A (not so) Hesitant Comeback

I started wargaming somewhere in the 80s when, as a kid, I discovered a wargames book at a local bookshop. Unfortunately, title and author escape my memory, but I have an inkling that it was something by Don Featherstone. Anyhow, as I couldn’t convince my brother to play with me, the whole thing remained an imaginative enterprise.

Later, as a teenager, I got into roleplaying. This, of course, led to regular visits to the local games store, where the lure of the Games Workshop stuff piled up in shiny columns did its trick. After weeks of nagging, I was given the original Space Marines and Adeptus Titanicus boxes as a Christmas present and even managed to convince a friend to start an Orc army. Hours of happy gaming were the result. I still remember the bizarre battles we would fight till the bitter end – no morale rules meant the two last opposing figures standing on the field would slug it out!

What’s with the white hair?

Some time later, I discovered Miniature Wargames magazine, which I even subscribed to for a time. I purchased a 15mm SYW army, but never got far painting it. The last miniatures game I remember buying was Man o’ War – great fun, but I still was a lazy bastard when it came to painting.

Never finished painting it.

Cut to a long break: university, relationships, career – I almost completely forgot my gaming, or probably just pushed it aside. Although I occasionally sneaked into a games store to have a peak around, I would never tell anyone about my past as a nerdy wargamer and roleplaying gamer.

However, in recent years there was an astonishing shift in cultural values: Nerds became chic, nerdy stuff was all over the place, and people started to share their own stories and hidden passions. I talked to a couple of friends and realised how many of them had been RPGers or board gamers. Still, the idea of getting back into the hobby didn’t even cross my mind.

But then something even more astonishing happened: Wil Wheaton and Tabletop. Suddenly, boardgames were cool. And, even better, my girlfriend liked the show! This led to a no longer sneaking visit to the game store, where I discovered X-Wing. I bought it on a whim, convinced my girlfriend to play and she loved it.

This was the beginning of my comeback as a wargamer. It did take some more steps from saying ‘Cool, the X-Wing ships are painted, I don’t have to do that!’ to painting a Senators shuttle I ordered from Shapeways to starting to collect and paint 28mm pirate figures to play Ganesha Games’ Flashing Steel.

But those were only little steps, and one might say they were done lively. Best of all, they were done with the full support of my girl K., who has become an avid gamer and a cunning general.

As for many people my age, wargaming is a return to an old fascination. Sure, I am doing many things differently from then. For starters, I am quite a disciplined painter nowadays, finding it a relaxing activity and a nice break from my day job. On the other hand, some things are not so different at all: it turned out that wargaming is still an imaginative enterprise – albeit, when you are lucky enough to have great gaming partners, a shared one, which is the best of all.


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