Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Pushing the cardboard

Like most kids, I had played board games like “Trouble” and the ever-popular “Monopoly,” as well as “Scrabble,” but there was this one game that was really weird but still fun.

It was called “Facts in Five,” and it was part of a genre called “Bookshelf Games.”

See this Wikipedia site for more information, including the cover that has just brought back some pretty awesome memories.

Here’s another site with more on 3M’s bookshelf games.

I saw many of them when I was a teenager in the mid-1970s, and I think someone bought “Facts in Five” for me for a birthday.  

The Queens Center mall on Queens Boulevard in New York City was about halfway between my house in Elmhurst and Newtown High School, also in Elmhurst, and I’d often stop there on the way to school or on the way home. My school was on split sessions due to overcrowding, and the juniors and seniors went to school from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and thus the mall was open when I was going to school. (Sophomores went from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., I think. As for freshmen, they went to an offsite building called the annex that was near the old World’s Fair.)

So I’d go to Queens Center, and visit Brentano’s on the lower level to check out the books and the table that held all the cool games. One was called “Luftwaffe,” and I finally bought it, took it home, and played it solo because no one else I knew wanted to learn the rules. That was my first Avalon Hill game.

“Luftwaffe” was tons of fun, though it really wasn’t designed for solo play. Not having a lot of money, I didn’t buy another such game until I was in the Marines and found a store that sold games, and that’s where I saw “Squad Leader.” It looked interesting, so I bought it and took it back to the barracks. I read the rules, learned how to play it and only played that game solo. Believe it or not, I still have the original box with the old wooden-backed boards and all the components.

While in the service, I bought other games, including “Air War,” “Panzer Blitz” and others. I still have “Air War,” which I bought in Australia, but “Panzer Blitz” is long gone.

After I left the Marines in mid-1982, I learned that there were expansions to “Squad Leader” available and found a store that had “Cross of Iron,” “Crescendo of Doom” and “GI: Anvil of Victory.” Yes, I still have those original boxes, and all the boards, too. I played them solo and had a great time until I got a job and moved out of my parents’ house.

I found a store that stocked Avalon Hill and other games and bought games like “Air Cav.” I think I bought some games from Avalon Hill and Victory Games by mail, including “Panzergruppe Guderian,” “Hitler’s War,” “Pacific War” and “Terrible Swift Sword.” The only one I still have is the first one; I think I threw out the last three when I moved from Lake Worth in 2001. I regret that now.

Every so often, I’d get into games again, then other things would demand my attention. In a future post, I’ll list the games I still have, and in a further post, I’ll describe my move into “Advanced Squad Leader,” and the thrill of finding another person to play the games with.


January 23, 2009 - Posted by | Advanced Squad Leader | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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