The origins of the board game Diplomacy can be traced to an old geography book that Allan B. Calhamer discovered while rummaging around with a friend in the attic of his boyhood home in suburban Chicago.
Calhamer was fascinated by the exotic countries and old boundaries laid out in the book, places like the
The final inspiration came at
"That brought everything together," Calhamer told Chicago magazine in 2009. "I thought, 'What a board game that would make!' "
After being rejected by several game companies, Calhamer published 500 copies of Diplomacy in 1959. The game came to develop a devoted following around the world.
"He was such a character, brilliant, but never in an arrogant way," Selenne Calhamer-Boling said of her father. "He just had his own way of doing things."
Calhamer, 81, died Feb. 25 at a hospital in Chicago, his family said. The cause was not given.
Since Diplomacy's inception, hundreds of thousands of copies have been sold, with games also being played on the Internet.
John F. Kennedy reportedly played it in the White House, and
Described as a thinking man's version of the popular game Risk, Diplomacy is a seven-player game based on the balance of power in pre-
Quick games can take six hours; marathon sessions can stretch for days. And much like real diplomacy, there often isn't a clear-cut winner because people just give up.
The son of an engineer and a schoolteacher, Calhamer was born in
Calhamer dropped out of law school after a year and a half, then took the
In 1959, Calhamer got Diplomacy onto the shelves of toy stores in New York, Chicago and
Calhamer left Sylvania after six years, and while looking for work in New York as a computer programmer, took a job as a guard at the
After marrying, Calhamer and his wife moved to the Chicago suburb of La Grange Park, where he began a 21-year career as a letter carrier.
"That proved to be pretty worthwhile," Calhamer told Chicago magazine in 2009. "It doesn't sound like a high-level job, but it was completely reliable, and it paid. I was pretty good at sorting mail. You have to be accurate."
Last year, Chicago hosted the World Diplomacy Championship and the North American Grand Prix. Calhamer signed autographs, posed for photos and was given a standing ovation after briefly addressing his audience.
"I don't think the game ever made Mr. Calhamer rich," said Jim O'Kelley, founder of the Windy City Weasels, a club for Diplomacy players. "But it has enriched thousands of lives all over the world, including mine."