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Up Front or – the never ending story?

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on May 5, 2015

144825The wargame community is again in high hopes for a new Up Front because the news is out that Wargame Vault has permission to do at least a strict reprint of the original game. So it seems that rights-holder Hasbro (owner of Wizards of the Coast and Avalon Hill) is aware now (after the Valley Games Kickstarter desaster) that the demand for this classic wargame is there and has allowed Wargame Vault to digitally re-master the second edition of Up Front and to offer it through their card printing program.

Folks already discuss the news in forum postings and wonder whether this is a hot deal or not so have in mind that in fact what you get here is a pure reprint of the game, so no new rules, no errata worked in and still the original graphics on the cards. It’s a kind of print on demand model and for about 50 bucks you get the game you want to play and that’s fine – given that Up Front in very good condition (or even mint/new etc.) can easily cost you 100 USD or more you might even call this a hot deal indeed.

Still, even with this strict reprint of the game and the proclamation that Wargame Vault has the permission of the rightsholder Hasbro to offer this there seems to be some legal issues regarding these rights –

Rodger MacGowan who was the artist of the original design is suprised to see this offer on the Wargame Vault website since Hasbro has never contacted him regarding the use of any of his Avalon Hill artwork or logo graphic designs which simply means they don’t own the rights to use it…

I don’t think it’s impossible to sort this out and they don’t offer the gamebox for exact the reason that they don’t own the rights of that artwork but since they use it on their website to offer the game it doesn’t seem to be good business manners and they use his logo design on the backs of the cards which clearly is violating his rights…so all is not cut and dried yet.

It’s a shame that  Up Front, this alltime classic and innovative game design is so often in the news lately…but always with a bad taste. It deserves to see the light in a modern new style so new gamers can see for themselves why the old grogs adore this gem of a game so much but it can be doubted that this will happen anytime soon.

Until then this reprint is the only option you have if you don’t want to hunt down the game on ebay etc. and here’s what you get for your money:

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Up Front 2000… announced for 2013?

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on August 22, 2012

Just in case you didn’t notice the earthquake that shook the (wargame) world today, here are a few words on that.

Valley Games, a small game company that also has a few wargames in their portfolio today announced on Board Game Geek that they will publish a reprint of one of the all time classics of our hobby: Up Front – The Squad Leader Card Game

The game was published 1983 and till this day is one of the favorite games of probably the majority of wargamers. Its brilliant design, innovative aspects, simulation value and smooth gameplay was the reason that it won so many friends. The licence was given to MMP by Hasbro (holding the rights to Avalon Hill games) years ago and the well known ASL publisher tried for years to get a reprint done  – without success. It was said that although they got the licence to republish it, Hasbro still had the rights and obviously had different ideas what to do with the game – fact is despite a project Up Front 2000, which was the supposed date for publishing the reprint, this name became sort of a placeholder even after the year 2000 and now the time for a possible reprint by MMP is over. So it seems that the licence is given to Valley Games now and this company says they want to do a kick starter project to finance the reprint.

Valley Games is very excited to announce that we have been offered the opportunity to produce Up Front. In association with the original designer, Courtney Allen, we will reproduce this classic title with improved and enhanced rules, new artwork and new graphic design. We will use Kickstarter to fund the project with a planned launch date of December 2012. More information to come as we get closer to the launch date. (Rik Falch)

After all these years when we thought the reprint is actually never gonna happen and after a big name in the wargaming world failed to get it done for whatever licence or contract reasons and problems with Hasbro, now a small company, not even really deep into wargames let alone consims, just announces ‘we will do it’. But it’s not news that is to be found on their official website, which is kinda strange,  just a thread on the BGG  forum – that you can find here

It sounds unbelievable but of course we also hope that this is true and that a new Up Front will be for sale in the near future. But it will depend of course what they do with this game, so we wouldn’t advice anybody to sell their copy of the classic game now as some do on the internet (‘sell the game before it will lose its value, you won’t get anything for it when the new version is out’) because even if a new version is coming, we don’t know whether it will be the same game we so love or something completely different with the same name.

‘Improved and enhanced rules’ can mean anything and of course the rules of UF are not perfect (but they are not that ‘bad’ either as some seem to think they are) so improvement is always possible and certainly desirable. What they mean with ‘enhanced’ rules we will have to see…new artwork is great because when we consider how cool for example the LCGs by FFG look then Up Front could really shine on the table if done right. Design…shouldn’t mean to redesign the game as a whole however, because it just works.

What we definitely don’t want to see is a watered down version of the game, we don’t want to play an Up Front where there is no Relative Range used anymore – a fantastic concept, but some players seem to have problems to understand how it works. Enhancing could mean to get rid of this core concept to make it ‘easier’, to attract more players. Chits could be larger and more colorful, redesigning the game so it doesn’t ‘need’ any chits anymore would be a mistake. Some cards –  representing the soldiers – in Up Front get flipped when their morale breaks and then they have different combat values, so both sides are printed. In CCGs and LCGs these days cards are ‘tapped’ when something happens and we wouldn’t consider this a necessary step in a redesign, flipping is just fine, it works. Perhaps all this is not gonna happen and what they do is just polishing the game, not changing it in essential aspects, but such thoughts come up when you are a fan of this classic.

That Cortney Allen, the designer of Up Front, is part of the team doing the reprint design is of course wonderful news and hopefully this will be enough to prevent changes the fans don’t want – and the game doesn’t need. There’s probably no wargame out there that is that perfect than Up Front, it just needs a little polish here and there in the rules, streamlining of some concepts, a state of the art presentation and the base game and the expansions all done in one style to transform it into the Holy Grail of Wargaming. No game came ever that close to this, that’s what we actually think.

So lets hope that after so many years we all can indeed sell our old version of this gem of a game  in the near future because the reprint is true to the innovative and brilliant design we know and love to play. But Valley Games will have to convince us with their product and so we’ll stick to the old version with all the worn out cards and play classic Up Front until we can actually see what’s up with this new Up Front – if it ever gets published.

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Up Front – no new version from MMP!

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on March 8, 2011

Up Front Status

Recently, we were able to agree with Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro on extending a number of the licenses that we hold from them. Unfortunately, with the status of Up Front in the air, that license was not continued. WotC/Hasbro could not estimate when, if ever, they would be able to work through the legal issues surrounding ownership of that game that have prevented us from producing anything for the last five years. We regret that we will not be involved in the future of Up Front. We are very grateful to Andy Maly and Ken Smith for all the hard work that they put into Up Front for us. It was a pleasure working with them, although the results did not pan out. We are big fans of Up Front, and we hope it is able to thrive somewhere else.

That’s a statement recently posted by Brian Youse over at CSW and really bad news, because as we all know Up Front is one of the best card wargames ever designed and a very innovative  and thrilling game. The so called Up Front 2000 project (the plan to publish a new updated and completely overhauled version of the classic game) has been on hold for several years so that nobody really believed it would ever happen, but there’s always this 1% of hope that it will happen anyway – and that hope is now completely dead. Given the situation Brian describes above it seems to be fact now that no reprint/reproduced version will come out and  I would suggested that everybody who owns a copy of the classic UF game should by all means keep it and everybody not having it on the shelf should get a copy as soon as it appears on their radar.

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Review: The World at War (Xeno Games)

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on May 7, 2010

Publisher: Xeno Games
Published in: 1990
Designers: Frank W. Zenau, William Kendrick
Era: World War II
Contents: > 200 plastic playing pieces, a new map, rules, new set up charts

HFC Game-O-Meter: E

Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 2
Rules: 1
Replay Value:
Overall Rating:

PRO Perfect gift to enemies and annoying people; educational value as a deterrent
CONTRA Too expensive, too horrible. Horrible rules, miniatures, map. Scary. Terrifying. Highly explosive.


A World at War is an expansion to the well-known Axis & Allies game. It was published by Xeno Games and its intention is to bring “more depth and strategic options” to the game. It isn’t too successful, though, because it does everything plainly wrong.

Axis & Allies certainly belongs to the most played games of all time and the game eventually developed into a series of games using the same mechanics and the same WWII background. Today you can play Axis & Allies Revised, Pacific, Europe, Battle of the Bulge and many more offshoots:

* Axis & Allies – the Game
* World at War 1st Edition
* World at War 2nd Edition
* World at War 3rd Edition
* World War II – the complete Game
* Axis & Allies Europe
* Axis & Allies Europe 2nd Edition
* World War II – the Expansion
* World War II – the Expansion 2
* World War II – the Expansion 3
* Europe at War
* Russia at War
* Axis & Allies Accessory
* Central Powers
* New World Order
* Axis & Allies East & West
* Middle East Combat
* Dateline: World War II
* War to end all Wars
* Battle of the Falklands
* The great War in Africa
* Axis & Allies Trade
* Europe 1483
* Africa 1483
* Asia 1483
* North American Update
* Max Advanced Rules 1
* Max Advanced Rules 2
* Spanish Civil War
* Axis&Allies Enhanced Realism Rules
* Game Plastic Pieces
* World War II in the West
* Axis&Allies Pacific
* Enemy on the horizon
* Risk 2042
* Operation Barbarossa
* Axis & Allies von Nova-Games
* Eastern Front
* Modern Units for World at War
* More Units your World at War
* Rise of the Red Army
* Battlecards
* Conquest of the Pacific
* World War I
* WW II in the West
* Pacific at War

and much more. Some of the offshoots are really nice and of a very high quality. Some are plainly horrible – and the worst of all is Xeno’s World at War.

Graphic Presentation

TWAW contains a new collection of rules, a new game board, as well as additional armies, markers and chips.

see that ugly light blue? Armies with that colour are doomed to lose...

The colors of the partaking nations of the original A&A are similar but not quite the same which is very disappointing (Germany (grey), Japan (yellow), USA (green), England (beige) and Russia (brown)) plus France (blue) and China (white or light green). It is important to mention that there are mainly new armies (France & China) included and only few of the original nations are supported, i.e. without the pieces of the original Axis & Allies game, TWAW is rather useless. So it’s really an expansion and not a stand-alone game.

The contents’ quality is sub par if you want to use a friendly word. Everyone buying TWAW as an expansion for his A&A game has certain expectations about the map graphics or the plastic figures – because these are of a very high quality in Axis & Allies. It’s certainly not too harsh to say that these expectations will be heavily disappointed when you open the game box! The map – made of paper, simply folded four times and carelessly put into the box – looks ugly and obtrusive. The borders between the countries (which have a comic like color) are far too bold and in too loud a red so the map is really hard to look at. As already mentioned in contrast to A&A, the map isn’t mounted but is a simple print on glossy paper and cannot be compared to the A&A Map’s quality.

Without laminating this map, playing on it is also quite difficult since it’s rather thin and tends to tear. The playing pieces are extraordinarily low in detail and not of a good quality, produced in a sloppy way and again their colors don’t even match the original A&A colors. Besides the fact that it doesn’t look that good, depending on the illumination sometimes it is hard to differentiate the colors of the respective nations which is not really increasing fun.

The material of the reference cards for the countries is not cardboard (as in A&A) but they are made of simple paper and lack any color or improvement.   Although the national markers look-alike, those of A&A are much higher in quality (the symbols are often lopsidedly printed onto the markers in TWAW). Also the stacking chips are different in thickness and color compared to those in A&A.


The map is plain ugly

You will be surprised to hear that the rules are even worse than the presentation of this game… Xeno included a sloppy produced rule”book”, which is intended to be used as an add-on to the original A&A rules. Alas, it is almost impossible to play a game with these rules – inconsistencies, black holes, relevant and basic things not even mentioned etc. leave the player alone in a sheer rules chaos, forcing him to develop house rules in order to make this game playable. Nothing seems to be playtested by Xeno, and the additional rules slow the game down in a very boring manner without enhancing the game quality of the original A&A at all.

Despite these flaws a lot of A&A players swear by especially this extension due to the new political aspects and the slight differences regarding maneuver due to a map with more areas.  The problem of the inappropriate additional rules has been solved by semi-official House Rules within the A&A community. Thus the extension is made playable and allows for an application of some innovative ideas, compared to the limited options you get in the base game. Although it should be mentioned that the A&A series introduces some of these mechanics and units with the later games, so TWAW had some use before the newer A&A games were published, but seems now completely obsolete, at least the version we played.


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Posted in Historical Games A-Z, Misc. Histor. games, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »