Wargames, Defense Strategy
1962 Milton Bradley game “Summit” used peace economics principles in its strategy game of world conquest. For every two factories each turn you could either build a military base or another factory. So if you played a defensive game militarily while you built up your economic strength, you could win in the late stages of the game with superior economic power. That was America’s national war strategy until after World War II. Then we turned our back on the founding fathers and established a permanent standing army. Unfortunately Eisenhower took the side of the president and secretary of state against the traditionalists of the War Department and Joint Chiefs of Staff. Later Eisenhower doubled Truman’s five percent of the economy for war in the late forties to ten percent of the economy in the fifties, as low military Japan and Germany grew at three times our rate in the fifties. The Marshall plan provided only 10% of the internally generated capital of those two countries that decade. Eisenhower got wise too late in his farewell address.
I didn’t have any confidence at all until the third grade when I got a 100 on my first arithmetic test. After that I grew to love numbers and math and games. A Time Life book on Mathematics was one of my early treasures. We four kids played a lot of games together and I won at least my share, probably a little more than my share of Monopoly games. At age 11 I discovered Avalon Hill wargames. I played my older brother but never let him win a single game. Then at 14 I subscribed to the Avalon Hill General and put in opponents wanted ads. Soon I was spending 15 hours weekly on games over the ten year period 1964 to 1974. I published a couple articles in the Avalon Hill General in 1967 and also one in Strategy and Tactics magazine. Those articles helped me win the Math and Science Award at my high school. I also tied for highest in the State of Wisconsin Mathematics Association of America contest that year. In 1968 I was elected Senator in the International Federation of Wargaming and in 1969 was appointed Coordinator of Wargames in the largest wargaming club at the time.
Gary Gygax, who went on to create “Dungeons and Dragons” lost decisively to me in a play by mail game of “Battle of the Bulge,” Walter Cronkite’s favorite game. Using the chess system, I developed a wargaming rating twice as high above average as the second highest rated gamer. I had a 19-1 record. In 1972 I supported George McGovern “in spite of” his opposition to the war, as I had been reading Newsweek cover to cover for years by then. I cried the night my namesake 3rd cousin once removed Bobby Kennedy died. Mom was extremely proud of her Irish heritage and born to a Catholic family, so the first Catholic President was a big deal. Gary Gygax created the first wargaming convention in August 1968, called the Geneva Convention because it was held in his home town of Lake Geneva, WI. I had to follow immediately with the Madison Wargaming Convention from June 1969 to 1972. I turned it over to someone else as I graduated college. Attendance had grown 50% per year, quadrupling in three years from 24 to 98. Wargamers were a small elite group as one third were in high school, one third in college and 15% had graduate degrees. Some were in ROTC, some liked something more complicated and real than chess, like me.
Here is the seven page Defense Strategy chapter of my first book Peace Economics:
Isn’t it good to know that my military strategy experience didn’t go to complete waste?
Dr. Bob Reuschlein
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