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Charles Swann Roberts is a wargame 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.
Roberts (born in 1930) created the first board wargame, Tactics, in an apartment in Catonsville, Maryland in 1952. In 1954, out of a garage in Avalon, Maryland, he began selling it via mail-order as The Avalon Game Company, which later become Avalon Hill. 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. In 1958 he published Gettysburg, 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 Awards, given for excellence in the historical wargaming hobby.
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 takes 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 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 reminisces about childhood trips with his father to observe the operations of the Pennsylvania Railroad, of which Roberts has 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.