Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Games that Define Us

There's a meme going around wargaming blogs that asks the questions: Could I define the wargamer I am today, by the games I've played and indeed the games I didn't play? Could I pick out ten examples and show where it all went so horribly wrong... or depending on your viewpoint, so gloriously right?

I can think of a ton of games that I *didn't* play, but I would much rather bore you with the story of the games I *did* play.

Now kids, in the summer of 1984 your Uncle Don and I went to a bookstore...

1. Grailquest

It was 1984 and I was eleven. My brother and I came across Books 1 and 2 of the Grailquest while at a departmental store (I think it was) and we each got one copy. He didn't really take to the game, but I got hooked by the whole concept of an interactive adventure book. I introduced it to my best friend at school then, who asked his mother to get him a copy. She didn't find a copy, but she got something she thought was similar - Book 5 of the Fighting Fantasy Series, City of Thieves. The two of us went on to buy and play all of the first seven or so books. I also went on to collect all the books in the Grailquest series, which I still own.

2. Fighting Fantasy Role-playing Game

Sometime afterwards Fighting Fantasy came up with their multi-player RPG system. Unlike a solo gamebook, this was a "traditional" RPG with a Gamemaster. I managed to convince my siblings to play through the adventures in the book (the only time I think they played an RPG), and went on to write several adventures of my own. The system is of course primitive and the stories Gygaxian, but it fired my imagination and started me on a life-long career of GMing.

3. Fighting Fantasy Miniatures

Moving forward to 1985... I was at the usual shelf of the bookstore where I got my gamebooks when I saw something shiny and new: plastic miniatures of wizards, barbarians, and monsters, plus some curiously shaped dice. I bought a couple packs of the figures and the dice (thinking back I guess my parents were rather indulgent...) and once again roped my siblings in for a few games. This is perhaps the first miniature wargame I played. Sadly I no longer own the figures, but I still have a couple of the soft plastic dice - my first polyhedrals.

4. Knights at War

Somewhere around this time I came across this large, colourful book with 4 games inside. I bought it, cut the pieces out, learnt the rules, and played a few games with my brothers. This book arguably taught me the concept of military history, of the extent of history and how warfare changed throughout time. I still have it in my cupboard.

5. WRG Ancients

Like many other wargamers of my age, I too tell the story of stumbling upon a book on wargaming at the local library that started one on a life-long addiction. In my case, it was a copy of WRG's 6th edition Ancients. At that time, with no one to guide me, I could not understand the rules, and only had an idea that here there were rules that serious grown-ups played. I later came across Donald Featherstone's War Games Through the Ages, which had formative effect on my hobby.

6. Dragon Warriors

In 1986 I went to secondary school, where some of the kids there were playing Dungeons & Dragons. Not being in the same class as them and unable to afford the rules, I was delighted when I saw Dragon Warriors at the gamebook shelf. For something like S$16 you got the first two books of the series. I recruited a few classmates, and very soon word spread and I had more people who wanted to join. At one point I had 13 players in the same game, and we had to split the group - in a fashion similar to popular sitcoms, some characters had spin-off campaigns of their own. I ended up GMing during recess, after school, and after extra-curricular activities on Saturday. I don't think I was a particularly good or sophisticated GM (I was thirteen!), but we had lots of fun.

When DW was re-released in 2008, I hooked up with a new group over an rpg forum and relived the good times.

7. Ogre and Battlesuit

One of my friends in secondary school introduced me and a few friends to this, and I guess we got into wargaming proper. We bought and played the subsequent supplements: GEV, Shockwave, and also bought  Battlesuit when it came out. Battlesuit would lead me to later purchase my first GW army in the form of plastic Space Marines (Mk VI beakies).

8. Napoleon's Battles

In 1990, now in junior college, my group of wargaming friends and I joined the school wargamer's club and became committee members. Wargames were still hard to come by, and the local hobby store stocked mainly boardgames and expensive Citadel miniatures. Then Avalon Hill released Napoleon's Battles. After some discussion I bought a copy, and our little group started painting some 20mm ESCI and other plastic figures to use with these rules. This would be our first historical miniatures wargame. We would go on to play these rules for many years.

9. DBA

In 1991 we all graduated from JC and enlisted. wahj got a scholarship to study in UK and I disrupted to go to medical school. When wahj came back on his first vacation, he brought with him a copy of DBA and a few 15mm DBA armies for us. It was a big deal at that time because now we were playing the same game and using the same metal miniatures as the wargamers in the big league were. I still have these poorly-painted figures in my collection.

So there you have it, kids. The story of how I became a Role-player and Wargamer. The details and dates may not be all that accurate, and I might have missed things out, but by and large that's how it happened.


danmer said...

Ha, there's a lot I recognise there! From reading this, I think you're probably a year or so older than me but we must have got into the hobby at the same time. Nice nostalgia trip, thanks!

captain arjun said...

Yes, Dan - I remember calculating your age based on something you wrote in a wargames magazine article and marvelling that you are actually younger than me... :)

Well, perhaps when you should write your own nostalgia post on your blog too.