Saturday, October 20, 2012

What was Avalon Hill Thnking?

I was listening to a podcast this week and part of the discussion touched on the font size in some of the old Avalon Hill Wargames. This led me to pull out my copy of "Afrika Korps" to see if it was really as bad as both the podcast hosts and I recalled. I was shocked to find out that it was even worse. The podcast host described the font size as 6 pt. Well, it looked more like 4 pt. to me. Sure they managed to fit the rules for "Afrika Korps" into just 15 pages of a small sized book which is mostly illustrations. Didn't they know that font size practically required a magnifying glass or powerful magnification reading glasses? As I recall, the rules for UP FRONT (and a number of other great games) also suffered from the Honey-I've-Shrunk-the-Rules syndrome. Recently, a friend needed a copy of ATTACK SUB rules to complete his collection. While those rules are printed on 8 1/2" x 11" paper and only comprise four or five pages, once again, that teeny-tiny almost microscopic print size was used. What I think I did was send him the original set of rules and use the enlarge feature on my photocopier at word to make my own enlarged set. Before trying to introduce my friends into WIZARD's QUEST, I took the rules and typed up a simple rules summary-- not because the rules were long and complicated, but because the print was so small that I felt I needed a microscope in order to read these rules and I knew that they would balk at attempting to read such miniscule print. Honestly, I don't think Avalon Hill's design department ever imagined that 50-70 year old people would still be picking up these old games via ebay, Thrift Stores, or game convention auctions. I don't think they envisioned the long shelf life of games. I don't think they understood that while the people playing these games in the 1970's were college and career age (some were teens) that these players would still be active in the hobby after their grandchildren were born. Their goal must have been simply to make the rulebooks as well-organized (they didn't always succeeed with that) and as short as possible. I know that the size of a rulebook intimidates many players. One of my first wargames was WILDERNESS WAR which has, as I recall, a fourteen or fifteen page rulebook. The gamer introducing it to me said "It only has a short rulebook." To me, the rules looked huge compared to games like Monopoly or Milles Bournes. To this day, my opinion of the WILDERNESS WAR rulebook remains solidly positive. It is well organized, has a readable font, and offers a clear understanding of the game leaving little or no room for questions. In recent years, one seller on EBAY is offering all of the materials he can gather on a game in PDF format on a CD. Perhaps those rules can be enlarged and printed out, I haven't bothered to see if this is the case. So, here's the scam artist in my thinking.. Would it be legal to create a new set of rules for these old games, streamlining, incorporating official errata,setting them in a font size visible by someone who was not endowed with Superman's enhanced vision and then offering them for a modest fee via the internet? Believe me, I have a lot of important projects to accomplish before I attempted such a project, but it would be nice to see rules printed in a font size that was actually readable. Ahhh... I figured it out. What was Avalon Hill thinking? That man was evolving so fast that gamers would develope enhanced vision that would allow them to read print designed to be small billboards for ant communities.