By June 1995, Rose had left the company to found TalonSoft. In 1995, Monarch Avalon placed Avalon Hill up for sale but it was later withdrawn.
Hasbro subsidiaryMonarch sold Avalon Hill to Hasbro Games on August 4, 1998 for $6 million. Hasbro, largely seeking a computer gaming software company and known games to convert to interactive computer games per an Arcadia Investment Corp. investment analyst, purchased the rights to the Avalon Hill trademarks, copyrights, inventory, tooling and divisions, Avalon Hill Software and Victory Games. Avalon Hill Games, Inc. was incorporated by Hasbro on.
Avalon was transferred to the control of Wizards of the Coast, another Hasbro subsidiary, in 2004.
In 2000, Avalon released a redesigned edition of Cosmic Encounter in cooperation with its owner/developer Future Pastimes. This edition was not well received by players and Avalon did not follow up with any of the expected expansion sets.
Hasbro has released new titles under the Avalon Hill name, and added the Avalon Hill imprint to older titles such as Axis and Allies that were not originally made by Avalon Hill.
Game rightsThe rights to many of Avalon Hill's more complex games have been licensed or sold to other game publishers, or have reverted to their original owners and been republished by other companies:
- Multi-Man Publishing acquired a license to Advanced Squad Leader and the Great Campaigns of the American Civil War series, and has since published new materials for these.
- Valley Games published new versions of Titan, Hannibal: Rome versus Carthage, and Republic of Rome.
- GMT Games published new editions of Avalon Hill's early card-driven wargames We the People, Successors, and For the People, and a descendant of Advanced Third Reich/Empire of the Rising Sun named A World at War.
- Mayfair Games now has the rights to 1830.