Following up on last week’s column, there are two “game changers” that created new segments in the hobby game industry but ultimately abdicated them to other games. Incidentally, I was glad to hear that I'm not the only one who things D&D 4E is underrated.
Tactics. This game was developed and self published by Charles S. Roberts of the eponymous Charles Roberts Awards which was given annually from 1974 for 2012 for the best historical wargame. Tactics released in 1954, and is viewed as the first commercially successful printed wargame. Primitive by modern standards, it nonetheless launched the entire wargame category but was discontinued when Roberts launched The Avalon Hill Game Company and released Tactics 2, a far superior version of the game, in 1958. The Avalon Hill Game Company continued to publish Tactics 2 until 1972, when declining sales and rising publishing costs caused the company to discontinue the game. The Avalon Hill Game Company rereleased Tactics 2 in 1973 with less costly components, using it as a loss leader to introduce new players to the historic wargaming hobby, finally stopping ceasing publication when Monarch Avalon, which had acquired TAHGC in 1963, sold the company to Hasbro, which was looking to expand into computer gaming and hoped to build up TAHGC’s products in that area. Unfortunately, nothing came to pass in that area and Avalon Hill became an imprint of Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast subsidiary in 2004. Meanwhile Squad Leader came onto the market in 1977, rapidly becoming the most popular historic board game on the market and displacing Tactics 2, though, since TAHGC also published Squad Leader, its popularity likely did not bother the company much. This is a case of a game changer proving not as good as competing products and ultimately ceding its position to subsequent entrants in the category.
Dominion. Back in 2014, I commented on how Dominion from Rio Grande Games has successfully created its own category of game within the larger hobby game market. The first deck-building game, Dominion led the way for the release of a number of others, including games set in the DC and Marvel Universes, the Lord of the Rings Universe, assorted anime licenses such as Attack on Titan, Godzilla, and Naruto as well as creator-owned worlds such as the fantasy themed Ascension and superhero-based Sentinels of the Multiverse. If you check the list of Diamond’s top 100 games for the past year, you will find several deck building games listed but no Dominion sets. Granted, Diamond is not the first place one goes to order Dominion, making the listing somewhat skewed but the ICv2 list of the top board and card games from last Spring also has Upper Deck’s Legendary Deck-Building game ranked several levels above Dominon. Dominion still has solid game play and sales but the addition of the Marvel Universe to Upper Deck’s solidly designed deck-builder pushed the Legendary game to the top of the category that Rio Grande created. Generally, “first mover advantage” keeps the developer of a new segment at the top of that segment, but not always.
Incidentally, Magic Unsanctioned released last Friday and became only the second Magic product of which we sold zero of the day of release. More on that and Paizo’s new rack offer in next week’s column. As always, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.