TSR released its espionage roleplaying game in 1980. I don’t see too many of those 1st edition sets come through the shop.

By 1981, they’d re-worked the set into a 2nd edition. Visually quite similar at first glance, the rules underwent some changes, particularly combat from what I can see. If anybody knows of a good blog post or forum thread outlining the rules changes between 1st and 2nd edition Top Secret, let me know and I’ll link to it.

I’ve got 1st and 2nd edition sets to contrast together in photos today.


 

Top Secret available in the shop [the box sets are currently on page 2 of search results]

 

Top Secret product line detailed at the reference site

 


Exterior

Top Secret black box printings top lids
Left: 1st edition, 2nd printing (April 1980). Right: 2nd edition (February 1981).

Top Secret black box printings bottom box

Top Secret black box printings profile
Externally, there is little to distinguish the sets apart. There is a size difference however.

Interior

Top Secret black box printings
1981 red rules book has some graphical changes on the cover, plus the updated TSR face logo.
Top Secret Box 2nd set - Angled TSR logo
(Here’s a later 1983 set that came through the shop in 2014. Note the box now has the angled TSR logo… but not the book. OK, now back to the earlier sets…)

Top Secret black box printings inside lids

A noticeable change is the box itself on the inside. Most commonly seen in the Holmes Basic D&D set, early TSR boxes used a box blank with the graphics as a glued-on sheet, both top and bottom. This “glued sheet” box format was retained for a brief time, before being replaced with a box with the graphics printed directly on the paperboard.

Top Secret changed box formats between editions.

See also:

Dungeons & Dragons: The Shift in Early Box Formats

Boot Hill early print box set

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Close-up of the Top Secret box interiors

The books

Top Secret black box book printings
1980 book (top), 1981 book (bottom)
Top Secret black box book printings title page
The 1981 book appears to have been completely re-typeset in a different font.

Top Secret black box book printings copyright

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Some differences in layout and illustration.

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1st edition’s Erol Otus piece on page 16 didn’t print well, and was re-done for 2nd edition.

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The combat section looks quite different between the editions
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These are the same pages. This wasn’t just a simple “correct errors and typos” between editions.

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Book back covers

Top Secret black box 1st ed w Dragon ad
Extra photo of the Dragon flyer in the 1980 box

 

Top Secret available in the shop [the box sets are currently on page 2 of search results]

 


See Also: Top Secret SI: Player written character background and (mostly) finances

Top Secret: Player-made GM aids