TSR released the Top Secret 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 RPG 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 sets available in the shop

Check eBay

Top Secret product line detailed at the reference site


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.


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.

This was something TSR did at the time, across their game lines:

Dungeons & Dragons: The Shift in Early Box Formats

Boot Hill early print box set

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

Some differences in layout and illustration.


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



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



Book back covers

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

EDIT May 30, 2020: Adding photos of a 1st edition, 1st printing set

Top Secret Box 1st ed 1st print set

Top Secret rulebook 1st 1st inside cover
1st print book’s inside cover looks mostly the same as the 2nd print photo’d earlier in the post…
Top Secret rulebook 1st 1st book printings copyright
…except for the copyright block. No printing stated here.

Top Secret sets available in the shop

See Also: GATEWAY TO ADVENTURE: TSR’s Classic Games Catalog (1980 & 1981)

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

Top Secret: Player-made GM aids