The Last AH Employee
A Eulogy for Avalon Hill, by Bill Levay
Good evening to all my friends,
If you are looking for a tell all or expose, go elsewhere. I just want to express some of my thoughts. Fair warning: it will get maudlin but I'll take it as my right.
I was introduced to AH gaming when I was 13 years old with the game "1914". That was 31 years ago. As a child, then, I used to dream of working at AH. I suppose it is kind of silly but I guess when you are young . . . Well, sometimes dreams do come true. As far as AH staffers go, I am a young'un. I only started working there three years and three months ago. As a matter of fact, Don Greenwood and I share the same starting day anniversary (May 8th.) He had just finished his 26th year there. I consider it an honor.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have gotten to know and work with Joe Amoral, Jason Behnke, Mark Cavey, JC Connors, Mark Glidden, Don Greenwood, Mark Hall, Dave Hiller, Ben Knight, Rich Kuryk, Chris Lawrence, Bob MacNamara, Mark Murnane, Kurt Miller, Jamie Nash, Ken Robison, Ryan Shannon, Tom Shaw (while in semi-retirement), Mark Simonitch, Stuart Tucker, Dan Walker, and Robert Waters. I'm sure some name has slipped, and I apologise for that. Oh, and these are only the direct emp loyees I worked with. Some of these names you may know and some you may not. I assure you, each and every one of them had some small or huge impact in making the games we are all talking about.
I NEVER IMAGINED, 31 YEARS AGO, THAT I WOULD BE THE ONE TURNING OUT THE LIGHTS HERE. It is not something that I am proud of. I am so very sad, and I can't even say that I lost my job . . . at least not yet.
Why do I call myself the last AH employee? Well, this morning we all got the bad news. However, because of my technical background I will be staying on and moving to web design and network services for Monarch Services and Girls' Life. As long as I'm in that building, AH as we knew it will remain alive, if not for you, then inside of me. Remember, I will have to walk in and out of a building that will be filled with "ghosts."
What was my job (better yet, who the hell am I?) A LOT of things, but my cherished one was "the boss" in R&D. I can tell you that it was a pleasure to work with such talented and self motivated "artists". Yes, I consider game designers and programmers as artists even if they didn't touch a brush (digital or otherwise). Besides, how can someone be the boss of people like Don or Bob. BTW, for all you tournament winners at Avaloncon, I was the one taking your plaque pictures!
What do I think Hasbro will do? I really don't have a clue. My only hope is that some executive there grew up on AH games and is willing to give the name the respect it has earned since 1954. Yes, I know, a billion dollar company always keeps an eagle eye on the bottom line, so don't expect altruism. However, since they are interested in the bottom line, a letter writing campaign would be in order and may produce results if the numbers are high enough. Look, it did save Star Trek long ago. AH gamers are every bit as dedicated as my Trekker friends. If everyone that has bought and enjoyed AH games were to write a thoughtful, NON-FLAMING, letter . . . Well, I assure you that's a lot of people.
One thought you should also keep in mind: Regardless of what has been said of the management of AH, the fact that the bottom line wasn't the one and only thing they kept in mind is one of the reasons that we were blessed with AH games for as long as we were. In fact, Eric and Jack had a lot of faith in our customers, and indeed kept it going as long as they could.
My only regret is that I don't have the capital to start a game company with my dear friends. The saddest thing, to me, will be that this exceptional TEAM is now going to be scattered to the four winds. It's hard to convey the sense of camaraderie that we had together . . . you should have been there. The best I can come to describe it, is the closeness you see at Avaloncon between people from all walks of life that are bonded by the love of our games.
Avaloncon? I may be an optimist, but I believe that Don will make every effort to have a "Doncon" at the same bat place and at the same bat time. He will certainly be pursuing it. As a matter of fact, he told me today that the internet made this year's Avaloncon the easiest to organize. He also has credibility with the Marriott hotel. BTW, for those that are curious, Don will be spending the last remaining hours at AH processing all the paperwork from the tournaments of the last Avaloncon. I will finish processing the plaque winner pictures and posting them to the Avaloncon site. Once AH is "officially" part of Hasbro, I want to take the pictures for 1997 and 1998 and put them on my personal web space. You deserve the recognition.
The General? Sadly, it appears that unless someone is willing to buy it from AH, it is history. Please check with Eric Dott, but I believe it may be detachable from the Hasbro deal since they don't want it. I someone buys it, please allow me to plug Stuart Tucker as the best choice for editor. He's a dedicated boardgame designer and gamer and I think has done wonders within the constraints he had to work with.
Honestly... I feel very badly that I can't help my friends and co-workers stay employed in this industry. Regardless of what they have said to 'em, I have to take it as a personal failure. Ben, JC, and Chris will be at GenCon . . . make sure you stop and say hello to them.
Alright, so it was maudlin and sentimental . . . but so what, it's my soap box, and now you can feel free to flame me for it. Also, and I know you don't need my permission, but go ahead and repost this as you feel necessary. It is not an "official" AH commentary... it is my own personal tribute to the Guys on the Hill.
Thank you all for a wonderful 31 years,
Editor's Note: Bill Levay posted the preceding letter to rec.games.board just after the completion of the Hasbro buyout of Avalon Hill. We at Pyramid found what Bill had written to be both moving and sobering, so we asked his permission to present it here. He kindly granted it.
Article publication date: September 18, 1998
Copyright © 1998 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to email@example.com.