One of the more satisfying aspects of rebuilding Avalanche Press has been the improvements that our new production methods have allowed us to bring to the physical quality of the games. We’re using a lot more interior color, where appropriate (not in the rulebooks, which would be stupid, but in the parts you actually handle during game play). The new-style silky-smooth die-cut playing pieces are just really pleasant to handle and reproduce the artwork very well. Guy Riessen has produced a whole series of beautiful maps.
Winter Fury’s first edition was sort of an afterthought, and it showed. At the dawn of the new century, the old production methods we used required that we fill large press sheets with playing pieces, six or eight sets depending on the printer used. Our Great War at Sea: Mediterranean game then going to press used two and a half sheets, leaving a blank half. I did not want to “waste” that space, and added Winter Fury to the production run to fill out the sheet, a game design I’d had around for a while at that point – in those days we tried to keep little games on hand for just that purpose.
The first edition eventually sold out, leaving us with stacks and stacks of extra playing pieces. Someone who worked here suggested using them to re-issue the game in our Playbook format, and after a fairly long wait that’s exactly what we’ve done.
Winter Fury’s first edition satisfied me reasonably well as a game design. I thought the system suited the battle, it got across the points I was trying to make, and most importantly it was fun to play. Brian Knipple did some solid development work on Winter Fury way back when, so I felt very little need to make many changes tot he game for the new edition. There were some rules that called out for better explanation, so I re-wrote those, and there were some really annoying omissions that took place during the first edition’s production (information left off charts and that sort of thing) and that was pretty easy to fix.
Just fixing that wasn’t enough. We probably could have gone with black-and-white charts similar to those in the first edition and likewise put all the scenario setup information in the rulebook, and no one would have noticed. But we can’t cut corners if the New Avalanche Press is going to not only reclaim the place of the old one but move relentlessly forward.
So, much like Defiant Russia, Winter Fury comes with some very nice, full-color player aids with the various charts and tables needed for play, setup locations for the scenarios, reinforcement arrivals and so forth. The game doesn’t play any differently with them, but they just feel better and make the experience a whole lot more fun. These games are supposed to be fun.
Along those same lines, Winter Fury has a new map. It’s by Guy Riessen, who does our Panzer Grenadier and naval game maps and crafted the beautiful map for the Defiant Russia Player’s Edition. It’s very wintry, as befits the topic, and it’s an enormous improvement over the first edition map. The pieces really pop off the snowy-background. The map is slightly smaller than that of the first edition, because of the different printing technology we now use (or at least that our printer uses). Fortunately, the live area of the old map came out to exactly 22x28 inches, the full size of our new paper maps, with the remainder taken up by a pretty bland brown border and some charts. So ditching the border and moving the charts to the player aids took care of that.
Again, the old map would have served just fine in a new edition, and we had a large stockpile of them in storage. Despite their nostalgic charm, using those old maps wouldn’t have fit with the whole thing about upgrading physical quality. So they went into the city’s paper recycling dumpster.
Winter Fury lost a scenario in its new edition, one that sort of clunkily combined it with our old game Blood on the Snow, which has been out of print for at least a decade. In its place we have one based on the 1941 Finnish offensive in this same area, in which the elite Finnish 1st Jäger Brigade swept the Soviet 71st Rifle Division out of formerly Finnish territory. The jägers are the toughest Finnish veterans of the Winter War, formerly independent ski battalions gathered together to form a powerful light infantry striking force (but since the scenario takes place in the summer, there is no skiing going on). The Soviet 71st Rifle Division had been formed from the remnants of the Red Finnish 1st People’s Rifle Corps that had fought in the Winter War and suffered grievous losses – apparently the “White Finns” had little interest in taking prisoners from this unit.
I had really wanted to add a more extensive 1941 scenario, but the really intense fighting took place off the lower right edge of the Winter Fury map. Likewise, I sketched out some scenarios based on the 1944 fighting in the area, which was also pretty intense, but while that battlefield overlaps that of Winter Fury I couldn’t make a good scenario only on the existing map; it would have needed some more real estate off the right edge. For a long time I pondered making Winter Fury into a two-map game and sketched out the additional map areas, but the second map wouldn’t have aligned exactly with the original, making for a much larger playing surface than implied by “a two-map game,” and that also would have taken Winter Fury well beyond the Playbook size.
Developer Brian Knipple actually suggested a very similar format – a book with extensive historical background with a game included – for Winter Fury during its first iteration, back when I first designed the game. I’m not sure why we didn’t go that route then, but we sold a far greater proportion of a far greater print run through retail stores in those days and the low-priced boxed game had been a very successful format for us. That’s no longer the case, and from a creative standpoint I do really like the concept of providing extensive historical background with the game, something we’re trying to do now with all of our games.
That extensive background this time comes courtesy of David Lippman, whose work graces a good bit of this website’s Daily Content. Despite having been at this for a good long time, Dave’s work is constantly improving – the sign of a real professional at this craft – and his tale of the Winter War is among his best work. It’s the perfect counterpoint to the game with its very fine physical presentation.
While I don’t want the New Avalanche Press lineup to consist of new versions of old games, it’s nice to get the chance to use our new production methods every now and then to give an old title the treatment we could never have afforded for it in the old days. Winter Fury came out really well, a fine package that would satisfy any game designer’s overweening ego (and that’s saying a lot – you don’t know “overweening” until you’ve worked in this business). I think you’ll enjoy it, too.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.