Someone with more experience on the business side can explain it better than me, I'm sure, but the shift from catalog sales to pre-orders saved the industry. Instead of printing up 10,000 copies of Spices of the World and hoping they sell out, now the publishers have cash money in hand and know that they'll (probably) make a profit once the printing presses start up.
Board games have exploded in recent years, but like abstract strategy games, wargames are no longer the center of the boardgaming world. I think board games have expanded so much because designers and publishers have introduced new games and gaming styles that expanded the market. There are still the same thousands of people playing chess or Gipf, and the same thousands playing hex-and-counter wargames, but there are also thousands of people playing CCGs and thousands playing eurogames and thousands playing cooperative games. There are some really cosmopolitan board gamers, but there is a large group of people who would like to play Pandemic but abhor the direct confrontation of hex-and-counter wargames and abstract strategy. Some of the most successful games are those that appeal to multiple groups, like Twilight Struggle or Legendary.
Of course, that's a re-definition of terms as well: back when Charles Roberts started Avalon Hill or Gary Gygax &c. started TSR, there wasn't really a "boardgaming world"—boardgaming was just getting itself organized; there were wargamers and miniature games, but the eurogame was just a gleam in Sid Sackson's eye.
This article's postmortem is almost comical in hindsight, but it looks like the core of the analysis is from 1998, when boardgaming was in a very different place.
I love Sakigahara, the COINs and most of the Mark Herman games, but I'm not moving any farther in that direction.
Wargames got so baroque, I find it hard to believe very many people playing the 60+ hour campaign of Terrible Swift Sword. Although probably thousands of people have played Pandemic: Legacy, which itself will look strange in 30 years.
There's a kind of inverse hype cycle whenever a newer, better version of something comes out. In the late '90s no-one dared make a 2D videogame, because 3D was the future. Then we saw which things 3D did well and which it didn't, and have a new appreciation for what 2D games can do, and we've seen a resurgence in recent years.
Yet I went ahead and bought Magic Realm which was a 9 and never completed a game.
Most of the apparent complexity only comes from the fact that there are lots of exceptional situations, edge cases, special predicaments, where ASL does have some rule that lets it be handled and reflected within the mechanics in a way that makes sense in terms of strategic impact. So many things turn into simple D6 or 2D6 roll +/- modifiers, or table column shifts. And when you roll you always want to roll low, the lower the better. And even then the gameplay might seem highly ordered and turn-based, at first glance, it's truly all about trying to simulate the messy real-time, interleaved, fog-of-war nature of real battle. Many rules and elements are about injecting the chrome of war, of history, the superficial feel, but in reality it very often chooses to bias on the side of making it a more fun game, a simple game.
I think the Starter Kit series was a brilliant move because it helped to introduce players to that stripped down, central core, the heart of the full rules set. Buy and try SK1, and play a scenario and you won't be disappointed, likely hooked instead. Then you can incrementally widen your rules set and play elements by trying SK2, SK3, etc. and then the full rules binder and modules.
I've never seen a WW2 era game with as much modularity and infinite replayability as modern ASL. It's a bit like the LEGO of WW2 games. No gamer should miss getting a taste.
I hear you about Magic Realm too!
SL could show you how a well led and well equipped company of German soldiers could hold a village against a less well equipped and well led battalion of Russians, as often happened. Games before this just abstracted out historical differences in the performance of armies. For example, in Third Reich a Germany Infantry division has a higher attack value than a Russian one. Squad Leader explained the historical differences.
These games seem so perfect for online play. Both because you don't need to meet up in a physical place, and because the computer can know and execute all the rules so I don't have to.
Does anything like that exist? I've tried to look, but not found anything.
Combat Mission was a PC game similar in feel to Squad Leader. You check status of units, issue orders, then the game plays out a short burst of activity in real time before it halts for you to review and issue new orders. The original is old now, but dirt-cheap on GOG. (There are sequels, but they have DRM.)
You might like browsing places like Matrix Games, Slitherine, or HPS Simulations. They have tons of wargames, some of which have the boardgame or miniatures feel. Some computer games go so overboard on details or micromanagement as to have a totally different feel from boardgames, but others are close enough.
And MtG in turn has inspired a number of games, beyond simple CCG clones. MtG booster pack drafting inspired 7 Wonders and a number of similar games. Deck customization aspects inspired Dominion and countless other Deck Builder games. The whole CCG aftermarket trading / tournament scene inspired a game called Millenium Blades.
But these days board game publishers generally don't bother with patents. Dominion could certainly have patented its gameplay; but it wasn't, and so we have dozens and dozens of deckbuilding games pushing forward all kinds of innovations in game design.
I think he is selling Avalon Hill a little short. As a gamer in the 80s I remember Avalon Hill very fondly. This was especially true in the early 80s when games were few and far between. I spent many hours tediously loading B-1 Nuclear Bomber on my tape cassette drive. They certainly never had a huge impact on the general public like SimCity but they were very well-appreciated and well-regarded in the Gaming community. To this day I still occasionally load up Guderian on the emulator, which remains an extremely challenging game even given the limits of AI in 1986.
We have pressed the reset button...
In 1975 Chaosium started out as a quirky boutique game company. We were all about creativity, artistry and craftsmanship. With every game we provided you with new realms of imagination and entertainment. Over the last few years we forgot that, and lost our way.
The Great Old Ones have Returned…
Greg Stafford, founder of Chaosium and creative force during its heyday, is now President. Sandy Petersen, world renowned game designer who brought Cthulhu into the light three decades ago, has rejoined the team as well.
Greg says: "Chaosium is part of my legacy. My intent is to restore it to its rightful place in the world of gaming. Something we can all take pride in, and something that fans will look forward to.Where 'what’s next?' is answered with 'I can’t wait'."
The Stars are Right…
Sandy says: "I am excited to return to active participation in the Call of Cthulhu line, and I’m eagerly looking forward to working directly with Greg again. We are Chaosium's original team from the 1980s. My first focus is going to be the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition Kickstarter campaign."
Our main plan is simple (but will be a lot of work):
Quickly sift and sort through the current company problems
Immediately ship the remaining Horror on the Orient Express backer rewards
Focus on the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition Kickstarter backer rewards
Return to regularly making awesome new games.
We offer new hope, and ask only for your patience."
Please visit Chaosium.com for regular news and updates. Contact us with questions, kudos, curses, or kindness. We are listening, and we will respond.
Greg Stafford, President and CEO of Chaosium Inc.
I’m puttin' the band back together.
Designed by Sandy Petersen and based on the mythic cult universe of Glorantha, The Gods War is a fast moving strategy game set in a universe on the brink of disaster. In The Gods War, you take the part of powerful elemental factions, battling to determine the fate of the cosmos. The Gods War has been in development for more than three years. It is highly asymmetric featuring wildly different factions. You’ll fight over territory, perform miracles, and command monsters and gods. You can storm the gates of heaven itself, or watch the world collapse into the Chaos Rift.
Good stuff on everything from modeling counter-insurgencies in games to a history of Amarillo Design Bureau, who acquired the rights to Star Trek TOS in 1981. When nobody cared.. In perpetuity.. And have been creating an alternate canon for one of the world's most popular franchises since.
So I read the rulebooks for Panzer Blitz and various other WWII games. That might have been more fun than playing the games :-)
Ha, this was my experience with D&D as well
I wasn't a big fan of the 4th edition pivot to "if we have one goal in printing these, it's that nobody will ever read one of our books for pleasure".
I always knew it was time to pack up when he wanted to just play the Germans and their freakin' 88mm pak 43's.
At some point in my tenure there, I traveled up to Baltimore to go to Avalon Hill with my boss. They had some sort of distribution center there, with a lot of miniatures, and I went to pick through their bins of random stuff and select the things that I thought would sell well. It's a great memory.
For any 40-something folks from the Washington DC suburbs out there, the store was Dream Wizards, in Rockville.
A completely recreated version of Advanced Civilization w/fantastic all new art. There are people such as printplayproductions.com  who will make one-off copies of prototype games on request from sets of files, but will probably run you in the $150 to $200 range. This is the copy I have.
Currently available in retail boardgaming outlets, very deluxe and very huge. Extreme boardgaming. Retails around $250.
Both of these versions come with all of the expansions and supplementary material, and Mega-Civilization comes with a lot more, driving the maximum player count up to 18(!). Both options are cheaper than trying to accumulate all of the original material on ebay, and the components are nicer.
Just trying to be helpful...
As much as I enjoy Advanced Civilization, it does take a long time to play; lengthening it even further and getting more people together doesn't really help.
I'm a partisan towards the redesign, probably because I have it (had it made at printplayproductions.) It's really gorgeous and the components are very high quality, and there are no differences in play from the original, other than the errata are fixed. He makes a lot of them, so the turnaround time will probably be negligible. This is how the redesign looks.
edit: this is how it used to work...