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Wargame ratings from 1982 vs. 2012. How 126 games compare 30 years on.
Steven Goodknecht
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A couple of years ago I was thumbing through Strategy & Tactics #90; it was the last issue put out by SPI before they folded and is dated Jan/Feb 1982. Back then I always enjoyed looking at the game ratings chart in the magazine and I still do today. Nostalgia.

I thought it would make an interesting geeklist comparing the ratings from then and now but I never got around to doing it. Then in July of this year, David Dockter had the same idea and did a list of 43 wargames comparing their S&T ratings from 1980 vs. 2012. I really enjoyed the list and urge you to check it out here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/74949/wargame-ratings-.... Anyone who has read David's geeklists are well aware that he has a real talent for crunching game rating numbers. What is interesting about comparing the higher rated games on his 1980 list to this list is that many of them had dropped over two years. What David would call "cult of the new".

I don't possess David's talent for analyzing numbers but I'll try to compensate by the sheer number of games listed. Quantity vs. Quality. Also, I'm putting an emphasis on the various wargame categories.

In their Game Ratings Chart, SPI listed Publisher/Date Published/Price/Acceptability Rating/% Played/Complexity Rating/Playing Time/Solitaire Suitability. The % Played is the number of people who left feedback for that particular game; they weren't supposed to rate it unless they had actually played it. Playing Time is in hours and Complexity Rating is what BGG calls Game Weight. And of course, Acceptability Rating is what BGG gives as a game's Average Rating and comparing those numbers is the primary purpose of this list.

For those who may not be aware, S&T and SPI's other magazine Moves, came with feedback cards with 96 questions which subscribers would fill out and send in. The questions were varied but always included new game proposals (a form of P###) and recently published games, which the subscriber would rate on a scale of 1 to 9.

In S&T #77 from Nov/Dec 1979, it was stated that 10%-15% of subscribers sent in their feedback cards. From 1980-1981 S&T's circulation was 32,000-36,500. That works out to some 3,200-5,475 wargamers who filled out feedback cards. So if a game has 20% Played, we can assume that 640-1,095 gamers rated that particular game. We can also assume that SPI was getting a fair bit of information about what gamers liked...and didn't like.

SPI listed every game that rated 6.2 and above. I will list every game at 6.4 and above. I will also include an Honorable Mention to a few games rated below 6.4 that have a higher rating today. Also included is SPI's category rating for each game. I'm sure some gamers will weep when they see what some of these games sold for new versus the eBay prices today!

Because this list is from 1982, it will naturally be dominated by SPI and Avalon Hill with a smattering from GDW, OSG and a few other small publishers.

The categories are:
ANCIENT AND DARK AGES 1-4
Only four titles in this category. I believe this category is more popular today than it was 30 years ago. Games such as Commands & Colors, with more emphasis on game rather than simulation, have made this period more accessible and popular. Victory Point Games has also produced titles in the same vein.

Except for one title, the games in this category seem to have aged very well and retain their popularity.

MIDDLE AGES AND RENAISSANCE 5-12
Only eight titles in this category. I think the comments for the Ancient and Dark Ages category are valid here also.

Like the Ancient and Dark Ages category, the titles in this category have also aged well overall.

NAPOLEON 13-23
Eleven titles in this category. A mixed bag. While several have held up well, I'm not sure that they would be the first choice for many of today's gamers.

AMERICAN CIVIL WAR (1830 TO 1900) 24-38
Fifteen titles. SPI dominates this category with the GBACW series and Blue & Gray quads; games that complexity wise, were at opposite ends of the spectrum. Really nothing in-between. Most have held up okay over three decades. A few of the GBACW games are still popular today. Avalon Hill made few serious attempts in the Civil War category back then. Yaquinto scores one big hit with Ironclads.

WORLD WAR I 39-43
Not a very popular category in 1982 or before. Only five titles but those five have retained or increased their popularity. This is another category that is more popular today. Like the first two categories, I think this is due to newer games that stress playability over simulation.

WORLD WAR II 44-88
As you would expect, this is by far the largest category. A very mixed bag. I think this is a large enough sampling that you can surmise that it has more to do with a shift in the type of wargame gamers prefer today. Cards, blocks and area movement games have replaced many of their hex and counter counterparts.

Except for Squad Leader and its progeny, AH has only a few that have held up well. SPI does okay with Panzergruppe Guderian and the numerous games it spawned. The SPI monster games are a very mixed lot; the ones that haven't dropped haven't increased much either. You could make the case that GDW is the winner in this category; most games from their Europa series are still popular.

MODERN 89-108
If you were a big fan of games from this category 30 years ago, prepare to be depressed. Games that were timely 30 years ago seem antiquated today. SPI's The Next War and the games from their Central Front series are the only exceptions to a hypothetical clash between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces that have withstood the onslaught of time.

It's a different story if it's a game about the Arab-Israeli Wars though. Most of those hold up with GDW's Bar-Lev on top.

SCIENCE FICTION 109-119
GDW seems to be the winner in this category with its Traveller series of games. SPI was trying hard but with only middling results today. Metagaming first appears in this category with results that are still okay today.

FANTASY 120-126
This is another category where SPI was trying but failed according to today's ratings. Metagaming looks like the winner. All of their games carried a $3.00 price tag back then so even if it wasn't a great game, no one needed to feel cheated. But they are apparently still well thought of today.

NOTE: I have included a link to a review for every game that has one.



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1. Board Game: Circus Maximus [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:1157]
Steven Goodknecht
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ANCIENT AND DARK AGES.

AH.....3/80.....9.....6.6.....11.....5.0.....3.....6.5

This is a category that may enjoy a bit more popularity today than it did 30 years ago. Avalon Hill heads the small list.

Originally produced by Battleline and later picked up by AH. This game seems to have retained its rating. Almost exactly.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/213935/racing-roman-styl...
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2. Board Game: The Conquerors [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:5130]
Steven Goodknecht
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SPI.....5/77.....20.....6.5.....14.....6.5.....7.....5.0

SPI comes in a close second place with a game that rates slightly higher today. Reissued by Excalibre Games
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3. Board Game: Caesar at Alesia [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:1469]
Steven Goodknecht
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AH.....7/76.....14.....6.4.....22.....5.4.....4.....4.4

Another Avalon Hill game with a rating higher today than in 1982.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/302404/a-true-classic
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4. Board Game: Acre [Average Rating:5.94 Unranked]
Steven Goodknecht
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SPI.....1/79.....9.....6.4.....9.....6.0.....5.....5.1

A drop for this game which was a part of the Art of Siege Quad.

Overall, the four games in this category fare a bit better today. Is that because this period is perhaps more popular today?
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5. Board Game: Empires of the Middle Ages [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:1701]
Steven Goodknecht
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MIDDLE AGES AND RENAISSANCE

SPI.....4/80.....20.....7.2.....11.....5.8.....6.....5.0

This game from 1980 has suffered very little popularity loss over three decades and topped the list for this category in 1982. The Decision Games reissue probably helps it today.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/110925/eoma
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6. Board Game: Kingmaker [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:1378]
Steven Goodknecht
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AH.....6/74.....14.....6.9.....33.....5.2.....4.....1.4

This venerable game has dropped but still has a strong rating for a game from 1974. It still has many fans.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/394018/a-rose-by-any-oth...

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7. Board Game: Machiavelli [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:1017]
Steven Goodknecht
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AH.....4/80.....4.....6.7.....9.....4.5.....6.....1.0

Originally published by Battleline in 1977 and later republished by Avalon Hill. Machiavelli is another game that has picked up in popularity today.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/293024/no-no-no-machiave...
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8. Board Game: Frederick the Great [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:2288]
Steven Goodknecht
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SPI.....4/75.....12.....6.6.....22.....5.7.....3.....5.0

Fred has aged very well also. Not bad for a magazine game! Later picked up by Avalon Hill.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/342510/freds-at-his-best...


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9. Board Game: Samurai [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:2879]
Steven Goodknecht
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AH.....7/80.....14.....6.5.....7.....5.4.....na.....na

Yet another game originally published by Battleline and later reprinted by AH. Samurai hasn't dropped too much but I have a hunch that it has been supplanted by newer games on this topic. But perhaps it has fans who will disagree.
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10. Board Game: A Mighty Fortress [Average Rating:6.27 Overall Rank:5937]
Steven Goodknecht
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SPI.....7/77.....12.....6.4.....14.....5.6.....5.....2.9

I suppose Here I Stand has replaced this game for many of today's gamers. Reissued by Excalibre Games.

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11. Board Game: Thirty Years War (first edition) [Average Rating:6.65 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.65 Unranked]
Steven Goodknecht
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SPI.....4/76.....16....6.2.....16.....3.9.....3.....6.0

Nordlingen should be the game listed here; it rated 6.4 in 1982. But it isn't in the database so I substituted it for the quad from whence it came. In 1982 the quad had a 6.2 acceptability rating so it too has ticked up in popularity. Reissued by Decision Games.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/258157/nordlingen-review...
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12. Board Game: Torgau [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:6065]
Steven Goodknecht
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HONORABLE MENTION

GDW.....9/74.....9.....6.2.....8.....7.1.....6.....4.0

GDW scores with another game that is a bigger hit today than it was back then.
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13. Board Game: Napoleon's Last Battles [Average Rating:7.18 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.18 Unranked]
Steven Goodknecht
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NAPOLEON

SPI.....10/76.....16.....7.3.....36.....5.6.....6.....7.0

On to my favorite category and leading the pack is a game I still enjoy playing. And it appears that it is still popular even today. Reissued by both TSR and Decision Games.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/300717/the-whole-is-grea...


Individual quad ratings in 1982:
Ligny: 7.0
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/300151/the-whole-is-grea...

La Belle Alliance: 7.0
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/300690/the-whole-is-grea...

Quatre Bras: 6.7
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/300131/the-whole-is-grea...

Wavre: 6.6
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/300683/the-whole-is-grea...


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14. Board Game: Wellington's Victory: Battle of Waterloo [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:2286]
Steven Goodknecht
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SPI.....10/76.....30.....7.2.....20.....7.4.....8.....5.0

With this game and Napoleon's Last Battles, Nappy had a pretty good year in 1976. But unlike many wargamers, I'm sure Waterloo wasn't his favorite battle.

A good game still and the current rating bears that out even if it has slipped a bit. Reissued by TSR and the word is that Decision Games is planning an update.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/269509/unvarnished-revie...
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15. Board Game: Napoleon at Bay: The Campaign in France [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:2894]
Steven Goodknecht
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OSG.....11/78.....18.....7.2.....12.....6.5.....8.....3.0

The AH/SPI strangehold on this list is finally broken with the appearance of OSG. The first name for the company was Tactical Studies Group and this game was first published under that name and came in a ziplock. Nice artwork here on the OSG version but later reissued by AH with possibly the most atrocious box cover art in wargame history.

Its popularity has dropped but it spawned a whole series of games.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/454755/marching-to-glory...
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16. Board Game: Wooden Ships & Iron Men [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:767]
Steven Goodknecht
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AH.....10/75.....14.....7.1.....37.....6.7.....1.....4.4

AH breaks into this category with a game that is just slightly less popular today. Originally published by Battleline.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/351638/the-game-that-mak...
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17. Board Game: Napoleon at War: Four Battles [Average Rating:6.57 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.57 Unranked]
Steven Goodknecht
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SPI.....8/75.....16.....6.7.....29.....4.8.....3.....7.2

This was my first SPI game and I still enjoy playing the variety of battles. It hasn't held up too badly considering its simplicity.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/410890/quad-games-the-ja...

Individual quad ratings in 1982:
Wagram: 6.9
Usually considered to be the best game of the four.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/144/user-review

Battle of Nations: 6.5
Really out of scale compared to the other three games but popular nonetheless.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/476730/design-analysis-w...

Marengo: 6.5
I recently played this twice with a friend and my wife. I'm still trying to figure out how the Austrians can even break out of the bottleneck, let alone win.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/418892/a-traditional-hex...

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18. Board Game: Borodino [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:4201]
Steven Goodknecht
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Bradley
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SPI.....4/72.....12.....6.7.....22.....4.1.....2.....6.9

Not surprising that this game has dropped since there are now newer and prettier games on the subject. Still, a fun game after 40 years.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/695149/borodino-a-look-a...
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19. Board Game: The Battle of Austerlitz [Average Rating:5.99 Overall Rank:7394]
Steven Goodknecht
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SPI.....8/80.....8.....6.6.....11.....5.3.....3.....7.6

This game has certainly taken a dive. I'm not sure why, I don't remember it as a bad game. Now I'm interested in reacquiring a copy and seeing for myself how it has held up.

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20. Board Game: Ney vs. Wellington [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:2923]
Steven Goodknecht
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SPI.....5/79.....72.....6.6.....69.....6.6.....5.....5.8

Still my favorite Napoleonic game and one of a very few in this category to rate even higher today.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/540976/ney-vs-wellington...
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21. Board Game: War and Peace [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:1574]
Steven Goodknecht
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AH.....2/80.....16.....6.5.....60.....6.0.....2.....5.4

I believe this was the first AH Napoleonic game since Waterloo in 1962. It still has a dedicated following.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/297018/war-and-peace-nap...
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22. Board Game: Eylau: Napoleon's Winter Battle, 1807 [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:5617]
Steven Goodknecht
United States
Bradley
Illinois
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GDW.....6/80.....10.....6.4.....7.....5.9.....3.....na

GDW squeaks in with a game that is a bit more popular today.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/295000/can-you-succeed-w...
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23. Board Game: La Grande Armée [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:5941]
Steven Goodknecht
United States
Bradley
Illinois
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HONORABLE MENTION

SPI.....10/72.....12.....6.2.....17.....5.3.....3.....5.5

Not a huge leap upwards but still respectable for a game that is now 40 years old and has sparse graphics. I wish I had kept my copy.
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24. Board Game: Terrible Swift Sword [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:2016]
Steven Goodknecht
United States
Bradley
Illinois
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THE CIVIL WAR (1830 TO 1900)

SPI.....7/76.....25.....7.4.....38.....7.4.....9.....5.3

Another of my favorite categories and no surprise that another of my favorite games was heading the list in 1982, six years after its initial release. Reissued by TSR with some changes.

It has dropped slightly over 30 years but has held up surprisingly well given all of its competition.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/92628/terrible-swift-swo...
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25. Board Game: The Ironclads [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:2195]
Steven Goodknecht
United States
Bradley
Illinois
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Yaquinto.....6/79.....15....7.4.....11.....7.0.....2.....4.0

Yaquinto makes an impressive debut in the number two spot in this category. It has dropped slightly but is still impressive. Reissued by Excalibre Games.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/295709/the-ironclads-fam...
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