July 24, 2021

#UnboxingDay! ~ Raid on St Nazaire

Michael Eckenfels, 15 July 2021 ~ #UnboxingDay

I don’t have many Grail games, to be honest. I’ve found that buying more games than I can ever possibly hope to play makes very little sense the older I get, so I thought a massive trade with a wholesaler in the Midwest was in order. Surprisingly my trade fetched quite a bit of credit, and my lack of Grail games was pronounced so much that I didn’t even think of buying Raid on St. Nazaire, which is easily one of them.

When I first saw this title it was back in the mid-to-late 80s at my local comic/game store haunt, The Dungeon, in old San Antonio. It’s no longer there, unfortunately – went out of business in the 90s, if I remember right – but many a day and paycheck were spent in that store. I could swear I saw this title a time or two but it did not click with me at the time, even though I was all about solo games back then. They were so few and far between that I can’t understand today why I never snatched this one up. I’d see it talked about over the coming years and the amount of love and respect this title had with the wargaming public. Quite a dossier of coverage it has received, and it became one of my few Grail games.

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click images to enlarge

Fast forward to my recent trade and here we go – managed to snag a copy of this title, about 75% unpunched to boot. I was floored that I had this opportunity and was quite happy to grab a copy of it. 

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The box has a bit of shelf wear, but hey, it looks pretty darned good for being as old as it is. I would have guessed my copy came from a production run in the 1980s, but I was incorrect about that. In any case, the display on the back makes for good reading – and how ‘bout that Solitaire Suitability rating, huh?

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Opening the box, I was greeted with a handful of small baggies sporting a few counters, organized apparently by color. Whomever owned this one before me wanted to give it the attention it deserved, but could not, for whatever reason.

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A close-up of these punched counters. And they’re not even rounded! We might have to do something about that (cue cacophony of wails from those that hate rounding corners).

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Ah, the rules manual. Good old Avalon Hill…and yes, I mean ‘old’ in this case, considering me and this book, both. 

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I’m not sure how many colors they printed their rules with, but I’m guessing four. I know squat about printing but do recognize classics, including those arrows and each of the counters being given its own overview right out of the gate.

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More manual goodness. Avalon Hill’s standard was two columns, I think, though I could swear I’ve seen three-column ones before – I could be wrong about that, I have so few Avalon Hill titles now (though I’m working on that, too). I do enjoy the rules paragraphs starting with a CAPITALIZZED ITALIC statement – that’s a part of my growing up years, there.

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A close-up of those responsible for the game. I’m terrible with names, and especially bad with developer and designer names (with a handful of exceptions). The only one I recognize really is Bruce Shelley’s name, a game designer that worked on a lot of classic computer games back in the late 80s to early 90s, and he’s still going strong today, apparently. Though, I do recognize Charles Kibler as being an artist as well, and if I remember right, quite a productive and talented one. I wish I was better at this.

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Near the end of the book, we have the omnipresent advert for The General, Avalon Hill’s magazine back in the day. You could be guaranteed of getting a magazine absolutely loaded with fascinating tidbits relating to Avalon Hill’s massive library of products, and it was something I didn’t buy often, but when I did, I’d read it cover to cover.

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The Game Log is actually quite thick with unused sheets, which is pretty awesome. Few game developers do that anymore.

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And here we have the Games and Parts List, another standard inclusion in any AH game from back in the day. I didn’t take many pictures of the insides as it would be just too depressing – I mean, look at those prices here – ten bucks for a replacement mapboard? HA – good luck finding one for THIS game (or any old school AH game for that matter) for less than ten bucks. (I’m sure it’s doable in some cases, but wow, those were different days.)

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And this, the only other picture of the inside of the Games and Parts List that I took because it caught my eye, is why I realized my copy was probably made in the mid-90s. It’s advertising a 1996 then-upcoming Avaloncon convention. ‘Avaloncon’ has a completely different meaning today as it is the name of a paranormal and magick/occult convention in the UK. 

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Here’s a partially punched counter sheet. It’s funny how close these counters remind me of the original Squad Leader. I did play SL back in the day, but always solo as I never could find opponents, and I never made the jump to ASL.

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Raid On St. Nazaire comes with three absolutely beautifully illustrated mounted boards.

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If you compare this look with a current map you can see how it was painstakingly reproduced for our gaming pleasure. 

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And here’s the last bit – Do A Friend A Favor, along with the registration card for the game. You could also send then two bucks for a “large full-color catalog” – does anyone have one of those anymore? It might be an interesting article to check that out. 

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So speaking of The General, when I picked up this game I went ahead and picked up a copy of this as well. I figured I may as well go all in and get something loaded with articles on this very game. And herein is the bonus content – me slinging a few pictures of this around in the hopes that you guys will enjoy a trip down memory lane. Maybe not just for this game, but also The General in…general.

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The back of the magazine is a full-page ad for this very game…because why not? It’s fascinating to me to see the old address listed here, as well as the old phone number. A quick search in Google Maps will bring up this space, but it’s a rather depressing view. The parking lot is cracked with growths of grass pushing through, and the entire complex looks abandoned. One side sports a crudely-scrawled message in spray paint to not dump trash in the area. Time marches on, I suppose. And don’t bother with the number, though I didn’t call it – another online search netted nothing but old articles and advertisements which makes me think it’s not a number in use, though I can’t imagine that to be the case.

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Alright, alright, enough of that, back to the magazine. The copyright date is 1988, which was 33 years ago as of this writing. Sigh.

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Even though I never messed with ASL, I know more than a few of you have lots of love for that game, so I thought you might get a kick out of seeing this – ASL GAP, or ASL Game Assistant Program. What a novel concept back in the day, and what a truly horrendous GUI this would be today. And it only cost $25, which in 1988 dollars is $55.98 today (there’s a pretty cool inflation calculator online that’s easily found if you’re ever curious).

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Here we go; now we’re getting into the meat of things. The Operation Chariot article gives a very good historic account of the actual raid.

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Next up is A Travel Guide to St. Nazaire, which is a guide for newcomers to the game. This will be very useful, I expect.

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And now we have an article that, in incredible detail, analyzes the Naval aspect of the game (Running The Gauntlet: The Royal Navy in Raid On St. Nazaire).

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Next is a Series Replay, which is an AAR, and a very detailed and interesting one. 

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Even more interesting is an entire article, Variations On A Raid, which gives you a whole list of optional rules for the game and adding a lot of ‘what if’ potential all around.

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Here we go. We can’t flip a few pages without running into some ASL propaganda, can we? Just kidding. Yet again, I figured aficionados would appreciate seeing this. It looks far too analytical (read: anal) for my tastes, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good time for someone!

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Ah, an Opponents Wanted section. This was your way of finding like-minded AH gamers back in the day, other than maybe running into someone at the game store. The Contest was also interesting, though I never participated in these. I did a few times when I had a subscription to Armchair General many years ago, and actually won one of them, and I remember thinking I couldn’t be that smart and they might not have had many entries.

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A 1988 General Reader’s Survey shows how Avalon Hill was invested in gamer feedback, even to the point of offering a two-dollar discount on orders of ten dollars or more. Hey, two bucks was a lot of money back then. Though, say THAT to the darned kids on your lawn while you’re chasing them off, and you’ll likely just be wasting your breath.

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Hey, look! An ASL scenario! Looks like an interesting scenario, too.

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And another one. Of course. You ASL guys just love this stuff!

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Here’s an interview with Bill Peschel, whom was responsible for producing AH computer games. 

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Here’s a picture of him as well as a brief bio. It’s like a slice of history.

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And The General being The General, not all articles are going to be focused on just the game on the cover. It made for great reading to check out other games, not to mention serving as something of a marketing tool, too! 

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It’s funny, I never really thought about having a copy of the old Fortress Europa, but checking this piece out makes me want one. I really like the clean counter art and the simple map design. See? SEE?!? Thirty-some years later and their marketing STILL works…

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And Third Reich even gets some play.

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There’s an ad for Open Fire, a Victory Games title. VG made Ambush! back in the day, one of my all-time favorites (and way, way too expensive to want to get a copy of, at least for now). Open Fire, though, I didn’t care much for as it used too-obvious ‘points’ on the map that you’d have to enter to generate an event. I know Ambush was a heckuva LOT of hard work on the developer’s parts back then, and this was probably a LOT easier to make, but Ambush was a thing of beauty because you truly never knew what was going to happen with each hex your soldiers entered; here in Open Fire, you knew you were pretty much safe until you entered one of those marked hexes. Not anywhere near the same tension, unfortunately. But, completely understandable.

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A Squad Leader Clinic which dives deeply into halftrack use in the game.

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And there’s a Question Box to flesh things out, adding some Q&A to a game in the days long before BoardGameGeek.

I hope you enjoyed going through this as much as I do in sharing it. Now, I just need to get Raid to the table…


Thanks for joining this month’s #UnboxingDay with the Armchair Dragoons and we hope you enjoyed our recon of our recent acquisitions.
You can always leave us your feedback in our #UnboxingDay thread, or in the comment area on this article, below.
The regiment also occasionally musters on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and occasionally at a convention near you, once we’re allowed to hold them again.

Brant G

Editor-in-chief at Armchair Dragoons

View all posts by Brant G →

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