20th Century Wargames Before Charles S. Roberts
M. Kirschenbaum
United States
College Park
Maryland
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20th century board wargaming traditionally turns to Charles S. Roberts as its founding father. Roberts released Tactics, Tactics II, and Gettysburg in the late 1950s, launched Avalon Hill, and the rest, as they say, is history. But a recent reading of Harry Pearson's new book, Achtung Schweinhund! (Little Brown, 2007), clued me in to some games that were on the market decades before Roberts'. They're mostly generic in theme, but then so was Tactics II.

Some will object that none of these games are sophisticated or historically specific enough to be called proper wargames. Perhaps, but rather than arguing about the label I'm mostly interested in just collecting a bit of early gaming history. Enjoy, and feel free to add on--let's use 1960 as the cut off date.

Pearson's book, by the way, is delightful.
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1. Board Game: Game of American Battles [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
M. Kirschenbaum
United States
College Park
Maryland
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Card game (1898!)
 
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2. Board Game: L'Attaque [Average Rating:5.74 Overall Rank:8228]
M. Kirschenbaum
United States
College Park
Maryland
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Generic land battle (1909). Eventually became Stratego.
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3. Board Game: Dover Patrol [Average Rating:5.95 Overall Rank:7491]
M. Kirschenbaum
United States
College Park
Maryland
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Naval themed variant of L'Attaque (1911).
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4. Board Game: Aviation: The Aerial Tactics Game of Attack and Defence [Average Rating:5.21 Unranked]
M. Kirschenbaum
United States
College Park
Maryland
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The aerial variant of L'Attaque (1925).
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5. Board Game: Battleship [Average Rating:4.51 Overall Rank:10785]
M. Kirschenbaum
United States
College Park
Maryland
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Released under a wide variety of early names, including Broadside, Salvo, Convoy, Combat, and Swiss Navy (1931).
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6. Board Game: Invasion [Average Rating:4.50 Unranked]
M. Kirschenbaum
United States
College Park
Maryland
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Generic land, air, sea battle (1938).
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7. Board Game: Blockade [Average Rating:7.42 Unranked]
M. Kirschenbaum
United States
College Park
Maryland
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Naval follow-up to Invasion (1941).
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8. Board Game: Ranger Commandos [Average Rating:4.75 Unranked]
M. Kirschenbaum
United States
College Park
Maryland
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Players operate teams of "American" commandos (1942).
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9. Board Game: La Conquête du Monde [Average Rating:7.25 Unranked]
M. Kirschenbaum
United States
College Park
Maryland
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Progenitor of Risk (1957).
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10. Board Game: Civil War Game 1863 [Average Rating:5.85 Overall Rank:8400]
M. Kirschenbaum
United States
College Park
Maryland
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Originally published in Life, making it (I suppose) the first magazine wargame (1961).
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11. Board Game: Risk [Average Rating:5.59 Overall Rank:9333]
Brian Morris
United States
Raytown
Missouri
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2nd, 6th and 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana, 24th Michigan
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Sort of the wargame for those who who really aren't wargamers.
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12. Board Game: Air-Attack [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Brian Morris
United States
Raytown
Missouri
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2nd, 6th and 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana, 24th Michigan
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From 1950
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13. Board Game: Armada [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Brian Morris
United States
Raytown
Missouri
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2nd, 6th and 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana, 24th Michigan
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24th Michigan Monument Gettysburg Pa
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1925 naval warfare.
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14. Board Game: Battle Stations! [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
Brian Morris
United States
Raytown
Missouri
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2nd, 6th and 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana, 24th Michigan
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24th Michigan Monument Gettysburg Pa
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1952 although more Stratego than wargame as we know it today.
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15. Board Game: The Naval War Game [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
Brian Morris
United States
Raytown
Missouri
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2nd, 6th and 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana, 24th Michigan
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24th Michigan Monument Gettysburg Pa
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1912 A game with an interesting history all it's own.
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16. Board Game: Conflict [Average Rating:5.16 Overall Rank:9623]
Garry Haggerty
United States
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1940. Parker Brothers.

Air, sea, land (and anti-aircraft gun) pieces. Move and capture to dice rolls.
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17. Board Game: Beachhead Invasion Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
 
Robert Wesley
Nepal
Aberdeen
Washington
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1950 with its *spinner* based method of resolving a "Turn". cool
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18. Board Game: The Strand War Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
THE MAVERICK
United States
Herald
California
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A World War I themed game from 1915. Played on a grid superimposed over a map of the Western Front area. The object is to place a piece on the opponent's "capital" square at the opposite corner of the board. There are three types of pieces: artillery, infantry, and cavalry.
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19. Board Game: Camelot [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:2779]
THE MAVERICK
United States
Herald
California
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Early Parker Brothers Game, originally known as Camelot.
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20. Board Game: Air Combat Trainer [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
THE MAVERICK
United States
Herald
California
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"The up-to-the-minute game that gives you a chance to try your skill at combat flying, using 48 exact miniatures of war planes and combat maneuvers-helps you identify planes in the sky!"
 
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21. Board Game: Strategy: The Game of Armies [Average Rating:4.60 Unranked]
THE MAVERICK
United States
Herald
California
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(1938) "The game of Strategy is played upon a board representing a battlefield, between players who move pieces representing the soldiers and guns of opposing armies across the board and against each other in maneuvers resembling warfare. Each player is equipped at the beginning of the game with an 'army' of twenty playing pieces, sixteen representing soldiers and four representing guns. The board is divided into sectors, if a gun is in a sector, it controls the sector and captures all opposing pieces in the sector. The object is to capture the enemy capital while preventing the enemy from doing the same. A roll of the dice determines how many pieces a player may move in a turn."
 
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22. Board Game: Bomben auf England [Average Rating:1.00 Unranked]
THE MAVERICK
United States
Herald
California
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The World War II period seems to have generated a number of war themed games. Here is a German example from 1940.
 
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23. Board Game: Adler Luftverteidigungsspiel [Average Rating:5.40 Unranked]
THE MAVERICK
United States
Herald
California
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1941. Another German game with an aviation theme.
 
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24. Board Game: Ato-Blitz War Games [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
THE MAVERICK
United States
Herald
California
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1951. "This is a Stratego-like game that's actually two games, an army game and a navy game. Pieces are set up on a board in a manner similar to Stratego, but rather than being linear (numerical values), the units have a rock-paper-scissors relationship. i.e. the tank unit is superior to infantry and engineers but is inferior to aircraft, artillery, and mine units."
 
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25. Board Game: Battle Checkers [Average Rating:3.00 Unranked]
THE MAVERICK
United States
Herald
California
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1942. "Beat the Axis. Battle Checkers is a brand new game based on the military maneuvers of attack and defense."
 
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