My Wargaming History

I have enjoyed this hobby for a long time, easily the vast majority of my life. It all began in 1989…

1989-1992: I was introduced to the world of Warhammer by a group of older friends. They somehow obtained a copy of the 3rd edition rulebook and were able to read it (it would be a few years before I knew a word of English so the books were a mystery to me). I gathered together my first army from a range of Heroquest, Battlemaster, Grenadier and Game Workshop figures. Painted mostly in enamels, I achieved somewhere around 200 models spread across Orcs, Goblins and the odd Chaos models. Back then all of this somehow fought together.
For a few years we would play regularly every week on a ping pong table. And I lost every single game for at least 3 years. Not just lose, but getting trounced without mercy, partly due to my inability to read the rules and partly due to the more creative interpretation of such rules by my opponents. Formative memories of this time include:

In an allied Orc/Chaos army I was given a huge unit of maybe 100 Fimirs (big expensive monsters). We played lengthwise on the ping pong table so I had around 5’ to cross before I could reach the defending Dwarf army. Those Dwarves had a bunch of allied wizards who ALL happened to have rolled the “Quicksand” spell (back then spells were randomly generated with a d100). That spell created a dinner-plate-sized zone in which everything instantly dies if it doesn’t roll under or equal to Initiative. Fimirs have Initiative 1…

My regular opponent had a chaos army with minotaur lords, ALL of which managed to randomly roll the same set of mutations on a d100 table every game. That gave all of them the ability to leap a long distance over terrain (e.g. houses), smash a unit and then withdraw from the fight. Days of my life disappeared while a team of jumping minotaur’s bounced into my units, killed, left, and bounced again. I don’t think I over killed one of those lords in 3 years of trying…

At convenient points during games (i.e. when I came close to actually winning), various buildings on the board would transform into more Dwarf units (usually in my rear). The apparent interpretation of the “Illusion” spell for this scenario was that the “hidden” unit didn’t need to be paid for in points, the spell doesn’t need to be written down, and the location of the hidden unit can be selected as needed. In fact, many times even having a wizard in the Dwarf army didn’t seem to be necessary …

The turning moment of this phase came at an open gaming convention where we played a public game of Orcs vs. Dwarves. Somehow, the Dwarf army outnumbered my Orcs, despite the fact that they were all +4 Elites (back then you would take a base trooper and “upgrade” him to get better stats). Looking back, I must have been so used to this setup that I didn’t notice anything wrong. By some miracle I actually managed to get across the table and push the Dwarves towards a loss. Suddenly, all of the Dwarf casualties up this point were reformed into units and placed at my rear. Something about “outflanking reserves” was mumbled and the trashing commenced. At the conclusion of the game, a bystander pointed out that by his estimate the Dwarf army (including mystery reinforcement) was in the order of 5 times bigger in points than my Orc force. My eyes were opened and never again closed…
The above might sound like I had a horrible time for years. Nothing could be further from the truth. I had fun each weekend and learned the first fundamental rule of wargaming: It’s a game, so have fun and don’t get caught up in the stress to win.

1993-1995: I start to expand my circle of opponents, largely as a result of some of the encounters during the above mentioned convention. Games Workshop is starting to distribute its game systems to Germany and a new system called “Space Marine” catches me eye in the local game store. The game, now in its 4th edition called “Epic Armageddon”, provides an interesting counter-point to Warhammer’s “blocks” of fantasy troops. In the manner of the early days, I gather huge SM/EPIC armies with limited attention to painting, and we play massive multi-player battles that take most of the day to complete. During this time I am also introduced to the new Blood Bowl miniature board game and take part in a few exciting leagues with my humans.
At this point I am spending maybe a solid day per week in actual game play for several years. My home became the hub for the local SM/EPIC community and a revolving door with new players coming each weekend. The Space Marine rules of the day left a lot of room for interpretation, especially in a massive multi-player setting with new players. During that time I learned the second fundamental rule of wargaming: It’s a social game, so be generous and win by tactics, not argument.

1996-1998: Gaining a driving license allows for a significant addition to my gaming experience: tournaments. I begin to attend local and later international tournaments. My army of choice are the new Warhammer Bretonnians and they do me proud in many competitions. At this time the European tournament scene was highly competitive and the concept of soft scores for painting and sportsmanship hadn’t emerged yet. The tournament scene was also booming with even local competitions often reaching over 50 competitors. In many ways this environment was perfect to hone my competitive game play and over time I came to routinely place in the top 10% of any tournament that I attended as well as winning a bunch of trophies along the way. I also learned the third fundamental rule of wargaming: It’s a complicated game, so learn the rules by heart.

1999-2005: Shortly before the turn of the century I relocated from Germany to Canada. By that time Warhammer 40k had completely eclipsed Warhammer as the most popular system in North America. After resurrecting my 40k Imperial Guard Rogue Trader models, I was off to the races in this exciting new world. The North American wargaming world was very different from Europe at that time (still is). Players had a strong emotional focus on lone models with enormous power – often to the point that the statistics made no sense at all. On emerging internet wargaming venues these supposed “power builds” were hotly discussed and touted as the ultimate in army design. Always a contrarian, and armed with a professional interest in probability theory, I set out to provide a counter-point to these voices. Using a new Eldar army and later a Warhammer Empire army, I went through the Grand Tournament and local circuits. Both armies were considered weak lists at the time and I went further by deliberately not including the power elements of the time (e.g. wraithlords, steam tanks, etc.) and fielding mostly large blocks of basic infantry (supported by a “one of each” assortment of the other entries in the list). Predictably, the law of averages asserted itself and various trophies followed. I was re-affirmed in the fourth fundamental rule of wargaming: It’s a dice game, so learn to use probability theory as the basis for tactical decision making.

2006-present: With a very solid foundation across the fantasy and science fiction genre, I started to explore the world of historical wargaming. The catalyst for this was the appearance of Flames of War as really the first “gamer” focused rule set for World War 2 (as opposed to simulation rule sets requiring days to play). After collecting several Flames of War armies I expanded into Ancients (using DBA rules and 15mm figures) and some early efforts in Napoleonic (using 28mm figures and yet to be determined rules). The latest move also provided an opportunity to establish a larger game room which has triggered a “requirement” to upgrade terrain and finish diorama display bases for dozens of armies. This blog is supposed to serve as a motivational tool to finish some of these projects, as well as share the results with the broader community.

Over the years I played every single Games Workshop system through every edition with the exception of first and second edition Warhammer (which weren’t really wargaming rules in the first place). I sold a fair portion of my first generation miniatures (pre-98) but have rebuild most of those collections since. Across the pages of this blog you will find photos of that collection.

3 thoughts on “My Wargaming History

  1. Just discovered your blog.
    Stopped playing Games Workshop 10 years ago but checking all your painted armies and write ups gave me a nice warm nostalgia feeling ! Thanks so much for your hard work and dedication.

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