Gaming is Tons of fun!!
I grew up in a gaming family. We didn't have a lot of money to go out and buy the coolest and latest board games, so we had to make a lot of them up as we went along. I remember one such game was invented on the linoleum floor of our garage-turned-bedroom in Ft. Worth, Texas. One of my older brothers (Tom) and I took our pipe tobacco can full of odds-and-ends checkers (you know, the sets that were missing one or two pieces) and divvied them up by color. Looking at the various brands and types of checkers, we noticed that there were wooden ones, thicker heavier plastic ones, really light plastic ones with saw-toothed edges, etc. We also remembered the spring-loaded shooters from our defunct Mattel shuffle billiards game.
Well, we put these disparate components together and devised a naval battle game, where the different types of checkers represented different types of ships (cruisers, destroyers, battleships, PT- boats, etc.). We'd arrange our checkers into fleets on the floor of the bedroom, and we'd use the pool shooters to fire the checkers at the opposing fleet. If we hit a "ship" on the other side with our shot, we sank it. If we missed, we were sitting ducks for the return fire! We had some rules about PT-boats not being able to sink the battleships by themselves, but it was pretty much a game of "Shuffleboard in the Pacific." We had a blast with that game, until both of the shooters crapped out. I was about 9 or 10.
Yeah, and when I was younger I played with army men and model tanks in the backyard dirt, played "real" army with the neighborhood kids, with our wooden "guns" and crabapple "grenades," assaulting tree forts and clumps of bushes defended by the "enemy." Funny how that's always interesting to 7 & 8-year olds; it was also my son's favorite pastime at that age.
But the first real wargame I ever played was when Tom brought home a copy of Avalon Hill's Anzio game a couple of years later, sometime in 1971. If you've never seen Anzio, it might escape you that this is/was a _hard_ game to play, especially for a 12-year old. I think it was one of the first "tournament level" games Avalon Hill put out, along with Jutland and a couple of others. Well, Anzio and Jutland were my first introductions to gaming. (And I really sucked at playing them. Tom is 3 years older than I am and he'd figure the games out by himself. He'd then talk me into playing, but wouldn't give me all the lowdown on the rules. Hell, I probably didn't care at that point, those were "real" ships we had on the floor!)
I dabbled with Tom and his wargames for a couple of years, but still would be drawn to just about any type of game. I even learned to play Canasta, so I could join in with the adults in their game evenings. I didn't really have any favorites, I just liked to play games!
I didn't buy any wargames for myself (being in junior high school had a way of ensuring I was poor, paper route notwithstanding), and I really didn't have a specific interest in any type of game until one Christmas morning a few years later when we were stationed at Chanute AFB in central Illinois. My interest in the wargaming Tom introduced me to was rekindled when I received a copy of Avalon Hill's.......................Outdoor Survival. (?!?!?Outdoor Survival?!?!?)
Somehow, Outdoor Survival got me into wargaming for myself (before, most of the time I played really to humor Tom--he was too good for me to ever win, and he got pissed when I "acted like a kid"). It certainly couldn't have been the Outdoor Survival game itself that made my "army urges" come out again. That was a game of dying of thirst in the woods. Perhaps it was the catalog of other Avalon Hill games that came in the box, with promises of military grandeur and power beckoning from its glossy pages. Yes, I'm certain that was it.
Anyway, I was in high school by then, and I learned how to save up a little of my money. So, after playing the hell out of my Outdoor Survival game (which I still have, BTW), I headed to the hobby shop outside the front gate of the base, hard-earned cash in hand, and I went to _buy_ my _own_ game. I saw all sorts of mysterious and wonderful new things in that hobby shop that day, even though I'd been in there a number of times before to buy my airplane and tank models. But I was now looking through the eyes of a financially self-sufficient teenager (heh!), and I was going to step up to the "serious" stuff.
I bought a copy of AH's Waterloo that day; the price is still marked in black on the box lid: $7.00. Seven dollars! I was wiped out! I barely had enough to pay for the game, but pay for it I did, and my buddy Andy and I headed back home and we played it for hours. This was at the beginning of the summer after my freshman year, and that game became a focal point for the genesis of my new and still very real hobby.
I still have that Waterloo game, too, though I can't r emember thelast time I had it out to play it. I picked up PanzerBlitz that summer, and maybe one or two others, also discovering that AH wasn't the only company that made wargames. I bought a copy of Conflict Games' Overlord and Bar-Lev, even though they were very expensive at $8.98 per copy! I played those a lot with Andy and other buddies for the next couple of years, and I really got into them. (I remember always playing Overlord on this table in the recreation center on Chanute, sitting beneath a huge reproduction of Picasso's Guernica. Cool, huh?)
I kept going from there, buying games when I could afford to, and finding other kids who also liked games. Being on the base and playing at the rec center also provided access to some GI's who also were into gaming. We started to do clubs and bigger, "team" games. There was also a classmate who's dad fought in the '48 Arab-Israeli war, and had a huge house in town where we set up a miniatures table in the basement.
More recently, I got turned on to the Euro-style of game after moving to the St. Louis area, and I have been a fool for most of those games, as well. I'm pretty discerning now on which games I keep in my collections, but I'll buy or play just about anything at least once. I tend to like excellent wargames, deeper economic games, trading games, and yes, even the occasional dungeon crawl. I've studied game design and have been a game player, tweaker, house-ruler, and designer for as long as I can remember--longer actually--probably since I "invented" my first wargames using spare counters and National Geographic maps when I was in junior high school over 40 years ago.