They Shall Have a Preview
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
A few years ago, we launched what became a very successful line of products: small wargames packaged in small boxes at a small price. Once we moved our production out of Asia and back to the United States, these became a lot tougher to produce, and so we cast about for alternative packaging. Eventually we hit on the Playbook, an evolutionary melding of our book supplements and small complete games.
I’ve heard from a lot of gamers about a glut of games, combined with enormous pressure on their time. There just aren’t enough hours in the day for all the games they want to play, and far too many games that look like they’d be fun to play if only there were time to try them out. And that means that what time there is to play a game usually gets spread over many games: No one becomes “expert” in play of the game, or even gets much understanding of its strategy, because they’ve moved on to something else after playing it once or twice. While that’s just fine for many gamers, others lament that lack as it robs them of intense competition — they don’t want to win just because their opponent made a rookie mistake.
Playbooks are designed to counter that. First off, they include a complete game, usually a map, counters and rules. Then there’s game strategy, so you’ve got stuff that tells you not just how to play it, but how to play it well. And finally there’s the background, the history behind the battle or war. That all adds up to what our former marketier suggested: something the customer can take into the bathtub.
Our first Playbook, They Shall Not Pass, is a re-issue of a game we did a few years ago in a small box to a very good reception. We commissioned new art, which really added quite a lot to the game. The new map is by Robert Altbauer, who’s illustrated many role-playing games for a variety of publishers.
The map is heavy cardstock, the same style we use in Panzer Grenadier and Infantry Attacks games.
There are 140 playing pieces, clean and crisp, representing the French and German armies at a regimental scale.
The game rules present a very solid game system, but how does it play? In practice it’s pretty intense, with both sides having the opportunity to attack at different times, and both relying on reinforcements arriving in the nick of time to stave off disaster. It’s not a difficult game to learn and play, and we have some game-strategy analysis in the book. Because it’s the First and not the Second World War things don’t happen exactly as some gamers might expect, but once they’re used to the awesome power of artillery and the difficulty of rapid movement it all comes naturally.
We added a couple of variants for They Shall Not Pass in the Fall 2012 Golden Journal: Bavarian and Turkish reinforcements for the German side. Gold Club members can pick it up for free.
Making that distinction clear is the job of the background articles, and as usual in an Avalanche Press product these are fairly extensive, covering the battle itself, the fortress of Verdun, and the French and German armies that fought there. You can take this book into the bathtub and get a very enjoyable read while you soak.
All told, it’s a very nice package, and I think you'll find it very satisfying. Just don't drop it in the bathtub.
Click here to order our They Shall Not Pass Playbook!
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. Leopold dislikes frisbees.