BG4 4

Outdoor Survival (1972)

I’m not really qualified to write about old wargames and strategy games but hey, it often seems like people making old wargames and strategy games had dubious qualifications for what they were doing, so I am not going to let it stop me.

This is Outdoor Survival (1972), an absurd board game published by Avalon Hill. It was designed by Steve Dunnigan, designer of the Dallas RPG and the founder of SPI. Considering that fact, I am beginning to think Dunnigan had a habit of designing games on a dare. This one is, well, about surviving outdoors. You navigate the hex map (in one version of the rule, using the dice to determine your movement) and a variety of random things happen to you, each of them a different level of potentially fatal. I played this game once, wandered around in a circle for fifteen minutes and died of starvation. This aligns with the experiences of other people I have talked to. Adding insult to injury, the game comes packed with a small survival guide with tips on real world snake identification and a how-to on lean-to construction. I kinda love that, even if it didn’t help me survive the game.

I love the look of the box and game generally. I’ve heard tell that this was one of Avalon Hill’s best sellers, because they got it in Cabelas. I dunno if that is true, but it feels right, and the vibe of the packaging makes me believe that such a scheme would be a success. Maybe enthusiastic campers fare better playing it, too.

For our purposes, Outdoor Survival is a footnote in RPG history — it is listed as suggested equipment in the original release of Dungeons & Dragons, which recommend using its hex map board to track overland travel. It was, apparently, the most readily available hex map for some time, so it wound up on lots of shelves of fantasy nerds who would definitely die of starvation in the wilderness. Like me!

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