Simulations Publications, Inc.

Simulations Publications, Inc.

Infobox Defunct Company
company_name = Simulations Publications, Inc.
fate = bankrupt, assets acquired
successor = TSR
foundation = 1969
defunct = 1982
location = New York City
industry = gaming
key_people = James F. Dunnigan (Founder), Redmond A. Simonsen (Art Director), Howie Barasch (marketing manager)
products = Strategy & Tactics Magazine, Ares Magazine, Board games, wargames
num_employees = peak number of employees
parent =
subsid =

Simulations Publications, Inc., often abbreviated to SPI, was an American publisher of board wargames in the 1970s and early 1980s. It produced an enormous number of games, including many that were considered good and innovative, and changed the course of the wargaming hobby with its bid to take control of the hobby away from then-dominant Avalon Hill. It went bankrupt in 1982.


The company was founded in 1969 by James F. Dunnigan to take over publishing "Strategy & Tactics", which had been in financial trouble. SPI, however, quickly proved that it was primarily a "game" publisher; not only did it produce many regular wargame designs, but starting with SPI's takeover, each issue of "S&T" included a complete wargame, comprising a map, rulebook and a sheet of die-cut counters.

In SPI's first two or three years, it embarked upon an expensive advertising campaign, including - but not limited to - full page advertisements in "Scientific American" magazine. New subscribers received free copies of its most successful game, "Napoleon At Waterloo" - an "easy to play" pocket-sized game with a foldout map and 78 pieces punched from cardstock. This advertising campaign led to a much larger subscriber base and SPI came to be seen as a serious competitor to Avalon Hill, the company that had founded the board wargaming hobby.

While "S&T" had started as a wargaming 'fanzine', under SPI it became more of a military history magazine that included a wargame. So in 1972 SPI started "Moves" as a house organ that talked about current and future SPI games, including a fair amount of information on SPI's game design process.

Like many new wargame companies in the early '70s, early SPI games left a lot to be desired physically. A typical early game came in an envelope with a one-color map and one large folded sheet for the rules. However, SPI quickly set about improving the physical quality of the components with better printing and boxes under the guidance of Art Director Redmond A. Simonsen. In 1973, they introduced a flat plastic box that was molded to be a counter storage tray with a clear cover. The actual cover of the game was a printed sheet that backed the clear plastic. This allowed SPI to produce the boxes in bulk, as they were identical for each game, the printed sheet provided the cover and could be printed with all the other components of the game. This system was never copied by any other company and became the hallmark of SPI games.

SPI used an innovative feedback system that was unique in the industry. Their market research allowed them to target which games to develop by polling the readers of S&T as to which games they would be interested in.

Although starting with small to medium size wargames, SPI found an insatiable market, with subscribers clamoring for an ever wider range of wargames, including the 'monster' games "War in the East", "War in the Pacific", "The Next War", "Terrible Swift Sword" and "Campaign for North Africa", each with several maps, thousands of counters and multiple rulebooks. "Campaign for North Africa" was an ultra-detailed and virtually unplayable game covering the entire North African campaign down to the level of individual fighter pilot ratings and supply trucks. At the other end of the spectrum, SPI created a new series of smaller games called 'folio' games, often created in groups of 4 and sold both individually and as a 'Quad'. Each of the four games would cover a different battle in the same war.

SPI started out publishing games on historical subjects, but soon started producing games on current issues (i.e., World War III games), and a little later also tackled fantasy and science fiction subjects as in "War of the Ring" (a "Lord of the Rings" game), eventually starting a new magazine, "Ares" which, like "S&T", included a new science fiction or fantasy game in each issue.

Two of the more popular games were the tactical level "FireFight" and "Air War", both of which were later reprinted by TSR.

SPI had increasing financial problems in the late 1970s and went bankrupt in 1982. Its assets were acquired by TSR, but not its debts and liabilities, after SPI defaulted on a loan from the Lake Geneva company (said to be $300,000) guaranteed by SPI's assets. TSR refused to honor subscriptions and to repay debts quoting the 'assets, not liabilities' agreement. Avalon Hill hired the majority of ex-SPI staffers to set up Victory Games Incorporated, a wholly owned subsidiary.

With the quick collapse of the wargame market in the early 1980s, TSR published fewer and fewer simulation games and eventually all the magazines (except for "Strategy & Tactics") were discontinued.


*"Best Professional Magazine of 1974" Charles S. Roberts Award, "Strategy & Tactics" [cite web |url=
title=Origins Award Winners (1974)|accessdate=2007-09-14 |author= |date= |work= |publisher=Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design
*"Best Professional Magazine of 1975" Charles S. Roberts Award, "Strategy & Tactics" [cite web |url=
title=Origins Award Winners (1975) |accessdate=2007-09-14 |author= |date= |work= |publisher=Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design
*"Best Professional Magazine of 1976" Charles S. Roberts Award, "Strategy & Tactics" [cite web |url=
title=Origins Award Winners (1976) |accessdate=2007-09-14 |author= |date= |work= |publisher=Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design
*"All Time Best Fantasy Board Game of 1977" Charles S. Roberts Award, "War of the Ring" cite web |url=
title=Origins Award Winners (1977) |accessdate=2007-09-14 |author= |date= |work= |publisher=Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design
*"Best Professional Magazine of 1977" Charles S. Roberts Award, "Strategy & Tactics"
*"Best 20th Century Game of 1978" Charles S. Roberts Award, "To the Green Fields Beyond" [cite web |url=
title=Origins Award Winners (1978) |accessdate=2007-09-14 |author= |date= |work= |publisher=Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design
*"Best 20th Century Game of 1979" Charles S. Roberts Award, "City-Fight" cite web |url=
title=Origins Award Winners (1979) |accessdate=2007-09-14 |author= |date= |work= |publisher=Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design
*"Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Game of 1979" Charles S. Roberts Award, "The Creature That Ate Sheboygan"
*"Best Roleplaying Rules of 1979" H. G. Wells Award, "Commando"
*"Best Pre-20th Century Boardgame of 1980" Charles S. Roberts Award, "Empires of the Middle Ages" cite web |url=
title=Origins Award Winners (1980) |accessdate=2007-09-14 |author= |date= |work= |publisher=Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design
*"Best Roleplaying Rules of 1980" H. G. Wells Award, "Dragonquest"

ee also

*List of SPI games
*Operational Studies Group
*Victory Games


* 1977 - "Wargame Design: The History, Production, and Use of Conflict Simulation Games" (ISBN 0-917852-01-X)
* 1977 - "War in the East : The Russo-German Conflict 1941-45" (ISBN 0-917852-00-1)


External links

* [ SPI Compendium] by Greg Costikyan (lists games, magazine contents, etc)
* [ "A Farewell to Hexes"] by Greg Costikyan

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