Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne offers up his thoughts on the cavalcade of Avalon Hill games coming back to market under the Renegade Game Studios banner.

I was happy to read the announcement that Renegade Game Studios has licensed and will reprint/update a number of out of print Avalon Hill games (see "Renegade Announces Negotiations with Hasbro").  Hopefully, this means several long out-of-print games from the Avalon Hill catalog will see the light of day in updated versions over the next couple of years.  I have asked Wizards of the Coast representatives for years to bring some of these back and was always told, "We have plans to do so."

I have the highest hopes for the reprint of Robo Rally (see "'Robo Rally' Returns"), which, if I remember correctly, was Richard Garfield’s second published game design, the first, of course, being Magic: The Gathering.  It is industry legend how Garfield offered Robo Rally to several publishers including Steve Jackson Games before taking it to Wizards of the Coast, which turned it down due to the cost of the components.  However, Peter Adkison, head of WotC at the time, liked the design and asked Garfield if he could develop a game as well-designed, but with minimal components that players could easily pack and take to game conventions.

The result was the development of Magic: The Gathering.  With the revenues coming in from Magic sales, funding the development of Robo Rally proved no problem, and its core concept of programming moves several turns ahead, which is somewhat like programing launches in Flying Buffalo’s Nuclear War card game, has stood up over 30 years of gameplay.  If the price stays in the $50 to $60 range, a price point at which customers appear comfortable, I expect it to sell well.

Another game Renegade has the rights to that I will happily see back in print is Diplomacy (see "'Diplomacy'").  For those unfamiliar with Diplomacy, it released commercially back in 1959 and was reportedly one of John F. Kennedy’s favorite games.  Each turn, players negotiate with each other, agreeing to support (or not support) each other’s move into new territory.  Each player then writes down their moves on a record sheet.  Moves then resolve with players learning if other players supported their moves or not.

We used to run games at the store wherein players turned in their moves weekly, spending the week making agreements with other players to advance their position in the game.  Unfortunately, after about a month the game would fall apart as some players forgot to turn in moves, making their action a "hold" action and thus easy prey for the more active players.  Still, with the growth in interest over the past few years in more social and co-operative games such as Blood on the Clocktower and Pandemic, I can see a social game such as Diplomacy gaining sales, even if many games wind up with players backstabbing each other.

Unfortunately, most game buyers today are not familiar with either Diplomacy or Robo Rally, but they do regularly look for Axis and Allies.  So, I'm glad to see it is first on the list of the Avalon Hill line of games coming from Renegade.  I'd hoped Renegade would bring it out at WotC’s $29.99 price, but given the sheer number of components the game contains, I expect an increase to $49.99 or $59.99.  Other games in the Avalon Hill catalog I would like to see back: Circus Maximus, Rail Baron, Titan, and Yellowstone.  I think there is some demand for Squad Leader and Advanced Squad Leader among older gamers, but doubt it and other wargames from the AH catalog would find much traction among today’s customers (Oh, no!  Rocketville.  Please.).

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The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of