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"Anyone remember Spartan International Competition League?" Topic

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Personal logo Condor Supporting Member of TMP30 Mar 2007 12:27 p.m. PST

Back in the early 70's I was a member of the Spartan International Competition League, or SICL as it was sometimes called. We had members all over the country.

One of our best conventions was held on the Battleship Massachusettes in Fall River. I can remember arriving in the middle of the night and staying at the Holiday Inn. The next morning I opened my drapes and there was this 800+ foot battleship right there.

I can only remember a few of the members; Russell Powell, Tony Morales and Damian Houseman. We had a great time. But between joining the service and finishing college, I drifted away from them.

Does anyone remember SICL? Anyone know what happened to the club or the members?


svsavory30 Mar 2007 1:07 p.m. PST

I was never a member, nor do I know any members, but I recall seeing Spartan Int'l mentioned more than once in the Avalon Hill "General" during the 1970's.

Rudysnelson30 Mar 2007 1:10 p.m. PST

Being in the South, I was not a member. However I remember the organization and ratings system. Several clubs tried similar things in the 1980s but none of them caught on.

rmaker30 Mar 2007 1:14 p.m. PST

I think Spartan International just kind of wound down. I wasn't a member, either (IFW instead). From what I saw, they were a by-product of the AH "one or two new games a year" period of the '60's, when every body had lots of time to replay and study each new title. Then came SPI, the AH ramp-up, and all the little companies and SI were just swamped by the spate of boardgames in the '70's and early '80's.

Personal logo Condor Supporting Member of TMP30 Mar 2007 5:29 p.m. PST

I remember IFW and all the accusations that flew back forth between them and SICL.

I was one of the founding members of the Philadelphia branch at the University of Pennsylvania. Phil Pritchard was the original president. When he left to work on his masters in Egypt, I took over as president. Then I went into the service and John Desmond took over. During my time there we ran the original PhilCon; Now a successful Sci-Fi convention.

We mostly played boardgames. But we also played miniatures. We quickly learned Tractics was not a good set of rules for much more than a platoon each.

What made SICL unique was that it was a mini-corporation selling private stock to raise funds for their game division. Part of the game division linked up with a company that made sports games (Statis Pro I believe; I was a Strat-o-Matic guy myself).

I then joined MFCA and drifted over to miniature wargaming. I enjoyed going to their conventions and participatin as a judge; The are some very talented mini-painters out there. Now I am a member of HMGS-East.

It has now been over 30 years, but I still wonder about some of the people that influenced my early years in wargaming.

kenburke20 Jun 2007 2:20 p.m. PST

Do I remember Sparta?

I sure do!!!

I lived up in Billerica, Massachusetts during the seventies and was a member from 1970 until 1974.

I remember the club was supposed to be meant for "professional, mature gamers", but the members I know were young teenagers and adolescents more interested playing games and having fun. At least I did!

I remember its demise sounded like something out of 7 Days in May – Russell Powell was traveling across the country, and his fellow Spartalings were supposed to be sending him checks. They didn't, though, and he was eventually stranded at Lake Waramaug State Park in Western Connecticut. When he eventually got to his destination, New York City, he was told he was no longer in charge!

He was supposed to have had a falling out with them over some sort of pyramid scheme.

Maybe that stock selling thing?

In the fall of 1974 he created the International Gamers Association, I think it is still around.

Russell Powell, though, died a few years ago.

R.I.P. Russell Powell!!!

Personal logo Condor Supporting Member of TMP20 Sep 2007 10:04 a.m. PST

I just found a reference on the web to Russell Powell. He died April 4th, 2000 at the age of 55. Russell was a very dynamic individual. I never fully understood all the infighting.

A few other members and I were supposed to meet with one of the major stockholders in SICL. The plan was to purchase his stock and help give Russell the 51% he needed to stay (get back?) in charge. The deal never happened, and the rest is history.

kenburke17 Jan 2008 7:43 p.m. PST

I remember the infighting.

From what I understood, a lot of the people in Sparta's "inner circle" found Russell Powell to be a bit too bossy for their liking.

Looking back, the organization DID have problems with its public relations. It originally called itself the Spartan Neutral Competition League, and professed to be above the power politics other game clubs were involved in (Sparta was formed in June of 1966). Three years later, though, the Spartan Neutral Competition League was knee-deep in a free-for-all with another club, the Agressor Homeland, and anything but neutral. As the sixties gave way to the seventies, they were other problems. In once instance, some disgruntled Spartans were supposed to have attempted to steal the east coast club memebership lock, stock, and barrel – mpre 7 Day in May stuff!!!

Varthash15 Feb 2008 12:08 p.m. PST

I was a member of the original Merrimack Valley Chapter of the SICL way back in the early '70's. I met Russell Powell and some of the others back then. I still have my official rank patch. The "uniform" was a white short-sleeve shirt with various patches showing your gamming status. SICL was quite fee intensive; from just regular casual Thursday night gaming, right through to paying fees to play matches to advance your standing. All of this was back when wargaiming was new and exciting; not quite on a par with D&D when that came out, but such that we never lacked for people for opponents. SICL had a publication, their best one being the orange-covered one concerning D&D-type material. Wargames clubs were an important feature since a club could provide you a place to play and an opponent with interests similar to yours. The AH 'General' supported club adverts since, of course, it helped their sales.

Now, I might have been just a young fellow; but I recognized a pyramid scheme when I saw it. It seemed like an awful lot of money (relatively, for us po' fo'k) was heading into Russ Powell & his cronies hands, and we weren't getting much of anything in return. Mr. Burke typifies Powell as being "bossy"; damn, he was a mini-Fuhrer ! It was his way or the highway ! Right down to what games you could play at the get-togethers.

What brought a lot of this to a head was the onset of miniatures gaming and the publishing of the first D & D(c) books. D&D was something new and exciting; and almost overnight boardgaming and regular miniatures was swept aside. There was indeed an East Coast reovlt; more or less instigated and / or lead by a guy named Marshall Hollis (now deceased). Nice enough guy, but you really didn't want to cross him, either. He too believed in "his way or the highway", and that led to many people hitting the road.
I made that mistake, momentarily wresting leadership of the Game Club away from him, but eventually I too was ousted and shown the road.

We continued our gaming activities, just not in a club environment. After all, we didn't need to pay someone money merely to play D&D; and if you wanted to play "Drang Nach Osten", I had that set up in my basement !

SICL seemed to die away almost overnight. The Merrimack Valley (Mass) Wargamers were re-born; with new leadership.
Over the years, and with many many changes, continues in Hollis, Mass.

kenburke20 Mar 2008 6:52 p.m. PST

I remember Marshall Hollis.

He was very dedicated to wargaming, regretfully he came across as too serious at times, and seemed to forget the reason people played games was to have fun.

I heard Russell Powell was like that too.

601Chelsea04 Jun 2008 3:47 p.m. PST

I am Marshall Hollis' daughter and know what you mean about his way or no way.

Now that he and my mom have passed I have what seems to be hundreds of board games and magizines that you may enjoy.

Please post a note if you are interested.

kenburke20 Jun 2008 8:06 p.m. PST

I personally am not interested in buying anything, but if you (601Chelsea) desire to sell it you should try E-Bay. Some games (like the original purple box version of Diplomacy) are definitely worth something.

Also, do you know what became two of your father's former club members – Edward Need and David Need? At the time I was in the club (the early 70s), they were both teenagers who lived in Andover. The older brother, Edward, was very active in the hobby.

601Chelsea21 Jul 2008 3:28 p.m. PST

Ken -
Thank you for the reply and information. I don't know about the Needs but will try and get you some information.

kenburke18 Aug 2008 10:17 a.m. PST


Thank you for your response.

Also, you might want to check out the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Strategic Games Society (if it is still in existence).

There are a lot of avid game players there.

jpipes25 Aug 2008 6:17 p.m. PST

Hello, I'm currently in the process of writing a book on the history of wargaming and I plan to include a chapter on the wargame clubs of the 60s and 70s, including Spartan Intenational.

I'm deperately searching for examples of patches, newsletter and other ephemera from the SICL. If anyone has anything they can share with me it would go to a really good cause – namely the preservation of the history of wargaming and the wargame hobby.

601Chelsea, if you are able to chat I'd love to speak with you about your fathers roll in the SICL and to see if you have anything you could possible help with regarding this new book. I can be reached at if you want to contact me!

Thanks for reading!!

kenburke28 Aug 2008 6:25 p.m. PST


If you want to get good information about Sparta, try to find old copies of The Gladiator Report (a newszine describing the various things going on in Sparta)or the Spartan International Monthly (a wargaming magazine Sparta produced).

If you have any questions about Sparta, I may be able to help.

My e-mail address is

Have fun!

ThisIsSparta08 Dec 2009 12:07 a.m. PST

I knew Russell Powell very well and was good friends with him in the 1970's starting right about when the International Gamers Assoc. was formed. I have recollections of Sparta but I came along right when it was ending. We both lived in Long Beach; I was in high school and he had an office on Atlantic Blvd. for running his "Panorama" games, and get-togethers for board games, miniatures, and horse & auto racing (racing tiny cars around on a hand-drawn race track). We would sometimes meet at his house as well, or in Tustin at Jim Griset's mobile home park. He was a co-owner. I also remember Steve Lucky, who owned a gaming store in downtown Long Beach, John Fiorello, Andrew Parros (who I'm still friends with), and a few others whose names I can't recall right now. But anyone who knew Russell Powell will never forget this giant of a man. He was 6'4" and easily weighed over 400 lbs. being very heavyset. He was incredibly intelligent and gregarious, yet I think very insecure. He always strove to gain recognition in any venue he could. He had quite the temper and little patience with incompetence. I remember he later moved to Laguna Hills I think in Orange County, and then across country to Alabama and I never heard from or of him again (until now). I am sad to see that he passed away nine years ago.

ThisIsSparta08 Dec 2009 1:53 a.m. PST

Just FYI…other names in the mid- '70's that I remember from Spartan and IGA days are James Wharton, John Evans (played D&D with him when it first came out), and Bill Comito.

kenburke23 Apr 2010 5:54 p.m. PST

Aside from Russell Powell, the most famous Spartan I remember was Phil Pritchard. He was the man that created the Lensman game. Some claimed it was based on an earlier game called "Galaxy".

Phil Pritchard13 Jul 2010 12:51 p.m. PST

It is interesting to find there is still interest in all this after all these years. I was surprised when I was contacted about my game, Lensman, a number of years ago and pleased when it was actually republished this month. In reply to Ken's last post, I had never heard of a game named Galaxy when I invented Lensman. The names Marshall Hollis and Ken Burke ring bells.

I was one of Russell Powell's right hand men (a member of the Board of Directors of Russell Powell, Inc., the corporation's secretary, and for a time President of the SICL), as well as the editor of the IFW's magazine. I am sorry to hear of Russell's death – we lost contact after I headed to Egypt for dissertation research in the mid-1970s. I don't think he was much taller than I was (6') and think he never exceeded 300 lbs., although he was a very large man. The SICL was very big on organization, titles, badges, and "traditions" (Russ was an ex-miliary man, the navy, I believe). The IFW was very individualistic, almost anarchic by comparison. I liked both situations but was on the whole more active in the SICL. The difference in attitudes is the only source of conflict I was aware of (other than the competition for members, of course); it was nothing like the contest for "territory" that was found in The General in those days. Russ wanted to make wargaming something like professional bowling (he repeatedly made this comparison) – thus the uniforms, ranks, prizes and fees (the SICL was virtually the only organization offering prizes, part of the strategy to build it up into a professional organization [which, of course, never happened]). Whatever can be said about Russ, he did not live high on the hog with the income the SICL produced (I stayed with him several times in Long Beach); he was always at wit's end financially and poured much of his own money into the organization. I do know that Dan Hoffbauer and several others in the L.A. area staged a coup and took control of the corporation and that Russ founded the IGA in response. The details are not clear to me, although I probably knew more then than I remember now. I do not recall any selling of stock.

I was the organizer of the Battleship Massachusetts convention. The memorable event there was that the motel caught fire and Russ saved several people at the cost of getting a relatively mild dose of smoke inhalation. I think it was the Holiday Inn "Condor" mentions above. There was also a writer present who later got an article published in Esquire with photos from the convention (I don't remember the date, and my copy is not here in my regular residence). The battleship people would not let us repeat the convention because our gamers took up too much space and interfered too much with the regular tourists. A unique venue!

I have virtually everything I ever got from that period. Many boxes of games, naval miniatures, magazines, newsletters, uniform shirts with patches, trophies, and over 20,000 letters I wrote, mostly for the SICL (I'm a bit of a pack rat). If you're still interested, jpipes, let me know where you live. I live in Queens but the wargaming materials are in Pennsylvania, about 20 miles east of Scranton. My email is

msigra9718 May 2011 3:01 p.m. PST

High folks,

Many of you may remember me…Sherry, Russel Powell's oldest daughter. I remember many of you. How could I forget Sparta and IGA. In fact I remember filling in for many players unable to attend an event.

Bob, it was good to see your post. I remember you and Andy very well.

Greg Wolfe, Jim and Donna Grisset, Al Zimmerman, Phil Pritchard, Steven Lucky, John Evans, James Wharton, Dan Hoffbauer, Marshall Hollis and so many more.

Odd to see your memories in writing by people accross the world.

I stumbled accross this web site searching for something completly un related.

It was good to see many of the names I grew up with and wish you all well.

kayjay24 May 2011 1:46 a.m. PST

Origins has a large game auction – lots of collectors go to it and there can be bidding wars for choice items. Likley too late for this year but worth a shot.

Personal logo Condor Supporting Member of TMP03 Jun 2011 11:03 a.m. PST

Hi Sherry,

I believe you were the beautiful young lady that was with your mom and dad at the Holiday Inn in Fall River.

I was one of the lucky guys that had my picture published with the Esquire magazine article mentioned above. We were watching a (staged) game of Afrika Korps.

Dan Hoffbauer and I were good friends. I just don't remember where he disappeared to.

Damian Houseman and I were good friends. He was a fighter jock until the Air Force caught on to his vision issue. Then he was restricted to flying large cargo jets. He left the service shortly thereafter and, I believe, took a job in Maryland.

I can't believe this thread is still bearing fruit 4 years after I started it.

Wargamer5522 Jun 2012 5:53 p.m. PST

Came across this thread and it brought back many memories. Does anyone remember the dates of the conventions at the Battleship Massachusetts. I recall that there were two of them, on consecutive years. The first year I remember playing in Tony Morales Victory at Sea tournament and there may have been games of Panzerblitz on the table, so i think it was 1970, but it was long ago. The second year I recall playing in a large naval game that may have been using the Fletcher Pratt rules.

Ex Wargamer20 Jul 2012 7:07 p.m. PST

This is Dan Hoffbauer--boy this brings back memories. Too much to tell about Russ, Donna, Sherry, Melinda--it was a time of great ideas, great effort, a lot of pain, a lot of joy, very bittersweet. Would love to talk to anybody about the whole Sparta experience--I was the #2 guy after Russ, but finally had to get out of the whole house of cards. It was an idea before its time--I could only imagine what wargaming is like now. After I left in 1974, I have never played again--but still am interested in history, politics, SF, etc. If anybody wants to contact me, that would be fine

Old Camelot Player23 Dec 2012 7:53 p.m. PST

Stumbled across this by way of joining the World Camelot Federation. I remember Russell Powell – he taught me how to play Camelot back in 1980 at the IGA club that met in Andover, Mass. I'm sorry to hear he's gone…

If Marshall Hollis = Rocky Hollis, I remember gaming with him as well. In particular, a wonderful miniatures game based on Yaquinto's "Panzer" run in the basement in Andover with Rocky, Peter, the Stearns brothers. Rocky even loaned me a right-angle drill so I could re-do some lighting in the Ultrasonics Lab at ULowell.

I also remember the SICL – in particular being trounced by a Spartan in a game of Stalingrad at the first MITSGS convention.

Thanks for bringing back memories…

msigra9715 Feb 2013 11:06 a.m. PST

Wow, Hi Phil, Dan, Bob, – what memories.

As Dan said some good and some well just memories.

Yes, I was at several convetions and events and competed as well.

I have incorperated the skills everyone taught me in my personal and professional career.

I would love to hear from others please feel free to email me and I will do my best to reply timely.

Many of you were role models for me and I am thankful you were in my life for the lessons I was to learn from each of you.


kenburke21 Sep 2013 6:04 a.m. PST

Of all the games I ever played my favorite was Diplomacy. It was as close to chess as you could get – no dice, no cards, victory depended solely on the player (and how good he was at lying through his teeth!).

Chester5511 Dec 2015 3:03 p.m. PST

Sherry -

Chester Hendrix, here. Would you please get in touch with me? My direct email is –

In cleaning out The Shed [most items having gone untouched for 15+ years], I ran across a little gem I had thought long lost.

A small ARNHEM game that Russell had me working on [doing the artwork] just before he folded shop.

I thought it might be interesting to publish it as a tribute sort of thing – the last time I talked to him about it, he wanted to create it as a sort of promo item / giveaway / game-you-got-when-you-joined-the-IGA / sort of thing.

I lost touch with him soon after and was saddened to hear he had passed. He may have been a lot of things to a lot of people, but he was a fierce friend. My last contact with him had him cutting me in on The Ground Floor Of The Deal Of The Century to do all the graphics for a sci-fi video game he envisioned where there would be multiple tv screens showing multiple players playing multiple fleets simultaneously… a fascinating idea to cash in on the early video games / arcade craze of the early '80's, eh? ;-)

Anyway, I contacted my old buddy Randy Heller [he and I had attended an event at Russell's down in LA together] to see if he was interested in collaborating on putting the ARNHEM game together as a collaboration, but he passed. He mentioned he had participated in an article on Russell in WAR DIARY magazine recently. You might want to contact Roy Matheson about that.

I still have the 'certificate' he gave me for running an AXIS & ALLIES tourney for him in the Bay Area. I also did some letterhead artwork for him with an Egyptian theme and also for his 'Papal Bulls' for his ongoing Renaissance By Mail group.

One of the most fascinating people I've ever met.

Chester5512 Dec 2015 10:02 a.m. PST

BTW – Merry Christmas to all the folks walking down Memory Lane!

msigra9716 Apr 2017 7:13 p.m. PST


Was reading through a few old threads. Wanted to clarify a few things.

My father Russell Powell was 6'4" and weighed close to 500 pounds. He was a military historian but never in the military.

I remember many of the conventions and the ugliness of our return during the power struggles of the SICL and the creation of Spartan International.

I wore my shirts and patches with pride. The lessons I learned during my youth has been helpful as an adult.

Life as his daughter was a difficult journey. My only regret is I wish I could have stood up to him sooner and make him realize computers were not a fad. I tried to encourage him to put his brain in transforming his ideas and knowledge to computer based games.

Oh well, says the Lead Sr. IT Analyst.

Interesting thread to check back on from time to time.

You can reach me at or Facebook Sherry Mullen in Arizona

Personal logo Condor Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2018 10:11 a.m. PST

It's amazing…this thread is almost 11 years old. Although a few people have some negatives feelings, it's nice to know that most of us have some wonderful warm memories, mainly because of the friendships we developed.

What caused me to drift away was being out in the field at Fort Dix. I froze my ass off and decided that I didn't want to do this anymore. Over the next 4 years I worked on my college degree and earned my BSCS. I then went to work at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a career I have never regretted.

It is now 2018, I would like to wish everyone a wonderful and Happy New Year!

kenburke11 Jan 2018 8:11 p.m. PST

How I remember Fort Dix. That w-o-o-o-o-nderful w-o-o-o-o-nderful pl-a-a-a-a-a-a-ce!!!

dapeters12 Jan 2018 11:47 a.m. PST

In The 70s there were several Cons a Widner University which I thought had been part of the Proto HMGS east, were these actually part of this?

custosarmorum Supporting Member of TMP13 Jan 2018 6:26 p.m. PST


If I recall those conventions at Widner College (prior to its upgrade to university status), were, at least initially, sponsored by the Miniature Figures Collectors of America (MFCA). I remember being amazed by the work of Shep Paine and other giants of figure painting. In the early 1970s the show was held in the student union and later moved to the old Armory.

I believe it was the late, great Jay Hadley who worked with the MFCA to add wargaming to those shows.

The first HMGS convention that I can remember was in 1984 at a hotel in New Carrolton, MD

dapeters18 Jan 2018 12:13 p.m. PST

Yes I remember going 73, 74 or 75 and seeing a lot of games being played.

DDanielW06 Mar 2021 11:34 a.m. PST

Hey Guys, this is Dan Wagner. I was a early member of Sparta, and ran the Middle Earth campaign.

When Sparta unceremoniously dumped Russell he was depressed. My Dad, Rod and I helped Russell set up the IGA, and I think we were members 2 and 4. This brought Russell back, I think.

My Dad really enjoyed the Naval battles and won with pride the big tournament.

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