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GAMER ALLIANCE TIMELINE

GAMERS ALLIANCE TIMELINE

by Herb Levy

 

20 years is a long time to be publishing a magazine – ANY magazine. Given the track record of publications centering on games, in all modesty, 20 years is incredible! In looking back, we thought it would be interesting to see how we got from Point A to Point B. So, here is our timeline of events that have brought us to our 20th year.

The timeline actually breaks into two parts. From 1986 through 2001, GA REPORT was a hard copy publication (Volume 1). With the Winter 2002 issue, Gamers Alliance moved into cyberspace with Volume 2 of GA REPORT totally online!

Each issue of GA REPORT is filled with insightful reviews of games and more! Here are some of the highlights.

Fall 1986 – The first issue of GAMERS ALLIANCE REPORT appears with a Fall 1986 cover date. The issue was pounded out on a typewriter! (Remember those?) It consisted of 12 pages that set the template for what was to follow: an editorial, an information center for news about games and reviews – in this issue, 11 of them! Games featured in our inaugural issue included Avalon Hill’s Flight Leader, Nuke (a Risk-like game that added a level of nuclear terror to play), Pursue the Pennant (a sophisticated statistical baseball simulation) and Wildcatter (a nicely produced game of oil exploration). All of the reviews were written by me and the only graphics/photos that appeared were on the cover. A primitive issue by contemporary standards but a first step in the right direction.

Winter 1987 – Our second issue expanded to 16 pages and this time, a few graphics and a few more reviews, totaling 13 this time, were added. We featured Power:The Game, an excellent wargame without dice with elements of Diplomacy. (This review was later reprinted in issue 111 of the prestigious wargame magazine Strategy & Tactics). We also reviewed the two latest Sid Sackson games: Doorways to Adventure and Doorways to Horror. As to be expected with any Sackson game, the game play exceeded the medium of VCR games. Our feature on Therapy: The Game, a little gem of a game published by Gambit Games up in Canada, had unexpected results. Soon after our review, Pressman Games signed up the game for larger distribution. I still have the letter from the designer giving us credit in helping them make that deal! GA REPORT was starting to exert a little clout!

Summer 1987 – GA REPORT expands to 20 pages! Not a good idea as printing requirements made 16 pages a better fit. Still, the odd size allowed us to feature a new game called Pictionary as well as a game from West End Games which would become a cult classic: Kings & Things.

Fall 1987 – In launching our second year of publication, we kept the 20 page size despite resistance from our printer! 13 reviews in this issue including Tales of the Arabian Nights and the original Illuminati game.

Winter 1988 – A return to the standard 16 page format. Games featured included the latest in the Milton Bradley GameMaster Series, Shogun, as well as the return of a Sid Sackson classic: Bazaar from Discovery Games.

Summer 1988 – We tried a slick paper format with this issue. The experiment lasted two issues before we went back to standard stock.

Spring 1989 – A new feature is introduced: Game Classics. This was designed to highlight games no longer in print that were of superior quality. Our first honoree was Ploy from the esteemed 3M line of games.

Winter 1990 – Up until now, I was chief cook and bottlewasher, doing all of the reviews, editorials and any grunt work that needed to be done. With this issue, we welcomed another reviewer: Old Furface. Furface did a series of computer game reviews – not the “shoot ’em up” arcade variety but those that offered a more gamer-oriented perspective. His first review was of Mindscape’s The Colony. Furface would do a total of 34 reviews for GA REPORT before we made the editorial decision to phase out computer games and concentrate solely on non-electronic games.

Spring 1990 – Having grown up reading comic books with Batman a particular favorite, it was a great pleasure for me to actually feature the Dark Knight on the cover of this issue (to go along with a feature on the DC Heroes Roleplaying Game: 2nd Edition).

Fall 1990 – Another new review writer joins the fold and it’s no less than the legendary game designer Sid Sackson. Sid launches his “Sid Sackson Says” column for us with three reviews: Tetris (the Milton Bradley boardgame edition), Cue Me! and ASAP. Sid’s reviews always offered something special to our readers. In this case, his review of Tetris offered a play variation that improved the game! Sid would continue to write for us in his capacity as Contributing Editor for years doing 71 exclusive reviews in total.

Winter 1992 – This issue featured, among others, Adel Verpflichtet, the then new release by Avalon Hill, imported virtually intact from Europe where it won the Spiel de Jahres award (German Game of the Year) in 1990. This marked one of the early entries of European style games into the American market. Also, in this issue, a feature on Mayfair Games’ edition of Cosmic Encounter while Sid Sackson alerted our readers to an error in the Clue: Great Museum Caper Game that we discovered during playtesting. (On the thief plotting pad, the entrance to one of the rooms is in the wrong position!)

Summer 1993 – We informed our readers, with two very positive reviews, of a pair of releases from a new game company: White Wind. The games? Santa Fe and Elfenroads, both designed by Alan R. Moon. Both games attracted a strong following. Santa Fe would undergo a few changes and be re-released later in TWO different forms as Santa Fe Rails and Clippers (both of which would be featured in the Summer 2002 GA REPORT). Elfenroads would also be reworked and, as Elfenland, win the Spiel des Jahres in 1998. (Elfenland combined with its Elfengold expansion received featured treatment in the Spring 1999 GA REPORT.)

Winter 1994 – We featured and recommended a new type of card game: Magic, the Gathering. (The rest is history!)

Fall 1994 – Another new reviewer gets added: Steve Kurzban (aka Kban). Steve ran a Strat-O-Matic Baseball League on Long Island (as well as a backgammon club). His first review was on the Strat-O-Matic Computer Baseball Game (Version 5.0). Steve would later do a review on Power the Game: Computer Version for Windows in the Spring 1995 issue before shifting his focus to quality European games.

Winter 1996 – This issue sports “Our 10th Year” on the cover. Who knew???

Spring 1996 – Kban begins reviewing European “designer” games and starts with TWO reviews: Bakschisch and Reiner Knizia’s Tutanchamun. Steve would continue to do reviews on Euro style gaming chalking up 47 reviews in Volume 1.

Summer 1997 – Marty Goldberger, one time SPI game developer (Campaign for North Africa) and designer (Inkerman), offers a review of Genius Rules.

October 1997 – Gamers Alliance and GA REPORT get feature treatment in GAMES Magazine.

Spring 1998 – We feature what proves to be the start of a whole family of abstract games with our review of GIPF by Kris Burm. Kban chips in with reviews of three new European games including one by Reiner Knizia called Euphrat & Tigris and one by Doris und Frank called Ursuppe.

Fall 1998 – The first of the Mystery Rummy series designed by Mike Fitzgerald is featured in my review of Mystery Rummy Case No. 1: Jack the Ripper. This was a “fleshed out” review of what I wrote for GAMES Magazine. Kban uncovered a few European games that have since reached classic status: Medici and El Grande. Plus, we welcomed game designer Al Newman (Super 3, Babuschka, Tin Soldiers, Dynasties, Winds of Plunder etc.) to our roster of esteemed writers with his take on Richard Garfield’s Filthy Rich. Al would contribute 18 reviews to Volume 1.

Spring 1999 – I wrote a feature on a new adult party game called Apples and Oranges. I played it at the New York Internatinal Toy Fair and was immediately impressed. I called the game “one of the best new party games around”. But between the time the review was written and the game released for public consumption, the name of the game changed! The new name became Apples to Apples. But my opinion didn’t change. While the game’s name did not survive, my words did. You can still read them on the Apples to Apples box!

Fall 1999 – For the first time, we welcomed TWO new contributors in the same issue. Game developer Nick Sauer who reviewed Siesta and Button Men and (Professor) Dave Rapp who reviewed Brawl. Nick would contribute 4 reviews while Dave would write 13 reviews for Volume 1.

Summer 2000 – Game designer and developer Frank Branham joins us with a review of Chebache, an unusual backgammon variant.

Winter 2001 – Gamer Ward Ahders appears in our pages for the first time with his take on Java by Michael Kiesling and Wolfgang Kramer.

Summer 2001 – We review a little game that would become really big: Carcassonne.

Fall 2001 – Soaring costs in printing and paper make this the last “hard copy” of GA REPORT and the last issue in Volume 1. Among the final hard copy reviews: History of the World (Avalon Hill written by Herb Levy), Don (by Kban), Chrononauts (by Marty Goldberger), Bali (by Al Newman) and Ghost Chase (by Nick Sauer). Plus an announcement that starting with the Winter 2002 issue, GAMERS ALLIANCE REPORT would be totally online!

Winter 2002 – First issue of Volume 2 as GA REPORT moves into the 21st Century and becomes a totally online publication. Through the wonders of cyberspace, we now publish in full color! Even better, our savings in expenses enabled us to cut the GA membership cost by 80%! Another bunch of quality reviews appear to launch the new GA REPORT including contributions by Al Newman (Cape to Cairo) and Marty Goldberger (Manitou) as well as another entry in our Game Classics series: Sid Sackson’s Holiday.

Spring 2002 – Another new face joins the crowd: Greg Schloesser. Greg is one of the best known gamers on the internet, a games expert and the prime mover behind the International Gamers Awards. In forming the IGA, Greg invited me to become one of the original members of the IGA committee. Turnabout is fair play. I invited Greg to do a review for GA REPORT and he generously obliged. His first review for GA REPORT – Mexica – appeared in this issue. (And he hasn’t stopped there. Through the Summer 2005 GA REPORT, Greg has authored 19 reviews!)

November 2002 – With the passing of Sid Sackson, we publish a special issue of GA REPORT honoring this great and prolific game designer. Our special issue includes a comprehensive listing of Sackson game designs (compiled by Nick Sauer) as well as some of the reviews done by Sid for GA REPORT, GA REPORT reviews on Sackson designs, tributes from admirers and more!

Winter 2004 – Larry Levy joins the fold and contributes his first review for GA REPORT: Santiago.

July 2004 – Gamers Alliance hits the airwaves in Africa as I’m interviewed about games on South African radio!

Fall 2004 – First contribution by Ben Baldanza as he offers his views on Election USA.

Winter 2005 – Al Newman gives an exclusive “behind the scenes” look at designing his latest game: Winds of Plunder.

Summer 2005 – This issue finishes off our 19th year of continuous publication and primes us for the start of year 20! (By this time, I have written nearly 500 reviews!)

And with the Fall 2005 issue, we’re still going strong!


 

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Fall 2005 GA Report Articles

 

20 Questions: AN INTERVIEW WITH AL NEWMAN by Herb Levy (Al Newman is a game designer with an impressive resume. He's done computer designs, board games, card games and more. He's even graced the pages of GA REPORT with his own brand of insightful game reviews. As part of our 20th anniversary celebration, I played 20 questions with Al to get some of his insights ...
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Reviewed by Frank Branham (Fantasy Flight Games, 1-8 players, ages 12 and up, 2-3 hours; $49.95 ) Fantasy Flight is on an interesting tack. Not only do they create their own totally non-Euro massive adventure games, but they have started on a journey to resurrect a lot of classic 80's and 90's adventure games. This is the sort of stuff that people are paying literally ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Avalon Hill/Wizards of the Coast, 2 players, ages 12 and up, 30-90 minutes; Starter set - $24.99; Booster Packs - $14.99 each) Back in the 1970s, Milton Bradley produced a few mass market wargames. (Anyone here remember Chopper Strike? Or Tank Battle?) Without a doubt, they are best remembered for their nicely molded plastic pieces. With the success of Memoir 44 ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Eagle Games, 2-6 players, ages 10 and up, 3-4 hours; $59.99) Over 20 years ago, Milton Bradley unveiled its GameMaster Series. These big beautiful games consisted of three titles: Axis & Allies (a game that has maintained a large following and spawned several spin-off editions), Broadsides & Boarding Parties (a game of pirates and plunder that did not find such great ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Patch Products, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, about 30 minutes; $22.95) In our world, there are two kinds of people: those who play games and those who do not. The question for many of the first type is: How do you get the non-gamers over to our side? Despite the wealth of games out there, the push from non-gamer to ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Asmodée Editions, 2 players, ages 11 and up, 45 minutes; $29.99) I hate to admit this but I am one of those old enough to remember when Dungeons & Dragons was new. One of the pleasures of those old adventures was what became known as a "dungeon crawl" where a band of stalwart heroes (often accompanied by some of the less ...
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Reviewed by Kban (Jolly Roger Games, 2 players, ages 10 and up, 30-60 minutes; $21.95) If this were a court of law, I’d have to recuse myself for being friends with the author. Al Newman, along with GA President Herb Levy and I, are the heart and soul of LI Gamers, the playtesting arm of GAR. But truth be told, I hate playtesting any game ...
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20 and Counting It really is hard to believe. I mean, after all, where does the time go? Can it really be TWENTY YEARS since Gamers Alliance Report published its first issue? Yes, it can. I was always interested in games. Some of my earliest memories involve receiving a big Parker Brothers or Milton Bradley game as birthday presents. We played boardgames a lot in ...
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(In this issue, we feature Conquest of the Empire, a revised edition of the classic Milton Bradley GameMaster Series game. The edition features TWO versions of the game, one of which leans heavily on the game design of Struggle of Empires. Here is the game as we saw it in the Spring 2005 issue of GA REPORT.) Reviewed by Herb Levy (Warfrog, 2-7 players, ages ...
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FLASHBACK: TETRIS [No celebration of our 20th anniversary would be complete without acknowledging the contributions of legendary game designer Sid Sackson. Sid joined Gamers Alliance as a Contributing Editor quite early in our run and contributed regularly for years. (For more details, check out the GA Timeline.) His first column (titled "Sid Sackson Says") appeared in the Fall 1990 GA REPORT. Sid did THREE ...
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GAMERS ALLIANCE GAME CLASSICS Hall of Fame One of the popular features that appear in Gamers Alliance Report is our Game Classics series. In this series, we feature quality games that, for various reasons, sunk into relative obscurity. These games were deserving of a better fate. Here are the 20 games (listed in alphabetical order with publisher, dates of publication and GA REPORT issue in ...
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(Reiner Knizia has carved out a reputation for quality game designs and plenty of them. But not all of them have made a big splash in the marketplace as they missed out on the recognition some of us believe they deserve. In this installment of Game Classics, Larry Levy sets his sights on one of the lesser known Knizia card games: Ohio. ) OHIO (Jumbo, ...
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GAMERS ALLIANCE TIMELINE by Herb Levy 20 years is a long time to be publishing a magazine - ANY magazine. Given the track record of publications centering on games, in all modesty, 20 years is incredible! In looking back, we thought it would be interesting to see how we got from Point A to Point B. So, here is our timeline of events that have ...
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by Paul Sauberer I am not a game designer, publisher, or developer. Now, however, I am a “Game Historian”. What unlikely series of events led to the creation of this term, much less my actually becoming one? Let’s start by turning the clock back to circa 1979-1980. Disco is dying and polyester leisure suits are mercifully falling out of fashion. Yet amid this cultural upheaval, ...
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(In this issue, we are pleased to welcome Paul Sauberer to our pages. Paul grew up in Annapolis, Maryland and was a fan of Avalon Hill games back in the 1970s, when he first got 1776 at a local toy store. Once he got his drivers' license, he made frequent trips to the AH offices in Baltimore to buy games directly. Paul also played sports ...
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Reviewed by Greg. J. Schloesser (Goldsieber, 2-4 players, ages 11 and up, 45-60 minutes; about $30) Stefan Dorra may not be as prominent as more famous designers such as Reiner Knzia, Wolfgang Kramer or Klaus Teuber, but through the years, he has quietly been producing some wonderful games. Included amongst these titles are such games as Tonga Bonga, Medina, For Sale and Zum Kuckuck (aka ...
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Reviewed by Frank Branham (Avalon Hill/Wizards of the Coast, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, 60-90 minutes; $45) "Sparkly!" That was how I greeted the demo kit Avalon Hill sent out at my local game haunt. In reply I received a forest of groans. When you look at the production of this hardcore s/f sort of mining colony outpost wargame is all looks quite...precious. The ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Tailten Games; 2 players, ages 9 and up, 30-45 minutes; about $40) Inspiration comes from many sources. For Murray Heasman, inspiration from Ireland's Celtic heritage and the patterns found in the Book of Kells has yielded Project Kells, a beauty of an abstract game. Project Kells comes with a board, 6 kings, 6 variant cards, an illustration sheet, a rules booklet ...
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(In this issue, we welcome Rob Schwartz to our pages. Rob enjoys gaming in general and "game breaking" in particular. Rob has the knack of finding the holes in the system that enable him to either show why a game doesn't work or romp to victory or BOTH! In his first contribution to GA REPORT, Rob rallies around this new release from the new ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Queen Games/Rio Grande Games; 2 players, ages 8 and up, 30-45 minutes; $24.95) For some reason, there has been a flood of two player games appearing lately. Whether this trend is just an anomaly or the start of something big, only time will tell. In the meantime, one of the more interesting entries in this recent deluge comes from Stefan Feld ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Rio Grande Games/ Ravensburger, 2-6 players, ages 8 and up, about 30 minutes, $29.95) Sometimes a game surprises you. That's Life (aka Verflixxt in its original Ravensburger edition in Europe) arrived as a dice game. But a dice game with only ONE die?!?! Seems strange. But in the talented hands of Wolfgang Kramer & Michael Kiesling, the game takes on more ...
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