Friday, April 06, 2007

History of a gamer Pt I (long post)

I thought it might be interesting for some of you to know how I got from there to here by plotting some of the key moments in the evolution of my gaming gene. It's an interesting biographical thing to do also...

Age 5 - 10
Family games, such as 'snap', 'old maid' and 'rook' (an old card game from my mum's youth which we all got indoctrinated into fairly young), tic tac toe, snakes and ladders, Buccaneers (Waddington boardgame classic), and monopoly.

Somewhere around the age of ten I borrowed a library book about chess. I think it was by Fred Renfeld. Fascinated, I made my own set out of bits of paper and taught myself how to play. I then taught my sister, and eventually others. Not a brilliant player, the highlight of my primary school chess days was winning a knockout tournament amongst all my class mates for the right to play the grand final against our teacher. Mr Weckert beat me, but I didn't feel crushed. He was a good bloke.

Age 11
Accidentally found "Battle" by C.S.Grant at the local library. This is where I learnt what to do with those airfix 'toy' sodiers someone had given me once. This is when I got infected with the twin blight of the modern gamer - obsession with collection and deficiency of comrades. Discovered 'Military Modelling' magazine - with its 'Battle for wargamers' section and column by Charles Vassey (how do I remember all this?).

Age 12
After months of solitaire adventures, I finally asked one of my neighborhood friends around to have a game with my carefully painted airfix figures. I was horrified when all he wanted to do it seemed was throw marbles at them! I terminated that game pretty quick. I tried with another local friend, same experience. I began looking towards school as a recruitment ground.

Age 13
Aquire copy of 'Traveller', Sci Fi Role Playing by Game Designers Workshop. In those distant days, it was composed entirely of 3 x 48 page (?) booklets. Had a couple of classic games, but got diverted before we got too far into Dungeons and Dragons. My more affluent friend (or so it then seemed) had the books, so he was the Dungeon Master. Endless fun.

Age 14
I played chess for a school team, usually occupying fifth or sixth table in our D grade team. Even then I only had one or two wins over a couple of seasons. My most memorable victory came in year 9 when for some reason I ended up in a B grade team for a night, a result of their desparate shortage of players and my being the most expendable of players to be sacrificed from the D grade team for a game against an opponent school of which there was no hope of winning. I, however thought it was pretty cool.

I thought it was even cooler when, towards the middle of the middle game and when I was having my pieces attrited away, I observed an open rear rank in my opponent's otherwise invulnerable position. I constructed and executed a cunning plan which involved the maintenance of a poker face and the sacrifice of what few other pieces of value I had to get my last rook on the last line, and his pieces in a position so that they blocked each other from intervening. Checkmate. Victory. Utter disgust and disbelief on my older opponent's face (I didn't like him so didn't bother trying to make him feel better, he had been a psychological bully when it had looked like he was wiping me up). Sweet memory.

To 15
Games were mainly either WWII 1/72 miniatures or AD&D heroic quests.

In the WWII scene I had a bunch of American Infantry and associated tanks (Shermans, Chaffees, Jeeps, Priests and Long Toms), and faced off my friends who had built up similar company sized collections of Russians and Germans (with a surprising preponderance of King Tiger tanks in this latter). We played initially with slightly modified CS Grant rules, towards the end of the period with 'modern warfare' (4th ed.?) rules by Wargames Research Group.

We played numerous brutal take no prisoners never run away battles on cloth covered tabletops and the sand tables which my two friends had at their places. Once we took over the backyard at my house and played at something approaching scale. I was king of the rules, and recall fighting bitter battles over their interpretation at that time.

For D&D, I tended to play a dwarven fighter character. Much of what we did was loosly inspired by Lord of the Rings crossed with dungeon crawling as per the random encounter tables. A time of magic and mystery as none of us except the DM knew what was in the DM Guide or Monster Manual.

Significantly, at about 13 we hooked up with a local wargames club (SA Historical Wargaming Society) for a few months (after bargaining with the treasurer). There we were introduced to 'Risk' - which opened up a whole world of boardgaming. Although I didn't play any other boargames there, I remember pouring over the collection of games the club held. This would become significant later in life. We also played a couple of games of Napoleonics with borrowed miniatures on club tables. We used simple rules I cobbled together from the many books I was by this time borrowing from libraries all over the Adelaide metro area.

Perhaps of most interest to Dan, was the fact that I bought a painted collection of 15mm republican roman lead figures from a thug at school. I think now that the collection had been stolen, and thus find some reluctance in bringing them out (I get the guilts whenever I look at the detailed paintjobs - even though it was years later that the penny dropped).

More on this some other time.

No comments: