Monday, August 30, 2010

Charles S. Roberts

Charles S. Roberts, founder of the modern wargame hobby, has dies at age 80, according to an obituary in the Baltimore Sun.

Interestingly, the Sun obituary barely mentions Roberts' association with wargaming and in th portion that does it makes a factual error, claiming that he sold Avalon Hill to Parker Brothers in the 1960s. Actually, of course, as is widely known, Mr. Roberts sold Avalon Hill to one of his creditors, Monarch Printing, which formed Monarch Avalon. Many years later, long after Mr. Robets' time that company was sold to Hasbro, which also owns Parker Brothers, which possibly accounts for the writer's confusion, although as far as I know Avalon Hill and Parker Brothers brands have never been associated under the Hasbro banner.

The bulk of the obituary talks about Mr. Roberts in the context of his expertise on the history of railroads.Evidently he made quite a name for himself in that field. As there are more railroad buffs than wargamers, this is a defensible editorial choice, I suppose.

Still, for wargamers, Mr. Roberts holds a special place, as he was the first to conceive of creating civilian board wargames based on the actual capabilities of military units (in Tactics and Tactics II) and crucially, based on historical battles (Gettysburg, D-Day, Waterloo and Midway). The authenticity of his wargames was naturally a bit crude, given their unprecedented nature and the milited sources available, but even this was a bit of a blessing, as correcting the errors of his games is what inspired other players to satrt designing their new and improved versions of history's greatest battles and created a hobby.

While Mr. Roberts will, of course, be missed most by his family and those friends who knew him personally, he also will be mourned by many who never eben played one on his games, but have enjoyed years of enjoyment from taking part in the hobby he made possible.

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