In our highly-digitized world of everything fandom, it’s hard to remember there was a day where a primary lifeline for fans was via the mail. While gaming enthusiasts played games by post and created their own newsletters for small cliques of fellow gamers, it was game publisher Avalon Hill that created the first widely read and regularly published magazine for the strategic wargaming hobby.
Beginning in 1964, The General served as the bi-monthly house newsletter for AH. The General provided regular space for articles on new AH products, debates on variant rules, announcements of gaming conventions and a place where gaming fans could connect with each other on a regular basis. With games like Outdoor Survival, Tactics, Gettsyburg, Blitzkrieg and Panzerblitz, AH ruled the early years of the nascent gaming hobby through their formula of bookshelf games of hexagonal maps, cardboard markers and detailed rulesets full of charts. It was not until the arrival of TSR and their culture-changing Dungeons & Dragons in the early 1970s that AH would face serious competition as gaming shifted from board games to role-playing. By the time AH was acquired by Hasbro in the late 1990s, the world of gaming had changed considerably and The General was shuttered.
In Jon Peterson’s masterful book “Playing At The World,” he tracks the development of the wargaming hobby using The General, TSR’s own Dragon magazine and dozens of smaller lesser-known newsletters as primary sources. For those of us who have wished for a deeper view into the early days of our hobby, the Internet Archive has now made PDFs of The General available. With just a few cursory early looks, having access to this archive of our own history is certain to be an incredible asset for wargamers.