Squad Leader Editions

Squad Leader was published in four editions. The 1st Edition appeared on the scene in 1977 in the now-famous purple box top.

Known characteristics of the various editions include:

1st Edition
  • Purple box top with black bottom

  • The rulebook contains several errors and even blank spaces.1 (See below for full listing of differences between 1st and 4th Edition rulebooks.)

  • The scenario card for scenario 11 shows two German leaders (Sgt Hamblen and Cpl Uhl) in place of American leaders

  • Most notably, the random selection chart for the scenario generator contained errors, and an errata sheet had to be issued later. This errata sheet may be considered part of a complete "1st edition" game.

  • The 1st edition mapboards had black backings.

  • The 1st edition shipped with maps whose hexgrid was the wrong size, being slightly too small; Cross of Iron shipped with unmounted maps for boards 1-4, allowing owners of the original Squad Leader misprints to "correct" their boards. Again, these unmounted sheets may also be considered part of a truly complete "1st Edition" collection.

Unmounted SL Board 1 laid pictured with its mounted counterpart

2nd Edition
  • "2nd Edition" is stamped clearly on the rulebook cover
  • Box lid changed from purple to orange-red and remained that colour for the remainder of the run
3rd Edition
  • "3rd Edition" is stamped clearly on the rulebook cover
4th Edition
  • "4th Edition" is stamped clearly on the rulebook cover

At some point, various other characteristics between the editions changed, though it's unclear if these coincided with specific edition, or which ones. The lower half of the box received its own colourful copy.

The mounted maps changed as well; the black backings changed to brown - and both Squad Leader and Advanced Squad Leader maps remained mounted on brown backings into the 21st Century, when the practice of hard mounting ceased.

At some point also, the artwork on Board 1 changed. The most noticeable difference was a notch in building 1F3 that is visibly absent in earlier versions of that map.

An example of the Board 1 that came with COI has the "notch" in 1F3, while a black-backed board in the author's collection lacks the notch and what looks like the larger hexgrid. At the same time, the author has a brown-backed board with the notch that was purchased in 1985 brand new as part of a 4th Edition set. The unmounted mapsheet from COI and the 4th Edition map from 1985 seem to be identical (though obviously from different print runs as the colours and contrast are different) but the artwork is the same. The black backed "1st Edition" board is fuzzier and has the different artwork.

Another difference is the 1J3-1K4 hexside. It is blocked on the "fuzzy' black-backed board. By a hair, but it is blocked, meaning no LOS from K3 to J4. This is different on the unmounted/brown backed maps, as the building is shifted considerably within the hex. There are other examples (such as the K8-L7 hexside). In fact, there are a lot of buildings that seem to be ambiguously placed in the hexgrid, whereas these are "cleaned up" on what presumably is the later edition board.

The "unmounted" Board 1 overlay included in COI has been laid overtop of the 1st Edition Board 1 for comparison.
The hexspines between A5/A6 (i.e. the middle of the board) has been aligned. The difference at each end
of the map shows that the original Board 1 map (underneath) has slightly smaller hexes.

1st Edition Rulebook 4th Edition Rulebook
  Cover - identical to 1st Edition, with addition of "FOURTH EDITION" in upper left corner above the SS man's helmet
p.6 - the red arrows on the LOS diagrams are printed off-centre by 1/8"  
p.9 - in the second column under the image of the MkIVF2, the 1st MG factor is labelled "360 MG Factor" and the second is labelled "Covered Arc MG Factor". This is in fact incorrect. p.9 - in the second column under the image of the MkIVF2, the 1st MG factor is labelled "Covered Arc MG Factor" and the second is labelled "360 MG Factor"
p.22 - the Appendix starts at the top of column 3 p.22 - the Appendix starts at the bottom of column 2
p.23 - there is an entire blank column (column 3) p.23 - there is a block of 36 separate Questions & Answers regarding the rules
pp. 26-28 - the Point Value Chart appears here, while the Random Selection Chart appears on pp.27-28, requiring a page flip to read it (it is also missing the column for Ace of Diamonds) pp. 26-28 - the Random Selection Chart appears as a two-page spread while the Point Value Chart appears on p.28
  p.29 - the Design Credits appear on this page, while they do not in the 1st Edition rules
p.30. - the Design Credits appear on this page p.30 - where the Design Credits used to appear in the 1st Edition Rules, a blurb on the "Fourth Edition" appears
p.30. - in the Campaign Game Example, "Hillen" is also spelled "Hill" and "Hilpen" p.30. - in the Campaign Game Example, "Hillen" is also spelled "Hill"; the "Hilpen" spelling has been corrected to "Hillen"
p. 35 - large blank section is headed "Notes" p.35 - "Notes" section is now labeled "Questions & Answers" and has fifteen additional answers to rules questions but is still half blank.
p. 36 - in the sequence of play, there is no 1.9, and "remove DM counters" is listed under 1.1 (this is incorrect) p. 36 - there is a 1.9 under the Advanced Sequence of Play, and "remove DM counters" appears there instead of 1.1

Notes on the 1st Edition

Much has been written on the haste of the publication of the 1st Edition. Developer Don Greenwood noted in an interview:

Ah, what a horror story that is. Battleline isn't the only company that ran a midnight printing and assembly service the week before ORIGINS '77. We introduced six new titles at ORIGINS '77, and none were assembled before mid-July. In pasting-up the Squad Leader rulebook and scenarios, I pulled a 30-hour non-stop stint, which saw me come in Thursday at 6 a.m. and leave Friday afternoon. While I was sleeping it off, good old Monarch (webmaster's note: Monarch Services printing) ran the whole thing without giving me a proof. Granted, I wouldn't have caught them all, but there were some obvious glitches which went unchanged and were just unforgivable for a company which prides itself on its physical product.

Let me digress for a moment and mention the most obvious errors for you just getting into the First Edition:

1) p.6 - both diagrams are misleading due to the red plate printing 1/8-in. too high;

2) p. 9 - the Covered Arc and 360 MG Factors are reversed in the diagram;

3) the Random Selection Chart is misprinted on two non-opposite pages;

4) p.36 - the removal of DM counters should be step 1.9 not 1.1

5) Scenario 11 - the American leaders should not be German2

Designer John Hill commented:

At long last the development process was completed - the playtesting, the artwork, and everything. All that remained was the typesetting, a final proofreading by Don, and then off to the printer's in time for Origins '77. We were home free, nothing could go wrong. HA! Mr. Murphy was not to give up that easily. At this critical time, Don was struck down by Amebic Botulism. But the game had to go on. Surely someone else at (Avalon Hill) could do the proofreading, though no one knew Squad Leader like Don...Crunch! Crunch! The presses grind out 2500 of the little devils. It is done. Now Don is better and looks over the final, printed version of the game. Uh-oh! Don is sick again...!

The rulebook was loaded with typos. Such irritating things as the red being off-center and screwing up all the carefully drawn line-of-sight 'clarification' sketches. And the example on the tank counter, MG's, is backwards, and - what is this?!? The random Order of Battle Chart has been guillotined! The final aggr(a)vation: SGT Hill's name has been misspelled three different ways...3


  1. Thank you to Chuck Hooker of Stafford, VA for his generosity in providing me with information on the 1st Edition rulebook.

  2. Greenwood, Don "Developer's Notes" Fire & Movement Magazine, Issue 9, Nov-Dec 1977

  3. Hill, John "Squad Leader: Designer's Notes" Fire & Movement Magazine, Issue 9, Nov-Dec 1977