A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Retro Computing: Why Bother? Special: 1987 SSI Catalog.

Why am I photographing an SSI catalog to share?

Well for FUN mostly.  For nostalgia.  To share said fun and nostalgia.  Also because it came in a boxed game I got cheap this week.

A game with the best cover ever:
(As always click images for bigger.  And forgive the odd flash.)
This is without a doubt the best electronic game cover EVER.  It's so absurdly ridiculous and pandering to every 12 year old boy it isn't even funny.  And that is why it rules.  We have a dude with a shirtless vest on top of a truck holding on to it while standing with ONE HAND so the other can hold a crossbow while his BEST WOMAN who found the last remaining spandex bodysuit is holding on to him with one hand so she can have the other for her submachine gun.  Oh... and he has on big 80s sunglasses because I don't know.  He is just THAT COOL.

I want a poster of this for my living room.  I will frame it.

Anyhow, let's move on to the catalog inside the box!

Front and back cover.  It is the summer of 1987.  I have finished 7th Grade and am about to endure the hell of 8th.  I am spending this summer mostly putzing around with my NES and being pushed away from Transformers thanks to my mother who was a horrible person or completely nuts.   The front cover there on the right is amusingly cheesy.  1987 computer nerds playing wargames of all things are probably not ones who go to the beach much.  The back cover there on the left shows the game they are pushing right now.  I cannot say this is a title I really ever wanted.

Our new games for the quarter!  B24 seems kinda bleh much like President Elect.  I love me a good wargame so Rebel Charge is a game I might look into getting in the future.  I played the prequel to Eternal Dagger there (Wizard's Crown) on my C64 but never really got into it.  If I can get it cheap for my Atari 8 bit I wouldn't mind trying it out.  It is apparently a bit improved as sequels should be.

In 1987 the 16 bit Amiga and Atari ST were actually a little bit popular.  Hence the ST getting four conversions of some RPGs of the day.  DOS PCs got three, and the Amiga got one.  For a very short period in the mid-late 80s the Atari ST looked like the horse to back.  Then PCs got more and more popular in spite of the default CGA graphics being eye searingly bad in spite of being such expensive machines.  And the Amiga took over from the ST for the enthusiast home computer gamer until both companies basically imploded in spite of both doing brisk sales in Europe.

Note they aren't calling them RPGs in spite of most of them being as such.  The Commodore 64 was still KING at this time, though even a year from now when I would have the machine I would start to see more and more games appear for the PC and then maybe the Amiga.  The Apple II series was the strong second place in spite of how bad its' audiovisual capabilities were.  The Atari 8 bit was in this timeframe what the Apple II would be in a year and a half, and the C64 in two.  Clearly not getting as many new games, but still plenty of titles to find.  But we didn't have Ebay back then.  So it was mail order discounters, dumb luck at garage sales, or the odd bit at retailers.  In general most retailers outside of specialty stores only carried C64 heavily, with a smattering of other machines, most of which would have their space taken up by PC eventually.

(Oh yeah.  I pretty much want every game on this page just about.  Some are easier to get than others.)

Now for the four pages covering SSI's meat and potatoes (Until the AD&D Gold Box series came around anyhow..), WARGAMES.  If hex and chit people think it is hard to find people to play these games with now, it was still very hard back then.  Computers let one actually get one's fix without having to play solitaire and feel like a big loser.  Bigger than one would already be for moving tiny pieces of cardboard on hex maps and referring to huge and complicated rulebooks.

 The Cold War was in it's dying days around now but there were still the odd game simulating those potential conflicts.  Of course World War 2 and the American Civil War were the main focus of wargaming.  And they mostly still are.   I wouldn't mind having Mech Brigade, Computer Ambush, Gettysburg, or Antietam from these pages.

 I have passed on Knights of the Desert a couple of times but I wouldn't mind it honestly.  I have Field of Fire already.  Panzer Grenadier might not be too bad but it seems to be another wargame where you can only play the Germans and this kinda creeps me out.  Nam I would like to get though.  That conflict tends to not be covered too much.  The wounds are still fresh even though it ended around forty years ago.  Well forty from TODAY.  So that era was to me what the 80s are to kids today.  Yes folks we are old now.   Broadsides I would like to get because AGE OF SAIL NAVAL COMBAT.  Battalion Commander is a primitive RTS and I am not sure it is my bag.  I have a previous RTS from SSI though.  I already have Wargame Construction Set.  Wouldn't mind checking out Colonial Conquest too.

 Data Disks!  Update your game without having to buy the whole thing over again!  Electronic Arts HATES THIS.  And they have proven idiots will rebuy the same sports game year after year with merely a roster update and a couple tweaks.  The old days when a single paragraph was all one needed for a preview of a future game.  Nowadays we merely look to the future and not backwards or what is out now.  

The other page has an accelerator card for Apple II computers to make them run faster, all for a mere 230 1987 dollars!  A savings over 280!  CHEAP.  (Well for Apple I guess it was.)  SSI advertising their free newsletter.  I had a few of these but sadly I think they are lost to the ether.  Some clearance prices for games without their boxes, and adverts to subscribe to Computer Gaming World or Fire & Movement.

And we end our little trip with the SSI LIST OF GAMES.  This covers most of what is in the catalog in a nice easy to read format including system requirements.  Going by this list, the Apple II and Commodore 64 are tied with the most games, with the Atari 8 bit rounding out the top three.  The PC is just starting to take off, though most of the titles look and play worse than any of the rest.  Macs have a mere four games, the Amiga six, and the ST eight.  

You would think from this list the four 16 bit machines wouldn't be a good buy.  And well honestly for a US computer person of the time none of them really WERE.

Within two years however everything would change.

Perhaps when I find a 1989-90 catalog I will even show you.

Until then laugh at the prices.  One rarely ordered direct from the publisher because every mail order store and even most brick and mortar retailers sold games cheaper than MSRP back then.  There was no real price fixing the way videogames are today.

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