Charles Swann Roberts
was a wargame
A wargame is a strategy game that deals with military operations of various types, real or fictional. Wargaming is the hobby dedicated to the play of such games, which can also be called conflict simulations, or consims for short. When used professionally to study warfare, it is generally known as...
designer, railroad historian, and businessman. He is renowned as "The Father of Board Wargaming", having created the first modern wargame (a boardgame) in 1952, and the first wargaming company in 1954. He is also the author of a series of books on railroad history, published by the small publishing firm, Barnard, Roberts, and Company, Inc.
As a wargame designer
Roberts created the first board wargame, Tactics
Tactics is generally credited as being the first board wargame. It was designed by Charles S. Roberts in 1952, and self-published in 1954 under the company name of The Avalon Game Company...
, in an apartment in Catonsville, Maryland
According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of , all of it land.-Demographics:In 2010 Catonsville had a population of 41,567...
in 1952. In 1954, out of a garage in Avalon
Avalon is a historic home located near New Windsor, Carroll County, Maryland. It is a -story, early-19th-century brick house constructed c. 1814, and reflecting Neoclassical architecture influence....
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...
, he began selling it via mail-order as The Avalon Game Company, which later become Avalon Hill
Avalon Hill was a game company that specialized in wargames and strategic board games. Its logo contained its initials "AH", and it was often referred to by this abbreviation. It also published the occasional miniature wargaming rules, role-playing game, and had a popular line of sports simulations...
in 1958. His Tactics II
(1958) improved on the basic game design of his earlier effort, and formed the genesis for the concept of the combat results table
A Combat results table or a CRT is used in wargaming to determine the outcome of a clash between individual units within a larger battle....
. In 1958 he published Gettysburg
Gettysburg is a board wargame produced by Avalon Hill which re-enacts the American Civil War battle of Gettysburg. It was originally published in 1958, and was the first board wargame based on a historical battle....
, considered to be the first board wargame based upon an actual historical battle, with subsequent versions in 1961 and 1964.
Hard hit by a recession, Roberts turned over Avalon Hill to one of his creditors, Eric Dott of Monarch Services, in December 1963.
Starting in 1974, Roberts' name was given to the Charles S. Roberts Award
The Charles S. Roberts Awards are given annually for excellence in the historical wargaming hobby. It is named after Charles S. Roberts the "Father of Wargaming" who founded Avalon Hill. The award is informally called a "Charlie" and officially called a "Charles S...
s, given for excellence in the historical wargaming hobby.
In 1999 Pyramid
Pyramid is a gaming magazine, publishing articles primarily on role-playing games, but including board games, card games, and other sorts of games. It began life in 1993 as a print publication of Steve Jackson Games for its first 30 issues, though it has been published on the Internet since March...
magazine named Charles S. Roberts as one of The Millennium's Most Influential Persons
"at least in the realm of adventure gaming."
As a railroad historian
Following the sale of his wargame company, Avalon Hill, Charles Roberts held various positions in the publishing industry. In 1973, he founded a small press, Barnard, Roberts, and Company, which he has described as "publishing to the Catholic market," even though Roberts himself is non-Catholic. Over time, the company's emphasis shifted away from religious publications and toward railroad history.
Roberts took pride in coming from a long line of railroaders. One of his great great uncles was Thomas Swann, president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was one of the oldest railroads in the United States and the first common carrier railroad. It came into being mostly because the city of Baltimore wanted to compete with the newly constructed Erie Canal and another canal being proposed by Pennsylvania, which...
from 1848 to 1853. Roberts' father and grandfather (also named Charles Swann Roberts) had long careers with the Baltimore and Ohio. In one of his books, Roberts reminisced about childhood trips with his father to observe the operations of the Pennsylvania Railroad
The Pennsylvania Railroad was an American Class I railroad, founded in 1846. Commonly referred to as the "Pennsy", the PRR was headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania....
, of which Roberts had always been an enthusiast.
The books currently offered by Barnard, Roberts, and Company are about railroad history, principally, but not entirely, authored by Charles Roberts himself. Earlier volumes focused on the Baltimore and Ohio, and more recently, a series of books have covered the Pennsylvania Railroad. The first in this series was Triumph I: Altoona to Pitcairn: 1846-1996
, and the most recent is Triumph IX: Salt Sea to Bays, Valleys, Dells, and Firestorms: 1927-2007