AREA PRIMER by Bill Thomson 6/22/96


The AREA player rating system dates back to 1974. This system was created and administrated by the Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC) of Baltimore, Maryland. AREA stands for Avalon Reliability, Experience and Ability player rating service. The intent was to develop a pool of reliable players and indirectly also provide a metric of player skill. Many veterans of the play by mail (PBM) format can relate experiences of the opponent who vaporizes when their chances for victory dwindles. To minimize the risk of frustration of an aborted game and to benefit competitive play, the AREA system was welcomed resource to the hobby.

The time investment of postal play can be significant and at times measured in years as a function of the complexity and length of game in addition to the speeds of the players involved. Hence certain characteristics of the opponent are sought to enjoy a competitive game to its conclusion. Opponents often turn into friendships as well. Skill, personality and humility are desired traits of a reliable opponent. Often, one's competitive drive requires one play for something to justify the exercise and commitment of time. For many, rating points provides sufficient motive.. However, those opponents who gauge thier self esteem in wins and losses and those prone to argument for argument's sake are often viewed as undesirable. Although TAHGC dealt somewhat delicately with those whose behavior betrayed the ideals of postal play, the player pool often does a better job of self-regulating itself. Members often play multiple games (and opponents) simultaneously. Opportunity to discuss common opponents is a frequent topic. Frequently, sub pools of players exist where a common priority and timeliness of game response becomes similar of its members. In these groupings, recommendations and background checks of opponents for future contests are reviewed.

Originally the system was limited to two player games published by TAHGC. This was expanded to include the affiliated Victory Games (VG) upon their birth. In 1989 a method for rating multi-player games a further refinement. It is assumed that the advent of computer games published by TAHGC are also eligible titles to be included into AREA.

The early years allowed a new member to define their initial rating (600, 900, 1200, 1500, or 1600) to relfct a self assement of their skill level.. Although intended to have player seek out opponents of their own ability, it often limited their opponent opportunity. This aspect was refined in the early 1990s to establish all new members at a rating of 1500. Due to the potential gains and losses when playing an opponent of significantly different ratings (Table 1), the higher rated player has much more to lose than gain. Less mature player often avoid contests with a lower rated player of any degree as seek too maximize gains. (Extreme examples are players that will only play one title, provided they play selected sides and scenarios to stack the deck in seeking the highest rating with minimal risk.)

A further addition was the option of utilizing specific ratings. Previously player applied wins and losses against their General rating. As the number of game titles expanded, the one rating became less of a measure of their ability within the various game titles played. Specific ratings provided a member to have one or more ratings dedicated to a single game title. This was unaffected by results from other titles played. As a player accumulates specific ratings in their best games, it became more difficult to stabilize their General rating which now represents their weaker games. Additionally, games such as GI:ANVIL OF VICTORY possesses a transitory player pool as many of those move onto ASL play or sublime to ASL skipping GIAV play altogether. Hence the evolution of the Squad Leader series weakened the prospect of rated GIAV play. An additional weakness of the specific ratings is if one wished to discontinue a specific rating, its record was not assimilated into ones Generic rating. Also the creation of a specific rating did not use any previous results in that title from the Generic rating. A significant attribute of specific AREA ratings is their applicability as a method to seed players in Avaloncon and similar tournaments specific to a game title. All matches in the former event are considered AREA play.


In the GENERAL in volume 16 no.6. These were informally accepted by the PBM fraternity. These were formalized again in a later General Article by the same author tilted Code of Conduct: the Rules for AREA. This version included a form which was highly recommended when initiating a PBM match. In addition to complete player information, it also stipulated agreed upon player response time, number of breaks allowed, methods to resolve disputes, rules agreed upon etc.. The form represents an informal contract to play. Although somewhat awkward, it does provide a valuable reference during play and when wondering what verbal agreements where reached especially when one plays a high number of matches simulateously. Its continued use is highly recommended. Regardless if used, it serves as a checklist when drawing up pregame agreements prior to play.


Following a computer theft (and corresponding loss of files) in 1994, the future of the system was in jeopardy. TAHGC declined to invest the effort to reconstruct the files due to limited resources and the enormity of the effort. Fortunately, two individual stepped forward to take ownership of the system with the cooperation of TAHGC. Specifically Glen Petroski and Russ Gifford. The ASL cause was aided by the recent download of the files prior to the computer loss. The non ASL records will be a significant challenge.

The new administration has a approximate birthday of May 1995. As part of the reconstruction effort, any history a player may have in some documented form was welcomed. Those who kept a detailed log of matches player are encouraged to submit them to the appropriate administrator. A summary of the revitalized AREA system is found in the General article found on page 16 in volume 30 number 2. The highlights are summarized as follows:

  1. All games published by TAHGC are valid for submission.
  2. Games played by any mode are acceptable: Face to Face (FTF); Play by Mail (PBM); Play by Email (PBEM); Play by Telephone (PBT) or any composite are valid.
  3. All player past history will be converted into specific rating for the corresponding titles played given some form of documentation
  4. Specific ratings will be established for all game titles and tracked independently. One present exception is the sub-ASL titles (Squad Leader, Cross of Iron, Crescendo of Doom, and GI: Anvil of victory) are lumped together as a single rating.
  5. New member ratings are established at 1500 AAA.
  6. A player retains a provisional status through the first 10 games of the title.
  7. The basic squiring system will remain the same and will be common to all games. This is very similar to that used by the US Chess Federation. Alphanumeric qualifiers give some detail regrading the number of games played, the number of opponents, and the number of non-FTF games.
  8. Area ratings are Free. However communication with the administrators should be done at your won expense (include a Self addressed stamped envelope for postal mail expecting a reply).
  9. Ratings should be submitted within 30 days of the gamešs conclusion. Communication via wither postal mail (snail mail) and/or email is acceptable.
  10. The AREA ratings are independent to individual ladder ratings which may exist elswhwere or that of the AKHIS player rating system. However if the game meets the criteria, the result may be submitted to multiple systems.
  11. The revised claim forms are found in the GENERAL xxxxxxxx and found in the Appendix. Any facsimile or statement of circulated though both players is acceptable.An sub ASL form is also included in the Appendix.


At the conclusion of a match, the loser should provide a victory chit to the winner which is forwarded to the appropriate administration. This can be done postally or by email. If done by email, the administrator should seek verification from both players. Point are won and lost according to the dictates of the Provisional Numeric Rating Chart. (Provisional status is only used in ASL)

A simple formula is used: 35+((Losing player's rating - Winning player rating)*0.5)
For game ending in a draw: (Losing player's rating - Winning player rating)*0.5


The GENERAL article in xxxxxxxx (The Revised AREA Briefing: Changes to the AREA system) defined the scoring system for Multi-player games as follows:


The use of qualifiers at the end of a rating provide an indication of the opponents past. Again specific to a game title, an metric for the total numbers of matches played, number of opponents faced, and the number of non FTF games is stated. Another measure is ask the number of specific ratings a player possesses. This gives an indication if the player is a specialist or a generalist. For many, onešs favorite games giving the greatest challenge is not necessary their best game.


Players may enter the system either in advance of or as a result of the conclusion of their first match. The original player numbers were a function of ones postal area code. This was modified as the member relocated. This AREA number is utilized in the new system. However the current system uses a stable AREA number once it is assigned. Please provide the following information to the appropriate AREA administrator:


AREA updates and selected specific ratings were published as a regular feature in the GENERAL magazine. This practice has been discontinued since TAHGC no longer administrated the system. Several transition articles have been published within the GENERAL by Glen Petroski. Future updates are published in the BOARDGAMER magazine. Contact Bruce Monnin, 177 S. Lincoln Street, Minster, Ohio 45865. (EMAIL:


  1. Rules of Conduct by Tom Oleson; GENERAL vol 16 no.6
  2. A.R.E.A Briefing, Avalon Hill Game Company Pulished procedure circa 9/84
  3. Very Much With Us ; by Glenn E. L. Petroski; GENERAL vol 30 no. 2; page 16
  4. Code of Conduct: The rules for AREA ; by Tom Oleson; GENERAL
  5. The Revised AREA Briefing: Changes to the AREA System ; GENERAL xxxxxxxxxx

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