Sunday, 25 November 2012

From The Beginning...

As this is a new blog, and this is the first real post, I guess it should be about me as a wargamer. Hopefully this will give you guys a better idea of where I'm coming from. I hope that some things about my journey will strike a chord with people, but other bits which are different to your own journey will prove of interest. I guess you could say that this post is about the evolution of a tabletop wargamer.

So, where to start? The obvious cliche is to start at the beginning, but where is the beginning? Where is my beginning, and is it the same as your beginning? How did I come to be a player of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Warhammer 40,000 and a smattering of GW's Specialist Games range? Well, let's see. The beginning of my wargaming could be when I first started playing Space Marine back in 1993, but it isn't. That might have been my first taste of an established commercial wargame, but that's not the start of my journey.

Let's go back a bit further. The legendary HeroQuest, and my first taste of the fantasy genre of games, and following that, Space Crusade, and the first time I ever laid covetous eyes on a Space Marine.
Now this is an important point in my wargaming story, because it was the first time I had come into contact with images and background text associated with Games Workshop. In addition, the box sides of Space Crusade were covered in advertising for Citadel Paints and pictures of painted models. It's important also to mention that I wasn't yet struck by the desire to paint the simple plastic models that came in each of the two boxes, though inside the Space Crusade box was a fold out leaflet of the kind we are all familiar with. 

Contained within it's awe inspiring folds and creases I found pictures of the Space Marine game, and probably pictures of the Rogue Trader book and various Warhammer Fantasy books and models. This is what led me to buy my first White Dwarf magazine, issue 160 if anyone is interested, the February 1993 issue I think.

But what made me decide to add HeroQuest to my already overloaded Christmas List all those years ago? I had developed a taste for the adventure it promised, the cut and thrust of hand to hand combat, the roar of bestial Orcs charging, all narrated by the commanding voice of Christopher Lee in the mesmerising TV ads. Where did this desire originate?

I have now established that the earliest origins of my immersion into the wonders of tabletop wargaming didn't begin with Games Workshop, or even with their collaboration with MB. So where did it really begin? What put me on the path?

Well, before I discovered sci-fi and fantasy board games, I was a keen reader, as I still am today. Back in the late 80's I had a library card, and as I passed the hallowed doors of the library on my walk home from school, I looted and pillaged my way through every adventure gaming book I could find. At their most advanced (so advanced I probably wasn't even playing them properly) were the Bloodsword Books, and before them, Lone Wolf. And even before those, it was the seminal and indescribably crucial Fighting Fantasy books, by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston no less. If we wade through the sea of Fighting Fantasy books, shoving the Warlock of Firetop Mountain to one side, and elbowing our way past the Armies of Death, and give the Snow Witch a very stern look indeed, the crowds part, the mists clear, and low and behold we find...

...Choose your own Adventure books!

Now don't get me wrong, I had bucket loads of toy soldiers like most other boys, quite possibly more, and have many fond memories of setting them all up across my grandparents kitchen table over a whole afternoon, just to clear them away again, but toy soldiers could have led anywhere. It could have been model building, the tanks and aeroplanes and self propelled guns of World War II, a period for which I have a keen interest, but it was the gaming books that set me on path of collecting models for the express purpose of battling against an opponent using tomes of rules large enough to sink a battleship.

This is the story of how I came to be a player of tabletop wargames, indeed, how I came to be writing these words, and in so doing I have been reminded of things I had forgotten, and of the  excitement of those earliest days, the feeling I could not just read a story, but be part of it.

That's what wargaming is to me, and part of  the reason I am so pleased that 8th Edition Warhammer Fantasy and 6th edition 40K have taken the direction they now have. The emphasis has been re-focussed onto the story and it's telling.

I hope this first post has given you an idea of what my motivations are, and also hopefully brought back fond memories of how your wargaming story began. If you have made it this far, fellow story tellers, you have my thanks. Now wipe the nostalgic tear from your eye, and be thankful this isn't a podcast, because no doubt your ears might be bleeding by now if it was...