SPI games were published in a variety of formats over the years. Many games were published in
multiple formats. The information I provide in the Compendium is largely based on the following:
- Initially, all games were published with unmounted counters. Games published in the magazine were available with back issues. Other games were sold in envelopes.
- Starting with issue 26 of S & T (3/71), all games had mounted counters. Magazine games were still available with back issues, but as back issues were reprinted, their counters were mounted.
- Starting in 7/73, SPI started selling games in the black box (see below). At this time, magazine games were no longer available with back issues; you could buy back issues, but that brought only the magazine, not the game that was originally published with that issue of the magazine. Instead, magazine games became available after the magazine's date in boxed form, like other games.
- In 4/73, SPI started providing a plastic counter tray with white box games. They also sold counter trays separately, and anyone with any sense bought them immediately to put them in their older white box games. Hence, few "WBxNT" games are seen today.
- The black box appeared in 7/73; all games then in print were no longer sold in the white box format.
- Every game published in black box, folio, or accordion box format was also available in "z-pack".
- Power politics games and designers and collector's editions were published with mounted boards in MABx formta (see below).
- Monster games were published in 2BBx format before the introduction of the accordion box, 4ABx format
- The accordion box was introduced in 6/78; the first game in the new format was Atlanic Wall, and all subsequent games appeared this wya.
- Small (folio and capsule) games were published in Folio format prior to 2/79, in Capsule game
format afterwards, in 1ABxformat starting around 3/80.
One major uncertainty remains in the state information provided in the game listings; many games originally issued in BBx format were later sold in ABx format. But except in a few cases, I have no positive information about which games were reformatted.
I welcome better information if you have it.
Here's what the state codes used in the game listings mean:
MUC: Magazine, Unmounted Counters
Many SPI games were published either in Strategy & Tactics or Ares magazines. Until S & T 26
(dated March-April 71), games appeared with unmounted counters; most earlier issue games were
reissued with mounted counters. Magazine games were not sold as separate boxed products until the
introduction of the Black Box (WBx) in July, 1973. At various times, all of the components for a
magazine game were inserted loosely; all of them were bond in; and some but not all were bound in. The last
few issue games were never reissued as boxed games, because SPI was by then desperately short of
cash; and some of the earliest issue games were never reissued in boxed format. But everything in between
appeared in boxed format as well.
EUC: Envelope, Unmounted Counters
The earliest games (called Test Series Games) were sold in manila envelopes; a box was not introduced until
9/72. Until 3/71, these games had unmounted counters; after 3/71, as games were revised or reprinted,
mounted counters were provided. A few later produces (e.g., Strike Force 1) were distributed in envelopes,
also, and are listed with a code of E, though they were not Test Series Games.
WBxNT: White Box, No Tray
SPI's first box was a large format folded and glued white box, introduced in 9/72. The game name
appeared on a long red
label with white letters that was affixed to the front of the box. There was a flap on the top that
opened up and held maps, rules, and so on. Die-cut panels in the face under the top flap could be
pulled up to display counter storage compartments. At first, no plastic storage tray was included
in the white boxes; instead, there was a currogated cardboard insert which was supposed to create
two large compartments for counter storage under the pull-ups. This did not work worth a damn, as
the counters easily slipped around under the cardboard insert. SPI introduced a plastic counter tray insert
for the white box in 4/73; it was basically identical to the lower portion of the black box used later, without
the black box's stiffening cardboard bottom. Although "WBx" format prevailed for a scant three months
before the introduction of the black box, it is rare to find SPI games in white boxes without counter trays,
as most gamers quickly bought extra trays for the older games. At this time, magazine games could normally either be bought as "back issues" with
no box, or as White Box games, with the magazine thrown into the box along with other components.
WBx: White Box
PWBx: Printed White Box
A very few games (Leipzig, Normandy, and Barbarossa) were produced with "printed white
boxes." These were identical to the standard white box, except that the front and sides of the box
were printed with illustrations and text--obviously a more attractive package for retail display, although
SPI was still mainly a mail-order operation at this point.
BBx: Black Box
The white box stored counters awkwardly, and basically looked like crap. The black box became SPI's standard
packaging for many years, from 7/73 through 6/78. The black box consisted of five items:
1. A black plastic counter tray, which
served as the bottom section of the box. The back of the tray was glued to a piece of black cardboard. These days,
the cardboard often separates from the tray.
2. Two small clear plastic lids that rest atop the counter tray to hold in
the counters. Unlike later boxes, there are no nipples or other features to hold the lids in place; gravity
and the other components are supposed to keep the lids from falling off. This worked only indifferently well. The earliest black boxes
had plastic lids with "wings" that fit over the center wells of the black try; the lids in later black boxes had no "wings".
3. A large clear plastic lid that fits over the counter tray as a whole, containing all components. Plastic decays in the presence of ultraviolet; in many cases, the plastic covers are starting to discolor and crack. Collectors should be aware of this, and keep black box games in a dark place. 4. A printed cover sheet, containing an illustration, the name of the game, and other text. This would be folded and placed directly underneath the plastic cover. At the bottom of the sheet is a small section containing descriptive text; originally, this was folded so it extended outside the plastic cover and up over the bottom of the
box. The box was then shrink-wrapped, so the descriptive text could be read by a retail consumer. In storage, this is normally refolded
so that it remains wholly inside the box, as the alternative is to see it torn to shreds as you try to remove the box from a stack.
5. A plastic loop used to hold the box top to the box bottom for storage, as they two didn't hold together all that well.
2BBx: Two Black Boxes
Monster games--those with two or more game-maps and at least 800 counters -- were sold with two black
boxes, one facing up and other down, shrink-wrapped in this position. Normally, there were two paper
cover sheets: one color for the top box, one black-and-white with descriptive text for the bottom. The
package usually had several plastic loops, to hold the two boxes together for storage after the shrink-wrap
All BBx, 2BBx, ABx, 1ABx, 4ABx, and F games were available in "z-pack" format. This mean they were
shipped without a box or counter tray, in a large zip-lock plastic bag. The cost was a few bucks cheaper.
BBx and 2BBx games were shipped with the paper cover sheet used in the BBx edition of the game; ABx
and F games had no such niceties. I haven't bothered to indicate that games appearing in these formats also
appeared in Z format, because al did. However, a very few games (e.g., the ART OF SIEGE games sold
separately) were sold only in Z format.
MABx: Mounted Accordion Box
In an effort to increase retail sales, SPI published a very few games with mounted boards. These were
published in a "accordion" box (sometimes called a set-up box); a 9" x 12" x 2" box with printed sheets wrapped and
glued onto the surface. MABx games differ from ABx games in three ways: 1. The board is mounted. 2. The counter tray
has no plastic covers. 3. All games have printed back covers. They also all date from before 6/78, when all games
started appearing in accordion boxes.
ABx: Accordion Box
In 6/78, SPI abandoned the black box, mainly because it was an unusual packaging and hard for retailers
to shelve. They started using "accordion" boxes, so-called because the top and bottom separate in an
"accordion" fashion (as opposed to folded-and-glued boxes, which open at the top and bottom flaps but
consist of a single unit). There was one major drawback to this: each game required a separately
manufactured box, whereas with the black box, all you had to do was publish a separate cover sheet,
and you could grab any arbitrary box, insert a new cover sheet, and assemble another game.
The result was an increased need for warehouse space--and increasing investment in inventory. Not good
things for a company that lived on the edge of bankruptcy in the first place. ABx games had a counter tray
much improved over either the MABx or BBx; a single plastic tray, laid in the bottom of the box, with
a clear plastic cover with nipples along the edges that fit into corresponding nipples in the tray.
This held the tray on tolerably well, and prevented counter spillage. Unlike most modern games, the
back cover of SPI games was normally blank; a separate 8 1/2 x 11 sheet, black-and-white, was printed
with information about the game and shrinkwrapped against the bottom of the box.
1ABx: 1" Accordion Box
Smaller games -- mainly ones published originally as Folios or
Capsule games -- were published in an accordion box essentially identical to the ABx, except that it
was only 1" deep instead of 2". Normally, no counter tray was included with these games. The Capsule
game format was abandoned in favor of 1ABx format sometime around 3/80.
4ABx: 4" Accordion Box
"Monster" games -- those with multiple maps and more than 400 counters -- were published
in an accordion box that was 4" deep instead of 2". Normally, two counter trays were included.
Folio games were published in a cardboard folder with a pocket on the inside to hold the components.
They normally had a 17" x 22" game-map and 100 counters. The outside of the folder was printed with
text, illustrations, etc. Folios were discontinued sometime in the late 80s. For a time, quadrigames were
sold only in z-pack format. Later, the capsule format was adopted for some.
In 3/79, SPI published the first games in "capsule" format. This consisted of a plastic bag with an openable flap, normally taped closed for storage.
The components would be inserted in the bag. The first Capsule games actually had the "cover" printed
on the back of the game-map, which was folded in such a way that the cover appeared at the outside of
the bag. Later on, a separate paper cover sheet was printed. Like Folio games, Capsule games normally
had small maps (11 x 17 or 17 x 22) and 100 counters. Capsule games gave way to the 1" accordion box (1ABX)
in 1980 (mainly because retailers complained that capsule games were hard to display and prone to theft).
.Copyright © 1997 by Greg Costikyan.