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Gaming Unplugged. My personal history…

January 21st, 2012 by Mad Dave 1 Comment

That’s me, Dave, on the right…


A wargame is a strategy game that deals with military operations of various types, real or fictional. Wargaming is the hobby dedicated to the play of such games, which can also be called conflict simulations, or consims for short. Wargames are generally categorized as historical, hypothetical, fantasy, or science fiction. Historical games form the largest group by far.

Modern wargaming originated with the military need to study warfare and to re-enact old battles for instructional purposes. The stunning Prussian victory over the Second French Empire in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 is sometimes partly credited to the training of Prussian officers with the game Kriegspiel.

Kriegspiel, from the German word for wargame, was a system used for training officers in the Prussian army. The first set of rules was created in 1812 and named Instructions for the representation of tactical manoeuvres under the guise of a wargame. It was originally produced and developed further by Lieutenant Georg Leopold von Reiswitz and his son Georg Heinrich Rudolf von Reiswitz of the Prussian Army.

So 2012 is the 200th anniversary of wargaming, but I haven’t been playing that long, honest. In fact I only just found out about Kriegspiel a few weeks ago. What I want to actually talk about today is a history of my gaming, how I got started in this wonderful all-consuming hobby.

When I was growing up, like most children I watched lots of movies of any and every genre, but sword and sorcery was my favourite. Movies like The Beast Master, Ladyhawk, (come on, I was 11!) Hawk the Slayer and of course, Conan. On the slightly darker side was Mazes and Monsters starring Tom Hanks, the 1982 movie based on the novel of the same name warned us of the dangers of roleplaying. Did I listen? Of course I didn’t. All these movies and more, got me interested in roleplaying and wargaming but had I no clue how to go about getting into the games.

Then came 1989 and MB games, in conjunction with Games workshop, released Hero Quest, my life was finally complete, ok it was only just beginning, but I thought it was complete. Although a far cry from “proper roleplaying” that game was just genius.

A box filled with everything you’d expect from the films I mentioned. A dungeon, orks, goblins, mummies and even a gargoyle and of course we needed heroes to go on the quest, a Barbarian, a Wizard, an Elf and a Dwarf provided the generic RPG archetypes, throw in a few halflings and we have a hit movie trilogy. A few months later, due to a random conversation about Hero Quest with a class mate, I was invited to join an RPG group that played Warhammer fantasy roleplaying or WFRP for short. For 3-ish years we gathered at a friend’s house every Sunday to take on the denizens of good and evil, we were fairly neutral and didn’t mind who we fought.

The DM or GM (dungeon or games master) Steve also played a wargame called Adeptus Titanicus based in Games Workshop’s fictional universe of Warhammer 40,000 and dealt with battles between huge warmachines called Titans.

Adeptus Titanicus had two factions at civil war which, oddly enough, were Imperials and Rebels but the imperials were the good guys, well as good as you can get in a dystopian science fantasy universe.

We soon added to this with GW’s Space Marines boxed game which could be played either on it’s own or in conjunction with the Titans (played together it was called Epic for short) to create massive battles of which the largest we had was over 35,000 points worth on the table between 3 players (armies are fielded on a points basis with individual elements having a cost relevant to their effectiveness) and took over 12hrs to complete.

I later got to play my first game of Warhammer 40,000 – Rogue Trader, more widely called 40k even now, although the current versions bare little resemblance to the 1987 game designed by Rick Priestley and Andy Chambers which was more an RPG/tabletop skirmish game; it even had a games master.

In 1993 a boxed game to rival even Hero Quest (in terms of how life changing it was) was released.

Warhammer 40,000 was the 2nd edition rules set for rogue trader and moved away from the RPG elements to become the tabletop miniature wargame we are familiar with today and this is where my wargaming really kicked of. The 2nd edition box set contained two armies, ok not really armies but enough to get you started, along with card scenery, dice and everything else to get you playing right out of the box. The plastic miniatures – about 70 in total – were of two ten-man squads of space marines (those imperials I spoke of earlier) and goblinoids – 40 gretchin (goblins) and 20 Orks, their larger cousins.

I have played 40k on and of for a few years now and currently field around 4,000pts of Iron Warriors, a faction of Chaos Space Marines (there’s those rebels again) and we are now on 5th edition of the rules – soon to be updated this year to 6th edition. Of course, I skipped quite a lot of games in there so here’s a few other games I’ve played over the years, some board games, some RPGs, some strategy, but all great fun.

Necromunda: a game of gang warfare set in the 40k universe

Warhammer Fantasy: Battles in the old world between fantasy armies like Dwarfs and Skaven (Rat men).

Man O’ War: Sea battles set in the old world with all the same factions available.

Space Hulk 1st edition: A game of strategy set on a derelict space craft invested with aliens known as Genestealers.

Space Crusade: The MB game similar to the above.

Battle fleet Gothic: space battles in the 40k universe.

Mighty Empires: kinda an advanced RISK using hex tiles to build the game’s map area set in warhammers fantasy world.

Battle for Armageddon: another RISK styled game based on a planet wide attack by Orks and defended by Imperial troops played on a board with card counters.

Think I should mention I have actually played actual RISK, a game of world domination.

Vampire the Masquerade: one of white wolf’s RPGs set in the world of darkness where you take on the roll of a young vampire.

Werewolf the Apocalypse: as above, but the players take the role of a werewolf.

2nd edition Dungeons and Dragons: probably one of the most recognisable RPG’s on the market.

Fighting Fantasy books: you know the ones? If you know what I’m talking about turn to 75, if not then you are lost forever in the pits of agony. I saved this to last for several reasons: it’s a particular favourite of mine, it’s hugely popular the world over. It’s relatively cheap to play, and there is always a slim chance GW will update and release it as a limited edition box set.

Blood Bowl: a game of fantasy football literally. Football teams of Orks, Dwarfs, Trolls, Ogres, Wizards, etc everything from the fantasy worlds playing a type of America football with painful sometimes deadly consequences.

This year I hope to start playing Warmachine, a steam punk skirmish game with mechs.

I have also started playing Shuuro Wrath of Elements on Facebook and hope to get playing the board and minis version soon.

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I'm Mad Dave one of the team's growing collection of tabletop gaming nerds. I was raised on a healthy diet of TV like Blake 7, Doctor Who and Star Trek with a side of sword and sorcery / sc-fi movies and a large dollop of board games like Cluedo, RISK and Hero Quest. You know your a gaming nerd if: You bring toy soldiers to work? You bring toy soldiers to work and you work has nothing to do with toy soldiers? Most of you jackets / coats have dice in one of the pockets? You hate throwing away packaging because you know it's actually a ruined building or field generator? You have a collection of old packaging? You can find something relevant to your hobby i.e. books, magazines, figures etc in almost every room in your house? I no I'm a nerd because I've done all of the above, how many of these made you smile and nod yes to?