Both of my grandfathers served in the trenches in the Great War, my paternal grandfather in the Royal Engineers and my maternal grandfather in the London Irish Rifles (apocryphally, he went through the wrong door when enlisting), and both took part in the Battles of the Somme.
My very first wargame was Avalon Hill's D-Day, which I saw in Hamley's shop window in Regent's Street (London) in December 1970. My father and I played and played it. As a 7 year old, I accepted that the Allies invaded Northwards, not having developed my geographical sensibilities at that age. I also had no problem with bright pink Germans!
After that, my father and I ploughed our way through much of Avalon Hill's catalogue from Battle of the Bulge and Richtofen to Blitzkrieg. Luftwaffe was a special case, as every single game ended with map, counters and table being kicked over in a huge row over some rule or another.
Going to my Senior School in 1975, I discovered that I was not the only wargamer in the UK - they had a Wargames Society, which I joined and devoted most of my school - and spare - time to. I still miss those halcyon days.
In 1976 my mother bought me a year's subscription to Strategy & Tactics (The Plot to Assassinate Hitler was the very first magazine and game I received) and I got Seelowe for Christmas. My love for SPI was born; this continues until today, as you might see from my avatar. Between 1976 and 1982 I played SPI boardgames almost exclusively (and constantly)! What little spare time that remained was devoted to homework, Napoleonic miniature wargaming and D&D (I still have not recovered from the death of Trollop, my 5th level fighter, in 1979).From 1978 to 1980 my wargames society were part of SPUKTEST, the body of playtesting volunteers for SPI in the United Kingdom, even earning a mention in December 1979's Phoenix magazine. We played a mix of SPI, AH and 3W (only SPI if I had my way!). Wonderful days. Sadly, when my year left for university or other destinies the society defected entirely to RPGs...
Since those very happy days my wargaming has been almost entirely solitaire. I miss the thrill of taking on another human being...the glories of saving the Royalists from the brink of defeat, defeating Napoleon, sinking the German High Seas Fleet or holding Roman Britain against a horde of Celts still echo in my memories. The defeats, funnily enough, are entirely forgotten!
My favourite current board wargame publishers are GMT Games and Decision Games. Favourite PC wargame publishers: AGEOD, Matrix and, sometimes, Paradox.
In October 2012 I visited New York for the very first time. My first 'must-see' place to visit? 44 East 23rd Street, SPI's original headquarters. The second place? A wargames shop nearby.
Funniest wargame moment:watching a huge British Warband appear in the middle of a battle on the far side of the table, carefully laid out by one of my two opponents, before the other opponent snapped at him, 'No - they're meant to stay hidden'. The warband was hastily swept off the table. Funnily enough, that reserve never did come into play - for some reason, my Romans studiously avoided that third of the battlefield entirely.