Kurt Vonnegut's Board Game: General Headquarters

Kurt Vonnegut: 'I Have Invented A Board Game'

This letter, taken from Kurt Vonnegut: Letters ($35, Delacorte), was written at a low point in Vonnegut's finances. In it, he proposes a children’s board game called “General Headquarters” or "GHQ." The proposal was turned down - according to And So It Goes, a Vonnegut biography, the game company's representative replied saying that the game was "too difficult to understand." The rules of the game are included in Vonnegut's papers at the Lilly Library at Indiana University.

November 14, 1956
West Barnstable, MA

Mr. Henry Saalfield
Saalfield Game Company
Akron, Ohio

Dear Mr. Saalfield:

I am writing to you at the suggestion of your cousin and my neighbor, Mike Handy.

I have invented a board game, which Mike has seen and seems to like. I have played the game about a thousand times, and it works like a dollar watch. The bugs are out of the rules.

It is similar in mood to chess, and is played on a standard checkerboard. It has enough dignity and interest, I think, to become the third popular checkerboard game.

The counters represent artillery, infantry, armored, and airborne units, and textbook tactical situations develop on the board. Because of unique features of these rules, these situations and their solutions are amazingly realistic. The game would, I’m quite sure, satisfy the faculty of West Point as a tactical demonstrator.

The counters are pretty as they can be. Plenty of sales appeal there— particularly for veterans itching to show how much they know about tactics.

A nine-year-old can learn it. All the neighborhood kids can play it and love to play it.

I am hoping, of course, to interest you and your company in producing and marketing the game. If, on the basis of the enclosed set of rules, you are at all interested in seeing more, I will, upon hearing from you, send you a pilot- model set of the colorful playing pieces. Patent is now being applied for, so you would be adequately protected if you were to take it on.

Very truly yours,
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

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