TSR had just a single full-time employee when they launched The Strategic Review, a 36-year-old former insurance underwriter named Gary Gygax, who was also one of the company founders. Gygax, who had until recently been supporting his family through a combination of cobbling and food stamps, served as the newsletter's editor. He performed most of his work on an old Royal typewriter in the basement of his modest wooden house at 330 Center Street, Lake Geneva. His assistant editor was Brian Blume, a 25-year-old toolmaker Gygax met at the GenCon gaming convention in 1973. As well as being an avid gamer, Blume was TSR's largest investor.
TSR published the first issue of The Strategic Review in the Spring of 1975. It had a cover price of 50 cents, which is about $3.50 in today's money, and was just six pages long. In the editorial, Gygax introduces the magazine this way:
"THE STRATEGIC REVIEW is the newsletter of Tactical Studies Rules, which will quite naturally be used to carry advertisements for all of TSRs product line. However, it will do a lot more than that. Each issue will contain as many features and news items as we can possibly find space for."
Each issue contained a discount coupon for TSR products, in this case, 50 cents off the Tractics wargame rules. The first page also includes an advertisement for "The Strategists Club," which was essentially a loyalty club that gave members an additional discount on TSR products. Just below this, an article titled "TSR News" notes that TSR has recently acquired the rights to publish three additional games: Chainmail, Don't Give Up the Ship, and Tractics. These games, which Gygax co-designed, were previously published by Guidon Games—acquiring these rights greatly expanded TSR's relatively lean catalog.
Turning over the page, "Creature Feature" describes a new D&D monster, the Mind Flayer, which is "a super-intelligent, man-shaped creature with four tentacles by its mouth which it uses to strike its prey." The monster also possessed a powerful psionic blast that could stun, confuse, or even instantly kill anyone unlucky enough to encounter it. This article is the first appearance of what is now one of D&D's most iconic monsters.
"Wargamming World" discusses various happenings in the commercial wargame market and is mainly concerned with the release of new miniatures and zines. Following it, "The Armory" presents variant rules for the Tractics miniature game. These two columns are a good reminder that TSR saw itself primarily as a wargame company in these early days.
"Castle & Crusade" appears to be a general-purpose column for Gygax to discuss anything that takes his fancy. However, some of his topics were esoteric. For example, he spends half a page justifying the statistics for the spear in Chainmail in this edition.
Finally, we have a special feature called "Solo Dungeon Adventures." It comprises several tables the solo D&D player can use to generate a dungeon on the fly and includes things such as treasure, traps, and monsters. Observant readers will notice it is very similar to the random dungeon tables printed in Appendix A of the Dungeon Masters Guide several years later.
And that's a wrap! My favorite article was "Creature Feature," with the infamous mind flayer. Next issue, we have a new D&D class, the Ranger!
For more content like this, please see my blog