I've had an up and down relationship with Eagle games. Listen while I tell the tale....
The first time I ever heard of Eagle Games was when I saw American Civil War sitting on the shelf of my local hobby shop. The game came out in 2001. First thing that jumped out at me was the price. If I recall correctly the store was selling (or trying to sell) it for $100. That's a lot of money for a board game. Still, if it had come out several years earlier when I was in High school or even earlier in grade school, I probably would have saved up to get it. My friends and I played the heck out of Axis and Allies, Risk, Samurai Swords, and Battle Masters. I've always been interested in the Civil War. Yet, at that time in my life (wrapping up college) I didn't have money to burn and I simply wasn't playing big,long,war games a lot. So I passed.
Fast forward to about 2006. I'd seen a couple other Eagle games in the stores over the intervening years. War! Age of Imperialism, Napoleon In Europe. Now in 2006, my life seemed more settled, I had a game room! I had local friends who played games, and I had never forgotten about Eagle games. I ordered Attack and Attack Expansion online, hoping for a cross between Risk and Axis & Allies.I was very disappointed. First the minis looked horrible. I didn't like the sculpts themselves, but even worse it was very difficult to tell "bigs" from "smalls" used to represent different quantities of forces. I didn't like the dice system. The economic and political systems had lots of neat ideas but seemed very poorly implemented. I hang onto it for about a year and then sold it off. The game was a disappointment all around, especially the minis considering Eagle's reputation for great components if nothing else.
There used to be a BGG entry for Sid Meier's Pirates by Eagle Games. I can't find it anymore so perhaps at some point it was removed. If so, it was probably at Eagle Games' request, because it really highlights a dark period in their history.The game became a joke on BGG. It appeared on just about every "games that will never be published" or "publishers who promise but don't deliver" geeklist. It became the best known piece of board game vaporware. Eagle Games itself had become a bit of a BGG joke. As I said I really liked Axis and Allies. I'd tried a number of unofficial 3rd party variants/expansions. The quality on most of these was pretty bad, most stuff made by xeno games and pretty much everything made by Guild of Blades for example. Here's a short review of any product made by Guild of Blades:CONS-Horrible production values, all components are black printed on red paper.-Horrible rulesPROS-Not very expensive (but still overpriced)The rap on Eagle games was that they were horrible rules, but with outstanding production values and a high price tag. They were suitable for people looking for pieces to spiff up other games or design their own rules, but not for anyone to actually play out of the box. Eagle Games problems weren't just with public opinion on BGG. They were real dollars and cents. It seemed that everything that could go wrong for the company did. They got two huge licenses from Sid Meier's- Pirates never materialized and Civilization flopped. Blood Feud in New York was reputed to make people ill with plastic fumes.Eagle Games went bankrupt (supposedly over a bad investment in poker chips as they tried to cash in on the poker-mania sweeping the nation at the time)
Railroad Tycoon was always one of those games that looked interesting but never interesting enough for me to buy. Then it went out of print. Then it came back in print but you could only buy it in the limited Frankenstein edition with English rules, a Portuguese board and Serbian cards or something like that. Yet everyone whose opinion I respected kept raving about the game. So when a new fully english version retitled Railways of the Word came out, I got it.Guess what?I like it. The rules are clear and simple. The production values are outstanding. The game is a lot of fun.
Railways of the World restored at least some of my faith in Eagle Games so I decided to snatch up another highly regarded game that kept going in and out of distribution. Let me get to the point-Through the Ages is awesome.I've only played with 2 players. I've only used 2 of the 3 rules sets included. I don't play as often as other games I have because of the length. Yet, I still place it in my top 3 games of all time. Eagle Games really published two Sid Meier's Civ games. One with the license that based on it's reputation stunk. And this one that hit the ball out of the park. I know Eagle didn't design this game, but through their efforts I was able to buy a copy, which I appreciate greatly.
If Railroad Tycoon got Eagle Games' reputation among gamers out of the gutter, Age of Empires III made sure it stayed out. The game came out to massive hype, counter-hype, and counter-counter-hype. It looked interesting, but I decided to wait it out. Three years after it came out, most of my geekbuddies had it rated very highly with a small minority that said it was euro-trash and not in a good way. I got a good deal on a trade and took it.I like it a lot. Supporting 2 players is a huge plus. In fact that's the only way I've played so far. Components are nice. Rules are clear. Lots of choices on how to play. It's shorter than Through the Ages so it gets played more often.
Conquest of the Empire is a game I have not played or bought, but it's really not its fault. If I didn't already have a bunch of games I probably would get it, but right now it's redundant. If I want everyone for himself, dice chucking dudes on a map I've got Risk 2210.If I want euro style area control dudes on a map I've got Age of Empires III. If I want shifting alliances, negotiations, and backstabbing I've got Diplomacy.This games seems to cover a lot of bases, its just that I've already got them covered, that and the whole Attack! dice system still scares me. If given the opportunity to play this game I'd definitely take it though, because I'm sure it's a pretty good one.
I think it took Glenn Drover awhile to find his sweet spot as a game designer/publisher. He needed to find his niche. Basically he started off doing his own A&A spinoffs and didn't do a very good job. Somehow he bumped into Martin Wallace and they decided to collaborate on Euroized/Simplified versions of Wallace games with outstanding production quality. These worked:
Railroad Tycoon- Simplified Age of Steam
Conquest of the Empire- Spruced up Roman version of Struggle of Empires
Age of Empires- Eurofied version of Struggle of Empires.
So where do I go next with Eagle Games? Well I'm tempted by the Railways of the World expansions (Europe, England & Wales currently, with more planned), especially since Europe sounds like it works better with fewer players. I haven't pulled the trigger on them yet though because I'm also considering getting into crayon rail games and don't know if I want to do both. One thing I know I'll be doing going forward is playing the 3 Eagle Games that I have now and enjoy a lot. Which says a lot considering just a few years ago I sold off Attack! in disgust.
Here's to Glenn Drover for all the work he's put into Eagle Games and perseverance through the ups and downs.