Wednesday, December 14, 2016
The Thanksgiving Holiday, among other things, has brought on a slow-down in activity in these parts, so the tempo of posting has become a bit more attenuated as well. Never fear, dear readers, activity will continue. In the meantime, here is a short rumination about my wargaming origins. This bit of nostalgia was prompted by a recent post on TMP asking how people got started in wargaming, as well as my work on our recent Club Newsletter, in which I included a reference to a piece from Pat Condray's Armchair General about a wargame convention in 1968.
Most will no doubt recognize Peter Young's iconic Wargame book, above, published in 1972. This was the spark that did it for me. I'm not one of those people who can look back and recall the exact year and month for such things. I can say that it was pre-1974 (probably not long after the book was published in 1972). In those days, I would go to my local public library several times per week, sometimes to peruse, sometimes to check books out, often both. I had discovered the various "Great Battles of History" books (of which there are many), and I was always poking around looking for more of those to read, whether they were of the "coffee table" variety or the text-only kind. One day, this shiny new tome was shelved in my familiar section, and it was a revelation. In my case, it certainly lived up to one of its modest claims, to "foster an interest not only in the fascinating--and relatively bloodless--hobby of wargaming, but also in the history and the art of war" (Introduction, page 7).
This new awareness of wargaming caused me to visit my hobby store (back then, the brick and mortar hobby stores carried a wide range of products), where I made the second groundbreaking discovery: the 3M Bookshelf game, Feudal (The Game of Siege and Conquest):
This promised everything I had read about in Young: terrain, figures, strategy...this was a WARGAME--the first I had noticed. Being in 7th or 8th grade, it was beyond my means ($8.00), so I could only "visit" the game in the store. The packaging on the back was especially enticing, with its rich medieval setting (I rather doubt that the game was ever set up and played in such a place, but that wasn't where my imagination took me then...).
Eventually, I got the game at Christmas. Despite the actual picture of the game (above), I had imagined something less abstract....
...especially when it came to the game board, which was described as having mountains and rough terrain. Of course, it did, but it was represented by solid green and striped green spaces rather than in three dimensions. The figures were cool, though, and it never crossed my mind that they ought to be painted. I quickly got over the board and played it over and over. I was a chess player back then, and I knew I was in new territory because each turn you moved ALL of your pieces. This was a wargame! Nowadays, I suppose one might be generous to call it a hybrid miniatures game, the mechanics being very chess like and abstract.
The ground was broken, though. This led me to the other bookshelf wargames of the day--by Avalon Hill. By now, I was a bit more savvy on expectations and also more tuned in to the idea of "simulation" vs abstract representation. The object of my desire then became...
...which, like Feudal, was well beyond my means. The same pattern applied. Eventually, I was able to acquire this grand old game, the first "real" wargame I owned. The rest is history.
As an interesting aside, in the last few years, I've re-acquired a copy of Feudal and Luftwaffe, and through used book sites , The Wargame. Some day, I hope to actually spend an afternoon and play one of these games again.