Story of My Wargaming Life
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I spend so much time reflecting on my wargaming past that I thought I'd create a GeekList about it--if only as a visual aid for my own reminiscing.

So, FWIW, here's how the forty-two years of my wargaming life so far have gone.

Comments and questions welcome.
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1. Board Game: Waterloo [Average Rating:5.82 Overall Rank:7787]
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Summer of 1968. I'm thirteen. My friend Lenny tells me he just bought a new game. It's a wargame, and it's "so realistic." But he keeps me hanging for a couple weeks, building up suspense. Finally I demand to see the game.

He's got it in the garage space beneath a backyard apartment. Hmm ... Waterloo. A historical game. Don't know anything about it, but it looks more serious than Risk or Stratego, the only other war-themed board games I've played.

Lenny unfolds the mapboard. Wow--look at all those little hexagonal spaces! This must be a pretty complicated game. I can see why he said it was "so realistic." There must be a lot to it.

Then I spot the playing pieces: little pink and blue punch-out cardboard squares! "You've been gypped," I say. Lenny blushes and says, "Yeah, I know." He'd gotten his dad to pay $5.98 for a game with pieces that look like they're from a children's puzzle magazine.

But again, he says, "It's such a realistic game, though." And it looks like it might just be.

We fool around with the components for a while but don't play an actual game. We figure we'll come back to it sometime later. But there's an advertising flyer in the box--a catalog. I ask if I can take it home and look it over.

I pore over that catalog of "so realistic" wargames for countless hours, wanting every game featured, dreaming of what each one might be like. And so begins my lifelong obsession with wargaming.
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2. Board Game: Kriegspiel [Average Rating:4.58 Overall Rank:15314]
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I can't believe this game wasn't published until 1970. My memory tells me I bought it soon after seeing Waterloo for the first time.

Well, we'd tried playing Waterloo. But it was such a step up in complexity (from Stratego and such) that we played our first game without stacking. I hadn't read the rules myself, so I didn't even know what stacking meant when Lenny mentioned it to me and said we wouldn't use it.

By now, I knew I wanted a wargame of my own, and I had my eye on several. But this brand-new game, Kriegspiel, was advertised as a perfect introductory wargame--and that's just what we needed. I really wanted a historical wargame with a full-size map, like Waterloo. But I swallowed my pride and picked up Kriegspiel at a local hobby shop.

All I can say is that for us, it worked like a charm. It provided a good introduction to wargaming, just as it was supposed to do. Several years later, I'd look back at it and shake my head at how small and simplistic it is. But when it was new, it was wonderful.

The only downside for me was that Lenny liked it a little too much. Once we'd learned it, I wanted to get back to Waterloo and play a "real" wargame. But he was content to keep playing Kriegspiel. I had to nag him for a long while before he agreed to play Waterloo. (When we did, I finally learned what stacking meant, and we played the game more or less correctly.)
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3. Board Game: The Battle of the Bulge [Average Rating:6.09 Overall Rank:5332] [Average Rating:6.09 Unranked]
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At last (I say that as if a lot of time had passed, but I'm still talking 1970 here; I was just impatient), I was ready to buy my first historical wargame. A few of the games in the Avalon Hill catalog looked like they might be too difficult for me, but this one looked like one I could learn. It also looked substantial enough to be interesting.

I had another motivation for choosing this particular game: my dad, who was still alive then, had fought in the battle (he was with the 101st Airborne at Bastogne).

I dearly loved this game from the get-go. Waterloo had a "cleaner" look and feel to it, but Bulge somehow felt meatier. I enjoyed figuring my way through all the dense terrain along the intricate road networks. I also liked the feel of playing the German side--having all that pent-up force to break through with. Luckily, Lenny liked the challenge of playing the American side, holding on with scant resources until reinforcements could arrive.

When I reflect back on those earliest years, my impression is that we played Bulge and Waterloo dozens of times each. But if I stop and think about it, I'll bet we played each game about three or four times.

We did spend many, many hours playing them, though. We were pretty slow at it; we liked to take our time. I think the published game descriptions said these games could be played in about three hours, but we considered that a joke. For us, a game was apt to take more like thirty hours. We'd play a turn or two, leave the game set up, and come back to it the next day.

Each of those turns, though, was a wonderfully absorbing experience. I don't think I was ever bored for a moment. I had no problem waiting for Lenny to take his turn; I was thoroughly engrossed in studying the map, thinking about what I'd do in my next turn.

In fact, I found I couldn't stop thinking about the game. I'd be thinking about it next day in school. Sometimes I'd sit in class doodling hex grids, drawing in terrain features. Wargaming was sinking into my consciousness, becoming more than just a hobby.
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4. Board Game: 1914 [Average Rating:5.67 Overall Rank:11794]
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I don't know if this was the very next wargame I bought. My memory fails me now as I try to put together the exact sequence, so I'll just list the games in their general time frames.

This one was billed as the ultimate wargame. While poring over the Avalon Hill catalog, I marked this title as one of the last wargames I'd ever buy, because I was sure it'd be far, far too complicated for me to comprehend. I planned to work up to it gradually over the years.

But in the back of The General (an Avalon Hill wargaming magazine), I noticed somebody was selling a used copy of 1914 for a price I could afford. My mind started racing, and I thought, "Wouldn't it be cool just to take a look at this game--to actually see the ultimate wargame?" So I bought it.

Lenny couldn't believe it. He still liked Kriegspiel well enough; Bulge and Waterloo were tolerable, but he sure didn't want anything more complicated than those games. I tried to set him at ease by explaining that I knew I was jumping the gun; I just wanted to see this game.

However, once I looked it over and read the rules, I was surprised to find that I did understand the game. It wasn't over my head after all. So, I played at it solo, then taught the basic game to Lenny. As we started the game, I remember him saying, "I can't believe we're doing this." I couldn't either. But I was proud of myself for being able to tackle "the ultimate wargame."

We never finished that first game, though, for one reason or another. And I ended up never playing a full game of 1914 at all. For one thing, there were too many problems with the rules. I sent several pages of questions to Avalon Hill and got several pages of replies, but even after a few such exchanges of mail, I kept finding more errors and ambiguities in the game.

Anyway, I'd had my glimpse of "the ultimate wargame," and I was ready to move on to sampling other titles.
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5. Board Game: PanzerBlitz [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:2017]
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This game was irresistible to me. It got so much hype that I just had to find out what all the fuss was about. And now that I had proven myself by tackling 1914, I was confident I'd be able to comprehend any wargame.

PanzerBlitz was completely new and different. Though I had as yet only played a very few wargames, I'd practically memorized the Avalon Hill catalog, and I'd been reading The General and other material. And the thing about PanzerBlitz was simply that it zoomed in closer to the battlefield action than any other land wargame I'd ever seen.

This game broke up standard wargaming concepts I had already grown used to, e.g., that only adjacent units can engage in combat. In PB, units have range factors; some can fire halfway across the mapboard. Also, some units can carry others. Then too, there were different kinds of attacks, different kinds of ammo that guns could fire. It was a whole new world of detail beyond anything in the wargames I'd played.

Naturally, I was excited about all this, and I couldn't wait to turn my friend Lenny on to this game and get to playing it. But alas, it didn't click with him. He reluctantly tried to play a game with me, but it was far too complicated for his liking. He agreed to take the rules home and study them--and that helped somewhat; but this particular game just went against his grain somehow. After trying to play it a couple times, he gave up.

That led to my first experience with play-by-mail (PBM) wargaming. I contacted a number of PB fans and started up about a dozen PBM games all at once. That's how enthusiastic I was. (I don't remember for sure, but I don't think I ever finished any of those games; they all petered out after a few turns.)
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6. Board Game: Flying Circus [Average Rating:5.79 Overall Rank:12649]
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I have only a fragment of memory about this game. It was one of the first I heard of when word got to me about a new wargame publisher called SPI. I think we set this game up and went over the rules together but never actually played.

By then, we had a full plate just learning and playing the games we owned. New games were always fascinating--especially to me--but they also distracted us from the games we knew and loved.

Also, when I read that SPI was planning to publish half a dozen wargames a year, I scoffed at the idea. "They won't be very good," I said. I didn't know anything about wargame design, but I figured a good game might take years to design and develop. I couldn't see how this upstart company was going to pull off anything like six games a year.

And even if they did, we'd never have time to play half of them. So, for the time being, I determined to stick to Avalon Hill games. I reckoned that if I stuck with them, by the end of my life I might have owned and played them all (the whole dozen or so).
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7. Board Game: Anzio [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:2784]
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At this point (still in the early 1970s), I was hooked on complexity. Proud of myself for being able to handle 1914 (the "ultimate wargame") and PanzerBlitz, I now wanted realism at all costs. Bulge and Waterloo had been OK for starters, but I felt I was growing up fast as a wargamer, and my tastes were becoming more sophisticated.

I didn't have much interest in the Italian campaign of World War II, but this game was advertised as one of the more realistic designs. That was enough to intrigue me. And when I saw the step-reduction system and sea invasions and all that, I was impressed. The mapboard came in pizza colors, but I even liked that; it looked more complex (and therefore, in my mind, more realistic) than some of the sketchier map art I'd seen.

Lenny and I tackled the basic game--probably just once. I got the sense that he objected to the complexity level, as usual. Moreover, I think he objected to the fact that all these new games I was buying were distracting us from becoming decent players of our original games, Bulge and Waterloo. We'd barely scratched the surface of those, and here I was taking up our time with three or four new games, each with a pretty steep learning curve.

Well, even I was beginning to feel a little overwhelmed. I tried to work out an agreement where we'd play one of our older, simpler games a couple times before tackling anything new. The downside for me is that it postponed any ventures into other new games--and I still had an insatiable curiosity about them.
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8. Board Game: D-Day [Average Rating:5.65 Overall Rank:11553]
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It was Lenny's turn to buy a new wargame. And he showed me where his head was at by choosing another of the Avalon Hill classics. Here was a game on about the same order of complexity as his first wargame, Waterloo.

He knew I'd pooh-pooh the mapboard art, so he made a pre-emptive remark about how the board is plain-looking but functional. That it was.

The choice of invasion sites was something pretty new to us, though it shows up in Anzio as well. I remember thinking it was odd that there were HQ units in the game but they didn't serve any practical purpose.

It was a fun game, and I later borrowed it to play with another wargamer who drove to my house for a day of gaming.

But after the invasion was over and our units were strung out across France, I found the situation boring. I think this was the very first time in my wargaming career that I ever experienced boredom over a game. Suddenly I looked at the map and thought, "You mean all I get to do is shuffle units along this line, trying to get three-to-one odds?"

Probably only played this game two or three times.
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9. Board Game: Luftwaffe [Average Rating:5.55 Overall Rank:13069]
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My mom bought me this one for Christmas or a birthday in 1971 or so. She knew my friend Lenny and I were into wargames, but she didn't know anything about them, so she looked a little apologetic and said, "I don't know if you're ready for air wargames yet, but I thought you might like this."

I thanked her, but in truth I was only vaguely interested. I liked the box art, and of course Lenny and I tried playing the game. I think we probably only played it once, though.

My mom must've been the one interested in aviation. She remembered being a kid when it was new and especially cool. And after my dad died, she signed me up for flying lessons (I got a private pilot's license but never used it after the lessons ended).
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10. Board Game: Tactics II [Average Rating:5.33 Overall Rank:15094]
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My high-school gaming buddy, Lenny, really caught me by surprise when he bought this. To me, it was a giant step backward, toward our early Kriegspiel days.

But he was out to make a point, I guess: that the earlier, simpler wargames still offered a lot of gaming fun and challenge.

The square-grid map looked quaint and old-fashioned to me, and it seemed too big for the few units each player controlled. I tried to hide my displeasure and humor my friend, since he had humored me when I was buying so many new games. But I can't say I ever really liked this game.
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11. Board Game: Gettysburg [Average Rating:5.64 Overall Rank:11902]
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My turn to buy another AH classic. I'm not sure what prompted this purchase a the time, but I guess it's a milestone in that it was my first American Civil War game--and that ended up being the center point of my amateur military-history studies.

I was surprised to see that another game besides Tactics II had a square-grid mapboard. I wasn't expecting too much from this game, and I wasn't that impressed with it--but it was OK.

When I showed it to Lenny, he told me it had been the first wargame he'd ever seen in his life. Back in childhood, he had seen an older brother or somebody playing Gettysburg.

Eventually, I'd own every edition of this classic Avalon Hill game. But none would ever be a favorite, even though I loved the subject. (Around 1988, I'd tour the Gettysburg battlefield. And I was amazed at how disoriented I was. I expected to know my way around after so many years of looking at these mapboards. But the real-life battlefield is so much bigger, and there are so many visual obstructions.)
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12. Board Game: The Game of France, 1940: German Blitzkrieg in the West [Average Rating:5.74 Overall Rank:8112]
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Well, I was a sucker for novelty, I guess. When Avalon Hill published this game (I'd been ignoring SPI, so the AH version was the first I ever saw), I just had to have it. Even the cover art was appealing to me; and it looked like the other game components were going to be impressive as well. Indeed, they were a nice change from the old pink and blue unit-counters of the "classics" era.

We played this game a couple times, and I thought it was fine. The trouble was, by this time it seemed we were constantly learning new wargames. And we both really wanted to spend more time playing the games we already knew and loved--like Bulge and Waterloo.

So, in a way, this game was the last straw for us--one new game too many.

Some people reading this may wonder about that, especially since we'd been completely ignoring SPI all the while. But as I mentioned somewhere above in this GeekList, we were very slow players. We liked to take our time and ponder every move. And we had also always planned to work at becoming good at our games of choice--the way chess players gain proficiency by practicing often. So, this seemingly endless flow of new games weighed on us a bit and seemed counterproductive.

Yet, we were still fascinated by wargaming, so we voraciously pursued novelty even as we were feeling overwhelmed by it.
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13. Board Game: Jutland [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:3301]
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Somewhere along the line, I bought a used copy of this game, just to take a look at it. I had no interest in naval warfare really, but I read a little about this game, and it sounded good.

I remember setting it up and playing at it on my bedroom floor, solo. Don't think I ever did anything else with it.
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14. Board Game: Afrika Korps [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:3691]
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I believe it was 1973 when I bought this game. I bought it and Blitzkrieg (next on the list) at the same time. And I had something very definite in mind when I made the purchase.

As I mentioned above, my friend and I had begun to feel overwhelmed with the number of wargames we'd bought and had been trying to learn. I was more the culprit than he was; I had to have the latest Avalon Hill games, and I prized complexity, equating it with realism and gaming value.

So, now I decided to purge my collection and attempt to settle into a very few games that maybe I'd continue to enjoy for years to come. One was certainly The Battle of the Bulge, and another was presumably Lenny's game Waterloo--our first historical wargames. In addition, I wanted a true classic wargame myself--one with the standard Combat Results Table (CRT), as in Waterloo. I picked Afrika Korps--and I was not disappointed.

Lenny was pleasantly surprised for once. "Did you buy this kind of game on purpose?" he asked. Here was the simple, straightforward kind of wargame we'd started out with. We both liked it a lot.

If circumstances had permitted, maybe we'd have gone on playing this game and become as good at it as those who wrote up the perfect-strategy articles for The General. But as it happened, 1973 was our high-school graduation year, and life seemed to get even more complicated after that. We'd find ourselves playing wargames much less often.
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15. Board Game: Blitzkrieg [Average Rating:5.87 Overall Rank:6189]
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This was the other game I bought, along with Afrika Korps, in 1973. This one I had marked out to be my one big, complex wargame. I figured I could handle one game of this size and complexity, even though I'd have been overwhelmed with more. (Plus, it gave me an excuse to buy a new game.)

It turned out to be an excellent choice. This game had something of the look and feel of my first historical wargame, The Battle of the Bulge, but it was on a much bigger scale, covering a whole major war.

I loved it, and it impressed Lenny as well. We spent many pleasant hours poring over our moves in this game. 1914 had been billed as the ultimate wargame, but for us, Blitzkrieg could have been the ultimate wargame.

In a way, this marks the high point of my wargaming life--or certainly the culmination of phase 1 of my wargaming career.

The previous year, 1972, Lenny and I had attended a wargaming convention, where our eyes were opened to miniatures wargaming and the whole wargaming community that had surrounded us. Soon we both wanted to get into miniatures, and we also started exploring SPI wargames and others. In 1973, we started up a wargaming club and began to hold bimonthly mini-conventions in two different cities.

At the time, it looked like our hobby life was bursting into full bloom. Maybe it was, but if so, the bloom was short-lived.
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16. Board Game: Diplomacy [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:504]
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I'll just pick this game as one of the many that I played while running our wargaming club around 1973 or so. Others were Origins of World War II and our old friend Waterloo (while playing a team-vs-team game of Waterloo, I learned that Lenny and I had been playing it wrong; someone pointed out a rule we'd always overlooked).

While the wargaming club was an immensely valuable experience for me, I can't say I enjoyed it that much. It was fun and satisfying in some ways but disappointing in others. I was young and naive and had a lot to learn about human nature--so I suspect some of the club members objected to my leadership style as much as I objected to what I saw as their laxness.

Anyhow, Diplomacy stands out for me. It's not even a wargame per se, but we played it (another non-wargame I was introduced to at the club was Go). And it was one of the worst gaming experiences of my entire life. I won't go into detail. Suffice it to say I was backstabbed in what struck me as an incredibly sneaky way, and I couldn't help but take it personally. I was so traumatized that I played Diplomacy only one more time--by mail, some ten years later. Had a similar (though less shocking) experience in that game, and I've sworn it off ever since. My least favorite game in the world. (Brilliant game design, though--great for those who like that sort of thing.)

While my part in the wargaming club lasted, I always felt so responsible for leadership and organization that I seldom sat down and played games. I wanted to keep a detached overview. I met a lot of wargamers and dabbled at a lot of games, including some I'd never heard of and might never have tried.

The experience was successful and valuable overall, but I can't say it was anything like the best part of my wargaming career. In subsequent years, I never had any inclination to join another club or attend any conventions. I much preferred one-on-one wargaming.

Or even solo wargaming. But I'm getting ahead of the story now. As of 1973, I don't think I ever played a wargame solitaire (other than playing out a few turns just to help me learn the rules).
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17. Board Game: Chainmail [Average Rating:5.36 Overall Rank:13194]
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I'll briefly mention this for a couple reasons.

First, at one of our mini-conventions, a small group was playing a medieval miniatures game using these rules. I watched for a while, and the guy with the rulebook pointed out the "fantasy supplement" at the back. He laughed but thought it might be fun to play a game where knights fight dragons or orcs fight elves. I thought it sounded juvenile--and that's what I told Gary Gygax in a letter when he asked for my opinion. (Luckily for him and generations of RPG fans, he ignored my opinion. That "fantasy supplement" soon morphed into Dungeons & Dragons.)

Second, I was wanting to get into miniatures myself, and the medieval period was one that I considered for a while. This quest to find the right historical period for myself went on for years, occupying a lot of my time and thought.

As it turned out, though, all my attempts to get into miniatures were abortive.
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18. Board Game: The American Civil War [Average Rating:5.93 Overall Rank:10468]
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One benefit of our wargaming club was that we learned of a hobby shop well stocked with wargames. It was about 120 miles away, but it was worth the drive. They had everything! Shelves were overloaded with all the Avalon Hill and SPI games, plus an abundance of games and miniatures we'd never heard of.

So, Lenny and I made a few trips there, and I made a few more on my own.

On our very first trip, I believe, I picked up this new game. It looked like a dream come true to me. A year or two earlier, I'd watched an American Civil War miniatures game at a convention, and something about that war really caught my interest. So I'd started reading about it, and I'd made some tentative efforts to get into ACW miniatures.

Now here was a brand-new wargame that covered the whole war! I think only the magazine version was available at the time, so that's what I got. I also picked up a couple other ACW wargames by SPI (though I've forgotten which ones).

This game isn't highly rated anymore. I've heard some say it's bland or boring. But I loved it--just because of its subject. No other serious wargame had yet attempted to cover the whole ACW.

Despite my enthusiasm, though, I think I only played once--and it was a PBM game several years later. I sure spent a lot of time reading the rules and poring over the components, though--and probably playing a few turns solitaire.

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19. Board Game: Sinai [Average Rating:6.14 Overall Rank:6862]
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While I was enthused about getting into ACW miniatures, my friend Lenny was interested in the modern period. We had also seen a NATO-Warsaw Pact miniatures game at the convention in May 1972, and I guess he was impressed with that.

So, on our trip to the hobby shop, he bought this game, Red Star / White Star, and a couple others set in the modern era. On a subsequent trip, he bought Musket & Pike. None of these games interested me in the least. But then, he wasn't much interested in the ACW either.

In our early years, we ended up sharing World War II in common. Most of our wargames just happened to be set in that war, and both our fathers had fought in it (his dad had been a U.S. Marine in the Pacific), so it seemed natural. But now that we were dabbling in miniatures and wanting to choose a period to focus on, it turned out neither of us really wanted to do WW2.

So, I ended up looking at his games, and he looked at mine. But we never got around to playing them. Nor did either of us get past the dabbling stage with miniatures.
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20. Board Game: Soldiers [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:5550]
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This might be out of sequence. I don't remember exactly when I bought it, but my copy came in a plain white cardboard box.

Anyhow, World War I was something Lenny and I sort of had in common. He was fascinated with the period at times (even back in grade school, he used to draw biplanes for fun). And as I was searching for my favorite period, I dabbled with the medieval era, then WW1, before settling on the ACW.

So, here was a tactical game that looked pretty cool, and it was set in a period we both had some interest in.

We played it a couple times, as I recall. It was a memorable, albeit very brief, bit of our foray into SPI wargames.
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21. Board Game: Rifle & Saber [Average Rating:5.57 Overall Rank:12650]
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Another of the games I quickly snatched up during one of our trips to the big hobby shop. If I was having trouble getting into ACW miniatures, here was a cheap way to enjoy some tactical combat set in that period.

It may have been this game that got me started playing wargames solitaire. I don't remember ever playing it with Lenny or anybody else, but I believe I played every scenario, so I must have been playing by myself.

I must've had a past life during the ACW or somewhere during this period of history, because it really calls out to me. Playing this game was like a wonderful time-machine trip for me.

By today's standards, it's a mediocre game at best. But it was absolutely perfect for me at the time it came out.
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22. Board Game: World War I [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:3419]
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My wargaming life got confusing and started to dry up or take odd turns around 1974. But life in general was that way. Fresh out of high school, at first I headed to a nearby junior college. Lenny and I both went there for a year, but college kept us too busy for the kind of wargaming we'd been doing up until then. He then transferred to a university and moved hundreds of miles away, so I was entirely on my own the second year of college. I still had wargames and thought about them a lot, but I had no one to play them with.

I transferred to the same university the following year, so there were some opportunities for wargaming again. I had to declare a major that year, so I picked history--motivated mainly by my wargaming-based fascination with the ACW.

That school year (1975-76), I belonged to a game-of-the-month club. Plus I found a game shop near where I lived. So I was always browsing and buying new wargames (too many to list here; I'm skipping many titles at this point). Somehow, though, Lenny and I didn't play them much. Seemed we had too much else going on--too many other things to do. One game I do remember us playing, though, is this one. I don't remember if it was a folio game or came in a magazine or what--but I remember it being small and fairly simple. And I remember Lenny and I playing it at the kitchen table. But any details of the game slip my mind. I doubt if we even played a complete game.

At any rate, it was probably one of the last wargames we ever played. I dropped out of college after that year, and Lenny and I ended up in different cities. Over the years, we'd get in touch with each other every once in a great while, but we never got back into wargaming. Never lived near enough to each other to do so if we'd wanted to.

So, after 1976, I was almost entirely on my own as a wargamer. Another guy might've changed hobbies, but I didn't. I found ways to continue enjoying this one.
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23. Board Game: Wooden Ships & Iron Men [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:1058]
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The game-of-the-month club I belonged to during that college year made a mistake on one of my orders, so they sent me this game as a free gift.

I appreciated the gesture, but it wasn't a game I'd have ever thought of buying for myself. I'd never had any interest in naval warfare, nor did the Napoleonic era mean anything much to me.

Yet, it was a brand-new wargame. So I just had to tear the shrinkwrap off and look inside. The bright blue mapboard was appealing--nice change of pace from all the earth tones and such of other games. And the two-hex-size unit-counters were a novelty; I wondered how they'd work.

I must've skimmed through the rules and found something of interest, because soon I had punched out a few ship counters so I could give the game a try.

I don't know how long I played, or how many times, but what an experience! Even just playing solo to learn the rules, I was having a great time. It was one of the very best wargames I'd ever played.

Despite the simultaneous plotted movement, I played this game quite a lot solitaire. I enjoyed it so much that I found myself getting curious about sailing. I went through a long period where I wanted to get a sailboat or take sailing lessons (never followed up on that, though).

A few years after I first got this game, a cousin of mine (who'd just been discharged from the U.S. Navy, incidentally) visited, and we played WS&IM. He liked it a lot too.

Eventually I sold the game, but it's probably the game I most regret letting go of. I wouldn't want it back now, though; I've found something I hope is better--but more on that further down the GeekList.
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24. Board Game: 1776 [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:2634]
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Not sure exactly when I bought this game, but it was sometime around 1976. It was the bicentennial year, and I guess even wargame publishers were getting in on it.

I didn't care about the bicentennial hype; it was just background noise to me. But this game looked good--and it was pretty good, as I recall. Very colorful. And the tactical cards reminded me of Kriegspiel (though they were more sophisticated in this game, of course).

I must have also picked up a copy of The American Revolution 1775-1783 around this time, because I have fond memories of that game. The area-movement system appealed to me, and the game just worked well.

But I'm posting this game to the list mainly because it symbolizes the summer of 1976 for me. I had let things slide scholastically the previous year, and in a way it felt like my life was falling apart. I had no anchors anywhere. I'd pretty much decided not to go back to school in the fall, and I didn't know what I was going to do. For now, I was enjoying a summer vacation. Eventually I'd choose a direction.

For one thing, though, I'd been meaning to get into miniatures wargaming for four years. And at age 21, four years seemed like a very long time. I decided I'd better take the bull by the horns and get going with miniatures, or else I'd end up postponing that dream forever.

I still wasn't certain of my historical period, though. Somehow the ACW seemed a little too modern and a little too popular for my liking. And around this time, I'd developed an attachment to the concept of light infantry--swift, agile units that could infiltrate and skirmish and all that. I read that Frederick the Great had been the first to employ light infantry in a big way. So, I shifted my attention from the ACW back through U.S. history to the Revolutionary War (or American War of Independence, as some had started calling it). The Rebels in that war were noted for their "Indian tactics"--and there were even Indians themselves in the war. I liked that.

So, I made the 120-mile drive to the hobby shop and bought three hundred dollars' worth of miniatures, paints, brushes, and rules. I picked 25mm Hinchliffe AWI figures, because I'd heard they were the top of the line, and I wanted the best. I planned to make this a lifelong hobby, and I was going to start out right. If I started collecting and painting now, I'd have an impressive army and a lot of skill and experience by the time I reached middle age.

It was a noble thought, and I was full of enthusiasm. But then I started painting.

I had painted three or four ACW figures a couple years before, but now I was serious about it, and determined to do a good job. It was fun and interesting for a little while.

Then it got frustrating. And after that it went to maddening.

The fact was, I had no patience to be any kind of craftsman. Some people like to tackle jobs that are long, slow, detailed, and painstaking; they're content to take it one step at a time, doing each bit well. For them, maybe it's therapeutic. For me, it was sheer hell before three weeks were out.

I cursed my lack of tenacity, but it got to where I simply could not proceed. It was not how I wanted to be spending my time. I considered just buying a bunch of figures and spray-painting them solid colors. That way I could have a complete army in a jiffy and be ready to play some games.

But with whom?

It hit me that I was all alone now. Sure, I could go look up some wargamers from the old club; but I wasn't going to. I'd had my fill of conventions and clubs and such. I just wanted to pick a period of military history, study it, and wargame it--solo, if necessary.

Yet, I pictured myself with boxes of spray-painted miniatures shoved under my bed. And I wondered when I'd ever pull the boxes out, set up a gaming table, and actually play a game. When I pictured that, I realized I didn't even want to own an army of miniatures. It was a very bulky, inefficient way to play a wargame. It might look good to the aesthetic eye, but my own eye didn't need to be pleased in that way. If I was willing to make do with spray-painted miniatures, I could just as well do without miniatures altogether.

So, I dropped the whole dream just like that. I decided I'd just go back to board wargames. I'd always been aesthetically offended by them and their two-dimensional paper and cardboard, but at least they were self-contained and ready to play. And after all, most of the game takes place in the player's imagination anyway.
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25. Board Game: Napoleon's Last Battles [Average Rating:7.17 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.17 Unranked]
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The years 1977 and 1978 were wild and woolly for me. I'd left home and moved into one apartment after another. And I worked odd jobs until I landed a factory job that would tide me through some three years. I fell in with an old high-school crowd and did some heavy partying. And there wasn't much room in my life for wargaming during that time.

I experimented a little, though. Now that I was back to board wargames, I had to decide which ones. At first, I continued to search for a favorite historical period and stick with it. It's kinda necessary to do that when you get into miniatures, if you're going to make a big investment in them; but you don't really need to choose a period for board wargames. Yet, I'd gotten into the habit; I was on a quest, and I was determined to find "my period" once and for all.

At one time, I set out to buy all Napoleonic wargames. Another time, I switched and started collecting all ACW wargames.

Then I decided I was hopelessly indecisive. So around 1978, I made up my mind to build up a whole library of wargames. That way, no matter where my attention wandered, I'd have a game at my fingertips to cover it.

Specifically, I planned to get one tactical, one operational, and one strategic wargame for every period of history.

And as it happened, SPI was offering deep discounts on their games, so it was a great time for me to build a collection. (Little did I know they were going out of business.) I placed a huge order, and my games arrived in two or three crate-sized boxes. All at once, I had a complete wargame library.

Early in 1979, I counted the games on my closet shelves. I can't remember now if the count was over a hundred or over two hundred, but it was a whole lot of games. And I should have been completely satisfied at long last. But I wasn't.
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