Meeting Geek Number One
When I look back over six decades of life, probably my most profound mentor of all, Gary Gygax, became the number one Geek in America in 2002. From 1964 to 1974 I had a close association with Gary Gygax when we both were two of the leading wargamers in America.
Beginning With Avalon Hill
In the beginning there was the Avalon Hill Company of Baltimore, who gave us games that took us to the next level up in complexity from chess. In 1958 Gary Gygax started with their game Gettysburg, and in 1961 Bob Reuschlein started with Chancellorsville. Both were games of the Civil War, the conflict of America’s greatest president. When I got tired of playing just my older brother and he got tired of losing to me, along came the Avalon Hill General magazine in 1964. Those first issues of that great Christmas present allowed me to advertise for and find opponents wanted in Madison Wisconsin. There was one article writer that stood out from the crowd with a barrage of articles in those magazines, and that was Gary Gygax, who I soon found out was also from Wisconsin. Reuschlein was not nearly as active as Gygax in those magazines, but he won three of their contests, wrote about three articles there and one popular one called “Simultaneous Movement” for Strategy and Tactics magazine. Bob was constantly in the opponents wanted column and wrote several letters to the editor. These activities became the outside activities that helped him win the Math and Science Award in his Catholic college prep high school, Edgewood of Madison.
Wargaming helped him break out of his shell as a quiet shy young man. He learned to play games like Diplomacy with others from the Madison area that responded to his opponents wanted ads. A gamers group in Madison developed not unlike Gary’s Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Group. When Gary Gygax founded the International Federation of Wargaming in 1966, many of those in Madison were ready to join when asked. That club became the largest one in America during the Vietnam War years. With two self starters like Gary and Bob in the same state, Wisconsin became one of eight Senate districts and Bob was elected unanimously in that district. Furthermore, Reuschlein was asked to fill the special office of Coordinator of Wargaming, becoming the Ratings chair. Gary challenged Bob to a play by mail game of Battle of the Bulge, Walter Cronkite’s favorite game. Gary loved offense and took the Germans, Bob loved defense and took the Americans. After a long hard fought game, a massive Reuschlein counterattack got lucky and ended the game as Gary resigned. Impressed by this game between Gary age 28 and Reuschlein age16, next year Gary invited Reuschlein over one Saturday to play Waterloo with a friend from Chicago. Gary thoughtfully watched and circled the table in his living room as this time the patented Reuschlein counterattack ran into consistent worst possible luck, became depleted, and ended in a loss. This would be Reuschlein’s only loss in 20 official games played in the International Federation of Wargaming from 1966 to 1974. Using a chess like scoring system, starting at 1500 points, Reuschlein became the highest rated player in the IFW with about 1905 points to the second highest score of 1720.
After a convention in Pennsylvania went bankrupt in 1967, the first successful wargaming convention was launched by Gary Gygax in Lake Geneva in August 1968 with one hundred people in attendance, including, of course, both Gary Gygax and Robert Reuschlein. With Avalon Hill Boardgames, tabletop miniatures, and Diplomacy being played all over the Horticultural Center, all had a good time in the one day long Saturday meeting ending at dinner time. The next year Reuschlein tried to emulate this success with his own Madison wargaming convention in June 1969. Attendance that first year in the Madison Community Center on Doty Street, one block over from the downtown state capital building, was Gary Gygax among the 24 that gathered that day. Three years later attendance at the Madison Wargaming Convention peaked at 98. Reuschlein graduated from college that June in 1972, and the convention collapsed to 23 again under new leadership in 1973, never to be heard from again. That first convention was covered by Gary Bender of the local ABC affiliate, who later became a fixture on ABC Sports for the national broadcasters.
When Robert Reuschlein left Wisconsin for nineteen years in the State of Oregon from June 1974 to May 1993, he also left wargaming behind. Gary Gygax agreed to sell Reuschlein’s remaining games at Gen Con in 1974. After spending about 15 hours a week playing wargames from 1964 to 1974, Reuschlein worked about three years full time equivalent at wargaming those ten years. Gary probably doubled that workload. Gen Con with now about 300 in attendance finally offered a tournament in Avalon Hill Wargames in 1973, where Reuschlein defeated the editor of the Avalon Hill General, based in Baltimore, to win that first three game single elimination tournament. That was using the game Waterloo and the next year, 1974, Reuschlein came back to Wisconsin to play in his final wargaming tournament at Gen Con, winning the first two games of Afrika Korps, settling for co-champion when time did not allow the championship game to be played. Gary was moving on as well, as Bob played a prototype game of Dungeons and Dragons on Gary’s porch. That last convention featured Gary Gygax in a sand box with wizards and the like playing something the rest of the wargamers thought was a little bit crazy. Crazy like a fox, that was the first year of Dungeons and Dragons game sales. Just a thousand games that first year, 1974, soon to be millions of games by 1978 sold each year. 1974 was the last year Bob Reuschlein saw his friend Gary Gygax.
Had Bob known Gary Gygax needed one thousand dollars to launch his new project, Bob had the money then, and life could have been so different for both of them. Gary needed a friend and gamer to invest with him, not a stranger. But then Bob would not have invented Peace Economics in 1986 and the Global Warming theory in 1991, both born out of his political career in Oregon. Interestingly enough, both Gary and Bob started their great inventions at age 35, twelve years apart just as the age difference in that first play by mail game. Gary Gygax’s idea for a role playing game with levels has sparked a new industry and made him millions of dollars with millions of fans. Bob Reuschlein’s ideas have yet to be monetized and mass produced: many a spark has been lit, yet many do not appreciate the very real importance of his inventions. Reuschlein has finally turned to credentialism, earning a doctorate late in life in 2009 and starting a blogging campaign in 2013 reminiscent of the many articles Gary Gygax wrote for magazines for many years before the money started rolling in. Just as Gary Gygax’s ideas seemed a little goofy to the traditional wargamer, Reuschlein’s ideas seem goofy to the Peace and Justice academic crowd. Gary Gygax turned the corner by moving into fantasy, perhaps Reuschlein will turn the corner by moving into the fast paced financial investment arena, rather than the slow paced academic arena. Peace academics are into social movements, not business opportunities. Politics is a black hole that swallows all but a few. Honesty is dangerous in both politics and academics, yet essential in good science. But to “one’s own self be true and to no one else canst thou be false.” Ageism also confronts Bob, as does the idea that economics can never be a science. Global warming scientists are similarly slow to comprehend the meaning of real accuracy.
Principal link showing qualification for Nobel Peace Prize:
Professor Robert Reuschlein, Dr. Peace, Real Economy Institute,
Nominated and vetted for the Nobel Peace Prize 2016 and 2017,