Resources

History of Wargaming

The following draws heavily on Jon Peterson's Playing at the World. Peterson's book is strongly recommended for anyone wanting to better understand the history of tabletop wargaming and/or the larger gaming context in which Dungeons & Dragons developed. While the focus of the timeline is on miniature wargaming and roleplaying games, some information relevant to the early history of board games and the evolution of the gaming industry in the wake of D&D's success is included.

| Early History | Origins of Kriegspiel |

| Wargaming as Hobby | Diplomacy to D&D | D&D and Beyond |



Early History (3100 B.C.E. - 1760 C.E.)

31st century B.C.E.

Oldest known evidence of a board game is pictured in a fresco found in Merknera's tomb in Egypt. The game is Senet. The game is played on a grid of 30 squares; however, the exact mechanics of the game are not known.


30th century B.C.E.

The oldest known backgammon set dates to the 30th century B.C.E., a copy having been discovered in the Burnt City in Iran.


4th century B.C.E.

The earliest written reference to Go (weiqi) can be found in the historical annal Zuo Zhuan. Go is also mentioned in the Analects of Confucius at about the same time.


2nd century B.C.E.

Oldest evidence of the icosahedron, or 20-sided die, found in Egypt and dating back to the Ptolemic Period.


6th century C.E.

The precursor of chess originated in India during the Gupta Empire, where its early form in the 6th century was known as chaturanga, which translates as "four divisions (of the military)": infantry, cavalry, elephantry, and chariotry, represented by the pieces that would evolve into the modern pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, respectively. This precursor to chess laid the foundation for the chess variants of the 17th century, which, in turn, laid the foundation for modern wargames--i.e. kriegspiel and its descendants.


868

Playing cards were invented in ancient China and were found in China as early as the Tang Dynasty (618–907). The first reference to card games in world history dates from the 9th century, when the Collection of Miscellanea at Duyang described Princess Tongchang, daughter of Emperor Yizong of Tang, playing the "leaf game" in 868 C.E. The invention is associated with the simultaneous development of using sheets or pages instead of paper rolls as a writing medium.


1367

First evidence of playing cards in Europe (with suits corresponding to those of the tarot--i.e. swords, cups, staves, and coins) was a ban on their use in Bern, Switzerland in 1367. Wide use of playing cards in Europe can, with some certainty, be traced from 1377 onwards.


1616

Augustus of Brunswick-Lüneburg (10 April 1579 – 17 September 1666), called the Younger, was duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Under the pseudonym Gustavus Selenus, he wrote a book on chess in 1616, The Game of Chess or Kings, the earliest detailed account of living chess and the earliest German chess book. His chess system was based on his the Persian game Shatranj, which was a direct descendant of chaturanga, which he had encountered while traveling in India.


1664

Christoph Weickhmann's New-erfundenes Grosses Königs-Spiel (trans. The Newly-invented Great Game of Kings) is published. Influenced by Selenus' 1616 book, Weickhmann developed a number of chess variants--including variants played on four- and six-player boards. Weickhmann's chess system involved fourteen different pieces with their own movement rules. It is unclear to what degree Weickhmann influenced later developments in kriegspiel.


1760

Johann Gottfried Hilpert, a pewter artisan located in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg, begins producing pewter miniatures, effectively founding the commercial miniatures industry. Hilpert's toy soldiers were flat--and, as such, are most often referred to as "flats"--and were sold as toys, not as a wargame accessory. It would be many years before the traditions of kriegspiel and toy soldiers would cross paths.


Origins of Kriegspiel (1780 - 1880)

1780

Johann Christian Ludwig Hellwig publishes his first rules set for a new chess variant entitled Versuch eines aufs Schachspiel gebaueten taktischen Spiels von zwey mehrern Personen zu spielen (trans. Attempt to Build Upon Chess a Tactical Game Which Two or More Persons Might Play). Unlike Weickhmann's chess variant, Hellwig's game abandons the two-tone grid of classic chess in favor of a large grid where each square corresponds to a specific type of terrain. The basic set sold by Hellwig included a 49 x 33 grid (1617 squares total). He also abandoned the fixed chess pieces, instead opting to use pieces corresponding to contemporary military infantry and cavalry. Pieces also have relative strengths, which determine the outcome of conflict, and units can also be moved in concert--rather than a piece at a time. In short, Hellwig laid the groundwork for all subsequent miniature-based wargames.


1797

Johann Georg Julius Venturini, inspired by Hellwig, publishes his own rules set, Beschreibung und Regeln eines neuen Krieges-Spiels zum Nutzen and Vergngen, besonders aber zum Gebrauche in Militairschulen (trans. Description and Rules for a New War-Game, for Improvement and for Pleasure, but Especially for Use in Military Schools). Venturini wrote extensively on military strategy and theory. His wargame expanded on Hellwig's in that he increased the variety of terrain, took into account seasons and weather, increased the types of entrenchments and fortifications available, and added a number of rules that addressed the feeding, equipping, and support of forces in the field. Most significantly, Venturini's wargame abandoned the grid. Instead, play take place on a map.


1803

Johann Christian Ludwig Hellwig publishes an updated version of his 1780 rules entitled Das Kriegsspiel. Hellwig wrote that his purpose is "to bring to life the rules of the art of war, and thus to serve students of this art....[and] to provide, to those who need no instruction, a pleasant entertainment through a game where nothing depends on chance, but rather all depends on the skill of the player".


1811

Georg Leopold von Reiswitz demonstrates his new wargame to the Prussian princes. The game was played on a specially constructed sand table, on which Reiswitz sculpted terrain in exacting detail. The scale of the playing space was thirty times higher in resolution than Venturini's. However, he did not use sculpted figures, opting instead to use small wooden cubes. When the King of Prussia expressed interest in seeing the game the following year, Reiswitz abandoned the sand table and built a table with interchangeable plaster terrain tiles. He published a 200-page account of the 1812 demonstration entitled Taktisches Kriegs-Spiel oder Anleitung zu einer mechanischen Vorrichtung um taktische Manoeuvres sinnlich darzustellen (trans. Tactical Wargame, or Instructions for a Mechanical Device to Show Realistic Tactical Maneuvers).


1824

Georg Heinrich Rudolf Johann von Reiswitz (often referred to as Reiswitz the Younger), having taken an interest in his father's "game", publishes his own kriegspiel rules set. Where his father's famous table had been created at the scale of 500 feet per terrain tile, Reiswitz the Younger's game was played at a scale where one inch represents 400 paces. He also abandoned the tile table, reverting to maps per Venturini's system. Where his father's system broke turns into one-minute intervals, Reiswitz the Younger's broke turns into two-minute intervals. He also calculated damage in terms of "points"; and damage was tallied using physical counters. Two important changes made by the younger Reiswitz were the addition of an umpire and dice. The umpire was a rules arbiter. Specially-marked dice were used to determine the outcome of battle--so as to allow an element of chance to enter the game. Reiswitz commissioned the creation of sets that could be sold. This set fit in a box ten inches long and six inches wide, and was sold for 30 Thalers (about $350). After demonstrating the game for then Prince Wilhelm, the game became a standard component of Prussian officers training, and, for a time, kriegspiel became vogue in European military circles.


1828

Following the suicide of the younger Reiswitz in 1827 (and his father in 1828), nine junior officers in the Prussian military (all kriegspiel enthusiasts) for the first wargaming club, the Berliner Kriegsspiel-Verein (trans. The Berlin Wargame Association). They issue a new set of rules that make no of either Reiswitz.


1841

The first story by Edgar Allen Poe featuring C. Auguste Dupin, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", is published. Dupin would become the model for later eccentric detectives, like Sherlock Holmes.


1848

Ernst Heinrichsen, a Nuremberg native influenced by the work of Hilpert, begins producing 30mm scale toy soldiers, standardizing the 30mm scale and purportedly producing millions of "flats" from 17,000 distinct molds.


1860

Milton Bradley first markets his new board game The Checkered Game of Life (commonly known as Life). The company would also produce games like Twister and Chutes & Ladders. It remained a family-run business until 1984, when it was purchased by Hasbro.


1861

Prince Wilhelm, the royal who was so taken with Reiswitz's wargame, becomes King Wilhelm I.


1862

Wilhelm von Tschischwitz publishes his kriegspiel rules, Anleitung zum Kriegsspiel (trans. Instructions for Kriegspiel). Motivated primarily by changes in modern warfare (e.g. the use of railroads for troop transport and advances in rifle and artillery technology--specifically, improved accuracy as the result of rifling). More significantly, Tschischwitz abandoned the custom dice of the younger Reiswitz for simple six-sided dice and a printed combat results chart.


1864

Ignorant of the larger kriegspiel tradition, British board game designer D.A. Peachery publishes a chess variant for the masses entitled Battalia.


1866

Another game designer, Charles Richardson, a Confederate Colonel who was also ignorant of the kriegspiel tradition, produces War-Chess: Or the Game of Battle. Like Peachery's 1864 game, it is interesting to consider how some wargames were produced without knowledge of the wargames in vogue with European military officers. However, by 1871, the German wargaming tradition could hardly have been unknown in England, as interest in Prussian military training began to grow following their military victories in the 1860s.


1869

Thilo von Trotha attempts to rethink kriegspiel, but ends up arriving at a system very similar to that of the younger Reiswitz. He publishes his rules set under the title Anleitung zur darstellung von Gefechtsbildern mittest des Kriegs Spiel apparatus.


1872

Following a number of Prussian military victories, interest in kriegspiel begins spread beyond Prussia. In 1872, a loose adaptation of the Tschischwitz rules appear in English--Rules for the Conduct of a War-Game by Capt. E. Baring of the British Royal Artillery. That same year, two French-language kriegspiel sets were produced. An Italian translation of Trotha's rules appeared in 1873, and a Russian translation in 1875.


1873

Klemens Wilhelm Jacob Meckel publishes a criticism of kriegspiel, which he felt had become overly complicated and, as such, was embraced least by those military officers who would have benefitted most from its use. Two years later his published a simplified rules set, which encouraged consideration of military activity on various scales--i.e. a smaller scale game for the study in tactical details, and a larger scale game that gave greater consideration to the larger movement of forces.

Henry Spencer Wilkinson, a student at Oxford University, returns from studying abroad with a kriegspiel set and establishes the first non-military wargaming club, Oxford's University Kriegspiel Club. One member of the club was the military historian Sir Charles Oman, who wrote the two-volume tome A History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages (1923), which Gygax later cited as a major inspiration for the development of medieval combat rules for Chainmail and Dungeons & Dragons.


1876

Julius von Verdy du Vernois, a member of the Prussian General Staff, publishes his Beitrag zum Kriegsspiel (trans. Contribution to Wargaming). Of the opinion that Meckel did not simplify the rules enough, his rules set eliminated the use of dice and the combat results tables and placed the onus for determining the outcome of a battle solely in the hands of the game referee.


1880

Charles Adiel Lewis Totten, an instructor at West Point, wrote Strategos: The American War Game. This rules set was the oldest wargame rules set that Gygax and Arneson knew of firsthand (cf. see the 1967 and 1970 entries related to Dave Wesely). Strategos was basically two games in one--a battle game similar to Hellwig's and played on a board, and an advanced game played on maps and more in line with Tschischwitz's system. He sold all the materials needed to play for $75 (about $1500 today). Most significantly, Totten's system used dice for resolution of combat; however, unlike older kriegspiel systems (e.g. the younger Reiswitz's), the combatants rolled the dice, not the referee/umpire.


Wargaming as Hobby (1881 - 1958)

1881

Robert Louis Stevenson arrives at Davos and begins developing his own wargame in supposed ignorance of the kriegspiel tradition. The game was played with his stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, and began with simple rows of toy soldiers (Stevenson and Osbourne owned about 600) and a marble that stood in as artillery--that would later use a toy pop-gun.


1883

Robert Louis Stevenson publishes Treasure Island. Despite having invented his own miniature wargame without explicit knowledge of the kriegspiel tradition, this book is the first modern fantasy to introduce the search for treasure as a major plot device.

George S. Parker founds the Parker and Parker Company (later Parker Brothers). The company would remain family-owned until 1968, when it was purchased by General Mills. In 1985, General Mills merged with Kenner, and was then purchased by Tonka. In 1991, Hasbro bought Tonka.


1891

The first Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle , "A Scandal in Bohemia", is published in The Strand.


1893

William Britain Jr. develops a process for producing hollow, "in the round" toy soldiers. The fact that these figures were hollow greatly reduced the cost of their production, and the new company that was founded to produce them broke the German monopoly on the toy solider market. These figures, commonly called "Britains" included only British troops.


1898

The article "Stevenson at Play" by Lloyd Osbourne (Stevenson's stepson) appears in Scribner's Magazine, telling of Robert Louis Stevenson's fondness for wargames and of the game his first developed in Davos during the winter of 1881-1882. This is the first published account of gaming with miniature figures.

Fred T. Jane publishes the first installment of All the World's Fighting Ships (more commonly known as Jane's Fighting Ships). This catalogue rates naval vessels by nationality, weapon quality, and armor. That same year, Fred T. Jane also publishes Rules for the Jane Naval War Game. Drawing heavily on the classifications from his naval guide, this game is notable in that it involved the use of scale naval ships constructed out of painted cork. The game relied heavily on the intervention of an umpire.


1904

Max and Otto Hausser found the O&M Hausser company and begin producing miniatures using a material they developed called Elastolin, which was basically a mixture of sawdust, glue, kaolin, and linseed oil. The models used in The Siege of Bodenburg game (see the relevant 1967 entry) were created from Elastolin.


1908

A sixteen-page pamphlet entitled The Great War Game for Young and Old is published. The game is marketed exclusively at the youth demographic. Advocating the use of Britain toy soldiers, the wargame advocates the use of a 4.7 inch toy cannon for combat resolution--basically, the cannon is fired at the opponent's toy soldiers. If a cannon is not available, the rules suggest using thrown butter beans. Famously, H.G. Wells, who would later publish Little Wars, used the 4.7 inch cannon in his own wargame.

Captain Farrand Sayre of the Army Staff College at Fort Leavenworth publishes Map Maneuvers, a history of kriegspiel. Of interest is Sayre's mention of "one-sided" wargames, where the combatant plays against the referee. One-sided wargames were a fixture of U.S. military training up through the 1960s.


1911

H.G. Wells publishes Floor Games, which details a number of children's games. On the last page of this book, Wells writes that there is another type of war game, full of "battles and campaigns and strategies and tactics", but that "of the war game I must either write volumes or nothing". For the time being, he writes nothing.


1912

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle publishes "The Lost World", a fantasy that imagines the survival of dinosaurs to the present day in remote South America.

Edgar Rice Burroughs publishes the first Tarzan story, "Tarzan of the Apes", in the October issue of All-Story Magazine.


1913

Little Wars is published by H. G. Wells. Considered to be the first published wargame rules for miniature figures aimed at the general public. It was originally published in installments in Windsor Magazine beginning in 1912. Like Stevenson's game, it involved knocking an opponent's army over with projectiles--specifically, projectiles fired by a 4.7 inch cannon. During a turn, the gun can either move or fire, but not both. Despite stating he would need to write "volumes or nothing" to explain the game, the actual rules only comprise four and a half pages. Most significantly, Wells advocating an attitude toward the game that saw each battle as being part of a larger campaign. Thus, the losing side would not squander everything but hold back and attempt to reduce losses. Points awarded at the end of each battle would influence the next battle in the campaign. As staunch pacifist, Wells famously advocated wargames as an alternative to actual war. Of significance, Wells set his game fifty years in the past, breaking a long-standing tradition of updating kriegspiel rules sets to account for advances in modern military technology.


1914

McClure magazine features an article on the massive wargames of William Chamberlaine of the Coast Artillery Corps. These games were stages on "a large green board twenty-five by forty feet" and depicted ships attacking U.S. coastal strongholds.


1915

Industrial designer and futurist Norman Bel Geddes (famous for designing the "Futurama" pavilion for the 1939 World's Fair) begins development of his wargame. He would work on it for many years, eventually producing a 45-page rules booklet. Like Wells, Bel Geddes believed that wargames made the futility of actual war plain. His game was played on a three-dimensional board crafted from layered cork that was four feet by sixteen feet. Colored tacks were used to designate the position of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. He and his New York friends played every Wednesday through most of the 1920s.


1917

Edgar Rice Burroughs publishes "A Princess of Mars", the first story of Burroughs to feature John Carter.


1918

World War I, or the Great War, ends on November 11th. The impact of the war on those who might have taken a hobbyists interest in wargaming following the publication of Wells' Little Wars should not be overlooked. As Jon Peterson, author of Playing at the World, notes, most returning soldiers had had enough war to last a lifetime, and interest in hobby wargaming waned in the years following WWI.


1923

J.C. Henneburger begins publication of Weird Tales. The author most often associated with Weird Tales was H.P. Lovecraft. The first story published by Lovecraft in the magazine was "Dagon", which was featured in the October issue.


1926

Hugo Gernsback, an enthusiast of "scientifiction", begins publication of Amazing Stories.


1929

Shambattle: How to Play with Toy Soldiers by Harry G. Dowdall and Joseph H. Glason is published. This booklet was the first wargame rules set for miniatures published in United States; however, is was aimed at a preteen audience. Indeed, most American gamers saw toy soldiers and the wargames associated with them as a child's pastime, and Shambattle failed to attract an adult audience.

The naval wargame developed by Fletcher Pratt begins. Pratt would eventually publish the rules (in 1943). It is considered one of the best-known civilian wargames. Games were held monthly in Pratt's apartment, and participants included luminaries like L. Sprague de Camp, Theodore Sturgeon, and L. Ron Hubbard. The game, while not based on Fred T. Jane's game, did draw heavily on the information provided in Jane's Fighting Ships. Movement was measured in knots, and a knot was measured as 14mm. Pratt would publish the rules for his game in 1943.br />

1930

The first issue of Astounding Stories of Super Science, edited by John W. Campbell, is published. This was the SF magazine of note in the 1930s--mainly because of Campbell's strict criteria for inclusion and the fact that Campbell paid two cents a word, while the other popular SF/F zines of the times were only paying one cent per word. Stories deemed too un-scientific for Astounding Stories were often published in Unknown, also edited by Campbell.

The 1930 Leipzig Exhibition of miniature figures includes over 100 dioramas of miniature figures assembled by the prominent collectors in Europe. These collectors formed the Leipziger Sammlervereins der Klio, an association which made it clear that collecting toy soldiers was not simply the pastime of young boys. While Stevenson and Wells might have been content to smash their toy figures with small cannons, these folks were serious collectors.


1931

The Great War sufficiently in the past, the Britains toy company finally produced a set of toy soldiers depicting the German fighting forces of the First World War.


1932

The first short story by Robert E. Howard featuring Conan the Cimmerian, "Phoenix on the Sword", is published in Weird Tales.


1935

Parkers Brothers publish the board game Monopoly. Within a year, they would sell over one million copies of the game.

The British Model Soldier Society (BMSS) is formed in July by fifteen collectors--including Dennis Britain, grandson of William Britain Jr. The BMSS would publish a newsletter entitled the Bulletin. For many years, the fledgling hobby wargaming community was little more than a smaller subset of the miniature figure collecting hobby community.


1936

Robert E. Howard commits suicide on June 11th. Seventeen Conan stories were published before his death--all in Weird Tales. And handful were published posthumously.


1937

H.P. Lovecraft dies on March 15th.

J.R.R. Tolkien's novel The Hobbit is released on September 21st.


1938

The first version of Scrabble published by Alfred Butts under the name "Criss-Crosswords".


1939

The first story by Fritz Leiber featuring Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, "Two Sought Adventure", appears in the August issue of Unknown.

August Derleth founds Arkham House. Derleth was instrumental in preserving the legacy of such writers as H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.

Captain J.C. Sachs, a member of the British Model Soldier Society, established the first "Tactical Cup Challenge", a wargame tournament that used his own rules set. These rules basically built on those outlined in Well's Little Wars; however, they were updated to account for advances in military technology (e.g. the machine gun, tanks, trench warfare, barbed wire, etc.). Unlike Well's system, combatants take turns moving their forces rather than moving and firing simultaneously.

Germany invades Poland on September 1st, and the European war begins. As was the case during WWI, interest in wargames wanes as most get their fill of war from the real thing. Britians, Ltd. switches to armament production in 1941, and their factory becomes a target for German bombing runs--eventually taking damage. In Germany, the Braunschweig, where Hellwig and Venturini gamed, is destroyed by Allied bombs, as was Berlin Castle, where the elder Reiswitz demoed his game for the Prussian princes.


1940

The first Harold Shea story, "The Roaring Trumpet", written by Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp, appears in the May issue of Unknown. Pratt and de Camp would collaborate on four more Harold Shea stories.


1941

The American counterpart to the British Model Soldier Society, the Miniature Figure Collectors of America (MFCA) is founded. Its newsletter was The Guidon.


1943

Fletcher Pratt publishes Fletcher Pratt's Naval War Game, which details the rules for the game he ran in his New York apartment in the 1930s. Of note, Pratt's game was somewhat novel in that it was the first to welcome female players. This significance must be understood within the context of the times. For example, Wells had written in the text of Little Wars that the game is "for boys...and for that more intelligent sort of girls who like boys' games and book". Later Wells complained of his games being interrupted "by a great rustle and chattering of lady visitors. They regarded the objects upon the floor with the empty disdain of their sex for all imaginative things". Also of significance were his rules for damage and armor, which, after being repurposed by Don Featherstone in 1966 and then rediscovered by Dave Arneson, were the most likely inspiration for hit points.

The term "role-playing" is coined by German psychoanalyst Jakob L. Moreno. Note, this is the first use of the term in English; the German word rollenspiel, on which it is based, is much older. The term rollenspiel refers to a technique of group therapy promoted by Moreno.


1945

World War II ends after the U.S. drops two atomic bombs on Japanese cities. The advent of nuclear warfare would have little impact on hobby wargames. The military did run wargames that took the nuclear option into account, but hobby wargamers reacted by focusing their games on eras prior to Hiroshima.


1946

The first collection of Robert E. Howard's Conan stories, Skull-Face and Other Stories, is published by Arkham House. Note that only five of the 23 stories included in Skull-Face were Conan stories.


1949

Astounding Stories and Unknown cease publication.


1950

Jack Vance publishes the first collection of Dying Earth stories, entitled The Dying Earth. He would not publish another Dying Earth novel until 1966 (The Eyes of Overworld).


1954

Tactics is published by the Avalon Game Company (later Avalon Hill). Considered the progenitor of modern board wargames, the game was created by Charles S. Roberts in 1952, who established the Avalon Game Company and sold the game via mail order from his business headquarters--located in his garage. Despite having no direct knowledge of kriegspiel, Tactics rules set echoes elements of Hellwig's board mechanics and Reiswitzian combat.

Herbert Goldhamer publishes a paper entitled "Toward a Cold War Game" for the Social Sciences Division of the RAND Corporation. The paper proposes rules for "political gaming". In 1955 and 1956, RAND conducted several trials of Goldhamer's multiparty Cold War game. It was played in real-time, and players included officials from the U.S. State Department. Such role-playing games would remain popular at military schools and within the military intelligentsia.

Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword is published. The story is a retelling of the end times of Norse myth, and alludes to the opposing forces of Law and Chaos.

The first volume of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is published on July 29th. The book was released in three volumes, and the final volume was released on October 20, 1955.


1955

Tony Bath places an ad in The Bulletin expressing interest in the acquisition of medieval-themed models for wargaming.


1956

The first U.S. wargaming convention is organized by Jack Scruby in California. Fourteen people attended, all playing with 54mm figures.

The summer issues of The Bulletin (the newsletter of the British Model Soldier Society) feature a two-part article by Tony Bath entitled "War Game of the Middle Ages and Ancient Times". Bath was an influential British wargamer who took great interest in the development of a medieval-themed wargame. Bath would be one of the first wargamers to see such newsletters as a medium for the semi-professional publication of wargames rules sets, and one could see him as a pioneer of the distribution of rules sets at no cost. His rules, totaling six pages over the two issues have the distinction of being the first published rules for a medieval miniatures wargame.

Jack Scruby, then Corresponding Secretary of the Southern California Miniature Collectors Society (SCMCS) hosts the All Western Conference for Collectors of Military Miniatures on July 21 and 22. Sixteen members of the SCMCS attend. This is likely one of the first American conventions for military miniature collectors. Scruby had long been interested in military miniatures, having seen dioramas of various WWI battles while traveling in Europe in the 1920s. He had been crafting his own miniatures since 1951.

California resident Jack Scruby places a notice in the last 1956 issue of The Bulletin announcing his interest in publishing a quarterly publication entitled the War Game Digest. Unlike The Bulletin, which began as a newsletter aimed primarily toy soldier collectors (their wargaming counterparts being but a subset of the larger group), Scruby saw his newsletter as being a forum solely devoted to wargames.


1957

In March, Jack Scruby publishes the first issue of War Game Digest, creating, in the process, an informal network of some 40 gamers in U.S., Canada, and England (the original "Old Guard" of the hobby). The WGD was published 4 times a year for $4.00 per year. Early issues included copies of photos of games pasted on the pages.

Don Featherstone responds to a classified ad placed in the local Southampton newspaper by Tony Bath. Bath had been seeking other individuals interested in wargaming, as he had struggled in his quest to find opponents. The sad reality is that wargaming was a niche interest, and gamers sometimes had to go to extreme lengths to find opponents.

The first mention of Tony Bath's Hyboria campaign appears in War Games Digest. The Hyboria campaign is the first documented example of a fantasy wargame conceived of as an ongoing campaign--note: this was low fantasy per it's inspiration, Robert E. Howard's Conan stories. As the campaign developed, it even spawned individual characters--though it never quite became a campaign of individuals a la Dungeons & Dragons.

The French film director Albert Lamorisse invents the game La Conquęte du Monde (trans. The Conquest of the World), which was acquired by Parker Brothers and released to English-speaking audiences as Risk.


1958

Scruby Miniatures begins selling 30mm miniature figures at 15 cents apiece. In 1963, Scruby began using a 50/50 tin/lead allow, which became the industry standard into the 1990s.

Mechanics Illustrated (Sept 1958) has article on wargaming, mentioning both Jack Scruby and the War Game Digest. Scruby would later express disappointment that such press (including another mention in the December 1960 issue of Look) never led to a boost in subscriptions to his newsletter.

Readers Digest has cover showing a war game in progress. Jack Scruby notes in War Games Digest that this is the first time a national magazine has a war game on cover.

Jack Scruby begins producing self-designed lead figures for 30mm scale wargaming--War Game Warriors--at 15 cents each.

Avalon Hill publishes Tactics II and Gettysburg. Both games were created by company founder Charles S. Roberts. Tactics II was an undated version of his 1954 game, which simplified movement rules. Gettysburg was the first modern board wargame based on an actual historic battle. Like Tactics, the games echoed elements present in Hellwig and Reiswitz's kriegspiel, as well as Venturini's (e.g. rules for unit orientation a la Hellwig, rules for weather a la Venturini, etc.). Of note, Tactics II featured optional rules for nuclear combat.


Diplomacy to D&D (1959 - 1973)

1959

Diplomacy is published by Games Research (it would not become an Avalon Hill title until 1976). The game was created by Allan B. Calhamer in 1954. He paid to have the first 500 copies produced. The game is notable in that it was the first commercially available game that could be played by mail. In fact, many early wargamers--including Gygax--played Diplomacy this way, taking advantage of the classified sections of newsletters like the War Game Digest.

Jack Scruby publishes an article in War Games Digest entitled "Books on Kriegspiel". The article includes a list of seven books (without author information). None of the books listed date earlier than 1884, and only serve to show how ignorant the hobby wargaming community was of the kriegspiel tradition.


1960

Jack Scruby recruits U.K. wargamer Tony Bath to assist with the editing and publishing of War Game Digest. Bath then recruited Don Featherstone to assist him. Henceforth, WGD became a four issue a year newsletter--two issues being edited by Bath and Featherstone and two being edited by Scruby. Featherstone did the bulk of the work on the U.K. editions, and his strong opinions on wargaming generated their fair share of controversy.


1961

Don Featherstone resigns his post as an editor of the War Game Digest. Featherstone had written editorial pieces critical of gamers who insisted on hyper-realism, claiming that the "enjoyment in a war game deteriorates in almost direct ratio to the degeree of realism attempted...". Scruby published a rebuttal stating that he was not interested in placing limits on what would and would not be printed in the WGD. No more U.K. issues were produced, and Scruby would only produce two more issues of WGD before it folded.

Science fiction and fantasy author Fritz Leiber coins the terms "sword and sorcery".

The first story by Michael Moorcock featuring Elric of Melniboné, "The Dreaming City", is published in the June issue of Science Fantasy, a UK magazine.


1962

War Games Digest features an article entitled "Rules and Realism" by Charles Grant. This article addesses the criticisms Featherstone had leveled in the previous issues of WGD. He wrote, "There were two quite different attitudes involved--that of the 'realist' and that of--for the want of a better word--the 'gamesman'. The 'realist's' rules are designed to create aa game as close to the real thing as circumstances and model soldiers will allow, while the latter chooses rules which permit a player to win a game, not by tactical skill, but by simply manipulating the rules to give an unfair advantage". As Jon Peterson points out in Playing at the World, "The design decision to favor either realism or playability is perhaps the most fundamental in wargame design, and throughout the 1960s it remained the single most hotly contested issue in the wargame journals".

Following the dissolution of War Games Digest, Jack Scruby begins publication of a smaller newsletter (with a greater focus on miniatures) entitled Table Top Talk, while Don Featherstone began publication of his own U.K. journal, Wargamer's Newsletter. These two zines were the two primary publications of the wargaming community until publication of Strategy & Tactics was started in January 1967.

Don Featherstone's War Games is published in May. Many consider it the first "modern" wargame book.

Stan Lee's Thor comic debuts.


1963

John Boardman, a frequent contributor to science fiction fanzines, first proposes playing Diplomacy by mail, which would allow participants in distant parts of a state or country to play a game together. Playing by post (or mail) would become a common means of playing Diplomacy during the 1960s. The "Opponents Wanted" section of the Avalon Hill General was given over to persons trying to find players for play-by-post Diplomacy and other games. Many participants would submit their orders "in character".

Stan Lee published the first Doctor Strange comic in Strange Tales #110. It was actually a panel from Strange Tales #167 that provided the inspiration for the cover art of the original D&D box.

How to Play War Games in Miniature by Joseph Morschauser is published. Morschauser had written a piece on wargaming for Look magazine in 1960 that had mentioned Scruby and the War Game Digest.


1964

Avalon Hill begins publication of the Avalon Hill General in May. It's "Opponents Wanted" section was the first designated means for wargamers to find opponents in a "major" wargaming journal.

The May 1964 issue of Table Top Talk includes an article by Francis J. McHugh entitled "The Other Side of the Coin". The article mentions Reiswitz only in passing, but is significant for being, perhaps, one of the only mentions of Reiswitz (or Hellwig, Venturini, Tschischwitz, etc.) in any wargaming journal of the time. As such, the notion of an omnipotent referee--a mainstay of 19th century wargames--skipped an entire generation of hobby wargamers.


1965

Sports Illustrated publishes article on wargaming: "A Little War Can Be a Lot of Fun". Later CBS TV coverage of the hobby by Mike Wallace and Walter Cronkite would help hobby wargaming come "out of the closet".

Believing the American paperback rights to Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings had never been secured, Donald A. Wollheim, an editor at Ace Books, convinces his employers to publish paperback versions of Tolkien's story. Obviously, he was wrong, but the popularity of the paperbacks incites immense interest in the story.

Tony Bath founds the Society of the Ancients, which promoted medieval wargaming.

Slingshot is published by the U.K. Society of Ancients. This journal was initially edited by Tony Bath. For the first ten years of its publication, it included articles on fantasy wargaming (likely due to the influence of Bath); however, it now only focuses on historical wargaming.

Don Featherstone publishes Naval War Games, which drew heavily on Fletcher Pratt's naval combat rules. He would write a companion volume, Air War Games, which he published the following year.


1966

On May 1st, thirty fans of romantic medieval ism gathered in the backyard of Berkeley, California resident Diana L. Paxson for a medieval costume contest and a melee combat tournament (albeit with blunted weapons). One of the participants, the author Marion Zimmer Bradley suggests that the group adopt an official name, the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).

William Speer, who lived near Philadelphia, founds the United States Continental Army Command (USCAC) in January. Their publication was called The Spartan (later changed to International Wargamer). Gary Gygax joined the group in September 1966.

Tony Bath publishes an updated version of his 1956 rules for a medieval miniature wargame. This edition of his rules is likely the version that Gary Gygax was familiar with and which he cited in some of his submissions to various wargaming newsletters. Bath's rules took inspriration from the Cass-Bantock rules, which were popular with the membership of the British Model Soldier Society (BMSS) during the 1950s.

Michael J. Korns publishes Modern War in Miniature. Of note, his rules set suggests the narrow time frame of two seconds per turn--a major departure from traditional wargaming turns of two to five minutes. The two-second turn is much more in line with the melee rounds of Dungeons & Dragons. Also worth noting is that the combat tables in Korns' book are all listed as percent chances--which created a challenge of sorts for a community that had only six-sided dice at its disposal.

Francis J. McHugh's Fundamentals of War Gaming includes this note of historical significance in its appendix: "Somewhat reminiscent of an early World War II put-it-together-yourself approximation of the globe is a relatively new and simple device, the 20-sided or random number generating die. It is in the form of an icosahedron, one of the five regular polyhedral. Each of the 20 bounding surfaces is an equilateral triangle, and each of the 10 digits, 0 to 9, appear twice on its faces". In a footnote he relates that sets of three are available via mail order from the Japanese Standards Association for $2.50 a set plus shipping.


1967

Henry Bodenstedt release The Siege of Bodenburg, a medieval miniatures game that heavily influenced Gary Gygax (it was featured prominently at the first GenCon in 1968). The game used 40mm miniatures made of Elastolin.

William Speer renames the USCAC the International Federation of Wargamers (IFW) on May 1, 1967. Their first convention was held on July 1, 1967 in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

Dave Wesely, a member of Arneson's Twin Cities wargaming group, discovers Charles A.I. Totten's Strategos: The American Art of War (1880), one of the earliest American wargames rules sets. It is notable in that it introduced the concept of the wargames referee to wargamers unfamiliar with kriegspiel.

Christopher Wagner begins Strategy and Tactics magazine that has both board wargame and miniatures articles.


1968

Fritz Leiber publishes The Swords of Lankhmar, the only novel devoted to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Two collections of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser short stories were also published this year.

Gary Gygax announces the establishment of the Lake Geneva Wargames Convention (GenCon). The first con is held in the Horticultural Hall on August 24, 1968.

In September, the Society for Creative Anachronism stage combats in front of the Claremont Hotel in Oakland, where the World Science Fiction Convention was being held. The event helped to significantly boost interest in the SCA.

Gary Gygax published his first board game, Little Big Horn. The rules were available in the March issue of The Spartan.

Overlord: The Battle for France, another Gary Gygax game (he collaborated with Bill Hoyer). The rules appeared in the July issue of The Spartan. This game was a variant based on the Avalon Hill game D-Day.


1969

In the February 1969 issue of the IFW Monthly, Gygax writes that "there is great interest in wargames of ancient and medieval times but few games are published".

The rules for Arsouf, another Gygax board wargame, are published serially in Panzerfaust, volume 3.

Gygax publishes the rules for Napoleonic Diplomacy II, which would strongly influence Dave Arneson's Napoleonic Simulation Campaign. This was yet another a Diplomacy variant. None of Gygax's early games were commercially published--though some would eventually be repackaged and published by TSR.

GenCon II is held over two days: August 23 and 24. Of note, Gary Gygax met Dave Arneson at GenCon II.

Toward the end of 1969, Don Featherstone published an article in the Wargamer's Newsletter that stated, "I have received details of 20-sided Random Generating Dice obtainable from the Japanese Standards Association" and posits that such dice "have very large applications to wargaming".


1970

Gary Gygax found the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association (LGTSA) in early 1970. One of its earliest members was Jeff Perren, who would go on to collaborate with Gygax on the rules for Chainmail.

In early 1970, Donald Lowry opens Lowry's Hobbies, the first major, mail-order business devoted to miniature wargaming to advertise heavily in wargaming fanzines. Lowry eventually began publishing games, eventually founding the game publishing house Guidon Games.

Gary Gygax helps found the Castles & Crusades Society, which begins publication of the Domesday Book, a publication devoted exclusively to medieval wargaming. The fifth issue of the Domesday Book included rules for Gygax's Diplomacy variant, Crusadomacy. It also included the ruleset for Gygax and Perren's "LGTSA Miniatures Rules", which were inspired to a degree by Tony Bath's medieval miniatures rules and which formed the foundation of the Chainmail rules. Issue six includes a map of the "Great Kingdom", which would eventually evolve into Greyhawk.

The first of ten Amber novels written by Roger Zelazny, Nine Princes in Amber, is released.

GenCon III is held on August 22 and 23, and boasted 250 attendees.

Dave Wesely, of the Twin Cities Military Miniatures Group (of which Dave Arneson was a member), publishes a distilled version of Totten's Strategos rules for the Napoleonic Simulation Campaign entitled Strategos N: Rules for Napoleonic Wargaming. Again, this book is significant in that it reintroduced the referee, common in early military wargames, to the casual wargaming community. To be sure, popular wargames had referees prior to Strategos N; however, they were generally rules arbiters, not rules interpreters that allowed players to basically try anything.


1971

Hartley Patterson begins recruiting players for his Midgard campaign, a fantasy campaign that he planned to run via the play-by-mail model of the Diplomacy games played by subscribers to popular wargames newsletters of the 1960s. Midgard could support up to 30 players, and it was much more akin to Dungeons & Dragons than, for example, Tony Bath's Hyboria campaign. Players controlled individuals instead of armies.

Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren release Chainmail in March. These were the first commercial published rules for a Gygax medieval wargame. It was published by Guidon Games. Famously, the rules called for a single figure for each combatant. In addition, the rules also included the "Fantasy Supplement", which allowed for the introduction of humanoids and monsters inspired by the works of Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, and others. Reaction to the "Fantasy Supplement" was mixed.

Following a split with Randy Hoffa, a fellow participant in the Napoleonic Simulation Campaign, Arneson begins to give thought to a fantasy wargame based on Gygax and Perren's Chainmail rules.

The May issue of Wargamer's Newsletter includes a piece written by Lou Zocchi in which he proposes the construction of a 10-sided die. This is the first printed hint at the dice "empire" that Zocchi would later establish, i.e. Gamescience Dice.

Mike Reese and Leon Tucker's Tractics rules set for modern warfare is released by Guidon Games and is the first wargame to use 20-sided dice.

In June, the first installment in Gygax and Arneson's first collaboration, Don't Give Up the Ship, appeared in International Wargamer. Arneson used these rules to arbitrate naval warfare in his Napoleonic Simulation Campaign. The game was demoed by Arneson at GenCon IV. Guidon Games published the complete rules in 1972.

Arneson begins publishing a one-page campaign newspaper entitled the "Blackmoor Gazette and Rumermongera>". The first mention of the dungeons below Castle Blackmoor appear in the Gazette's second issue. The dungeon exploration element of Arneson's game went beyond the scope of anything included in Gygax and Perren's Chainmail rules (e.g. Arneson introduced rules for experience points and leveling up). Arneson cites the Conan stories as an influence (see "Hour of the Dragon", serialized in Weird Tales and published as Conan the Conqueror in 1950).

Jack Scruby publishes an encore edition of War Game Digest. This will be the last Scruby gaming publication.


1972

A notice in The Courier, a wargaming club periodical for groups in New England mentions the availability of polyhedral dice via Creative Publications, a Palo Alto school supply catalog, for the nominal price of $1.35.

Gary Gygax announces his retirement from wargaming and does not participate in GenCon V (held on August 19 and 20). Arneson, however, did participate.

The thirteenth issue of Domesday Book includes an article penned by Dave Arneson entitled "Points of Interest in Black Moor". It detailed the fantasy wargame that Arneson was running based on the Napoleonic Simulation Campaign rules set.

Domesday Book ceases publication. Only thirteen issues were produced.

Gygax ends his retirement and, intrigued by reports of Arneson's Blackmoor campaign, invites Arneson to Lake Geneva to demo the game. He then requested Arneson's rules for the game and received 20 pages of handwritten notes.

Avalon Hill publishes Outdoor Survival, a game that provided five scenarios that force players to navigate a difficult wilderness. The rules set for original Dungeons & Dragons rules would eventually recommend the use of Outdoor Survival for adventures that move beyond the confines of the dungeon.

Gygax writes up new rules for a fantasy game drawn from both Chainmail and Arneson's Blackmoor notes. He begins playtesting the rules with six members of the LGTSA. The game is set in the dungeons below Gygax's newly-invented Castle Greyhawk. When he did not assume the role of referee, Gygax played a number of characters, including the infamous wizard Mordenkainen.


1973

Arneson expresses frustration that he is not being included in Gygax's attempts to finalize the rules for what would become Dungeons & Dragons.

The 1973 Lowry's Hobby catalog lists a set of five polyhedral dice for $1.35. Later that year, he would increase the price to $1.85.

Gary Gygax writes an article for Lowrys Guidon entitled "Dice...Four & Twenty and What Lies Between", in which he expounds on the application of various polyhedral dice in wargaming--specifically, Tractics.

GenCon VI, held on August 18 and 19, is no longer sponsored by the IFW, but by the LGTSA.

In October, Gary Gygax and Don Kaye (a long-time friend of Gygax's dating back to the establishment of the LGTSA) form Tactical Studies Rules, Inc.--commonly known as TSR. Kaye borrowed money against an insurance policy to come up with the start-up money.

In December, Kaye and Gygax offer fellow LGTSA member Brian Blume an equal partnership in TSR in exchange for additional funding.


D&D and Beyond (1974 - Present)

1974

TSR releases Dungeons & Dragons in January. 1000 copies were produced, and it took eleven months to sell them all. The second printing--again, 1000 copies, which were printed in February 1975--sold out in half that time.

Dungeons & Dragons was reviewed in The Courier. Conclusion: "...concept and imagination involved is stunning. However, much more work ... is necessary before the game is manageable. ... I do not suggest these to the average wargamer".

An article by Gary Gygax entitled "Fantasy Wargaming and the Influence of J.R.R. Tolkien" appears in La Vivandičre, in which Gygax states that, while Tolkien's books were a major inspiration--especially when writing up the Chainmail "Fantasy Supplement", Middle Earth is not the definitive fantasy setting. In Appendix N of the 1st edition of the Dungeon Master's Guide, Gygax writes, "The most immediate influences upon AD&D were probably de Camp & Pratt, R. E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, H. P. Lovecraft, and A. Merritt".

GenCon VII is held on August 23, 24, and 25. This was the first 3-day GenCon, and it was attended by about 350 participants. This GenCon is notable as it was the first GenCon at which Gygax and Arneson were able to demo Dungeons & Dragons. It was well-received, and members of gaming groups in Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, and points further afield returned home with stories of the new game.


1975

Donald Kaye, who helped Gygax found TSR, dies suddenly at the age of 36 on January 31st. Kaye's TSR partners, Gygax and Brian Blume, form a new partnership with Kaye's widow, Donna.

TSR publishes the first issue of Strategic Review. The last issue was published in April 1976, after which the content was split into two magazines: Little Wars (which focused on miniature wargaming) and Dragon magazine. The Ranger class was introduced in the second issue of Strategic Review.

In a February 20th letter to the Amateur Press Association of Los Angeles, Ted Johnstone refers to the referee of Dungeons & Dragons as the "Dungeonmaster". This is the first printed instance of the term Dungeon Master. That said, the term "gamemaster" had been used to refer to wargame umpires as early as 1963.

In March, TSR releases the first supplement for Dungeons & Dragons, a 56-page pamphlet entitled Greyhawk. This supplement is notable for its inclusion of the Thief class, which was not a class in the original rules set. It also introduced the Paladin sub-class and a number of new monsters.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail debuts in London on April 8th.

Two new RPGs are released quickly on the heels of the success of Dungeons & Dragons: Tunnels & Trolls, which almost an exact copy of D&D (especially given the updates to the rules in the Greyhawk supplement), and Empire of the Petal Throne. The former was created by Ken St. Andre and published by Flying Buffalo, a mail-order company operating out of Scottsdale, Arizona. The latter was created by M.A R. Barker and published by TSR. Empire of the Petal Throne is set in the world of Tékumel, a fantasy world that Barker had been working on as early as 1940--though the game set in that world was created about the same time as Tunnels & Trolls.

TSR formally incorporates on July 19th, and becomes TSR Hobbies. Gary Gygax is hired full-time to oversee orders, billing, and accounting.

John Peake, Ian Livingstone, and Steve Jackson (not the Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games) found Games Workshop. Though they began by producing wooden game boards for backgammon, mancala, and Go, the company would achieve fame for its Warhammer games.

The first Origins Game Fair is held in Baltimore on July 25, 26, and 27. At the fair, TSR unveils Dungeon!, a board game designed by Dave Megarry, a member of Arneson's Napoleonic Simulation Campaign and a participant in the Blackmoor campaign. The game is set in the dungeons below Castle Blackmoor and had been in development prior to the conception of Dungeons & Dragons. At Origins, Gygax ran a prototype adventure that would eventually evolve into Tomb of Horrors.

GenCon VIII is held in August. It attracts a record number of attendees, but it fails to draw as many people as Origins had the previous month.

On September 25th, Gygax and Blume bought out Donna Kaye's share of TSR Hobbies.

The second D&D supplement, Blackmoor, is released in December. The original draft was penned by Dave Arneson, but it was heavily edited by Gygax, Tim Kask (head of the periodicals division of TSR), and Rob Kuntz (a long-time friend of Gygax's--and the first player to successfully navigate the Tomb of Horrors). The Blackmoor supplement introduced the Assassin and Monk sub-classes. Notably, it includes the first published adventure for D&D, the "Temple of the Frog". Reaction to the supplement leaned toward the negative, with some reviewers dubbing it Blackbore, Blechmore, and Blackmanure.


1976

Kevin Slimak determines that TSR is getting their dice from Creative Publications, a school supply catalog and publishes the information in Wild Hunt, stating that "polyhedral dice are cheaper from the manufacturer direct".

TSR begins threatening legal action against third party publishers who are appropriating the D&D rules set for their own profit. While the name Dungeons & Dragons was certainly a commodity, the question of what elements of the game were the intellectual property of TSR arose. Given D&D's roots in wargaming, this question was difficult to answer.

In May, TSR releases the third supplement for D&D, Eldritch Wizardry. Written by Gygax and Brian Blume, it included rules for psionic combat, descriptions of artifacts and relics, new monsters (including demons), and the Druid sub-class.

The first stand-alone D&D adventure, Palace of the Vampire Queen, is published by Wee Warriors, Ltd. TSR helped promote it for a time.

TSR begins publication of Dragon magazine, which focused solely on roleplaying games. 359 issues would be published before the final issue was published in 2007.

Origins II is held in Baltimore on July 23, 24, and 25. Gygax and seven others host twenty games of D&D, each accommodating 12 players. Gygax demoed an early version of what would become Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.

GenCon IX is held on August 20, 21, and 22. It attracts 1300 attendees.

Dave Arneson leaves TSR after working for the company a mere 11 months. Jon Peterson, in Playing at the World, suggests his departure had much to do with Gygax's frustration with the lack of material Arneson was producing--e.g. one article for Little Wars and nothing related to D&D.


1977

The Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) is formed to protect the interest of the Origins Game Fair. In addition to hosting Origins, GAMA also hosts a trade show in Las Vegas every year. It was incorporated as a non-profit venture in 1982.

Eon Games releases Cosmic Encounter. The license for the game would shift from Games Workshop to Mayfair to Fantasy Flight, who acquired the license in 2007.

The first issue of White Dwarf, the official newsletter of Games Workshop, is published in June.

TSR releases the fourth supplement for the original D&D rules set, Gods, Demi-Gods, & Heroes. The book basically details the gods of various pantheons--some fictitious, some legendary.

Origins III in New York City on July 22, 23, and 24. TSR debuts the Basic Set, which greatly simplified the original D&D rules set and only detailed character progression up to level 3. Persons interested in advancing beyond 3rd level were directed to the Advanded Dungeons & Dragons hardcover rule books, none of which had yet been published.

The RPG Traveller, published by Game Designers Workshop, is debuted at Origins III. It is a science fiction RPG set in the distant future, and its system was deemed distinct enough to earn an endorsement from Gygax.

GenCon X is held and, for the first time, draws more attendees than Origins.

TSR publishes the Monster Manual for Dungeons & Dragons. It was the first hardcover release for the game. The cover of the first edition was painted by David C. Sutherland III.

Miniature Figurines releases official Dungeons & Dragons 25 mm figures.


1978

TSR publishes the hardcover Player's Handbook in June. The 128-page book contains rules for players only. The cover art was painted by David A. Trampier.

Gary Gygax's trap-filled tournament module, Tomb of Horrors, is released.

Chaosium publishes RuneQuest, its first game based on the Basic Role-Playing (BRP) mechanic.

Origins IV at the University of Michigan. TSR runs the adventure Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, which would become the first TSR created and published stand-alone adventure module for the D&D rules set. It forms the first of the three-part Giant adventure arc (i.e. G1, G2, and G3).


1979

TSR publishes the hardcover Dungeon Master's Guide. The 232-page book includes rules for Dungeon Master eyes only. The cover art was painted by David C. Sutherland III, who had provided the art for the first edition Monster Manual, but not the Player's Handbook.

James Dallas Egbert III enters the steam tunnels under Michigan State University on August 15th, and then disappeared. The media blamed his disappearance on his "obsession" with Dungeons & Dragons (it was claimed that Egbert and other students had been acting out D&D encounters in the tunnels). When Egbert eventually surfaced a little over a month later, the true reasons for his disappearance were kept secret (for more information, see William Dear's book The Dungeon Master (1984), which details the investigation he spearheaded). Egbert would go on to commit suicide in August 1980.

Citadel Miniatures is founded using start-up money provided by Games Workshop. Games Workshop would later absorb Citadel Miniatures.

The first Spiel des Jahres is awarded to the game Hare and Tortoise. The Spiel des Jahres is the most prestigious award for Eurogames, a subset of board games that generally have simple rules, short to medium playing times, indirect player interaction, and abstract physical components. Such games emphasize strategy, downplay luck and conflict, lean towards economic rather than military themes, and usually keep all the players in the game until it ends. Eurogames are sometimes contrasted with American-style games, which generally involve more luck, conflict, and drama.


1980

TSR publishes the first edition of Deities and Demigods, which includes chapters on the Cthulhu mythos and the Melnibonéan mythos (i.e. Moorcock's Elric books). After being threatened with legal action by Arkham House, the chapters detailing the Cthulhu and Melnibonéan gods and devils were removed from subsequent printings beginning in 1981. Critics of the book stated that it focused too much on the gods and demigods as high-level monsters and not on the duties of the priesthood, etc.

The Role Playing Game Association (RPGA) is established to promote roleplaying games.

It is announced at GenCon that "someone" had "invented" the 10-sided die.


1981

Chaosium published Call of Cthulhu, which uses the Basic Role-Playing (BRP) mechanic.

Nova Games publishes the first copies of the Larry Harris designed game, Axis & Allies. Nova Games eventually sold the game to Milton Bradley, who republished the game in 1984.


1982

Conan the Barbarian, starring former Mr. Universe, Arnold Schwartzenegger, is released on May 14th.

Trivial Pursuit, originally conceived in 1979 by Canadians Chris Haney and Scott Abbott, is released. It would peak in popularity in 1984, when over 20 million copies were sold.

Patricia Pulling founds Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons (BADD) after her son commits suicide. She claimed that a "D&D curse" had been placed on her son shortly before his death. BADD was one of the first Christian groups to attack D&D as an instrument of "New Age" occultists bent on corrupting the youth.

Mazes and Monsters, a fictionalized account of the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III is released. The film stars a very young Tom Hanks.


1983

Games Workshop publishes the first rulebook for Warhammer, which details the Warhammer fantasy setting. The game uses 28mm scale miniatures.

The Dungeons & Dragons animated cartoon premieres on September 17th.


1985

Gary Gygax is forced to leave TSR Hobbies by company manager Lorraine Williams. The company prospered under Williams until the mid-1990s.

GenCon moves from Lake Geneva to Milwaukee.

Lou Zocchi introduces the world to his 100-sided die, the Zocchihedron.


1987

Games Workshop publishes the first rulebook for Warhammer 40,000, which details the Warhammer 40K universe. The game uses 28mm scale miniatures.

TSR releases the first supplemental materials for the Forgotten Realms universe.

Chaosium releases the Arkham Horror board game. It was designed by Richard Launius and won the 1987 Origins Award for "Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Boardgame".


1989

TSR releases the 2nd edition rule books for Dungeons & Dragons. The major edition to the rules are non-weapon proficiencies.

TSR also releases the Spelljammer space fantasy rules supplement.


1990

TSR releases the first supplemental materials for the Ravenloft universe.

GMT Games is founded.


1991

TSR releases the first supplemental materials for the Dark Sun universe.

White Wolf Publishing is founded by Mark Rein-Hagen, Steve Wieck, and Stewart Wieck. The company is best known for the World of Darkness RPG setting, the Mind's Eye Theatre LARP system, and the Vampire: The Eternal Struggle card game.


1993

Wizards of the Coast releases the first set of Magic: The Gathering cards on August 5th. The game was referred to as Magic during playtesting, but there were worries that Magic was too generic to be copyrighted, so the name Mana Clash was selected. Eventually, the name was changed to Magic: The Gathering.


1994

Wizards of the Coast publishes RoboRally, a board game designed by Richard Garfield in 1985. The game its expansion eventually won four Origins Awards. It was rereleased under the Avalon Hill imprint in 2005.


1995

Christian T. Petersen founds Fantasy Flight Games. The first game released by FFG was Twilight Imperium, which was released in 1997.

Settlers of Catan, a multi-player board game designed by Klaus Teuber, is published in Germany by Franckh-Kosmos Verlag (Kosmos) as Die Siedler von Catan. Settlers of Catan was one of the first German-style board games (i.e. Eurogames) to achieve popularity outside of Europe. The game is the subject of the 2012 documentary Going Cardboard.


1996

Netrunner, another Richard Garfield-designed card game, is released by Wizards of the Coast. The game was only supported by Wizards of the Coast for a short time. After a long absence, it was rereleased in 2012 as Android: Netrunner by Fantasy Flight Games.

TSR makes a failed attempt to "tap" into the collectible card market with their game Dragon Dice. This attempt depleted the company of all cash reserves.

Wizards of the Coast establishes a Pro Tour for Magic: The Gathering players.

After moving from city to city since 1975, the Origins Game Fair settles in Columbus, Ohio, where is continues to be held during the first or second week of June.


1997

Wizards of the Coast purchases TSR. It would continue to publish D&D materials under the TSR imprint up until the release of the 3rd edition rules in 2000.


2000

Wizards of the Coast publishes the 3rd edition rules for Dungeons & Dragons. The rules saw a major overhaul, including the elimination of infamous THAC0. Updates to the game placed greater emphasis on tactical tabletop movement and combat. Furthermore, the rules are based on the d20 System, which standardized task resolution. The d20 System was presented under an Open Gaming License (OGL), which allowed third party publishers to produce supplemental materials for the game.

Brian Snoddy, Matt Staroscik and Matt Wilson found Privateer Press.

WizKids is founded by Jordan Weisman in July. The company was acquired by Topps in 2003.

WizKids releases Mage Knight in November. Created by Jordan Weisman (the founder of WizKids) with help from Kevin Barrett, the game is the first to use the Clix system, which would later be used for the game Heroclix. Mage Knight is considered the first Collectible Miniature Game (CMG).


2001

Games Workshop releases the first Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game set.


2002

Paizo Publishing is founded. They took over publication of Dungeon and Dragon magazines. Paizo published their first two adventure paths, Age of Worms and Savage Tide, in the pages of Dungeon magazine. Erik Mona, who now writes for Paizo, is the former Editor-in-Chief of Dungeon magazine. James Jacobs, now the Editor-in-Chief of Pathfinder, was the Editor-in-Chief of Dragon magazine.

In July, WizKids releases the first Heroclix set, Marvel's Infinity Challenge. Heroclix uses the combat dial system originally created for Mage Knight in 2000.


2003

Wizards of the Coast publishes the 3.5 rules set for Dungeons & Dragons. Most of the changes were minor tweaks to the character classes as well as additions and revisions to feats.

The Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game is released by Wizards of the Coast. The game involves skirmishes between opposing forces. Pre-painted miniatures were used. Despite having been discontinued in January 2011, the figures remain popular with many players of fantasy RPGs.

GenCon moves from Milwaukee to Indianapolis.

Privateer Press releases the first rule book for Warmachine, Warmachine: Prime.


2005

GMT Games releases Twilight Struggle, which becomes the first game to ever win two international game awards, the 2005 Charles S. Roberts Award for "Best Modern Era Boardgame" and the 2006 International Gamers Award for "Best Wargame" and "Best 2 Player Game".

The Israel News publishes an article entitled "Army Frowns on Dungeons & Dragons". The article states that Israeli soldiers who admit to playing Dungeons & Dragons are given a lower security clearance because they are "detached from reality and susceptible to influence".


2006

Privateer Press releases the first rule book for Hordes on April 22nd.


2007

Paizo releases the Rise of the Runelords adventure path for the D&D 3.5 rules set.


2008

Gary Gygax dies on March 4th at the age of 69.

Wizards of the Coast publishes the 4th edition rules for Dungeons & Dragons in June. Many fans of D&D 3.5 were upset that Wizards of the Coast had published a major rules change after they had invested many, many dollars in 3.5 rule books and supplements.

Paizo begins playtesting the Pathfinder rules, which are based on the D&D 3.5 rules set.

Paizo releases the first four scenarios for Pathfinder Society organized play at GenCon. All 28 "Season 0" scenarios were written for the D&D 3.5 rules set.

Dominion is released by Rio Grande Games. It would go on to win the Spiel des Jahres in 2009, as well as the Origins Award for best card game. It is considered the first "deck-building game".

Fantasy Flight Games releases its first "living card games" (LCGs), A Game of Thrones and Call of Cthulhu.


2009

Dave Arneson dies on April 7th at the age of 61.

Paizo publishes the Pathfinder Core Rulebook in August along with the first installment of the Council of Thieves adventure path, the first Paizo adventure path written for the Pathfinder rules set.

The National Entertainment Collectibles Association (NECA) purchases the license for producing Heroclix figures from Topps in September. WizKids becomes a division of NECA. The first set released by NECA was Marvel's Hammer of Thor.


2012

Common Room Games opens on April 28th.

2013

Common Room Games moves to new location on Pete Ellis Drive on December 31st.

2014

A Redditor with the username OB1FBM attends the Grand Prix in Richmond, Virginia on March 10th, takes pictures of himself in front of other MTG players with visible buttcracks, posts them online, and is banned from all MTG events for 18th months.

Wizards of the Coast published the 5th edition rules for Dungeons & Dragons in August.

2015

Chaosium "pushes the reset button" and fires then-president Charlie Krank and much of his staff after they failed to deliver on Kickstarters related to the Horror on the Orient Express campaign and the 7th edition of the core rules. Founder Greg Stafford is brought back into the fold as CEO. Sandy Petersen, principle author of the 1st edition rules of the Call of Cthulhu RPG, was also re-hired.

 


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