8 Avalon Hill Board Games That Deserve New Life

I have always been interested in World War II. When I was a kid, I’d put the TV on and flip the channels looking for any old World War II movies. Yeah, I knew they were glorified accounts, but as I got older, I did a bit more research into the battles and the strategy involved. By the time I was in my mid-teens in the 1970s, I had done reports on the Battle of Midway, The Battle of the Bulge and the North African Campaign. And it was right around that time that Avalon Hill gave me an outlet for the strategy I craved.

What follows, in chronological order, is my fond and rose-colored recollection of a several Avalon Hill games that I spent way too many hours playing – as well as screaming at my sister “Don’t kick the table!” These weren’t all the best games, and this is by no means an all-inclusive list, but they are the games that helped shape my current love for real-time and turn-based strategy video games.

Third Reich board game

Rise and Decline of the Third Reich (1974)


Of all the Avalon Hill games I played, this was the one that I invested the most time in. It gave players the opportunity to play as Germany, Great Britain, Russia, the United States, France or Italy, but in the end, my friends and I usually ended up playing just Great Britain, Germany and Russia, with the Great Britain player tackling the French until defeat, and bringing in the Americans when they rolled in in 1942. The German player would take on the Italian role as an Axis cohort, as well as the minor Axis allies of Finland, Bulgaria, Rumania and Hungary.

What made this game so special was being able play the entire expanse of the Eastern and Western front land war of World War II, complete with the possibility of paratroop drops, naval invasions, interdicting air battles. Players would get resource points for every country they occupied and would be able to spend those resource points through declaring war on various countries, buying units, or declaring the start of an offensive if you wanted to attack the enemy.

The game was massive in scope and an incredible time sink. I ended up setting the game up far more times than we ever finished it. Invariably, we always got bogged down in the summer offensives of 1943, but half the fun was trying new and different things, such as assaulting Malta or Gibraltar, doing a German amphibious landing in England or trying to take out Spain or Turkey. Another aspect of the game that was always interesting was trying to figure out all your attacks in such a way to get the best “odds” while taking out as many stacks of units as possible to gain the most number of hexes. Heaven forbid a bad die roll when you had 3-1 odds that took out much of your attacking force.

Even as I began to get involved in other Avalon Hill games, this one was always my “go-to” for large scale grand strategy.

Awards: Origins 1975, Best Professional Game of 1974.

Panzer Leader Board

Panzer Leader (1974)

panzer leader

This was the first Avalon Hill game I ever played, despite the fact that its predecessorPanzer Blitz had come out four years earlier. I was drawn to the Western Front game play, while at the time marveling at the game boards, hexagonal grid, and the various units. It was fun – in a purely tactical sense – to recreate the D-Day invasion and the Battle of the Bulge, especially after having watched the movies. Being older, it gave me the chance to be the general and try different tactics. A friend had Panzer Blitz and we gave it a try a few times, but Panzer Leader was always the more entertaining game for me because of its focus.

Both Panzer Blitz and Panzer Leader are credited with bringing plenty of new gamers to the hobby of tactical war gaming because of the intricacies of individual units and combat.

Wooden ships and Iron men

Wooden Ships and Iron Men (1974)


This was my first “non-World War” game and one that kept me intrigued for a few months. Based on naval warfare from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the rules were a bit easier to comprehend than say Third Reich, but adding in such variables as wind speed, direction, and how many guns you could bring to bear for an effective attack made for a strategy game that was easy to grasp, if a bit difficult to master.

The game was originally played with cardboard ship counters, with each ship having a sheet where the player kept track of crew, guns and ship damage. The fun part was plotting your moves, and then waiting to see what position you were in at the end of movement to determine whether to fire your broadside guns or send a boarding party. Too many times I got entangled with another ship and was forced to board or defend, when I should have played it safe.

The game did enjoy some longevity, and in some tournaments (none of which I ever participated in) the cardboard counters were replaced with painted miniatures for a more authentic feel.

tobruk game board

Tobruk (1975)


What made Tobruk interesting was its focus on the North African campaign of World War II, recreating many of the infantry and tank battles featuring the German forces of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and the British forces under General Bernard Montgomery, with guest appearances by the lousy armor of the Italian army.

The units represented single vehicles and platoons of infantry. I was attracted to this game because, as a kid, I had watched the TV show Rat Patrol, which followed four Allied soldiers and their two machine-gun wielding jeeps during the North Africa campaign. Even though the show only lasted a few years (and can still be seen in re-runs), the show was enough to fuel a young kid’s fascination with World War II.

Of course, being a desert campaign, the game boards of Tobruk were pure orange. Any fortifications were represented by counters, such as trenches, barbed wire or bunkers. The rules were simple and took into account how effective various weapons were against the armor of the tanks used by Rommel’s Afrika Korps and the British Desert Rats (among others). Sheets were also used to track casualties of infantry platoons.

This was a very tactical game given the openness of the terrain, and it was also very specific with a limited set of scenarios. Didn’t hold my interest as long as some other games, but the mix of TV show reminiscence and game make it very memorable.

st board

Starship Troopers (1976)

heinlein starship troopers

Starship Troopers was the only sci-fi board game I ever played, and only because I loved Robert Heinlein’s book of the same name. The game and the scenarios stay fairly true to the book, much more so than the campy movie, which was still good in its own right. Side note: Avalon Hill re-released a version of the game called Starship Troopers: Prepare for Battle in 1997 to coincide with the theatrical release.

The scenarios are designed in such a way that a) they coincide with the major battles as described in the book, and b) they slowly exposed the players to the game rules in much the same way early missions do in some video games. What I appreciated about the game after seeing the movie was that it incorporated the Skinnies, a race of aliens that start out being Arachnid collaborators, but then join the cause of the Mobile Infantry. (Do you want to know more?)

The game was fun to play as an Arachnid because you could tunnel around the map and pop up under the enemy. All-in-all, an incredibly fun diversion from my fascination with the Avalon Hill war games.

Air Assault on Crete

Air Assault on Crete (1977)

air assault on crete

Another in my long line of World War II board games, I gravitated to this one for two reasons. First, it represented the first total airborne assault of an objective in history, and second, offered a separate game (and board) that recreated Operation Herkules, the never-carried-out invasion of the heavily fortified island of Malta in the Mediterranean.

For those unfamiliar with the Crete campaign, Germany decided to drop in paratroops to the island beginning on May 20, 1941 under the code name Operation Mercury. Germany took heavy casualties on the first day, but due to a miscommunication among the Allies, were able to capture the island’s only airfield the following day. With the reinforcements, the Battle for Crete was over within 10 days.

The game does a good job of approximating the troop strengths, drops and reserves from the battle, offering several scenarios set over the course of the 10-day battle. The appeal was in the massive airdrop and then trying to secure the airfield, which would have turned the tide of the real battle if it had not have fallen.

The Invasion of Malta bonus was a fun game in its own right, and a much shorter campaign of course, given the size of the fortified island. Ironically, it appears that the Malta game had more longevity than its counterpart.

submarine board game

Submarine (Avalon Hill version, 1978)


Another game that appealed to my fascination with the warfare of World War II was Submarine. With many WW2 scenarios featuring German, American, British and Japanese ships, this game also sparked my interest in submarine and wolfpack-style computer games years later.

The game originally appeared in 1976 from Battleline, but Avalon Hill scooped it up and republished it in 1978 with more advanced rules.

This was the first modern sea battle game that held my interest for quite awhile. I was interested in the hidden movement, the sonar pings, as well as plotting torpedo paths to take out merchant ships. I played a sub captain more often than I did the merchant/escort fleet, and eventually felt confident enough in my ability to enter a tournament, where I finished second.

Many war game aficionados claim the game was weak as a simulation, but given the game’s popularity both in play-by-mail campaigns, create-your-own scenarios and continued multiplayer tournaments, it is safe to say the game was a huge success. It also held my interest longer than many of the games on this list.

Squad Leader board game

Squad Leader (1977)


I save the best for last, not only because Squad Leader took up so much of my time, especially with the ensuing expansions, but also because it had the most involved ruleset I had ever played to date. I knew this was a game for me when, while playing, I had to constantly double check the rules to make sure I was playing properly because of the rules complexity. I was hooked.

Squad Leader took the game to a new level of minutiae at an infantry level, trying to simulate leadership, morale, much closer combat, and a more intricate line of sight approach than previous tactical games. Armor made an appearance, but it was rare. The game also introduced geomorphic map boards that could be placed in various different combinations to offer quite a few more terrain options. It also had some damn fine looking unit design and maps.

The game had 12 basic scenarios, but since it was designed as a game system – one that allowed “design your own” scenarios and variations on the basic ones – there was much more replayability. And since this was game system, Avalon Hill was able to build on this with various expansions.

Cross of Iron arrived a year later in 1978, offering some tweaks to the rules, as well as a forest map board and eight new scenarios. These scenarios focused on the Russian and German troops, including most that saw combat on the Eastern Front. It also brought in more of an emphasis on armor not seen since the days of Panzer Blitz andPanzer Leader.

Crescendo of Doom came in 1979, with more rule tweaks and additions, two new map boards for orchards and river terrain and 12 new scenarios focusing on British, French and German troops and armor from 1939-1941. Also during this time, Avalon Hill released an additional 10 scenarios for Cross of Iron.

Needless to say, this all kept me quite busy, virtually cutting off any other Avalon Hill game I was playing. Just trying to keep up with the rules was an adventure, and given the chance to create my own scenarios just added to the furor.

By this time, though I was preparing for grad school and never had a chance to tackle the final Squad Leadergamette, GI: Anvil of Victory in 1982. It was probably a good thing too, because this addition was larger than the original game, adding five more boards and numerous terrain “overlays”, 13 scenarios and a large number of changes to what had been fundamental rules from the initial game. This was the last official expansion, but Avalon Hill released – via mail order only – several additional scenarios and three new map boards.

Awards: Squad Leader, 1977 Best Tactical/Operational Game. Cross of Iron 1978 Best Physical Systems & Graphics. Crescendo of Doom 1980 Best 20th Century Boardgame.

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong – Final Push!!

Just 48 hours left for the Deception: Murder in Hong Kong Kick starter!!!

Here is the rundown of the project from –  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/152730994/deception-murder-in-hong-kong/description

About this project

Below is the the white box sample. This game will be very high quality with a sturdy plastic insert that holds all the components:

Click here to visit our Facebook Page!

Why back now?

While this game will be released through standard hobby channels, we are selling it here for 25% off the MSRP of $39.99 with free shipping to boot.  In addition, we will be releasing up to ten promo cards that will not be available in the base game.  Finally, you will receive your game at least a week before anyone else.

Risks and challenges

We have already selected a manufacturer for production of Deception: Murder in Hong Kong and have received samples of the box, tiles, and cards which we are quite pleased with. As soon as the campaign is finished, we will finalize our files and begin production. We expect production of Deception go quite smoothly!

Grey Fox Games has already produced 4 games.
Draco Magi has been delivered and is available in retail locations now.
The other 3 (Conquest of Speros, Captain’s Wager, and Operation F.A.U.S.T) are in transit to the USA presently and will be delivered to backers as they arrive.

Since running these previous campaigns, we have been to China to meet with manufacturers and have established expectations about the quality and timeliness of the manufacture of our games. We have learned from each previous campaign and have everything we need to deliver a high-quality game within our deadlines.

We are confident that Deception: Murder in Hong Kong will bring as much joy to our backers as it has to us and our playtesters!

There will always be risks in the manufacture of a game including but not limited to production delays, shipping delays, and customs delays. With the time and effort we have put in with our manufacturing partners, however, we believe we have prepared for all but the most unpredictable of circumstances.

Thanks for supporting our project!

Titans Grave Campaign @ Game Boutique!!

We will be launching a titans grave campaign in August.  So get ready to roleplay!!  

If you are interested in joining the event please let me know so I know how many Fantasy Age rule books and Titans Grave books to order.


You watched the show; now play the game!

Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana is Wil Wheaton’s new tabletop RPG show on Geek & Sundry. It introduces an original science fantasy setting that mixes high magic and hi-tech. Written by a stellar team of award-winning designers, this companion book for the Fantasy AGE RPG gives you background info on Titansgrave, and all the adventures you saw on the show. The adventures include new encounters and options that will let you make the story your own. So grab your blaster and ready your spells, Titansgrave needs heroes!

  • Sku GRR6002
  • Release Date: AUGUST
  • Preorder Date: 07/30/2015
  • MSRP: $24.95



The Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook is your entry point to tabletop roleplaying. Now you can be the hero in your own sword and sorcery adventures! This is the game played on Wil Wheaton’s new tabletop RPG show, Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana.

The Adventure Game Engine (AGE) rules are easy to learn, and feature an innovative stunt system that keeps the action tense and exciting. This Basic Rulebook includes full 20 level advancement for all three classes, a new magic system, advice for players and GMs, and an introductory adventure so you can get started right away. You can use Fantasy AGE to run adventures in the campaign setting of your choice or a world of your own creation. A new AGE is upon us!

  • Sku GRR6001
  • Release Date: AUGUST
  • Preorder Date: 07/30/2015
  • Configurations: TBD
  • MSRP: $29.95

Featured Kickstarter: Epic Board Game & RPG Posters

Level Up your gaming space with iconic wall art! 7 Professionally printed designs available with Board Game and RPG themes.
Level Up your gaming space with iconic wall art! 7 Professionally printed designs available with Board Game and RPG themes.

About this project

Greetings and welcome to this table games poster project! I’m a Pixel Diva (graphic artist) at a printing company by day and a game designer by night, so I thought why not combine the two and make fantastic wall art! The purpose of this project is to fund a print run of these cheeky, poster sized designs. Get ready to level up your game room!

Table top games are a great way to get together with friends. To commemorate those fun nights, I’ve designed these posters with irreverent game-night laughter in mind.

Why KickStarter?

Simply, to make it happen! I hope you’ll help me create these 7 table top game posters. Funds will go directly to the production of the posters, supplies (tubes & labels), and cost of shipping rewards.


Posters are 18×24, professionally printed on 160gsm Art Paper. I have completed a short test print-run of all posters to ensure they print correctly. I am happy to say they look epic!

Mini-Posters are 11×17, professionally printed on 80# gloss paper. The mini-poster set comes with all 7 posters in the mini size.

Poster Size Comparison: Full Size on the left, Mini Poster on the right
Poster Size Comparison: Full Size on the left, Mini Poster on the right

The black border on the outer edge of the images here is to show the edge of the posters against the white background, but the finished posters do not have a printed border.


You’ve stormed dungeons, cured diseases, and sailed ships together – now level up your game spaces together. These posters will ship in August 2015, in plenty of time for holiday gifting!

Shipping to the U.S. +$6

Shipping to Canada +$10

Shipping everywhere else in the world +$15

Posters will be rolled and shipped in 3″ x 18″ mailing tubes with plastic end caps.

 Local Pick Up

Know us personally, or live in Memphis, TN?  There is a no shipping option available in the rewards on the right. Select that reward, pledge the amount of the reward tier you wish to claim and no shipping will be added.  Your backer survey will collect which posters you have selected.

Comic Cellar in Memphis, TN has graciously agreed to let us hold pick up in their awesome store! We will arrange two dates in August on Saturdays to deliver your posters to you. We’ll be there to shake your hand and THANK YOU in person.

Join us on Facebook /dreadfulgames and Twitter @dreadfulgamesco to find out about the exciting new game projects we have coming down the pipeline! We have three games coming to KickStarter late 2015 and early-mid 2016.

Risks and challenges

Every project has the potential for setbacks. To mitigate that potential I’ve done a few things:

Art is 100% complete and print-ready.
Mailing tubes are already here (local supplier that keeps 1000+ in stock).
Fulfillment and shipping plans are in place.

I have completed sample prints of all the posters so the photos shown here are of the real-deal finished posters. My plan is to place the print order the day after the campaign ends, and to ship posters starting the day KS releases the funds to me.

If the project is very successful I will implement “Shipping Plan B” and use a mail-house to get these to you as soon as possible. I have the quote and contract ready to proceed if necessary.

Featured KickStarter – Wok Star: 3rd Edition

The third edition of the famous co-operative board game where you and your friends run a real-time Chinese restaurant!

The third edition of the famous co-operative board game where you and your friends run a real-time Chinese restaurant!

Wok Star! This will be the third edition of the co-operative cooking classic, and we’re spicing things up with some re-opening specials for customers who would like to place a pre-order of the game.

The Dice Tower nominated Wok Star for Best Family Game. Tom Vasel says, “It’s a great deal of fun. Works for the whole family. I give this one a very enthusiastic two thumbs up!” – have a look at his full review below!

The Game Boy Geek reviewed the 2nd Edition of the game and said, “I really like it, its an excellent, excellent game. It’s one that’s easy enough you could play with families, but it’s still fun enough for gamers.” – watch his full review and game play explanation below.

Wired Geek Dad gave Wok Star their coveted Seal of Approval for “innovative game mechanics and the sheer fun of playing it”!

The Glass Meeple provides an illustrated article on Wok Star’s game play and says “The cooperative play mechanics make it great for families, friends and team-building exercises. I don’t see any reason why younger kids couldn’t play.”

In Wok Star, you and your family (your fellow players) have opened a Chinese restaurant!  However, with a review from your investor looming, you must rush to satisfy customers, prepare ingredients, and learn new recipes so that you can build your business and make your restaurant a sizzling success!

Wok Star is a deliciously different cooperative game that serves 2-4 players. Racing against the timer, you’ll have to deal with demanding customers who each what something different! Each customer gives you only 20 seconds to fulfil their order but if you serve too slowly the customer gets up and leaves. Everyone has a different role to play, whether you’re the bus boy who collects more tips or the chef who’s good at stretching the ingredients just a little farther, and everyone will be working on the meals at the same time from different angles.  With just four days to impress your investor, you’ll need quick thinking, clever investment, and brilliant cooperation.

With an event deck and recipe choices that change from game to game, no two games of Wok Star will be exactly the same flavour.

Learning Wok Star

 Game Play Video

Designer Tim Fowers tells us all about the game:

“I started Wok Star back in 2009 as a realtime cooperative zombie game, inspired by “Space Alert” and “Left 4 Dead”. It quickly evolved into a restaurant game (since fast food customers are a lot like zombies). After a year of courting publishers, I decided to do a small run of the game on my own. I went to Origins 2010 and it sold out. I did a limited pre-order that fall and got it into players hands. Wanting to get it in stores, I signed with a previous publisher, but that ended up delaying the printing until I signed with Game Salute. I’ve used the time to improve the game and make it quicker to play, but still maintain the tough choices and frantic pace. Also I feel the addition of an electronic timer will make the game fantastic. I’m excited to finally get it out to everyone that has been asking for it all these years. The game is a unique experience that transforms a group of players into a team.”

WARNING!: Wok Star may well result in high fives.

Why Kickstarter?

Between printings and editions of games sometimes we like to go back to Kickstarter to give us as a guide on how many copies to print, or indeed in some cases if we should reprint a game at all. As a reward for helping us work out this tricky question and supporting the game, we are happy to give you a saving on the retail cost of the game.

Should we hit our funding target, we will consider stretch goals. As in the olden days of Kickstarter we won’t be planning the campaign out before hand, or unfurling the game based on that plan, but we will genuinely look at the potential for stretch goals based on how the campaign goes. Obviously with a game like Wokstar that has already got great components and has been tried and tested through two previous editions, there isn’t a lot we can add without bloating the game, but perhaps with your help we might be able to think of some thing, if the time comes.

Risks and challenges

Wok Star is ready to go – we plan to send the final files to the printer within a week or two of the project’s close. That means we hope to have it available for release in May 2016. Every game project is subject to potential production delays, but we feel that this goal is reasonable and achievable.

The final challenge is getting the game and rewards out to the backers. We are well versed in reward fulfillment and we are prepared to meet this challenge for Wok Star.