Sunday 20 May 2012

The Games That Define Us.

I was reading Frontline Gamer's 'Sunday Sermon: The games that define us' and like all good sermons it made me think. What were the games that had defined me and my gaming. So I'm shamelessly pinching his idea and doing my own games that define me post.

Now FG must be considerably younger than me as his gaming list starts in 1985 where as I have to go back to 1967 and sadly my advanced age has somewhat affected my memory but here goes anyway.

Airfix and Donald Featherstone (Late Sixties)
My earliest memories of wargaming involve lots of Airfix tanks laid out on the living room floor shooting at each other using rules we'd gleaned from various books. Back in the Sixties (man I sound like a hippie) we didn't have loads of rulesets from which we could pick and choose. So the local library was a great resource. It was there I first encountered books by the legends of wargaming like Charles Grant, Tony Bath, Brigadier Peter Young and of course Donald Featherstone. Without people like these we wouldn't have wargaming as it is today.

The rules were basic by modern standards and it was normal to tweak them or add your own rules. But the overriding aim was to have fun, something I think we've lost sight of over the years. This is where my love of wargaming began, having fun while playing with toy soldiers and tanks

20mm Napoleonics & my first wargames club (Early Seventies)
The Seventies saw wargaming start to take off as a hobby. We had magazines like Military Modelling, Airfix Magazine, Battle, Strategy & Tactics and Miniature Warfare.

We had more figure manufacturers like Minifigs, Garrison, Hinton Hunt, Lamming, Hinchcliffe and Greenwood & Ball. We had more board games from the likes of Avalon Hill and SPI. We also started to get rulesets being written and published outside of books.

Ahh! the good old days.

1970 saw our family move to a new town and me help set up a wargames club at my school, the Darlington Militaria Society. I don't remember everything we played there but I do remember it was mainly 20mm Napoleonics with occasional games like 'Trireme'. I do remember being enthused about Napoleonics by the release of the film 'Waterloo' in 1970 and devouring all I could read about the Hundred Days Campaign.

This is where I became hooked on historical gaming with tabletop miniatures, still my favourite type of wargaming. I don't ever remember being particularly keen on the painting side of things even though we always played with painted figures. It just wasn't done to use unpainted figures and sadly lots of gamers today don't seem to care how their models look on the table.

Board Gaming (Mid-Seventies)
As the Seventies progressed I got more into board gaming. It was cheaper than buying all the figures and no painting. We played all sorts of board games covering a variety of periods such as Kingmaker (medieval), Diplomacy (WWI ish), Flat Top (WWII Pacific), Task Force (1980's Naval), Terrible Swift Sword (ACW), Squad Leader (WWII), Waterloo, Dune, and my all time favourite Machiavelli. There were some great companies around then like Avalon Hill, SPI, Victory Games.

Board gaming let us play in all sorts of different periods and made multi-player games much easier. They also added other dimensions to gaming like campaigns and diplomacy.

Role Playing Games (Late Seventies to Early Eighties)
Although I still played board games and gamed with figures this is when I started to play role playing games. I still remember my first game of D&D we used the Chainmail and Blackmoor stuff as things like the Players handbook or DM Guide hadn't been published yet. I played lots of different systems most of which I've forgotten. But I do remember playing lots of Traveller.

As I'd been used to writing my own rules for wargaming I even produced rules for my own Superhero RPG, which I still have somewhere. I remember having lots of fun DM'ing the games and trying to outwit the players.

Tournament Gaming (The Nineties)
The Nineties saw me living in Leeds and back playing tabletop games. I still ran the odd campaign and played board games now and then but my main focus was DBM Ancients. I got really hooked by DBM and had more armies than I can remember including some that I got professionally painted. As there was a big tournament circuit for DBM I started to regularly travel all over to play, not that I was particularly good. I was so hooked that I set up a doubles league that had events all over the north. This was great fun and I met a bunch of great people.

Sadly tournament gaming attracts 'tournament players'. I'm sure we've all run into them. Win at all costs, exploit every loophole in the rules, the sort of people you'd gladly punch in the face if it wouldn't get you arrested! Things came to a head for me during a tournament in Newcastle where I'd checked something with my opponent then a few minutes later he turned round and denied what we'd agreed. We called over the umpire and he ruled in the other guys favour as there was nothing on the table to prove he'd ok'd the move. That was it, I conceded the game and quit wargaming all together. I'd just had enough and gaming was no longer fun.

Sadly I got rid of all my stuff, most of which I'd love to have back today.

Rebirth of Gaming (the 2010's)
At the end of 2010 I decided to get back into gaming and am still trying to find my feet. I started by playing some 40K which was ok and Hordes which I hated and a bunch of other systems. But the ones that have had me hooked so far are Malifaux and FoW.

I'm really looking forward though to getting back into historical tabletop gaming particularly using the new Maurice rules which look great. But I also want to do some Napoleonic and ACW.

So that's where I am currently. I must say writing this post has brought back a bunch of good memories and reminded me of games and systems I'd long forgotten. So forty five years of gaming down here's hoping I get another forty five years of tabletop fun.


  1. Nice reading. Interesting to see that I lived through similar "phases".

  2. A really interesting read. I too started down a my local library when I found 'Battles With Model Soldiers' by Mr Featherstone. It's very strange how gamers seem to take the break from gaming only to come back to it later in life. Why this is is a mystery but I too did no gaming at all during the whole of the 90's before getting back into the hobby. Great read, thanks for posting.

  3. Ah - Trireme, must get this out for a game soon. Was impressed that Steved could still remember the damage table. Need to get a couple more of the offset oblong boards printed / photocopied and mounted on mdf.

    I started with The War Game, A. & C. Black, 1971, (Back in print as on May 2008) by Charles Grant and made a 30" long shooting stick but only ever found 2 packets of Phoenix 25mm figures to go with the mid 18th century rules.

  4. Pinch away Ferb my old bean!!! =P

    That was the idea behind the article, to get people doing things like this. I've seen a few pop up in the Bloggingsphere over the past week or so, and that's gratifying to see. Now I get to add another to the list... nice read by the way. :)

  5. Your store is so familiar for many of us. I was done in also in the nineties and have creeped back in slowly.
    happy explorations!


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