Brant Guillory, 27 April 2023
As Thursday rolled around, we had a meeting lined up with Renegade Game Studios for a chat before the exhibit hall opened. Jordan joined us for an hour-long discussion around their plans for some of their Avalon Hill licenses – Diplomacy, Axis & Allies, Acquire, Robo-Rally, and most importantly, Squad Leader. One surprising development that Jordan relayed, and that not many people seemed to realize,1 was that Hasbro approached them. Renegade did not knock on Hasbro’s door and ask to take over Squad Leader; Hasbro offered it as a part of a group of games.
Diplomacy is already out (see our pictures from Tuesday).
The A&A line is already rolling.
Squad Leader is a little further away.
Renegade have already released Axis & Allies 1941, 1942, and 1940 Europe and 1940 Pacific and are currently taking pre-orders on the second release of all four, plus Axis & Allies 1914, which is projected for an August release2. The next two titles in the queue were both voted on by the community and fans. Renegade’s plans were to re-release one older A&A title, and also to roll out one brand new one. The new one should be coming in early-to-mid-2024, and will cover North Africa (exact title TBD). The reprint will be Guadalcanal and will come out after the North Africa game.
With regards to Squad Leader, there were a few things emphasized.
First, we’re not going to see anything in 2023, and probably not in early 2024, either. Squad Leader is behind several A&A games already in the queue.
Second, Renegade has plans for an extensive audience engagement in advance of any decisions about the final contents and scope of the planned releases. Jordan noted over and over that Renegade’s plan is not to build an entirely new game and slap the Renegade name on it, but rather to reach out to longtime players (who, let’s face it, are largely ASL players these days) and gather information about what worked, what didn’t, what should stay, what could be improved, and what scope they should cover. They seem very committed to following the template they used with their A&A relaunch, which involved a lot of discussion with the audience well in advance of any design, scope, or artwork decisions.
Obviously, Jordan is representing Renegade and going to put the best spin on things for the company. That said, the general response among the A&A community has, so far, been largely positive, so if they can follow the same playbook with Squad Leader, or any other future Avalon Hill revivals, things might work out just fine.
Back at the Renegade booth, I snagged some pictures of their games that are not Diplomacy, since we showed you that one already. I was able to crack the lid on the new A&A 1914 but there wasn’t room to really unfold it or lay much out.
After the sitdown with Jordan from Renegade Game Studios, it was time to show everyone what a maze this place can be. We walked from the main lobby outside the exhibit hall, where the registration was and where the GAMA staff could be found, down through the halls to where most of the presentations and seminars were held. We couldn’t get back up the far stairs into the ballroom where the retailer luncheon and game nights were held, as the hotel had blocked it off.
As noted on the video, once you got down near the conference rooms, the smell of cigarette smoke took over, because you were right above the casino, and while you’re not allowed to smoke in most of the building, the casino would have to shut down if the 73-year-old pickled grandmothers who smoke like a ’68 Dodge with a bad tailpipe weren’t allowed to dump their social security checks into Wheel of Fortune slots.
That new exhibitor showcase were a bunch of smaller companies, most with only 1-2 products, who were at GAMA Expo for the first time. It was nice to give them a dedicated space to show off, and a time that didn’t compete with the exhibit hall, but it was still a pain to get to, as you can see above.
There were still people in the exhibit hall we hadn’t yet chatted with, or that we’d met before but stupidly didn’t get photos of yet. We had a nice chat on Wednesday with Josh from 1First Games, the sister company of the recently-resurrected 1First Comics3 and publisher of a bunch of new games, including The Boys: This Is Gonna Hurt (which we’d previously showcased on #UnboxingDay back in October). Yes, the games like Inns & Outcasts and Apothecary were cool, but the real highlight was finding out from Jon that the idea of a live-action GrimJack TV series is well within the realm of possibility, even if it’s not likely to happen before The Boys wraps up first.
Apothecary looks like a good combination of set-collecting and screw-with-your-friend as you all take the roles of plague doctors trying to craft various healing potions before the Bubonic plague strikes, and Josh was quite enthusiastic about it.
There was also a stop at the reborn R. Talsorian Games, with their massive reboot of the Cyberpunk franchise, as well as their Witcher games. What we couldn’t get out of anyone, however, was any sort of comment about when Castle Falkenstein was coming back. In fact, merely discussing within earshot of Cody Pondsmith resulted in an admonishment that absolutely nothing, at all, in any way shape or form, was even remotely announced about Castle Falkenstein and that we were not to take any statement at all about the game as any sort of admission that there were any future Castle Falkenstein products anywhere in development or even under consideration. We’re not 100% sure, but it seemed like there was a wink and a nod behind that statement, but we don’t want to put insinuations where they weren’t.
The R. Talsorian booth also included a very impressive minis display for all sorts of modern or near-future shootouts, and all those high-rise builds peel off at every floor for interior battles.
Of note, we steered very wide of the WotC booth so as not to accidentally end up on their Pinkertons’ hit list. Hell, we may have already said too much.
Checking out, it’s off the airport for the overnight flight back to Columbus and then up & moving to get to our events for Buckeye Game Fest. It was a little weird saying “goodbye” to old friends & new, and then following up with “see you in a few weeks” but Origins is under 2 months out.
Overall, GAMA Expo was a huge success for us for this year. There are a bunch of new industry connections, and getting involved at this level of the industry does give us a level of visibility with publishers, designers, stores, and GAMA that we wouldn’t’ve otherwise come anywhere close to. What we do with it is still uncertain, but it’s a bit of political capital in the bank, and that never hurts.
We’ll get around to talking about the wargaming industry’s (lack of) involvement another time, because there’s a lot to say. But for now, let’s just take a nap on a redeye out of Vegas try not to think about having to go back to work on Monday.
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IF YOU ENCOUNTER A COUNTER CASTING A HEX IN A HEX
AND YOU COUNTER THE HEX WITH A COUNTER-HEX IN THAT HEX DURING THE ENCOUNTER,
AND YOU HAVE TO COUNT HOW MANY HEXES ARE IN THE HEX DURING THE ENCOUNTER
ARE YOU PLAYING A HEX-AND-COUNTER WARGAME?