This interview was first published in The Mouth Of Sauron, Volume VI, Number I (March 1990). It was reprinted in Maniac's Paradise 46-49. It was retytped for email distribution by Martin Snow.
At World DipCon I (July 1988) I had the opportunity to interview Fred C. Davis Jr. To many British hobbyists, Fred will be best known as the designer of a series of great variants, many of which are amongst the few variants that have stood the test of time. In the States he is also known as one of the most reliable publishers of all time (approaching eighteen consecutive years) and as a person who has been active in promoting postal diplomacy for many years, both within organizations such as the old IDA and as an individual. His list of achievements within the hobby is too long to even begin.
He is one of the few people who have had a major influence on the hobby. Moreover, he is one of the friendliest members of our hobby, always willing to explain things and offer useful advice; and not always on hobby matters. But perhaps you'd do better to read the interview...
Q: Could you explain how you entered the American Hobby?
I entered the American Hobby at the same time I discovered Diplomacy. I was invited to a party by Marvin Garbis, who I knew through Maryland Mensa. He told us about this great new game he was playing and took out his Diplomacy set. At this time (Oct 1968) he was playing in the first All-Mensa game run by Terry Kuch in Thulcandra. Thulcandra just ran this one game, with the game fee going to charity. A month later the English player had dropped out and I entered my first game as a standby.
Q: Were you interested in board games before you came across Diplomacy?
As a kid growing up we had all sorts of boardgames, most of which were fairly simple--the really complex games only started with Avalon Hill's "Tactics-2" which I bought about 1958. "Tactics-2" uses squares rather than hexes and I got my poor wife to practice playing with me a couple of times and I played it once or twice solo. At Christmas 1941, I had been given the original Tactics game. "Tactics-1" was designed during the Russo-Japanese war and is a game of battleships blockading harbours. It was reissued when WW2 came up, slightly updated by adding aircraft. We used to play that in High School and Grammar School, and so I was always interested in that type of game. I had even once tried to come up with some sort of a design using squares but had never been able to come up with anything satisfactory. When I saw Diplomacy I knew this was what I had been looking for for years.
Q: So you'd been playing games on and off for years...
Q: James got your board game, Landwehr, through the PDA...
Two friends of mine and myself used to get together every Saturday. One fellow had an apartment which had been condemned as unfit for human habitation, but we had been given it as a club house, as the owner of the building was a personal friend of my friend's mother. We had tools and materials for many hobbies and activities there. We build miniature warships for the Fletcher Pratt Naval Wargame and were also building a model railroad. They had built some little tanks to use in the Fletcher Pratt Naval Wargame, using the land war section. They had all these tanks, we also had some nice lead model cannon that had been built for a scale model warship, and we decided to design a two man wargame.
We used the tanks and the cannon and took a dowel rod, which we cut up into small pieces for infantry. We had tried playing this for several months, about 1950, and it didn't work out because we were only allowing three pieces to move each turn. After I discovered Diplomacy I went back and dug this old game up and speeded up the movement, so that every piece on the same side could move at the same time. That improved the game tremendously and made a playable game.
It was originally called "The Land War Game". I wrote to another wargamer about it and he said that you couldn't call it "The Land War Game" because there were hundreds of Land War Games. So he suggested Landwehr (which is German for defense forces)...it's a pun really. So "The Land War Game" became Landwehr.
Q: What was the American Hobby like in 1968, a fairly small close-knit community?
Yes. I don't think that the first census was taken until a couple of years later but I would estimate that there weren't more than 400 or 500 people in the hobby. It was still the first generation of old timers like Rod Walker, Conrad von Metzke, and Charles Wells, who ran Lonely Mountain, running things. Most of the zines had place names. The early tradition was that the zine must be named for an imaginary country like Lomokome, Ruritania, or Brobdignag. Brobdignag, I think was the first Canadian zine. John Boardman's Graustark was the first zine of course. I've never subscribed to Graustark and didn't have any contact with Boardman. My early contacts were mostly with Rod Walker.
He had one zine, Erehwon for regular games, and another, Lomokome, for variant games. I played Imperialism VIIR, which was Rod's design, in Lomokome. I started my first regular game (1969B) in a zine called The Voice of Vienna run by Jeff Key in Oklahoma City. There were only, perhaps twenty zines in the hobby at that point. All the publishers traded with everybody else and knew each other, at least postally.
At first I got both Walker's zines (Lomokome and Erehwon) and The Voice of Vienna, which later became The Voice, which folded. The 1969B game was transferred to Jocztrab which was run by a Polish fellow called Stan Wrobel. Stan lived in a little town called Poland Village, Ohio (right near Youngstown). I think he knew some of the original Youngstown players. There were two or three other zines I was getting. Then, somehow, somebody put me in touch with Don Turnbull, so I started getting Albion from England around the Fall of 1969.
Q: That would have been just after Don started?
Yes, I missed the first couple of issues. It might have been from issue four or five that I started getting Albion. Of course, originally the Diplomacy games were carried right in Albion. This was a while before Courier was born.
Q: How did you come to start Bushwacker?
I had told Rod Walker that I was thinking of publishing but that I first wanted to feel my way into the hobby. I said to him that I would call it Bushwacker, after my comic strip character of the same name. Rod said, "Oh no, you can't do that. Hobby tradition says that every zine must be named after an imaginary country."
I told him that was all right, Bushwacker's an imaginary country too. You see my comic strip character was also President of the Bushwacker Republic, which was on an asteroid. They had invented space travel on this alternative world in the 1930's and they had gone out and captured a comet and put this little asteroid around the comet. We thought that comets were hot in those days. The comet was the sun and they lived on an asteroid called The Bushwacker Republic. So Bushwacker is a name of a country as well as the name of a person. So Rod didn't say anything more about that. I waited for a while as I wasn't sure if I wanted to publish.
What happened was that the Mensa club in Baltimore decided to buy a mimeograph machine. We had been doing all out Maryland Mensa newsletter by cutting stencils and taking them to a professional printer for printing. Unfortunately, they were not all that reliable. Sometimes they would be three or four days late, and once month we got the newsletter in the mail one day after our montly meeting. Needless to say only a few people showed up, although they were all Mensans and they knew precisely which day of the week the meeting was supposed to be...(chuckles) ...even Mensans need a newsletter delivered to them hard copy under their noses to make sure they know where the meeting is and what day. After that debacle we decided to buy our own mimeograph. So, I was in a committee of two and we went around looking at a couple of used mimeograph machines. Somewhere, someone told me about the Roneo machine and since Roneo had an outlet in Baltimore we went up and were so impressed by this little Roneo machine, which was fully portable, that we decided to buy it.
I offered to pay for one third of the machine and keep it at my house if I could use it once a month for a Diplomacy magazine. So that ws the agreement. Once a month we ran the Mensa newsletter, which was about six sides, and once a month I would run off Bushwacker which started out only four sides. The first issue was printed in Feb 1972, but was actually dated March because we waited six-eight weeks to see what the response was before I published the next issue.
Q: When did you become interested in variants?
As a matter of fact only one month after I purchased my first Diplomacy set! (Incidentally it was impossible to buy a Diplomacy set in Baltimore in those days. I had to go to Crocks and Brenttano's Bookshop in Washington and buy it there.) I took one look at the map and said, "There are map errors here!"
I grew up in a National Geographic family and I've always loved maps. I saw what Dr. Calhamer mentioned yesterday about Belgium coming too far down into France. I also never liked the jump from Norway to St. Petersburg, knowing how rough the territory is up there. So I wrote something for Don Miller (whose zine I was also getting). He published The Gamesman which was a quarterly discussing games per se and he also had Diplophobia which ran games on a three weekly basis. I wrote to Don saying that I had come up with some ideas for improving the Diplomacy board and he offered to print them in The Gamesman. I forget where he actually did print them, but he printed my idea for adding a province between Norway and St. Pete, a province between Venice and Trieste, and a few other ideas I came up with when I had been in the hobby a very short period of time. Then I found out that Don Miller was the variant man in those days. He issued "Miller Numbers" for variant games.
I just sat down one afternoon in 1969 and I just worked on Abstraction, that was my first variant. So I was very interested from the very beginning in variants and when I founded Bushwacker I was determined that I would run it as a variant zine. This was not unusual at that time. Rod Walker had Lomokome running variants only, there was John Boyer, in Carlise, PA who had two separate zines; one for regular games and another from variants, some of which he had designed himself. So it was not considered at all unusual for an all-variant zine to exist. The only difference was that I didn't also have a second zine to run regular games! but from the very beginning it was announced that I would run only variants, and I offered Abstraction, my first game, which included the first use of the Army/Fleet rule which I had invented, and Atlantica which was first printed in the UK in Don Turnbull's Albion.
Q: How did you get the idea for Atlantica? It's quite unusual, having two sets of powers on both sides of an ocean; and you've got the boxes as well.
Atlantica I had only one set of boxes. I had seen Youngstown, which has boxes...at least Youngstown IV and up. I had wanted to get a game, living in North America, in which North America was involved. Up to that time the only variants you saw were based on the original map of Europe, Tolkien variants, and a few based on England. I knew of only one American map variant; and it was not a very good one. It had all the forty-eight states as supply centers, no neutral provinces and was a very crowded game.
So what I wanted to do was to bring Europe and America together. I was also interested in an international game. The idea was that hopefully I would get a few Europeans to play in the Atlantica game and I did succeed. The very first Atlantica game had John Piggot playing England, Herb Barents, who was a Dutchman, playing Germany (in American slang they call Germans Dutchmen sometimes) and then I had a genuine southerner, a Dr. Keithly, playing the Confederate States of America. I had a Canadian playing Canada and an American playing the USA. So the only countries not played by people having a connection were France and Italy, who were also played by Americans. Piggott had a slight disadvantage, being the only person literally overseas, but I was running monthly rather than four weekly deadlines. I started using four weekly deadlines, but after the first two months I realized it was much easier to adjudicate monthly, and this allowed Piggot to participate fully in the game. So I just drew and designed; I can't draw so I traced. I traced a good map of the eastern side of America and Canada and I took the Avalon Hill conference maps...you don't get them in your UK sets do you?
Q: No, one just gets the board...
Well, in the American set you have seven conference maps which are included, and you can order extra copies. I simply traced an Avalon Hill map. I put them together, with an atlas in front of me, and I did the ocean spaces pretty much free hand, hoping that the two scales were fairly clsoe. The first Atlantica version did not have these numbered spaces in the middle and had one set of boxes. I think we had the Panama/Pacific box and the Suez/Indian box. Later on, with the second version we added the Siberia/Alaska boxes to make it possible to go around the world by army as well as by sea. By Atlantica III (the current one) we had found that the United States, even though it started with four centers, was the Austria of the game and would get crushed between Canada and the CSA. So in Atlantica III we have another space called the Wild West, which is passable only to the United States, which gives the US five units to begin with, hopefully to keep it in the game, and also a few other minor modifications.
Q: Going back to Abstraction, where did the idea to split Venice and Trieste come from? Was it historical, or a desire to improve the game?
Well, I credit myself with having a good spatial vision and being able to look at a map and being able to understand things very quickly. For example, in Chicago, when they opened the so-called Chicago Skyway expressway (which they had spend umpteen million dollars on) I looked at it for 15 seconds and said it's wrong--they'd forgotten to add any extra entrance or exit ramps between the entrance in south side Chicago and the other entrance in Indiana. Sure enough, that proved right. Later the big shots had to go down and add some more exit and entrance ramps. So I do pride myself in being able to look at a map and pick these things out very quickly.
To me it was glaring that no other place on the board do two starting powers have units/supply centers adjacent to each other, and somehow pure instinct told me that there should be a separating space in there. Unknown to me, Larry Peery had come up with the space known as Perrijavo, a take-off on Sarajavo of course, but I didn't know that then as I didn't know Peery until years later. We both saw the need to separate Austria from Italy, so that Austria and Italy can trust each other and work together hand and glove. Austria and Ialy have great difficulty working together otherwise because it is just too tempting to strike over the line and grab a supply center. Whenever I design any variant, or when anybody sends me one, I always say if at all possible within the context of the game don't have two home supply centers touching each other.
Q: And A/F's? That's a good rule. How did you come up with that?
I believe it is one of those cases when you go to bed thinking about it and when you wake up you have a brilliant flash. I think that's how it was. It suddenly came to me that that was the solution. When I tried it out it seemed to work. There have been slight modifications to the Army/Fleet rules adding a few clauses for some very improbable things occurring, which I didn't have any provisions for in the first games, but it was basically 90% of the idea in that first brilliant flash.
Q: Can you tell us something about Don Miller. Many people seem to have a high respect of his activities in the early days. I believe he was a SF fan as well...
Yes, Don Miller published three different types of publications. He published a SF zine, a detective group zine (I didn't even know there was a set of detective fans but apparently there are) and of course three different diplomacy type publications. The Gamesman was all games, in fact there was a lot of Chess in there. In the Gamesman he had different color pages for different things: Chess might be green, Diplomacy might be white, etc.
The thing to remember about Don Miller was that he had no access to computers or xerox. Everything he did was typed on mimeograph stencils on a manual typewriter, cranked out by hand on his own mimeograh machine and collated in his own house. He had a nice big den in Wheaton, which is just north of Washington DC proper. He was a civil servant, a lawyer by training, and was blessed with not having to work too much overtime, so he did have free time, and when I first met him he was in good health.
They tell me that he very rarely ever travelled anyplace. He had an eye condition which meant he could not drive after sunset. So if he ever went out after sunset his wife Stella went too. (Stella was British by the way. Don was stationed in England during the Korean War, I think, and ment his wife here...one of those GI bride things.) He rarely went to a convention of any sort or games party. He would go to the World Science Fiction Conventions when they were held on the East coast, and maybe he went to some of the early diplomacy games, but from the time I knew him he very rarely went anywhere. I lived 35 miles away, and he only once came over as my guest. I got to his house about four times, but he never came to any diplomacy party we invited him to because he always said he was too busy or that he was having eye trouble. Later on of course, he came down with cancer, and he had several operations. He was one of those never-say-die people. He returned from an operation and published another issue of The Gamesman and you would never know from reading The Gamesman how sick he was. The last issue of The Gamesman was published about 1979, maybe. There had been about a six months gap and he apologized for the long delay.
When Larry Peery announced we were going to have the Don Miller Award (equivalent to your Les Pimley Award) he called me from California and asked me to invite Don to the Diplomacy convention where the award was being presented. (I think it was the first MaryCon down in Fredricksburg, Virginia). I wrote Don a letter, and Stella called to tell me that Don had died two weeks before, of cancer. We didn't know that he was that ill. But I'll say this, he went down with all guns firing and all flags waving. I went over there approximately nine or ten months after his death because we knew Don had this tremendous collection of Diplomacy zines. His wife was not that interested in the hobby; she did not know what was Diplomacy, what was SF, and what was detective publications. So I went over and spent an entire Saturday sorting out all the Diplomacy stuff, packed it, and Stella had it mailed to Larry for the Diplomacy Archives. I took all his spare copies of The Gamesman, which I tried to sell at various cons in the Baltimore area. The money was used to finance the Don Miller Award. I've also sold the final copies though the PDORA (People's Diplomacy Organization Relief Auction).
As he got sicker, he dropped his monthly Diplomacy zine but he had kept on trying to run The Gamesman. I think he either completed all his games or neatly and properly transferred them. He had a very clean fold, except for The Gamesman which he didn't fold as he intended to continue publishing it. His wife said that for months after he had passed away she kept receiving letters from both new and old subscribers who didn't know he had passed away.
Q: What was the variant scene like in the late '60's and early '70's? Was there a small group of active variant-only fans by that stage?
I think most people played both variants and regular games. It was a period when variants were very popular and there were a lot more variants being played at that time. Every week practically, it seemed someone would publish a new variant in a zine. Most of them were mimeograph and the mimeographing wasn't all that it ought to have been. Some people still used the old ditto process, which enabled you to use two or three colors, so that supply centers might be in red while the map would be in blue and the seas green. Nobody realized that twenty years later on the green would fade away. I have several in the bank to which I have had to take feathered pens and go over all the green because that's the first color to fade. Of course when you photocopy it all comes out black and white anyway! Luckily nobody is printing variants in ditto and multi-color anymore.
Q: Ditto has never been used much in the UK, only one or two zines have used it. Is anyone still using it in the states?
The last ditto zine in the States was, I think, Bruce Linsey's zine. It was such a big zine that what he used to do was to either mimeograph or xerox the first ten pages which had some important material while the rest was done on ditto, as it was much cheaper. Since Voice of Doom's last issue in December 1985 nobody in the states is using the ditto process anymore. [NOTE: Steve Heinowski's Ter-ran was still on ditto in March 1990. --MN]
Q: When was the first American Variant Bank set up?
Dick Vedder decided to do this. He had a large personal collection of zines and he wrote to various people and over a couple years he kept collecting. He had a small zine which he circulated on a very limited basis in which he gave progress reports on which variants he had and when he would be ready to launch the NAVB. In his final issue he announced that (a) he now had enough variants to write a catalogue, (b) he presented the catalog, and (c) he had reached a point where he had to drop out of the hobby. So he was not able to run the variant bank, although he had organized the manila folders for all the variants. What he did was to type titles on sticky labels and stuck the labels over the folders.
He had third-cut manila folders in alphabetical order with all the sticky labels on the folders. Anyway, he turned it over to someone else over in Virginia, Dan Callagher, who actually began selling photocopies of the variants. Dan, in turn, after a fairly short period of time, turned the bank over to Dave Kadlecek in California and Dave at first was very conscientious about turning out a little newsletter about what was going on and filling orders.
Then, all of a sudden, he stopped and nobody heard from him or got a response to orders. At this point Rod Walker looked him up and found he was living in a commune and seemed to be dropping out of the hobby. In the meantime I had a personal collection of variants in manilla folders labeled using a heavy feather pen, to make the titles rather easy to see, and I called that the "NAVB East." So when Rod finally went to this commune in the San Francisco Bay area he persuaded Kadlecek to let him take the Bank, and Rod called it the "NAVB West" because he still wasn't ready to take over the full bank. He wanted to see whether Kadlecek would get back into the hobby. It was only after six months when Dave decided that he had no further interest that Rod called his file the NAVB, naming me as his back-up officer.
At that point Rod filled all the outstanding orders, except for variants that I had designed, and he explained to "customers" that my variants should be ordered directly from me. In addition, I occasionally got other orders. Rod also asked me to get in touch with the UKVB and to find out if there were any other variant banks across the world. Well, there was one in Europe, called the Central European Variant Bank, operated by Walter Luc Haas in Basel, Switzerland. Walter had some German and English variants. He sent me English translations of a couple of German variants. I sent him some of my things. And for a short while we worked together.
When I was over in Europe in 1976 we went to Stuttgart for some time, and as it was only a short train trip to Basel, we visited Walter for a couple of days and exchanged some more material. Shortly after 1976, Walter began losing interest in the hobby, and as you know the UKVB exchanged hands many times: I could barely keep up with all the changes. Anyway, the division of labor was such that Rod would handle most of the orders and that I was to keep in touch with the International people. Eventually I got in touch with Jaap Jaccobs, the Dutch Variant Custodian; Michael Liesnard, who although not personally the Belgian Variant Bank custodian lived in the same building as the Bank Custodian so there was direct communication; and I kept up contact with one UKVB Custodian after another. We would no sooner establish communications then he would drop out and someone else would take over. This was very frustrating.
Eventually, Andy Poole took over the UKVB and we communicated back and forth. As I understand it, he rescued the UKVB at one point. Rod and I stayed in touch with all these people. Then about Spring 1985 Rod advised me he was sick and tired of running the NAVB and that the novel he was writing was taking up too much of his time. I told him that I was retiring from my civil service post at the end of August 1985, and this was my big mistake. He said, "Ahh, in that case you'll be retired with nothing to do. I'm going to give you the NAVB!" I protested at first, but I gave in very easily. So, Larry Peery went to Rod's house in October 1985 and went through every folder. The trouble with any transfer is that you really want to go through everything you've got to see if anything is misfiled or if anything shouldn't be in the files or anything needs corrections, and Rod simply didn't have the time to do that. So Larry went through the files and then bundled it up into three large cartons which he had shipped to me by UPS. I received these approximately the first week in November 1985.
However, because I had to check everything, it wasn't until February 1986 that I was able to say to the Hobby that I was able to fill orders. I went through all the files, rewriting the folder labels in large lettering so that they could be seen and distinguished from each other at a distance. There are now four boxes, since the number of variants has grown so much between November 85 and July 1988.
Q: Originally, I understand that variants were only given Miller Numbers when a game started.
No, that idea came later, from Robert Sacks. Originally, each design was given a catalogue number when Miller or whoever was the MNC, first saw the rules. The games were identified by letters. The first game on the list was `a'. The following ones were b, c, d, e, ..., z, aa, ab, ac, ..., etc. reaching into the g's or h's before some people realized that this system was no good. All it does is show you how old a variant is. The lower the letter, the older the design. Even that wasn't strictly true, since the letters were assigned in the order in which the MNC received the game, and not the order of their design.
Q: Did Don Miller start that?
Yes, Don Miller was the one. And since Boardman had always issued Boardman numbers in the same way that comets are numbered, i.e. 1964A. Don took this little letter (the variant code) and would add it on so the first variant game in 1965 would be 1965Ax with x signifying whatever variant x was. It was all right as long as everybody knew the variants and there weren't more than 100 variants. The trouble was that as you were getting up to 200-300 variants these letters meant nothing. Hartley Patterson, here in Britain, was probably the first person who suggested that we should reclassify the designs into orderly categories. This was followed by various proposals from others...>
Q: When would this be, about 1974?
About 74-75. Doing this by mail takes an inordinate amount of time. If we could have got around a table together we might have done it in one day. It was discussed over a two year period. Conrad von Metzke got into the thing and came up with a very large number of categories. Hartley's original proposal was for about nine categories: Tolkien variants, Space variants, variants using a map of Europe, one for changing the rules but not the map, etc. We thought that we could get by with just nine categories, so this was suggested to Robert Sacks who was then Miller Number Custodian.
Sacks would not accept this. Now it had the approval of the UKVB, the NAVB, and several leading people in the hobby, such as Rod Walker, Conrad von Metzke and Der Garvey in Ireland. (He was one of those people who lasted only a very short time in the hobby. He had access to a computer in his office at a time when home- computers didn't exist, and he had put this all onto a computer cassette and sent copies to us.) Everybody except Robert Sacks agreed to this classification system.
Q: What was Sacks' objection to it?
It wasn't his system.
Q: Was that all it came down to?
In my personal opinion, yes. A dog in the manger situation. If I can't have the hay, nobody else can have the hay. He wanted his own system, and he did then come up with another system. The problem with Robert Sacks' system was that under it no variant could receive a designation until it had been played postally. Whereas Don Miller's idea, my idea, Conrad von Metzke's and everybody else's idea was that variants would receive a designation when they were designed... otherwise we would have hundreds of variants without a classifying number. What Sacks said was No, if a variant isn't played it shouldn't have a number.
Q: I suppose the problem was that you were looking at it as a librarian...
Yes, mine was a librarian's viewpoint while Sacks' was as a gamesmaster. He said that if a variant is never played postally why does it need a number? My feeling was that every design should be classified. You never know when it might be played. Who knows, ten years down the line, someone might ask for a variant based on the Roman Empire. Well asking for a design based on the Roman Empire is meaningless, there's dozens of them. But if he says send me variant "ac/21", all we have to do is to look at ac/21, photocopy it and send it to him. That was my feeling, Walker's feeling, and everybody else's feeling in the hobby: That every variant should be classified and given a number.
Q: So what happened then? Two conflicting systems?
Well, Conrad von Metzke had actually designed what we called a Variant Numbering System with nine basic categories. Copies were sent out to many people, as a starting point for the new system. So Walt Buchanan, who was the publisher of Diplomacy World and at that point the supreme arbiter in the Hobby, said "Wait a minute, we'll have a vote on this." So I was asked, under Walt's jurisdiction to prepare a ballot to decide who should be the Miller Number Custodian: 1) Robert Sacks or 2) Conrad von Metzke. We explained that Sacks was going to use the original system, until he came up with his own, while Conrad would use his new system.
I thought that Robert Sacks' system was rather poorly thought out... Anyway the ballots went out to every known zine publisher in North America, most of the UK, and those that we knew of in Europe (two in Germany, one in France, and I believe one in Italy). Every ballot was on green paper and had an individual code number to prevent stuffing of the ballot box. A very strange thing happened. We got about 50% return and the result was a tie between Robert Sacks and Conrad von Metzke.
What happened was that those publishers who did not publish variants knew very little about this feud and didn't give a damn. Since Robert Sacks was the Miller Number Custodian, they voted for him. Conrad was very upset by this as he had put an awful amount of work into his system and this caused one of Conrad's four folds from the hobby. (Conrad is the only person in the hobby to have folded four times and to have resurrected four times.) In effect, he said the hell with it and lost interest in variant classification, and very shortly after that dropped out of the hobby. So Sacks assumed that he had been vindicated by this. So we muddled on for another year or so, by which time Sacks had turned the MNC post over to Greg Costikyan.
Q: Why did Robert Sacks hand over the Miller Number Custodianship?
Well, Sacks had a lot of other material taking up his time. He had Known Game Openings, which is a complete list of game openings, he was also running the Diplomacy Variant Commission, and he had also graduated from MIT and had started work in the real world. I don't know the ins and outs, but Sacks did say that other work was taking up a lot of his time. So he got Greg Costikyan, who also lives in New York City, to become the Miller Number Custodian.
Q: How did the changeover occur? Was it announced in the hobby that the post was vacant?
I don't think so... Actually, Sacks had appointed a pseudo replacement in January 1978, named Michael Smolin. No one I knew had ever seen or heard from Smolin, but he was titular head for about 18 months, during which, as I recall, he published only one issue of the MNC's zine, Lord of Hosts. Everyone assumed that Sacks was still running things behind the scene. Costikyan finally took over as MNC in mid-1979. Since he and Sacks were on good terms, he continued to use the antiquated numbering system for variant games right up to the time he stepped down from office in June 1981.
Robert retained his post as Chairman of the Diplomacy Variant Commission. Originally this was the Diplomacy Variant Committee, an arm of the IDA, but when Len Lakofka was President of the IDA Robert was fired from his post as Chairman of the Committee. So Robert bounced back the next day with the Diplomacy Variant Commission, of which he was the head man, and he continued to issue instructions to the Custodians of the various Variant Banks--most of whom ignored them.
Q: Yes, I've never understood what the purpose of the Diplomacy Variant Commission was...
The Diplomacy Variant Commission stated that they had two functions: (1) every year they gave out an award for the best variant design of the year and (2) they felt that they had a right to tell the various variant custodians how to do their work. For example, in England, Sacks wanted to appoint Will Haven to take over the UKVB, while nobody wanted this fellow to run the UKVB. Anyway, Robert issued orders that Haven should become the new UKVB Custodian. So there was quite a feud as the UKVB ignored Sacks completely. So he has this idea that he has the right to control every Variant Bank Custodian and every Miller Number Custodian in the world. He says they are responsible to Robert Sacks, answer to him, and should follow Robert, as he is the head of the Diplomacy Variant Commission. It's a very strange delusion, frankly.
Anyway, by the end of 1980, Walker had the NAVB and Greg Costikyan was falling down on issuing Miller Numbers. There were variant games appearing with no Miller Numbers and people who had written to Costikyan to get game designations were getting no reply. Oh, they were still using the old Miller Number system at this time. So Rod Walker sent a letter to Costikyan saying that if Greg didn't bring out another issue of Lord of Hosts (Sacks had founded this as a MNC publication) by April 30, 1981, Rod would take over as MNC and start to issue numbers. Greg beat that deadline by bringing out an issue of Lord of Hosts, but he again became delinquent a short while later, and again we weren't receiving any letters from him.
Let me jump back a little bit. When Walker got the NAVB files he decided that he would classify them, for the use of the NAVB. He invented a library classification. This was done purely for the internal use of the NAVB custodian. He used the system we use now with capital letters to designate time periods. A: Ancient world, M: Medieval Europe, H: Europe 1501-1900, etc.
A copy of this was sent to Greg Costikyan, asking if Greg would consider replacing the old Miller system. We were STILL trying to get rid of the original Miller Number system some seven years after Hartley's suggestion! Costikyan never said yes or no, he never did anything. Well, finally Costikyan dropped out and Walker became acting MNC for a period of 30 days. At this point Costikyan was jogged into action and appointed John Leeder (a Canadian, publisher of Runestone) as the new MNC. So Rod got into touch with Leeder, who agreed to use the NAVB classification system as the variant designator part of the Miller Number.
This gained the name ARDA Number designator because Rod's NAVB zine was called ARDA. Technically speaking they are NAVB catalogue numbers. John Leeder agreed that this was a much better system. Now, no system is perfect because there are so many variables. You really need two/three designators; one for chronology, one for geography, and possibly one for special rules. We had tried to do everything in one classification, deciding what was the most important thing in any particular design: i.e. is it the geographical location, special/weird rules or the time period? Depending on the most important aspect, we classify it accordingly. But the NAVB system had one great advantage over all the other proposals, namely that it went into use! One bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. So beginning in summer 1981, Rod began issuing a new catalogue and from summer 1981 all new Miller Numbers used this system. Games under way could apply for a new number, or continue.
As far as I know, no one asked for a new number, although I had started a game of Atlantica using the Conrad von Metzke numerical system--possibly the only game ever to use the VM Numerical system. That game was coming very close to an end and on either the last or next to last move I finally announced that the new system was in place and I announced the new MN for that game (using Walker's system).
Within a very very short time everybody in North America except Robert Sacks was using the new NAVB system (or ARDA if you prefer) for designating variants at the end of the Miller Number. Incidentally, the last part of the NAVB system isn't part of the Miller Number. That's the part which shows the number of players in the game. It's the least important for any variant game he has run. Originally even Dick Martin used the new Miller numbers in his zine Retaliation until a certain time when he stopped using Boardman Numbers and Miller Numbers for all his games. Why he stopped using Boardman Numbers I have no idea. The reason he stopped using Miller Numbers was because his wife (Julie) was negotiating with Robert Sacks to become the so-called "Miller Number Custodian under the Covenant" (MNCutC).
Q: I've never understood the MNCutC business...
It's a pure and simple power struggle. Let me digress here. Robert Sacks has KGO, which is his list of games, and Diplomacy World has their own list. Now when Rod Walker was the editor of Diplomacy World Robert's column appeared in Diplomacy World, but he kept on injecting all this political stuff and attacking people, so Rod Walker fired Sacks. At this point Sacks went back to producing KGO as a private publication. Since Diplomacy World was only quarterly, and thus slightly out of date, while KGO would be monthly, Rod resumed an old, old, title which he had used years earlier called Pontevedria and used that to start issuing his list of games openings also. You had two competing games services.
Then, when Bruce Linsey issued his Novice Package Supernova, Sacks, in conjunction with Bob Olsen of Kansas and Woody Arnawoodian of Pennsylvania, decided to have their own novice package. They formed their own group and issued Masters of Deceit. This is a fine publication as it goes, but it does not mention anyone who is opposed to anything Sacks or his confederates dislike (i.e., no mention of Mark Berch's Diplomacy Digest, no mention of Bruce Linsey's Supernova. In the first edition there was not even a mention of the NAVB...) In later editions of Supernova, Bruce Linsey mentions Masters of Deceit and both KGO and Walker's Pontevedria. The other side doesn't reciprocate. They call us the Dark Side of the Hobby and say we're out beyond the pale. Sacks' ultimate aim seems to be to have control of the Miller Number Custodian and to issue orders to all variant banks. This may sound paranoid, but the man is very ambitious.
Q: Could you elaborate on how the MNCutC feud started...Sacks wrote somewhere that the MNC wasn't giving out proper MN's and how Greg had signed a binding covenant...
Well, when Sacks passed on the MNC to Greg Costikyan he drew up a legal document called the Covenant, and I think there may have been as many as seven paragraphs. The most important one was that the MNC would never charge any sort of fee for issuing Miller Numbers. The Boardman Number Custodian doesn't charge a fee, but they do like a donation for each number issued ($1). Everybody else in the hobby interprets this "Covenant" as a private transaction between Robert Sacks and Greg Costikyan but Robert Sacks says it is binding on all future Miller Number Custodians. So, when John Leeder became the Miller Number Custodian, Sacks wrote to him, asking him to sign the Covenant. Leeder refused, and so Robert Sacks said that Leeder was not the proper Miller Number Custodian. When Lee Kendter Sr. replaced Leeder in December 1982, Robert wrote to Lee saying that he must sign the Covenant. Well, Lee also refused at which point Sacks started writing to people in the hobby stating that Kendter was not the legal Miller Number Custodian.
Again, when Fred Hyatt took over the Miller Number Custodianship two years ago (1986), he also got the same bombardment and Robert Sacks said that Fred Hyatt was not a legal Miller Number Custodian as he had not signed the Covenant. So he got Julie Martin to sign this Covenant, and he makes her MNCutC. I should add that the unbroken ranks of the Custodians is like the bishops, there is laying on of hands: One custodian appoints the next. The only time someone else in the hobby should get involved is if a custodian disappears without appointing a new custodian. Then several hobby bigwigs would have to get together and appoint someone. But Sacks, from out of nowhere establishes this new line of MNCutC.
The first year Robert Sacks announced that the MNCutC was Karel Aleric. Everybody said "Who the hell is Karel Aleric?" Nobody had heard of Karel Aleric. It turned out that Karel Aleric is Robert Sacks' alter-ego when working at the New York Games Board; when he wants to issue something but doesn't want to sign it Robert Sacks he signs it Karel Aleric. In the first year Karel Aleric issued two MNsutC, one of which was a hoax game. Then Julie issued about 12 or 13 MNsutC in 1987, and the last I saw she had got up to letter P (16) in 1988. However, most of these Miller Numbers are for Hansard (Sacks' zine) or Retaliation (her husband's). There was one for Bob Olsen and one for Michael Hopcroft, who started all this mega-feuding when he thought that Julie was the Miller Number Custodian. But when he was informed that she wasn't, he promptly got a proper Miller Number from Fred Hyatt.
The system used by the MNCutC was designed by Sacks and is a very simple catalogue with about 8 categories, based on a very simplified NAVB system. However, it only contains postal games started in 1986-88...
Q: Doesn't he say that you can't have a Miller Number unless your variant has been played at least twice?
Yes, that's right. He also adds that the variant can't have been run twice in the same zine! I guess that's to prevent someone from starting two games and saying there's two games. His system is extremely limited and most of the games that have been issued under the Julie Martin system are Gunboat games (the most popular game in America now). So we have this dual system, two Miller Number Custodians, two Known Game Opening packages and two Novice Packages. It may well be that Sacks will try to spread out and duplicate other aspects of the Hobby. He has people who will work with him because they hate Bruce Linsey so badly. I will say this, the third edition of MASTERS OF DECEIT does list the NAVB. I've told novices that they should get both packages. Three years ago there was almost two separate Diplomacy hobbies in America.
Q: I've got both of these packages and it strikes me the type of articles in them are remarkably similar and that when they were doing MASTERS OF DECEIT they said `Linsey's got an article on forging letters, we've got to have one.' or `Linsey has an article on how to use the telephone in diplomacy, we'd better have one too'.
Since SUPERNOVA came out first that is a possibility. There is quite a difference in personality between SUPERNOVA and MOD. In my opinion, SUPERNOVA presents the game of Diplomacy to a novice in a very rational way, in a nice way, so to speak, emphasizing that it's only a game. MOD has too much emphasis on stabbing, cheating, and lying. They're part of the diplomatic scene, but I prefer to emphasize that one can make friends through the Postal Hobby. So I prefer SUPERNOVA.
Q: You've always taken an active role in the UK hobby, being associated with a number of zines including Albion, Greatest Hits, Hannibal, Outposts, Variants & Uncles (both editions), Ethil the Frog (first edition). There don't seem to be many people interested in such extensive international contacts ((This situation has greatly changed in the time since this interview-MN 3/90))
There are only a handful of people who are interested in this. Gary Coghlan did the best job with Europa Express. I think one third of his subbers were living in Europe, including a couple in Sweden and others in Germany, Belgium, and Holland as well as a large number of British. Gary was a very nice guy who decided to form a purely international zine and did everything he could to further this aim, including a famous trip with Woody Arnawoodian a couple of years ago to Europe. He was a postman but the USPS had so much work to do--under the Reagan administration they wouldn't hire enough people--that he was working six days a week and he simply had no time to continue publishing, so Europa Express folded.
As for my interest in developing the international aspects of the Postal Hobby, perhaps it's because I've always had relatives overseas (in England and Germany) and been interested in travelling and meeting people from other countries. Diplomacy certainly gives you the opportunity to meet new pen pals. I'm really surprised at how few people have taken the opportunity to do so. The expense of international postage may be one reason. For me the cost has been worth it. I'm hoping a lot of Europeans will come to the US for the next World DipCon in 1990.
The American flagship zine Diplomacy World has British subscribers, but not too many. I was amazed to discover that Dolchstoss has only two American readers. I think it's one of the most literate zines. As for the erudition and the way it's written, it's definitely a magnificently written zine. If Dolchstoss was a North American zine it would be in the top three.
I started most of my international trades more or less by accident. Maybe I'll get a letter mentioning a zine, but I made a special effort to get Dolchstoss. I have been told that many of the British Publishers are not in the least bit interested in trading with anyone outside of the British Isles.
Q: That's probably true in the American Hobby as well.
Now the Australians seem to be very interested, probably because they're a small group. Andrew England almost overnight became a trader with half the publishers in the world.
Q: Wasn't there an Australian Hobby in the early 1970's?
Right, there were two publishers: Larry Dunning (Perth) and Tas Ryrie (the first Australian publisher, Sydney)... oh I still send Xmas cards to him. I believe they've both dropped out. [Both gone by 1989 - FCD 1/93].
Q: Wasn't Larry Dunning also an SF zine publisher?
I believe so. At one point his zine was half SF and half Diplomacy. The new Hobby there started out from scratch. I nearly met Tas Ryrie, as once he was in Washington DC (only 40 miles away). However this was in the middle of a very bad winter and when he called both my wife and I were laid up with the flu. So we couldn't go that night. We said we'd go on Saturday. On Saturday we had eight inches of snow, which paralyzed the roads, so we couldn't go and on the Sunday he left Washington to go to London.
Q: Didn't there used to be some editors in South Africa?
I believe there were two publishers: Nick Shears (Down Alien Skies) and another fellow who was handicapped and wrote from home, where he was more or less confined to a wheelchair. Shears later went to live in the UK and published here for a while, the only person besides Simon Billenness to publish on two continents. In fact one of the Youngstown variants, the one which adds South Africa, was designed by a South African, to get themselves on the map. There is a MENSA Diplomacy Sig in Kuala-Lampur, Malaysia, but I don't know if it's postal. I was amazed to find this and wrote the fellow two months ago, enclosing a copy of Diplomag (the bimonthly newsletter of the Mensa Postal American Sig). I haven't heard from him yet ((Fred received a reply in Sept 1988. The Malaysia group was only playing FTF, but they were given the names and addresses of several Diplomacy zine publishers in the States and Australia. Subsequently two of them joined an international game in the Australian zine Victoria -MN 3/90.)
Q: Now that Bushwacker is approaching issue 200, which other zines have reached 200? Courier (240+), Runestone (358)...
That was because Runestone was published weekly, you understand.
Q: ... Graustark of course (over 500), Hoosier Archives...
And Boast (248). That seems to be it. The reason Herb Barents is in front of me is that for a while he was publishing every 3 weeks, whereas Bushwacker has always been monthly.
Q: Didn't there used to be an American zine that published on ten-day deadlines? Brutus Bulletin?
Yes, Brutus Bulletin by John Michalski. His numbers got quite high before he retired. As far as continuous publication goes, although Diplomacy World has only reached issue 50 it has been publishing for fourteen years. Conrad von Metzke's Costaguana would be one to check up on. He uses Volumes & Numbers, so you would have to sit down and count them. I used to just show Volume and Number until I reached number 100. Now I show my total number of issues each month.
Q: I see that in the All Time Zine Poll printer DW 50 you're in the top 10.
That's because of my longevity. Bruce counted so many points for each year and I've been in the Runestone Poll since the beginning, so I've knocked up a high score. But Bushwacker is a small zine compared to others. Only my 6th annual, 12th annual, and a few special issues have run more than twelve pages. The early issues were all about 8 pages.
Q: You mention Conrad. Now according to Mark Berch MONGO is not a hoax, I've always thought that it was obviously a hoax...
It WAS a hoax, although a flier was sent out to players. They had actually started a FTF game and couldn't finish it that night. Since they were all going to college in the very near future, somebody suggested that if they wrote down the positions they could finish the game by mail. Conrad wrote down the positions and college addresses and sent out a flyer asking if they'd like to continue, the first gamesmastering report in history you might say. As I recall only one of the seven players sent in a move so he sent out a second letter asking if they wanted to continue, and after that it was abandoned.
Rod Walker then started the hoax about ten-twelve years ago, claiming that he had found these papers of Mongo in a trunk that was stored in his parents' garage or attic. When Rod produced them, the very first one may actually have been the letter Conrad sent out. There was no numbering system and no name. What actually happened was that, as Rod wrote it, by the third issue the Emperor Ming had begun putting out press release and after that Conrad supposedly gave it the name Mongo. There were even more press releases from Emperor Ming as the game went on and Rod showed the game going onto 1903 or 1904. The reasons Rod did this was annoy to John Boardman, Rod Walker and John Boardman hate each other... no that's not true. John Boardman hates Rod Walker, I don't think Rod hates Boardman.
Anyway, to annoy Boardman Rod published this discovery of Mongo, claiming it to be the first diplomacy zine. Conrad will tell you that although he did send out that first letter the game was a hoax, there never was a zine called Mongo and 1963A, run by John Boardman, is the first postal Diplomacy game. Incidentally 1963A is the only five-player game given a Boardman Number because, being the first, we can't discriminate.
Q: As you can see virtually all the attendees at World Dip Con are white. What's the racial mix in the American Hobby?
There are several Asian people in the Hobby. Of course, in America, most Asians are no longer considered as `minorities', if you use the term to mean an underclass. Except for the very newest arrivals, most Asians have joined the middle class. Many are professionals or self-employed. Asian-American children score about ten points higher than Caucasian children on IQ tests. Since you have to be both crazy *and* smart to play Diplomacy, it's not surprising that they are entering the hobby.
As far as we know there has been exactly one black publisher, by the name of Clifford Mann (from Washington, DC), whose zine was called The Watergate. It ran for approximately a year. He never announced he was black and nobody knew he was except for a few people that knew him. Word got around after he had dropped out. As far as I know there has never been a black person show up at any DipCon or regional Con. In Detroit I saw one or two black people at the entire wargaming convention, but I don't think they played Diplomacy. They were there for other games.
It doesn't matter how much money you have, it matters how you were raised. 99% of us in the hobby had a relative who took us to our first zoo, play, concert... because this is what Middle Class people do. If you are black and you grew up in the ghetto and you were lucky and you got out, you perhaps haven't developed this concept of going to a play or museum or even playing boardgames. These are concepts for which you have to be `safe' before you can develop them. If you are worried about being robbed every time you walk out of the house, or having your house broken into, you haven't got enough `safety' to `waste' your time on a boardgame. So we don't see any blacks. There may be some who are playing postally who don't tell us.
There are some women who play by mail using just their initials, because there are a small handful of men who are so prejudiced that if they found a female player in the game they would destroy her for no other reason than that she is a female. `Females shouldn't play Diplomacy', they say.
They respect Kathy Caruso, because she is such a damned good player (she was voted top player in North America for two years in a row). I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if there are two or three black players in the hobby who don't advertise that fact.
Q: I'll finish by asking you to give character descriptions of various people in the American hobby... For instance very few UK Hobby members would recognize the name Larry Peery...
Almost everyone in America knows Larry. He is an extremely hard and conscientious worker. Larry has annoyed some people because they think he works too hard and spends too much of his time on Diplomacy. APPARENTLY Peery's entire life outside of work is Diplomacy, he really doesn't have many other interests. If he has one failing it is that when he gets somebody on his staff he keeps sending out more and more work for them to do, without realizing that most people are either married or working or in college, and don't have an unlimited amount of spare time to devote to the Hobby.
He saved Diplomacy World which was bankrupt by hundreds and hundreds of dollars before he took it over.
Q: Conrad von Metzke. He's well known by the old timers in the UK such as Piggott and Walkerdine...
Roughly fifteen years ago someone listed the top twenty-five UK players and Conrad was one of them as he was in so many UK games. Conrad is known as the `gentle giant'. He is 6' 8'', and he is one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. I have never known anybody else who would give you the shirt off his back quicker than Conrad. He really is a delightful guy.
I first met him at my first DipCon in 1973, at the Bismarck Hotel in Chicago, as he walked in. One of the girls gave him his card and asked him to sign in green ink, so Conrad grabs a pen and writes `In green ink' on his name-tag!
When it comes to press releases Rod Walker is the best writer (except that he doesn't play any more). When it comes to volume I put Peery first (he tends to write too much), but when it comes to text, Conrad is the best writer in the Hobby.
When I started out Rod Walker was my mentor: he encouraged me in drawing up Abstraction and latter printed Atlantica, he guided me when I was about to start publishing, gave me some advice and all together was the most helpful person in the hobby. We've corresponded for twenty years now and worked together on numerous projects such as the Miller Number reclassification and the 1982 DipCon. He's a brilliant man with a renaissance mind: He isn't just knowledgeable on one or two things, he knows about everything. His quizzes are like the Dolchstoss ones, and Rod comes out with the most magnificent material on any subject imaginable.
Q: Is Edi Birsan still around?
He only gets a handful of zines these days and plays in maybe one or two games. I met Edi only a few times. He was a typical New York street smart person; no-one ever put anything over on him. He was a very fast, sharp thinking person. He once came to a DipCon and gave a talk on how to carve up Turkey, and I proceeded to draw Turkey in the first round. Austria and Russia wiped me out.
Q: Mark Berch?
Mark is a very reliable and mature person, whose writing is a little bit on the pedantic side; he is a patent clerk examiner, which is a job which requires a very very precise person. That describes Mark. I like him because he's almost my own age. Being forty, that's only half a generation away from me. As one gets older one tends to have more in common with people who are closer to your age bracket. He's rather a poor typist, that's his only failing. Diplomacy Digest contains too many spelling errors as he never corrects them.
Q: Is it possible to pick up a zine that Melinda Holley isn't playing in?
I've never met her, but I've seen plenty of her writing and most of it is good. Sometimes she writes like she was a little Southern Gal, but she lives on the Ohio River on the northern edge of West Virginia. That's practically in the MidWest. Perhaps she was born further south, I don't know. Since I grew up in Illinois I don't agree with some of her pro-Southern comments about the Civil War. However she doesn't feature her own writing in Rebel, Instead she tends to write for Conrad von Metzke and others. She has played in more games than anyone else except Rod Kelly. Apparently she's able to do so and handle it well. I don't know she finds the time.
Q: Dave McCrumb...
Again I've never met him. He does a very good job as Diplomacy World Variants Editor and editing The Appalachian General. He's finishing his masters. He lives in a god-awful location which almost requires a mule to get out of, it's a terrible back of beyond mountainous area. His wife, Sharyn, writes mystery novels, which are quite successful.
Q: I guess Bruce Linsey would require a few tapes on its own. Can we condense Bruce down to a minute or two?
Bruce is another person who is a dynamo as regards having energy. He's rather well built, he's about six foot, muscular, and in good physical shape. He has a good loud voice which can be sounded across a room. He seems to have his head tied on very tightly; he knows what he is doing. He has annoyed some people for certain things, he has called people late at night on occasions, he called me once when we were already in bed. When he gets excited and calls he just forgets what time it is!
What he did with the Runestone Poll is just fantastic, two years ago he got approximately 250 votes, last year (1987) he got 441 people to vote in the ballot. Now there's only about 1000 active players in the whole American Hobby and to get 441 to vote is damn near incredible. Of course, he got almost every publisher to print the ballot both years, that helps. Certain people on the East coast hate him. They won't even mention the Runestone Poll in their zines, but that hasn't hurt the Poll.
Q: The Martins...
FD Dick Martin has certainly worked hard, producing Retaliation and House of Lords. However, he's the kind of a person you cannot get a reaction out of. When you try and argue with him he just sits there and grins at you. It's almost as if he has some secret knowledge you don't have. When you argue with somebody they'll usually raise their voice or flash their eyes, but to have someone just sit there, not responding to you except to grin... this drives me crazy because you want a response of some sort.
At the 1987 ORIGINS Con in Baltimore out of sheer frustration I said to him that "we'll fight you to the death on this matter of the MNCutC". Everybody else in the world except these three or four East Coast publishers still stick with Fred Hyatt as the legitimate Miller Number Custodian. But I have been told that Julie is actually the boss in the family. She is very, very attractive and has a very strong mind. When she doesn't like somebody she can hold a grudge for a long long time.
Q: How about the man who started the Hobby and is indirectly responsible for why we are here today, John Boardman?
I have never traded with Boardman because I don't like the politics that he runs in his zine and because he hates Rod Walker. I sent him a copy of my first issue and I've seen various issues of Graustark at cons but as I don't like his attitude I don't trade.
I've only seen him face to face about four times. He's in my age bracket, I'm the older and he's getting grey hairs and looks a little older than your average diplomacy player. He goes to conventions. He didn't go to ATLANTICON this year because he had a falling out with Sacks. He used to go to conventions and sit there and let Sacks make a fool of himself, like a monkey pulling the chestnuts out of the fire. While the flack is always directed at Sacks, I personally wonder if some of the suggestions may have come from Boardman.
The funniest thing I can remember is at one DipCon when Boardman hadn't seen Rod in years and Rod had grown a beard. Rod ran up to Boardman, grasped his hand and shook it while Boardman didn't know who he was. After shaking his hand Rod told Boardman who he was and Boardman pulled his hand away in horror. ((Breaks down into laughter))
Q: Perhaps we should finish with yourself, Fred. You've been in this hobby for 20 years. Do you have any last comments?
I've enjoyed myself and something like Diplomacy was what I had been looking for for half my life. I started out in High School playing Fletcher Pratt's Naval Wargame with model ships on living room floors. Once we had a game similar to Diplomacy. We had a world map with four island continents and about twenty islands around the outside. We would have naval battles over the islands, which provided us with what we would now call supply centers. Although we didn't have that word, they provided the economic wherewithal for our countries. That broke up with the Korean War when two of us went into Service and we lost touch with the old gang.
For years I hoped to find something like that. When I saw the Diplomacy board I knew from that moment I had found it. I ran around Baltimore the next day to see if anybody had the game, and then I rang Krock's Bookstore in Washington, to order the game by mail. It arrived on Saturday and I just studied the map for two or three nights, pushing wooden blocks around. I then wrote to Rod Walker and immediately joined one of his games, Imperialism VIIR- -a six player variant game starting in 1937.
I've enjoyed the friends I've made. Diplomacy is only the hook, only the excuse for publishing really. I've always liked to meet people and now when I travel around the world there's always either a Mensan or Diplomacy person who I can go and visit. This gets me to meet friends wherever I go and that's what I like about the friendships I've made.
Thanks very much for your time, Fred. Until next time...
Since this interview Fred has passed on the NAVB, and has re-established the NAVB-EAST. Bushwacker continues and looks set to become only the second zine to have been published without a break for twenty years. A remarkable feat. --MN 3/90. Bushwacker folded in August 1991, after 234 issues. --FCD 1/93.
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