I was in high school back in the 1980's. It was a magical time in gaming that hasn't been matched. It was a time of pioneers, innovation and fun that laid the foundation for literally everything that we all enjoy today. Other than the original D&D which led the way for traditional table top role-playing, mass production board games were primarily the province of kid games. Of course you had SPI, Avalon Hill and a few others that were into the specialty games, but they were not mass marketed to the public at large.
In 1984 my grandmother had made a trip from Michigam to visit our family in Texas, of course I didn't know it at the time, but it was the last time I saw her. All in all it was a good visit, she always had an interest in my nerdy obsessions. After all, this was the lady who took me to see the first Star Wars movie in '77. The only other thing I will mention about her in this article was that the woman LOVED to shop and spoil her grandkids.
That being said, we were on one of our shopping trips at the mall and came acroos a game called Broadsides and Boarding Parties. Friggin pirates?? She could see by the look in my eye that this sparked something, something dark and nerdy. Of course, being the dutiful, loving grandmother she was I ended up walking out the door with it. I still have that game (complete, though slightly worn) today on one of my many shelves.
These games were beautiful as well as easy to learn and play. They taught strategy, tactics and planning. I ended up owning the entire series with Conquest of the Empire and Axis & Allies following soon after.
In total the Gamemaster Series of board games consists of five war simulation games released by the game company Milton Bradley beginning in 1984.
The original Milton Bradley Gamemaster Series included:
Axis & Allies (1984)
Conquest of the Empire (1984)
Broadsides and Boarding Parties (1984)
Fortress America (1986)
The first three games were designed by Larry Harris, while the last two were designed by Mike Gray, though neither were credited for their creations until their subsequent re-releases. Of these five, Axis & Allies was the most successful, spawning several revised versions, spinoffs, computer games, and a miniature game series, though Conquest of the Empire, Fortress America, and Shogun also saw some success. Broadsides and Boarding Parties was the most significant departure from the strategic focus of the other titles in the series, instead featuring a two-player duel between naval vessels.
The rights to four of the five games in the series are currently held by Hasbro. Though all five games were released under the Milton Bradley umbrella, by the 1990s Axis & Allies was the only game being continually updated. In 1999, Milton Bradley's parent company, Hasbro, moved Axis & Allies to its Avalon Hill imprint, which specialized in board wargames. In 2004, Avalon Hill was made into a subsidiary of Wizards of the Coast, another Hasbro imprint that specialized in board games for a more dedicated "gamer" audience. Shogun is also currently published by Avalon Hill, but retitled Ikusa.
Axis & Allies now has countless iterations as well as naval, land and airplane versions of miniature games. All are tons of fun and highly recommended. We will be breaking thes out at the Council of Intrepid Adventurers Game Days coming up. If you ever get a chance to play I can't recommend them enough.
Til Next Time
-Redneck Game Gawd