Our First Nineteen Issues
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
I always wanted Avalanche Press to include a magazine. That was a foolish desire, but over the years I’ve managed to splice together the good parts of publishing a magazine without taking on many of the negatives. So we have our web magazine (Daily Content), and for Gold Club members we have the Golden Journal to deliver physical game parts, and we have Gold Club Premium Content to deliver bigger stuff via download. It’s a pretty sweet combination.
Publishing a magazine is really hard. Way harder than making books and games, which is pretty hard in its own right. With the Golden Journal, we don’t face the same pressures: there are no subscriptions and no money changes hands until we actually have the thing ready (and even then, it’s only the shipping cost, and most copies go out as part of an order for something else at little to no additional charge).
The Golden Journal is not a magazine: you can’t subscribe to it, and it has no schedule. Gold Club members can order it for free, as long as supplies last. We publish one when I damn well feel like it. It’s not sold in any stores and for damned sure not by any online discount vultures. It’s a lightweight little thing, with just a few black-and-white pages. But I think it’s the thing we make here that I enjoy the most, because it’s based solely on my own whim and what I think would be cool. After spending two decades running this firm to feed other peoples’ egos while driving myself into poverty, it’s about damned time I did something to feed my own. Anyway, here’s a look at what we’ve done so far:
Heat Wave 2016
La Battaglia di Gazala
Our schedule had long included a Gamer’s Guide to Gazala, which would include extra pieces and variants for our Gazala 1942 game, some of which have run as Daily Content pieces. When we slashed the price of Gazala to $9.99, I decided that the Gamer’s Guide should probably fall off the schedule in favor of one for Western Desert Force, releasing the pieces and variants for use in the Golden Journal.
The variant adds three additional armored divisions and two fully motorized infantry divisions to the Italian order of battle, in exchange for the two German panzer divisions and one motorized division in the standard game. That trade definitely favors the Allies, but a second variant, giving those Italian divisions German-designed tanks, swings the pendulum back to Mussolini’s boys.
Dog Days 2016
Imperial German New Guinea
Some time back we ran a series of proposed game expansions by the Gold Club, some of which we then proceeded to produce. One of them was called German Saipan, and featured the Japanese hitting the beaches of Saipan in our Second Great War alternative history setting, to be met by the German garrison of Imperial Marines and East African askaris.
No one had a neutral view of that proposal: they either loved it or hated it. So I moved it around a little: changing the theater to New Guinea and the base game to The Kokoda Campaign, and only adding Imperial Marines (with an elephant and a helicopter). In this little campaign it’s the Australians forcing their way across the mountains, and the Germans have an elephant and a helicopter. I found this little thing a lot of fun to put together, because it has an elephant.
This is one of my favorite Journal issues: 15 versions of the battleship Agincourt/Sultan Osman V, as potentially upgraded for the Second World War. Versions include a hybrid battleship-carrier, an assault-landing ship, a helicopter carrier, an anti-aircraft escort and a battle cruiser. Plus you get some helicopters and autogyros to fly off of them.
This issue comes pretty close to the ideal I have in mind for the Golden Journal: it has a tight focus (one ship, but in many variations), it’s colorful, and it’s enormously fun while not impinging on anything we might want to put into a book or game down the road. And it has an Austro-Hungarian helicopter carrier.
St. Patrick's Day 2016
This was another possible Enhancement topic submitted to the Gold Club in a survey and shot down. It did okay, just not as well as some of the other things we asked about. It probably would have helped if the Irish had more tanks, or maybe a helicopter.
Instead the Irish are as they were: a bayonet army for the most part, with some support weapons and fairly good morale and leadership – these are the Fighting Irish, after all. They get 24 pieces, and two scenarios in which they face off against very high-morale and well-led German airborne invaders. I really wanted them to fight the Brits, too, but we didn’t have any 1940-era Brits in print at the time we released this Journal.
Groundhog Day 2015
The Skoda Panther first appeared in Daily Content a few years back, and made its way into a couple of odd alternative-history products that have since gone out of print, in the colors of the Grossdeutschland Division and the Austrian Bundesheer. We never produced it in just plain German livery, so I decided we needed to fix that. We also provide some in Waffen SS colors.
To go with it, there’s the even-lesser-known Daimler-Benz Panther. This tank had never appeared in a game or supplement, probably because it wasn’t even as good as the new-model Panzer IVF2 that appeared before it would have entered service.
Rather than new scenarios, in this Journal we just modified a bunch of them from South Flank and Burning Tigers, so you can use these tanks in place of others (or just add them in on top of what’s already there, because we know that’s what you’re going to do anyway). The Skoda Panther is a pretty fearsome opponent (it has an auto-loader, which lets it fire more often than other tanks); the Daimler-Benz Panther has a really good gun.
Last year, we presented a slate of potential Enhancement topics to the Gold Club. Victoire, a module adding the best ships of the German High Seas Fleet to the French Marine Nationale, got a lot of support but lagged well behind the other naval game topics on the list. As with Horse Soldiers, I cut the counter mix down to 20 pieces, which probably was a good design move, and designed a pair of Plan Gold scenarios for their use.
The former German ships are very useful to the French, and would have made Plan Gold a much better game if I’d thought to include them from the beginning. In terms of historical logic, while the French wanted these ships, actually obtaining them would have been a major political coup and caused many repercussions – not least of them a great deal of hostility on the part of the increasingly-erratic Woodrow Wilson (who did, after all, threaten war with Italy during the Versailles peace talks). Adding the German ships to the French fleet gives a stronger motive for war, and gives the French a better chance in actually fighting it.
The French only get the very best of the German ships, which are probably the only ones for which they could have provided crews (and then only at great effort). They have the most modern light cruisers, all of the battle cruisers, and the most recent battleships (those powered by turbines). All of the ship drawings have been re-done, with help them match other French ships in the series (and to look better).
This issue is no longer available.
Columbus Day 2015
The U.S. First Cavalry Division goes to Tunisia, horses and all. I’ve wanted the horsed version of the First Team in Panzer Grenadier for a very long time, and proposed a larger version to the Gold Club (88 pieces and 10 scenarios). They wanted it, but not as much as they wanted some of the other offerings. So I cut it down to 24 pieces and just a pair of scenarios, and gave it to the Gold Club.
The Horse Soldiers set shows the First Cavalry as it stood in late 1941; had the cavalry generals somehow convinced the Army to send the division to North Africa to prove its worth, it likely would have been in this guise. It’s a powerful formation in a number of ways.
The cavalry platoons sport less firepower than their infantry counterparts, due to their smaller size. But they more than make up for this with the generous allotment of cavalry machine-gun platoons, which almost equal the number of rifle-armed platoons in the table of organization. The cavalry is well-armed with automatic weapons.
And it doesn’t end there. The cavalry also have the awesome .50-caliber M2 Browning machine gun. Where the infantry’s heavy weapons companies received one weapon each, the cavalry’s equivalent had a full platoon of such guns. Plus mortars. And motorcyclists.
Labor Day 2015
Gold Club Naval Pieces
Back in 2007, we made this sheet for the Gold Club with 70 of the inch-long pieces we use for large warships in our naval games. Most of those 70 went to destroyers that appeared on 1/2-inch square pieces in various Second World War at Sea games (because we didn’t have space on the counter sheet to give them “long” ones). On this sheet, they appear in their full glory with a top-down drawing.
There are also a couple of variants featuring the French submarine Surcouf, plus some pieces for a long-forgotten Napoleonic battle game that I regret ever publishing.
The East German Alert Police
Our Iron Curtain setting gets a (small) reinforcement with East Germany’s Alert Police, the predecessor of the National People’s Army. They weren’t very good, but they did have tanks and anti-tank guns (chiefly hand-me-downs, often from captured German stocks) and would have been expected to resist a Western invasion of East Germany or provide rear-area security during a Soviet attack on the West.
The variant has 24 pieces, including infantry, support weapons, tanks and leaders, in the very fine-looking new East German livery. Plus there are a couple of scenarios to use these new pieces in the Iron Curtain setting.
Summer Solstice 2015
Polish Fantasy Fleet
A number of naval reference works mention Polish plans to construct a massive surface fleet in the 1930’s. Such a fleet would have had a very real strategic role in Polish defense plans, to keep sea lanes open to the West in the event of a war with the Soviet Union in which Germany remained neutral – the scenario Polish leaders of the time believed to be the most likely in the event of war. But it far outstripped Polish industrial and financial capacities.
The admiral who crafted the plan admitted years later that the plan had been intended to give Poland a bargaining chip she could easily throw away at ongoing arms limitation talks. The Poles had no intention of actually building the proposed ships. But what if they had?
That’s the basis of this Journal: one old ex-German battleship, two battle cruisers, two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, a seaplane cruiser and a dozen big destroyers, all in Polish livery and ready to scour the Baltic Sea of Soviet opposition. Plus you get scenarios for Sea of Iron to use these pretty ships.
This issue is no longer available.
Riflemen of Saipan
Early printings of Panzer Grenadier: Saipan 1944 gave the Marine infantry enormous firepower, and we dialed that back in later printings. The new pieces are available for free download, and Gold Club members get the actual pieces with this Journal.
And there are Japanese tanks: the Type 1 and Type 3 medium tanks, much better than the vehicles sent to Saipan. They were available at the time of the American landings, but had been held back to defend the home islands. The Type 4 medium tank, designed to challenge the American M4 Sherman, had completed design work but not yet been produced in any numbers. Had Mitsubishi met its deadlines despite steel shortages and American bombing, the new tank would also have been in service at the time of the American landings. You get all those tanks to play with, and scenarios to use them.
Blackberry Winter 2015
Gold Club Panzer Grenadier
When we set up the Gold Club, we still made game pieces the old-fashioned way, on large press sheets in large quantities. We had grand plans to make extra pieces for the Gold Club, based on the downloads we ran regularly as part of Daily Content in those days.
That turned out to be way harder than we wanted to think (it’s not like it would have been difficult to figure out, but I chose to see the best outcome as the most likely). We only made two special Gold Club sheets, and this Journal is based on the first. There are 77 pieces, most of them for Panzer Grenadier with a few for Soldier Kings and a couple for Martians in Great War at Sea (yes, really).
FDR’s Lost Battleships
Based on a variant we originally ran for Great Pacific War, this adds the warships that very likely would have been built by the United States Navy in 1937 had Franklin Roosevelt pushed forward with his spending plans rather than foolishly trying to balance the budget while the effects of the Great Depression were still evident.
That results in two North Carolina-class battleships, two Yorktown-class aircraft carriers, three light cruisers of a new design and eight new destroyers. Plus aircraft to operate off those new flight decks. And as always we include some scenarios, this time for Coral Sea and Midway, and modifications for existing scenarios.
This issue is no longer available.
New Year's 2014
Battles of 1866: Austrian Gatling Guns
This is a personal favorite, with multiple variants for the two games from the War of the States/Empires series currently in print.
First off, we have Gatling guns for the Imperial-Royal Austrian Army to use in Battles of 1866: The Frontier Battles. The Austrians secretly purchased a number of these weapons just before the war, but they did not arrive until it had concluded. They’re pretty useful on defense but not so much on the attack.
Next up, the Austrians get breech-loading rifles so they can match Prussian infantry firepower. It’s just one brigade, Ferdinand Poschacher von Poschach’s Iron Brigade, the unit that probably would have received the weapons, once again ordered just before the war, had they arrived. But that one brigade holds one of the key points in the Jicin scenarios of Frontier Battles, so this makes for an interesting “what if” question. Well, at least it’s interesting to me.
For Chickamauga & Chattanooga, we have a Confederate helicopter. Believe or not, the Confederacy did not actually deploy a helicopter, but we look at the flying machine designed by Alabama engineer William Powers to rain fire and death upon the Yankee invaders. And you get a couple of pieces to use in the game to conduct air attacks on the Union army.
The Yankees get their own secret weapon: elephants. King Mongkut of Siam, according to Anna Leonowens (of Anna and the King of Siam fame), offered war elephants to Abraham Lincoln to fight in the American Civil War. This is not actually true – Mongkut sought to export working elephants to the United States – but if Anna can exaggerate then so can we.
This issue is no longer available.
New Year's 2014
Turkish Black Sea Fleet
Based on actual fears, though not actual reality, this variant for Great War at Sea: Mediterranean puts the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Turkish colors. Allied naval planners feared this was a real possibility in early 1918, and called for increases in the fleet guarding the Turkish Straits. The Turks would have needed significant German assistance to man all of these ships, but might have been able to pull it off had the Russians peacefully handed over their warships as part of the Brest-Litovsk agreement. More importantly, the Allies thought it might be possible, and that’s the crux of the variant.
Turkey gets its own seaplane (and seaplane carrier) plus four dreadnoughts, two pre-dreadnoughts and six cruisers. There’s also a piece for the battle cruiser Yavuz (the former Goeben) in Turkish colors. There are a couple of scenarios included in the Journal itself, and we’ve run more since.
1940: The Fall of Luxembourg
The full order of battle for the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, in Panzer Grenadier format. Not just representative units, but enough pieces to represent Luxembourg’s entire armed forces. Plus we’ve got pieces for the giant steel doors the Luxembourgers built along their border in hopes the Germans would think no one was home and go away.
Luxembourg’s army isn’t very large, and isn’t very well-armed, but it did exist and you can use it to fight the Germans in a couple of battles that didn’t take place but would have had the Luxembourgeois chosen to resist in May 1940.
We also have more fleets for the Ottoman Empire to deploy in Soldier Kings, to balance the Venetians in the Serene Empire variant from the Spring 2013 Journal.
This issue is no longer available.
The major theme this time is the Venetian Empire in Soldier Kings. It’s a variant, looking at why the Serene Republic declined in power and influence, and what it would have taken to maintain its standing (the hypothesis: just a reasonable effort by the upper class). The variant gives the Venice five more provinces: Dalmatia, Corfu, the Morea, Crete and Cyprus. You could make the case that the Republic should have had the first two in the standard game; the others fell to the Ottomans between 1570 and 1718 but could have been held with more effort. Venice would also have needed a better Doge during the Seven Years’ War than the hapless Francesco Loredan, but that’s where the player comes in.
The coolest part of this Journal is the new map. It’s just a little one, 8.5x11, but it is full-color and it’s the first time we’ve issued a variant map in the Journal (when you’ve only done three of them, there tend to be a lot of firsts). It was an experiment, but I’m pleased with the result.
There’s also a small set of very nicely made laser-cut pieces, giving Venice some new armies and fleets, plus additional leaders (two generals, both of them actual officers of the Venetian ground forces, and one additional admiral, the later Doge Alvise Giovanni Mocenigo, an experienced sea officer in his younger days). And there are the markers needed to make Venice a player-controlled power.
Play-wise, Venice is pretty powerful, moreso than I really intended. I think I’ll need to revisit this with another variant bulking up the Ottoman fleet. It’s much weaker than it should be, regardless of historical alternatives, and in the face of a resurgent Venice one would have a hard time imagining the Turks just sitting idly by.
All of that left five more spots on the counter sheet, so I filled them with the five pieces for the Curse of Turan variant for Red Vengeance, from Daily Content. I’ve always liked this variant and like having lasered pieces for it.
Bavarians at the Gates
Our first Journal started out as a shotgun theme, but Susan Robinson had trouble with some of the older files for the Daily Content pieces we’ve done over the years. I didn’t want to do them over, but we did have on file a pair of large Daily Content counter downloads that we hadn’t used yet, both for They Shall Not Pass. And together they happened to fill the missing rows perfectly.
I’m really pleased with the result. The two variants, Bavarians at the Gate and Onlar Kaçış Değil mi (Turkish for, “They Shall Not Pass”) give the German additional reinforcements in They Shall Not Pass at the cost of steeper victory conditions. Like the titles imply, one gives you the I Royal Bavarian Corps (two infantry divisions and the Alpenkorps, plus corps supporting units) and the other a full corps of screaming Turks as the victors of Gallipoli take the war to the infidels. There are also ten more laser-cut pieces, one for They Shall Not Pass (a zeppelin!) and nine others for Alsace 1945 and Red Vengeance.
This was an enormously successful release: we soon sold out of They Shall Not Pass and it’s been out of print since.
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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.