The Charles S. Roberts Awards

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Rodger B. MacGowan
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Forrest Atterberry
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Charles S. Roberts

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In His Own Words:
The Early History of Modern Wargaming and the Avalon HIll
Game Company

by Charles S. Roberts

Also read the Founding Father article.


  Charles S. Roberts; the man himself.The Charles S. Roberts Awards are presented annually for excellence in the historical wargaming hobby. Charles S. Roberts, in whose name this award is given, invented the modern wargame industry almost single-handedly. As a designer and the original owner-operator of The Avalon Hill Game Company. He founded Avalon Hill in 1958 and published Tactics II, Gettysburg, and Dispatcher. They were the first commercial board wargames and Charles Roberts was responsible for their creation, including many of the developments, such as the Combat Results Table (CRT), that were later to become commonplace. Avalon Hill became a pioneer in a new type of gaming: strategy games based on historical events and so Charles Roberts spawned the whole commercial wargaming hobby/industry we know today.

Prior to Roberts' founding of Avalon Hill, strategy games had been more abstract in nature and popular games, although themed, relied more on luck and less on strategy. By deviating from these traditions, Roberts created a new genre of games that appealed to a new type of gamer.

In 1962, when the debts of Roberts' fledgling company mounted, he sold it to his major creditor, Monarch Services, a printing company. Monarch later went public (as Monarch-Avalon), but throughout its history, controlling ownership was held by the Dott family -- Eric and, later, his son Jackson. Credit is also due to the two men who did the most to ensure that Avalon Hill published such fine games for so many years: Tom Shaw and, later, Don Greenwood.

Avalon Hill was happy if a game sold 10,000 copies in its life. Well, in the summer of 1998, Avalon Hill was disbanded when Monarch Avalon decided to get out of the game business. Hasbro Games and Hasbro Interactive purchased the rights to the AH game titles, back inventory, and name. Hasbro, by the way, typically sells 200,000 plus copies annually of each and every boardgame it publishes.

After a year and a half of research and design, Hasbro Games has started to bring back the Avalon Hill games line. Some games are reissues of classic AH games, but many are new games to satisfy "the Avalon Hill gamer." Titles are being re-released and perhaps we'll find new blood entering our old hobby -- the hobby that Charles S. Roberts founded back in the late 1950s.

For the record, Roberts himself designed the following groundbreaking games (given in order of publication):

bulletTactics, 1952 (republished 1983)
bulletTactics II, 1958 (republished 1961, 1972)
bulletGettysburg, 1958 (republished 1961, 1964)
bulletU-Boat, 1959 (republished 1961)
bulletVerdict, 1959 (republished 1960)
bulletChancellorsville, 1961
bulletCivil War, 1961
bulletD-Day, 1961
bulletDispatcher, 1961
bulletNieuchess, 1961
bulletBismarck, 1962
bulletAfrika Korps, 1964 (republished 1965, 1977)

31 May 1988


Dear Mr. Rodger B. MacGowan,

In regard to your letter and offer of May 26th just received, please be advised that it is my desire to have the use of my name on the various "Awards" be accomplished in a manner and in a context that is "independent" of any commercial connection and "free" from any conflict of interest.

Toward that end, you and your "Charles S. Roberts Awards" Council  have my authority to take all appropriate steps.  If any major issue cannot be resolved in good faith by you and this group, the matter should be referred to me for decision.

Very Truly Yours,

Charles S. Roberts