I still check eBay and Craigslist off and on for special opportunities to add to my classic Avalon Hill game collection. At times, I wonder why I collect these things. The reality is, I will probably never play most of those games I possess again. And yet, my love affair for those games I thrilled over in my youth remains, and perhaps my collecting is driven purely by sentimentality. For whatever reason, I still look for these Avalon Hill games. And now that I have copies of most of the more popular (or more easily collectible) titles, it is a little rarer that I come across one I’d like to possibly get. For those games, the two main reasons I won’t (or can’t) purchase them is because they are either in a poor or incomplete condition, or because they are too highly priced. I can figure out the basic market price for a game at a given time, and a special opportunity is acquiring a decent copy of a game at a bargain.
All that said, last week I came across an Avalon Hill game for sale that I had never really heard about when I was a teenager, but in terms of popularity and playability today, I found it stood at position 324 on Boardgame Geek’s list of Hot Games. This ranking is calculated from ratings provided by the site’s users, and to give you an idea of this game’s significance, there are 95,960 games on the list. That would put this game in the 3/10ths of a percentile of all the games tracked on the list.
Not bad for a nearly 30 year-old strategy game.
Needless to say, the price asked for the game was well below it’s present market value, so I bit on it, and besides some clear packing tape on the game box’s top and bottom which would strip the print off of the surfaces if I removed it, the rest of the game was in splendid shape.
There is a unique local angle to my interest in this game as well, which surfaced for me when I first learned a little about how the game was developed.
When I was at UNM as an undergrad, one of the classes recommended for my program was some sort of classical history. I was interested in Greece and Classical Greek at the time, so I looked into a class on Greece and Rome offered by the history department.
The instructor of this course was legendary at UNM for his eccentricities, his periodic rants against Christianity and detours into tales of ribaldry and vulgarity from the ancient world, his long pony tail, his sophomoric humor, and his contrarian political pronouncements. He was himself an experience, this classical history professor. I had, at one time, thought that if he had gone into the hard sciences, he probably would have become a chemist, because he would have still been intrigued with the ignoble gases.
I took his class on the ancient empires. I passed, remembering little after the fact of what I learned during that course, except that, outside of some regular inflammatory or randy side stories, he loved to use his favorite Greek or Roman citizen, Testicles (pronounced “tes-ta-klees”), as a central figure in stories or examples within his discourses.
It turns out at one time he had an interest in helping develop a game that centered around political maneuvering in the Roman Empire.
His name was Professor Berthold.
It appears as a rookie game designer, he knew how to create a celebrated classic.