When we formed Avalanche Press in 1994,
we never really thought through what we would
do with game titles that sold out. There was
some vague notion that this would eventually
happen, but running out of the stacks and
stacks of those first two games seemed a time
that would never come.
Here are the honored games of our past,
that have performed with honor and been retired.
Second World War at Sea: Leyte Gulf
It was the largest game we've ever made, with 630 double-sized ship counters and 1,540 standard-sized pieces plus three maps and acres of charts. It began life as part of our now-defunct Classic Wargames program, and was enough of an event to merit its own Ode as its stockpile dwindled.
While we like to keep our naval games in print, we've had to say goodbye to Leyte Gulf. Giant wargames are even more difficult to fit into the new-model Avalanche Press, where a roster of 15 employees apiece has given way to one of just two.
Panzer Grenadier: Airborne (boxed edition)
This game had the unfortunate release date of Sept. 11, 2001. Intended as an introductory game for the Panzer Grenadier series, it wasn't really that so much as just a small game in the Panzer Grenadier series. It was much smaller than the first two (both now out of print) so that helped it some on that front as it had a low price, but it did not show off Panzer Grenadier the way we really needed it to.
Even so, it retires as one of our all-time best-sellers, and we did sell a lot of them in several iterations. The first edition had a hard-mounted game board and an unattractive olive-drab box. The next version had the same box, but a lightweight game board like those in our current Panzer Grenadier games. And then finally we sold it in an unattractive light green box with the lightweight board.
The game had 165 pieces, but uniquely for the Panzer Grenadier series, that included all of the required markers (it didn't include the generic marker sheet that all other series games receive). Most of the scenarios took place during the airborne landings behind the Normandy beaches in June 1944.
The scenarios changed with the box change, and we replaced the four original scenarios that used pieces from other games with four new ones that, like the other 16, only called for parts already in the box. There is a sharp division among players over this policy: some want to be able to mix their pieces between games and have more scenarios, but others insist that even one scenario out of 50 requiring pieces from another product yields an "incomplete game." And so we have chosen to enforce the Fulda Rule, that every boxed game must be fully playable only with pieces within its box. And then we sell the "crossover" scenarios separately.
We did provide a little Daily Content for it:
This game has a fine system, one we've used
since in Alsace 1945, Red God of War, Bitter
Victory, Campaign for Italy and probably
many more to come. It sold out in 2006, and
may return to the lineup someday but not until
it's received new counter artwork.
We gave it a lot of Daily Content:
Imperium Third Millennium
Our first space combat game, Imperium was
a licensed version of Marc Miller’s
1977 classic published by GDW. We went a little
overboard with it (see the “Tale of
Obsession” link below) but it sold very
well and deserves its place in our hall of
honor. Since it was a licensed product, it
won’t be reprinted.
As befits a game known for obsessing all
who touched it, Imperium generated a great
deal of Daily Content:
Red Steel: Clash of Armor at Kishinev
Red Steel might have been the best
hard-core wargame design we’ve published
but its unusual topic doomed it to average
sales. The Romanian assault on Bessarabia
may be legendary in Romania, but doesn’t
resonate much in the United States or even
Western Europe. It is one of my favorite game
designs, and even spawned two stillborn sequels:
one smaller one on the Falciu Bridgehead,
one larger one on the siege of Odessa.
Red Steel had some Daily Content
support, including a rather lengthy tale of
the game’s origins which is only recommended
for those who like to see sausage being made.
Napoleon in the Desert
This was a game I’d wanted to design
as soon as we took over the Eagles of the
Empire series from GamesUSA. It was built
around the Battle of the Pyramids, and included
several other clashes between the French and
the Turks and/or Egyptian Mamelukes plus the
1785 Battle of Cairo between the Turks and
Mamelukes (not something you’ll find
in just any wargame!).
We’ve retired Eagles of the Empire,
and Napoleon in the Desert had to make way
for the new Napoleonic Battles series that
debuts in late 2006.
We did place some Daily Content on the site
for the game, including a French balloon unit:
Invasion of Italy
Our very first game, Invasion of Italy
was a fairly intense simulation of the
Allied landings at Salerno in September 1943.
We tried to send it off in truly spectacular
fashion, by giving the final 300 copies a
true Viking Funeral. We were ready with the
permit, and had plans for a picture gallery
on the website of a couple hundred ugly brown
boxes going up in flames. The content pieces
(see the links below) tell all about the game
and its origins, for those curious about it.
The customers confounded us by snapping
them up instead to save them from a fiery
end. I was truly disappointed. They’re
probably pretty happy: it was a surprisingly
good game for a first effort and held up as
a design (though not graphically) for its
entire 12-year existence.
During the past couple of years that we’ve
had Daily Content, this one has generated
Second World War at Sea: Distant Oceans
The book supplement gave new scenarios for
all of the games then in print in the series,
but concentrated on what was then the newest
title, Bomb Alley. It has background
articles on Italian carrier programs, the
German helicopter carrier and the Royal Yugoslav
Navy. And scenarios for Eastern Fleet,
SOPAC and Midway for good measure.
This book will never see a reprint; while
it has some extra playing pieces (the Yugoslav
fleet), these are printed on the back cover,
a practive we’ve abandoned. Current
and future supplements will have any extra
pieces included as inserts of real, die-cut-and-mounted
ones just like the pieces in the boxed games.
This was our sequel to Blood on the Snow
(see below), another game set during the
Russo-Finnish “Winter War” of
1939-1940. This one covered the twin battles
of Tolvajärvi and Ilomantsi, and offered
a great challenge for both players.
The map for Blood on the Snow just
wasn’t very good; Winter Fury had
a much better one though still not as good
as we’d like. The biggest problem with
the Winter Fury map was its folding.
Some brain donor at the firm where it was
printed decided “must fit IN the box”
meant “same size AS the box” (they’d
even been given a sample box just to avoid
this problem). And as usually happens in such
cases, the map was the last part to arrive
and it came substantially later than the other
pieces, giving us the choice of “ship
it with a bent map” or “wait another
six weeks, pay for the box and counters and
rules in the interim and miss the summer con
season and tell the angry customers they can’t
have their game.” I decided to ship
it with a bent map so we could be around in
the future to make sure it never happened
again (now we fold them ourselves and yes
it’s just as hard as it sounds).
It’s a fine little game and I’m
very proud to have designed it.
Great War at Sea: U.S. Navy Plan Black
Plan Orange (see below) was a very
successful game for us, and so in 1999 we
made plans to release a companion game at
the same time as Great War at Sea: 1904
(also seen below). Plan Black was
initially offered only directly to consumers
from Avalanche Press, but heavy retail demand
eventually made us change those terms.
The game focuses on German and American plans
to fight a naval war in the Caribbean Sea
in the early 1920s, presuming a German victory
in the Great War. Each side’s plans
more or less mirrored the other’s, and
that made for a very nice set of scenarios.
While it’s been called an “alternate
history” game, I’ve never thought
of it that way since it’s based on actual
war plans. It is filled with ship designs
that were never launched, for both sides.
We’re as yet undecided if Plan
Black will ever return to the Avalanche
Press line-up; if it does, it will be in a
very different form since Plan
Gold sports a map covering all the
area of Plan Black’s and more
of Fire will have the Argentine and
Brazilian fleets (and much more of each).
Just why we put them in Plan Black, I
have no idea any more, but there was a reason.
The Mexicans just sort of showed up on the
counter sheet; the actual Mexican battleship
is in Plan Gold.
Panzer Grenadier: Tank Battles
Tank Battles represented a step in the evolution
of our current supplement line. Unlike Sinister
Forces, it does not have its own die-cut
and mounted playing pieces, instead relying
on cut-and-paste pieces printed on the back
The book lacked the tight focus of Sinister
Forces or Jungle Fighting; most
of the book is devoted to new scenarios Eastern
Front and the long out-of-print Heroes
of the Soviet Union. It also has historical
pieces on the Austrian Army of 1938 and German
Parts of it may be revised and re-issued
in other supplements in the future, but Tank
Battles as it currently exists won’t
During its existence, we did generate some
content for Tank Battles:
Brian Knipple designed Red Parachutes
at my request as the follow-up to Invasion
of Italy. He had several other games set
in the Italian theater (the Anzio landings,
the Canadian battles around Ortona, every
Allied army taking a crack at Monte Cassino)
but I felt it best that the series next move
to the Eastern Front. I don’t think
that was necessarily a bad decision, but perhaps
we should have built a following by producing
related games. Given that we’ve sold
them all or I wouldn’t be writing this,
I guess it wasn’t a bad choice after
Red Parachutes marked a definite step
forward graphically. Brien Miller’s
counters would hold up very well in today’s
market; 10 years ago, they were a sensation.
The box cover was a step up from the incredibly
ugly designs of the first two. The map is
very nice; no one ever believes that it’s
by the same artist who did Blood on the
Snow’s map. I fired the guy not
long afterwards for — well, that’s
best left between us. But I wouldn’t
have minded publishing a few more maps in
As a game, Red Parachutes is old-style
wargaming at its finest. Brian is an outstanding
designer of hard-core wargames, and this one
shows why. Whole rifle divisions disappear
in a single turn, nails are bitten, sweat
is shed, the outcome is constantly in doubt.
It was always a fairly expensive game, and
we produced a whole lot of them. I fondly
remember stacking cartons of this game in
my attic during the company’s earliest
days; seemed like they’d last forever.
Red Parachutes takes a place at the
fore of the Hall of Fallen Heroes.
Great War at Sea: U.S. Navy Plan Orange
The third game in this long-standing series,
U.S. Navy Plan Orange won the 1998
Origins Award as Best Historical Wargame.
It’s based not on an actual war, but
on the actual war plans of the United States
and Japan for a naval war in 1930. Each side
has a collection of warships available at
the time, plus some of those cancelled by
the Washington Naval Treaties of 1922. Plan
Orange also introduced rules for aircraft
into the series, and was noted for its American
The game began life at the suggestion of
Brien Miller, who had drawn a number of the
ships needed and wondered if I could design
a game around them. He also had the notion
that we should sell the game only direct to
consumers. And so we did, but later placed
it in general distribution.
Plan Orange enters the Hall of the
Fallen Heroes as our sixth-best-selling boxed
game. It went through three printings, and
also appeared in a Japanese-language edition.
Blood on the Snow
Though we’re noted for our naval games,
until the release of Third Reich this
one was our best-selling wargame (though it
does not touch the numbers of Survival
of the Witless). A small game covering
the epic battle of Suomussalmi in 1939-1940
between the Finns and Soviets, it was a very
popular player’s game that we might
need to re-issue someday.
Our second game ever, this one lasted 11
years before the last copy went out the door.
It also appeared in a Japanese edition.
The subject is the 1944 American invasion
of Leyte in the Philippines, site of Douglas
MacArthur's famous “I have returned”
landing. It’s a tense game; despite
overwhelming American firepower, the Japanese
player can use the jungles to advantage, make
kamikaze attacks, and has a small parachute
unit that can land behind American lines.
We did better game pieces here than in our
first effort, but they don’t hold up
against more recent work. They were also made
with recycled cardboard that resembles pressed
nuclear waste. The map was by Mark Simonitch,
no doubt one of the last ruby-film creations
ever published. The box art is fairly dreadful;
one of my most joyous moments at Avalanche
Press came when we sold thousands of sets
of components to a Japanese partner and I
got to jump up and down on the excess boxes.
What made MacArthur a winner was the outstanding
game system; Brian Knipple designed it but
I used it myself in several other games and
it’s the same game engine that drives
of Malaya. Each turn, the American
and Japanese players each select several “impulse
chits” detailing what their units can
do. “Full” is the best, and lets
units operate fully. They can also “Move”
or “Attack,” or pick a “Half”
chit which allows a limited combination of
The catch is that the Americans have more
and better chits, reflecting their superior
supply and command arrangements. The players
draw these chits several times to make up
a turn (the number of these "impulses"
varies with the weather), and it's possible
that one side (usually the Americans) will
get to operate several times while the other
only goes once. It’s an excellent means
to model asymmetric capabilities, and we’ll
no doubt use it in many more games in the
Survival of the Witless
Knowledge is Nothing. Tenure is Everything.
Our hottest-selling game was this card game
of the tenure process. It’s a brutal
game, where the most common card is “ass-kissing”
(to simulate the most common action in academia).
Three to eight players try to collect enough
writing cards and a contract to finish their
book, and enough influence with committee
members to win a tenure decision.
Design of the game helped defuse a lot of
pent-up rage, after I was released from my
teaching post for winning a teaching award.
Yes, you read that right. It made the other
professors unhappy, my department chairman
informed me, to have an untenured colleague
publicly elevated in such a fashion. He was
sure I’d understand.
In one of the sick twists that life provides
us, one of the students whose evaluations
helped win me that award, Shane Ivey, is now
the Web editor at Avalanche Press laying out
this page. By costing me that job he indirectly
led me to this one that in turn led to Shane’s
Both The New York Times and the
Chronicle of Higher Education profiled
the game, and that sparked huge sales through
non-game channels. The chairman of the blue-ribbon
panel reviewing the tenure system in Massachusetts
bought two dozen and handed them out to the
panelists, instructing them to play it. Several
universities adopted it as part of their graduate
student orientation, to display what sort
of life they might expect after receiving
their doctorates. And at least one case of
adultery was exposed through play of the “Seduction”
Survival of the Witless was incredibly
satisfying. It deserves an honored place in
Avalanche Press’ Valhalla.
Second World War at Sea: SOPAC
With the success of Great War at Sea,
we looked to branch out into World War
II. The first release in this line, SOPAC,
came out in late 2000 after serious production
delays. It had hard-mounted game boards, and
covered naval and air action in the Solomon
SOPAC proved very popular and spawned
a whole new series. Fans loved it, except
for the one guy who still sends me hate mail
because he believes someone promised him a
780-turn campaign game scenario.
Like North Sea, we’d like
to eventually replace SOPAC with
a new game featuring a full-sized map like
the other games in the series that will overlap
those from Strike
South and Leyte
Gulf. And we’d include new
game pieces to extend the scenarios into the
1943 actions in the Solomons.
Panzer Grenadier: Heroes of the Soviet Union
Our other flagship product line, Panzer
Grenadier, also debuted in 2000. The
first volume, Eastern Front, sold
out in 2003 and was replaced by the new Eastern
Front Deluxe Edition. That
makes Eastern Front ineligible for
Valhalla, but the second game in the series,
Heroes of the Soviet Union, does
deserve a place here.
Heroes was a compromise product
from the start and I was never really satisfied
with it. A shortage of art resources led to
its limitation to one countersheet, and that
with very few new counter images. We gave
it two mounted gameboards.
Given those limitations, Brian Knipple came
up with quite a good package of scenarios.
But when the game was gone, we decided not
to reprint it. We’ll replace it with
a new game, one with lots of new toys.
This was one of our finest d20 roleplaying
supplements. When it was named a finalist
for an Origins Award for best artwork, one
of the other nominees cried in frustration.
Some of the more self-absorbed among game
industry “professionals” emptied
their spleens and thesaurii in incoherent
It was pretty funny, to tell the truth.
Behind the cover lurked a pretty damned
fine pirate role-playing game. The book sold
out in less than six months, and Black
Flags remains one of our best product
concepts. If role-playing ever revives, we
have a nice expanded version ready.
Twilight of Atlantis
Another excellent Lorenzo Sperlonga piece,
this time gracing Jim Li’s take on Atlantean
culture. It’s a very fine supplement,
and it sold out in 2004.
Liz Fulda, these days our marketing director
but then working for Diamond Comic Distributors,
insisted at the time that Lorenzo based this
cover on her. It was an Origins Award finalist
for artwork, for layout, and as a supplement.
William Sariego, designer of our Defiant
Russia boardgame, wrote this one.
It has a great system for playing minor Norse
gods, and runic magic. We liked it so much
that when it sold out, we produced a much
expanded version as Viking
My personal favorite among the d20 line,
this was a sourcebook on the fringe of the
Norse world, the isolated colony of Greenland.
It also had an adventure where our heroes
try to find why the dysfunctional, inbred,
jealous and petty inhabitants of the frozen
wasteland keep disappearing. In other words,
it was an allegory for the wargame industry.
It was actually a good adventure, an Origins
Award finalist, and it sold out fairly quickly.
It was great fun skewering inflated egos,
rank stupidity and outright criminal behavior;
it was greater fun to realize that none of
the targets noticed but just about all of
the roleplaying professionals got the joke.
An outside submission, this came in needing
extensive surgery from our line manager, John
R. Phythyon Jr. The book contains a well-drawn
description of Camelot’s faded glory,
and has d20 stats for all of the tale’s
well-known characters. The centerpiece is
John Phythyon’s adventure.
The cover is by Terry Moore Strickland, as
we experimented with some beefcake rather
than cheesecake. Quite the handsome model.
This one, by staff writer Ree Soesbee, was
a pet project of our then-sales manager and
never quite seemed to take clear shape. It’s
not a settings book, but neither is it the
useful rules supplement it probably should
Noble Knights is probably the weakest
supplement we published. As originally planned
this should have been a supplement to a Crusades
sourcebook, and the utter depravity of these
religious wars would have handled the demands
for noble actions. In that combination the
book would have been quite useful.
It does have a great cover.
Another work by Ree Soesbee, this had the
potential to be the best book we put out.
The real reason we published it was because
my daughter, then five years old, wanted to
know, “How come you never make books
A finalist for the 2002 Origins Award for
Best RPG Supplement, Noble Steeds richly
deserved the honor. This was one of the best
products we’ve done.
Doom of Odin
Doom of Odin was John Phythyon’s
follow-up to our very successful Ragnarok
book. In the adventure portion of the book,
our heroes must solve riddles and rescue a
princess from dwarven captivity.
Lorenzo continued his pattern of painting
strong women. A few Internet people commented
snidely that our cover Valkyrie is not actually
about the loose her arrow as it’s on
the wrong side of the bow. But the rest of
the staff liked her; she’s a dead ringer
for the former sales manager here (especially
the snarl) and I could never quite get used
For this module, we went back to Egypt’s
ancient pantheon of gods and Old Kingdom culture.
The book was a difficult project and needed
extensive surgery to bring it up to standard.
For the first time, Lorenzo used the model
who quickly became our favorite, Veronika
Kotjalich. An art gallery owner by day and
former Playboy NSS model, Veronika
is also capable of a seemingly infinite number
of looks. She’s also one of the nicest
people we’ve ever worked with.
All For One, One For All
Without question, this was the weakest product
in our d20 line. It has extensive rules for
sword combat, paramours and other aspects
of 17th century life. These are very good;
if they weren’t, we wouldn’t have
published them in our Black Flags book
to begin with. The background needed even
heavier surgery than Nile Empire.
Lorenzo wanted to try another cover with
a male lead, and to create a sexy cover woman
relying more on expression and less on cleavage.
It’s a good piece, and the fact that
he finished it ahead of deadline is the biggest
reason this book wasn’t simply spiked.
Our last actual d20 book, and felt by many
to be our best. Conceived as a companion to
Age, it was also meant to
bring the campaign rules of Ragnarok
back into print.
Viking Age covered all aspects of
Viking society, with great detail on their
weapons, ways of war, everyday life, marriage
rules, laws and more. There are two systems
of magic detailed, including the creepy Norse
dream magic. There’s also ritual sex,
and that was damned fun to write.
Diana Knight, who’s modeled extensively
for comics and is the official spokesmodel
for the Las Vegas Fetish & Fantasy Ball,
is the cover model. Painting is again by Lorenzo
Vlad, the Impaler
Age won the Origins Award as Best
RPG Supplement of 2002, I’ve always
been partial to Vlad the Impaler as
the best piece in our RPG line. Of course,
I wrote it myself, but out of hundreds of
publications over the years, this is one of
the handful of which I’m most proud.
It was very satisfying both as a work of history
and as a game book.
The background is disturbing, and it was
meant to be. This is the real Vlad the Impaler,
and Wallachia was a cruel place. Much of the
background was based on Romanian-language
sources and a number of primary documents.
We received a fair amount of criticism for
the unvarnished look at evil, but we never
intended the book for children. A finalist
for the 2002 Origins Awards in two separate
categories, we were pleased that other professionals
recognized what we were trying to say.
The front cover, by Lorenzo Sperlonga, is
a disturbing piece of evil. The back cover
is by Terry Moore Strickland, another disturbing
piece as the devil birds of the Balkans, the
vukodlak, feast on the dead.
There were also numerous pieces from the
Romanian National Museum in Bucharest, images
I obtained in the early 1980s. A number of
these were destroyed during the 1989 uprising
that rid Romania of the modern Vlad, Nicolae
Ceausescu. Many have never been published
Ree Soesbee veered away somewhat from our
historical/mythological bent to pursue an
Arab-influenced desert setting. I was concerned
that this book hold a respectful view of Islam,
and Ree quieted those calms with her take
on the fantasy religion of the Endless sands.
The original cover painting was somewhat
more disturbing, as the standing model (contrary
to Internet legend, the model was not Ree
herself but the exquisite Veronika Kotjalich
once again) was armed with a scimitar and
about to lop the head off the reclining woman.
Her left hand originally also grasped a thick
handful of hair. The fallen woman is an original
composition by Lorenzo.
We felt the original went too close to the
violence toward women we utterly abhor, and
when this was pointed out Lorenzo quickly
revised the sketch. Lorenzo might just respect
women even more than he loves painting them,
and was horrified by the thought that anyone
might see the painting in that light.
Aztecs: Empire of the Dying Sun
The text for this one was written by Ree
Soesbee, in a straight historical take on
the Aztec Empire. It tells of their culture
from their own viewpoint, and Ree pulled off
the difficult task of putting human sacrifice
into an actual logical context.
The cover model once again is the lovely
Veronika. The background might be Lorenzo’s
best. I’ve never liked the painting
of Veronika as well as some of the others,
but it has a determined following who place
it at the top of Lorenzo’s portfolio.