Rise and Decline of the Third Reich and other Avalon Hill wargames

As I was browsing the internet (a dangerous activity, for sure), I came across this wonderful blog entry on Rise and Decline of the Third Reich. Avalon Hill was the major player in War Games for much of its history, and as I get older, I find that investigating its older offerings to be quite rewarding.

This is not to say that they’re better than today’s war games. Not at all! At the time it was pioneering in its efforts, and games such as Third Reich, PanzerBlitz and Squad Leader influence a lot of games today. These days, you can see the more elegantly expressed rules and concepts in modern games, and so looking at the older games can be slightly irritating; the rules tend to just sit a little wrong for modern sensibilities.

However, the good games remain that: good games. I picked up a complete copy of the original Panzer Leader yesterday to go with my copy of PanzerBlitz. Neither are games I’ve had a chance to play yet, but having them in my collection makes me happy. At some point, I’m likely to pull them out and either play them solitaire to see how they work or I’ll inflict them on one of my friends.

Third Reich belongs to the school of monster wargames. It’s a grand strategy game (says that on the box!) that covers the western theatre of World War II. It can be played 2-player or by up to 5 players. Apparently it doesn’t play badly solitaire either. How long does it take to play? The full game is long; BGG suggests 24 hours, although that may be wildly inaccurate. “Long” is perhaps enough – though not as long as World in Flames!

And yes, I do now own a copy, picked up earlier last year. It’s missing a few counters, but I have some blank counters I can use as substitutes. The mere fact that it uses single-sided counters makes it much easier to create substitute counters.

At some point, I really do want to try playing it. I just need to find (a) time and (b) players. Both of these seem somewhat unlikely at the current point in time, but if you’d told me I’d be playing a lot of Advanced Squad Leader this year, I wouldn’t have believed you. So, I remain in hope.

Third Reich was succeeded by Advanced Third Reich and John Prados’s Third Reich, and A3R was succeeded by A World At War by GMT Games. I actually own that last title (expensive it was, as well!) and you can see where it hearkens back to the original Third Reich design. Yes, I’d like to try it as well, but although it will have a bit more of the modern elegance, it’s still a terribly big game with a lot of special exceptions in the rules (which run over 100 pages). So, learning Third Reich which, while rough around the edges, still doesn’t quite have the same scale and so is easier to digest, seems like an easier option.

I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance, but seeing the blog entry I linked to above made me think about this game. I did manage to play another game of ASL SK with Michael last night; so a session report for that will be forthcoming. Tonight? Nations or Britannia seems likely.



  1. Kevin Paradine

    You should most likely investigate the PC version of Third Reich. It’s available in various places. It’s a virtual clone of the boardgame in most respects and plays similarly. You will, at the very least, learn the key basics of the 1939 setup. The Polish, French and Italian initial setups are vital to get right, the British less so and the others have more flexibility. Holding Warsaw is nigh-impossible. Holding Paris is harder than it looks. The computer AI is really quite good, though its use of naval units is poor. Make sure you patch to current levels. Once you have seen the computer play both sides, you’ll get the hang quite fast.


  2. Bob Delaney

    If I recall, the “PC Version” is a 20-year-old DOS-based game that is not too likely to run under any recent version of Windows unless one knows how to tweak ‘compatibility mode.’ Actually, a little JavaScript artificial intelligence might be a better thing to have delivered via a web page, with the various types of data coded to make the game sequence a little less memory- and paper-intensive. I know how to do that; I just haven’t played Third Reich often enough to be familiar with its patterns.


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