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Posted on Jul 29, 2019 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Legendary War Game Designer Richard H. Berg has Passed Away.  Armchair General Presents a Personal Tribute by Tim Williams and Rodger MacGowan.

Legendary War Game Designer Richard H. Berg has Passed Away. Armchair General Presents a Personal Tribute by Tim Williams and Rodger MacGowan.

Editorial Staff

Tim Williams

Another One Gone…


Richard Berg 1943-2019

Richard H. Berg was one of the best wargame designers that ever took up a pencil and a history book and converted the results into a historical simulation game capable of stimulating players’ interest in History, sharpening their intellects, and damaging their friendships. Outside of movies, my primary hobby between 1977 and roughly 1991 was Board Wargaming, and Berg designs were prominent in my collection, which at its peak numbered approximately 320 games.

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Aside from game design, Mr. Berg was a retired Criminal Defense Lawyer by trade, but was also a true ‘Renaissance’ individual, capable of holding forth with great authority on subjects as diverse as Literature, Baseball, Haute Cuisine and Opera. Having joined several wargame-related FaceBook pages some years back, I took a chance and sent him a friend request, which to my surprise he accepted. I was even more surprised how willing he was to make comments on my posts, especially considering that we were not actually “friends” or even “acquaintances” in the conventional sense. It soon became apparent to me that Richard Berg was one of the most intelligent people I had ever “met…”

…and it became painfully obvious that he was also one of the most unabashedly-abrasive people that I had ever encountered—“curmudgeonly” was an altogether inadequate description of Mr. Berg, his natural penchant for criticism of all kinds (his hobby publication, “Richard Berg’s Review of Games” spared no one—including himself—when it came to negative appraisals of design-inadequacies in wargames) finding vent almost continuously in the mostly-filterless world of Facebook. His persistent willingness to argue with anybody and everybody about almost anything got him booted from several FB groups, including, ironically, some of the wargame groups; and I myself was not immune—on my own feeds, mind you—to the man’s occasional sudden eruptions of outrage. I always blew this off—I’ve never much cared what other people thought, and if people think they have to be obnoxious to get their point across, I don’t mind. But he also occasionally took aim at comments made by my other friends and relatives, and that I DID mind—but I dealt with this by simply deleting his comment, hopefully before anyone else had a chance to read it.

In spite of his tricky personality, I was nevertheless happy to have Richard as a “friend,” and I think that his recent passing leaves a big hole in Wargaming, a hobby which had apparently all but died by the early 1990s in the face of the rise of computer gaming and Fantasy Role-Playing games, but which in the first two decades of the 21st Century has experienced an astonishing Renaissance…Rest in Peace, Richard.

In keeping with my obnoxious habit in regard to filmographies of dead celebrities, here is a list of wargame designs by Richard H. Berg that I at one time had in my collection:

1. 13: The Colonies in Revolt (a strategic game about the American Revolution)
2. Birth of a Nation (a game about the Battle of Saratoga, 1777)
3. Conquistador (a game about European exploration of the New World in the 16th Century, I had editions of this game from two different publishers)
4. The Siege of Constantinople (a game about the Turkish assault on Byzantium, 1453)
5. The Crusades (a game about the First and Third Crusades, 1096-99, 1189-92)
6. The Desert Fox (a game about the WW2 Campaign in North Africa)
7. Druid (a game about British Queen Boudicca’s rebellion against Rome, 61 A.D.)
8. Gondor: The Siege of Minas Tirith (a game based on the biggest battle in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”)
9. Hastings, 1066 (a game about the decisive battle of the Norman conquest of England)
10. Manchu (a game about the Tai-Ping Rebellion or “Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace” in 19th-Century China—the second most-lethal war in Human History)
11. Rio Grande (a game about the Civil War battle of Valverde in New Mexico, 1862—a battle my great-great grandfather served in, and the only Berg design that I still have in my possession. Which is no surprise, since I in fact bought it long after disbanding my old collection…)
12. Soldiers of the Queen (a double-game about the battles of Isandhlwana, 1879, and Omdurman, 1898)
13. SPI Football (not actually a wargame, but a statistics-based simulation of the N.F.L.’s definitive 1958 season.)
14. Terrible Swift Sword (a “Monster” game of the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863—Berg’s signature design, which gave birth to an entire series of system-clones.)
15. Vera Cruz (a game about Winfield Scott’s invasion of Mexico, 1847)

And I’ll give an honorable mention to one my brother had (and still has: )
• War of the Ring (one of the most popular and detailed of the many simulations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy.)

One final note—fans of the TV series “Big Bang Theory” will remember a fairly recent episode in which Sheldon breaks out a game called “Campaign for North Africa,” which he correctly describes as “the most complex board game ever designed,” and proceeds to set it up on the floor and begin playing. This most Monstrous of all “Monster” wargames was also a Richard Berg design.

Here is a link to Richard Berg’s Board Game Geek Designer’s Page:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgamedesigner/135/richard-h-berg

2 Comments

  1. Which Richard Berg title was your favorite? I really liked Turning Point as it was and still is a wargame that can be used to bring new blood into the hobby since it’s low in complexity, card driven and easy to teach to new players.

  2. Hello. I’m Rick Martin and I’m both an editor and a reviewer here at AG. My all time Berg favorite games are probably: SPQX, Godzilla and his 4 part Men of Iron series.

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