WTF Hasbro?! A look at the publisher we love to hate

I’ve been busy lately so please excuse my lack of attention to this blog. There’s still plenty to discuss on topics concerning our hobby. I recently came across a “WTF?!” moment when I was thrifting. I haven’t bashed Hasbro in a while so I decided that this month’s “WTF Moments in Gaming” would be at their expense.

 

1. Hasbro: Go Cheap or Go Home!

Star Wars Battleship (2015)
Star Wars Battleship (2015)

Hasbro has been cutting corners. A few too many corners, in my humble opinion. One example is the newer Battleship retheme with Star Wars ships. Long time followers of this blog will recall that I mentioned this back in October. But now I see a bigger pattern.

Battleship, originally published by Milton Bradley before Hasborg took them over in the 80’s, had a 100 peg grid.

Hasbro disappoints Muskegon
Star Wars Battleship (close up)

You would call out an alpha-numeric code from A to J and 1 to 10 (10X10=100). The new Star Wars Battleship features a peg grid that goes from A to I and 1 to 9 (9X9=81!).

The conclusion I draw from this is that Hasbro can save money (albeit very little) by doing this.

But one game is hardly a pattern, right?

Well I was at the local thrift store, rescuing games for our community.  I came across a near mint copy of the latest Risk game (2014). It looked unplayed. Some Muskegonite will undoubtedly want this.

Risk with only 5 players
Risk with only 5 players

Then I noticed it: Risk is now a 5 player game! They removed the grey pieces.

Risk, since 1959 (when it was published by Parker Brothers) had always been a 6 player game. The only conclusion I can draw is this was done to save money.

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by Milton Bradley’s The Game of Life. You moved your car around a 3D board, earning money, getting married, having kids and finally retiring. Hasbro is now calling the shots. And in Hasbro’s wisdom, the 3D board has been replaced with an ugly 2D board.

Game of Life 2D
Game of Life 2D in 2013
Game of Life 3D board
Game of Life 3D board

In Hasbro’s estimation, people’s lives nowadays do not require them to go over 3D bridges or traverse hills.

And that sucks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Hasbro Spam

Monopoly World Football Edition
Monopoly World Football Edition

Hasbro took over Milton Bradley in the 80’s and Parker Brothers in the 90’s. But Hasbro has not shown the same creativity for their new games that these two predecessors did.

Milton Bradley came out with lots of new games. Individual titles like 1974’s Chopper Strike or

Milton Bradley's Chopper Strike
Milton Bradley’s Chopper Strike

Milton Bradley’s Chopper Strike 1971’s Voice of the Mummy.

Parker Brothers, while not quite as prolific as Milton Bradley, also created many unique board games such as 1991’s Tornado Rex or 1972’s Airways.

These new offerings weren’t always the most well received

Parker Brother's Airways
Parker Brother’s Airways

games to ever hit the mass market. Most are rated about 5.5 to 6 on BGG. But these games looked really cool to kids of that day. And this would inspire new gamers to the hobby. Take a look at Chopper Strike and Airways. If you were a kid in the 1970’s, wouldn’t you be excited about getting these for your birthday?

Hasbro now has the rights to Parker Brother’s and Milton Bradley’s extensive catalog of games. King Oil? Check. Dark Tower? Yep. Dungeon? You bet. So what is Hasbro putting on the shelves at Meijer and Target? Try Monopoly, Risk, Battleship, Sorry and Trouble.

In. Every. Possible. Configuration.

Star Wars Monopoly editions
Star Wars Monopoly editions

There is a Monopoly for every possible IP or taste. Star Trek, Star Wars, Frozen, Scooby Doo, The Simpsons etc. According to BGG, there are 147 versions of Monopoly.  Doesn’t that seem like 146 too many? There are seven (count ’em seven!) different Star Wars Monopoly editions. There are three different Simpson’s Monopoly.

While it should be obvious that Hasbro has milked the Monopoly teat dry, they have other classic games that haven’t been suffocated yet.

Enter Clue.

Clue: Harry Potter Edition
Clue: Harry Potter Edition

Hasbro, since 2008, has been spamming us with every IP iteration of Clue they can think of. And what Hasbro lacks in new game design skills they more than make up for in acquiring new licenses. I mean, did the world really need a Harry Potter Clue game? These pedestrian efforts do more to damage the hobby (and Hasbro’s brand) than they do to help. Will some gamer 20 years from now reminiscence about how he got Harry Potter Clue for Christmas and that is what got him involved in gaming?

 

3. Hasbro “Risks” New Game Designs

Risk: Star Wars Episode VI
Risk: Star Wars Episode VI

When Hasbro comes out with a fresh design (which is about as often as Nick Sima beats Tasha in any given game), it’s under the Risk label. Take the latest Star Wars Risk*.

This new Risk game is actually a neat 30-45 minute game. It recreates the finale of Star Wars the Return of the Jedi where Admiral Ackbar exclaims “It’s a trap!” It’s a nifty little game. A dice fest to be sure. But nifty.

And it shares virtually nothing in common with 1959’s Risk save the trademarked logo.

Risk Europe
Risk Europe

2015 saw the release of a game called Risk Europe. This game looks amazing. But it shares little in common with its eponymous 1959 forebear. Hasbro is so desperate to make money they cannot break away from its established brands. They must really by afraid that if they released this game under the name of, say, Europe: For the Crown, that it would be flop. They are relying so much on their brand that it’s almost a hindrance to them. If someone played Risk and said, “That game is mediocre” would they give a different Risk iteration a chance?

*Why the “latest Star Wars Risk? Because there are three different games with that title, all with different pieces and rules.

 

4. Desperately Seeking Avalon Hill

Orion Picture's Desperately Seeking Susan
Orion Picture’s Desperately Seeking Susan

I didn’t pay much heed to Hasbro buying Milton Bradley. Probably because I was in junior high at the time. I also didn’t pay much mind to Hasbro taking over Parker Brothers. Although I was college aged at the time, I didn’t care about Parker Brother’s offerings. I figured Hasbro would make things better.

But I was very dismayed when I heard that Hasbro was buying out Avalon Hill. Hasbro was buying the longest running, best designed games of the day. Hasbro had no intention of continuing Avalon Hill’s proud tradition. They were only interested in buying their competition. At least that was my opinion.

History has vindicated my opinion. Hasbro has left AH’s considerable game catalog in the dustbin of time. Hasbro has reprinted Acquire and Diplomacy. Other than that, I don’t believe Hasbro has reprinted anything that Avalon Hill published.

And Avalon Hill was a prolific publisher. There are 35 pages of games credited to Avalon Hill on BGG. Not 35 games…35 pages of games. Numerous classics like Civilization, Republic of Rome and Squad Leader would languish. Hasbro would eventually sell a few of these games off to new publishers. But the great bulk of AH’s work is left untapped.

With the board gaming renaissance that we are currently in, one might wonder why Hasbro hasn’t reprinted any Avalon Hill games. Hasbro only seems interested in the Avalon Hill “brand” and not the games. Hasbro has been spamming Axis and Allies versions. Axis and Allies is published under the “Avalon Hill” brand of Hasbro (despite the fact that Axis and Allies was published by Milton Bradley originally).

Hasbro could publish numerous out-of-print games. Some old AH games have after market prices several times their original price because they are so sought after. Certainly Hasbro could sell out on a print run of one of these title.

Doing so would redeem them in my eyes.

 

Epilogue

Hasbro's Merry Milkman
Hasbro’s Merry Milkman

I don’t like bashing publishers. But when I saw how Hasbro had reduced Risk from a 6 player game to a 5 player game, I decided to have fun at their expense. I would much prefer Hasbro to shut up and take my money instead of their current practice of cluttering Meijer’s shelves with outdated spam-branded games. Is it too much to ask for Hasbro to reprint their 1955 Merry Milkman Game?

 

Where (non-Hasbro) Games are Played

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
132 Muskegon Area Gamers

This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…

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Tuesday Night: Nick picks the games

Tuesday, Aug 2, 2016, 6:00 PM
7 Attending

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