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Musings of the Welsh Wizzard

What happens when dilution of the hobby becomes homeopathic

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May 13, 2021

Genesis of a Wargamer – Part 3

If you’ve read the previous 2 parts of this series of articles about my introduction to wargaming (here and here) you will know that I’d spent my formative years in school playing lots of Role Playing Games and I had dipped my toe into wargaming but hadn’t actually finished an army or played a game.

In 1983 I went off to College to become a chef and even though I was still living at home I saw my old mates less and less and my collection of games got pushed to the back of the cupboard and forgotten about. In ’85 I finished college and moved to London to start work in a Hotel kitchen as Commis Chef, over the next 5 years I moved around the South of England working in lots of great places and gaining experience in my trade. By late 1990 I was a Sous Chef in a restaurant in Hampshire and was no longer the carefree youth who left college 5 years earlier, I like many people I knew in the trade had developed a pretty good alcohol problem. luckily I knew if I carried on this lifestyle that bad things would happen so I decided to quit my job and move back to Cardiff to try and clean up my act.

So there I was a 24 year old living back in my mums house and sleeping in the same room I had when I was 19, my old games were still in the cupboard and I managed to stop my mum chucking them out to make room for my new stuff, but unfortunately I was too late to save my collection of White Dwarf magazines.

I quickly found a job in a large 4 star hotel in Cardiff and settled back into a more sober life. The hotel was on the east side of Cardiff and I lived on the west side so every day I had to take 2 buses to get to work and as I worked split shifts I had to either hang around the the hotel or travel home for an hour before returning. the first few weeks were tough as I had no money so spent my afternoons in the staff room reading books and chatting to the other staff.

it was on the day I got my first pay check that something important happened to me, you see we got paid by cheque and this meant I had to travel into Cardiff center to cash it. I remember working a morning shift (a rare thing as it meant I had most of the day off) and getting to the bank to collect my wages. Some of it was earmarked for rent and bills, but the rest was all mine to spend on whatever I wanted, and what I really wanted was a drink, and then another drink, yep the bad old me was back and my immediate future was destined to contain lots of alcohol.

But as walked up St Mary street heading to the Angel Tavern (my favourite pub back in the day) I passed a new shop and I stopped and stared at it. The shop was called ‘Games Workshop’ and it had a big banner in the window with the words ‘Warhammer Fantasy’ written on it, I looked through the window and was just amazed by all the models on display, and after a few minutes I walked through the door.

I often wonder how my life would have been if I didn’t go into the shop on that day?

Anyway that’s enough self analysis, back to the main story.

The shop was quiet and I spent some time looking at all the games and figures that were available, I then got talking to the shop manager who was about my age and he told me all about the games they sold. I was amazed at the range and I mentioned my old white box of Warhammer and he said I should get the new 3rd edition of that game as it was much better. He also showed me the new sci-fi game called Warhammer 40,000 or Rogue Trader as it was really called, but there was another game that really caught my eye as it was totally unlike anything I’d ever seen before. The game was called Space Marine and the armies were made up of tiny little stands of men,  tanks and huge battle robots which were called Titans, the cover of the box just grabbed me and I think its still one of the most iconic pieces of art work ever produced.

Gareth (the store manager) gave me a run through of the game and told me that a new version of it was due out very soon but he still had the current version if I was interested.

I walked out of the shop with this box under one arm and a pile of paints, brushes and other stuff under the other

I was hooked, I remember spending my time off painting my little Space Marines as ‘Dark Angels’ and ‘World Eaters’ and I would meet up with Gareth weekly for a game, yes after many many years and numerous false starts I was actually playing wargames.

Gareth quickly became a good mate, he showed me how to paint figures and make terrain and he even managed to find me a copy of my next big purchase called ‘Adeptus Titanicus’ which was almost out of stock at that time

Then in 1991 the new version of ‘Space Marine’ was released and this moved the game out of the Heresy age into the 40K universe, but also had a load of new models to expand my forces with. You see the old game only had Space Marines, Rhino’s and Land Raiders in the box, the new game had Orcs and Eldar included, plus new plastic sprues were being released with different models on it.

I brought the game on the day it came out and started work on my new armies

Space marine was followed up with 3 Supplements during ’91 and ’92 and I brought them all

then in ’93 came a compilation of White Dwarf articles called ‘Space Marine Battles’

by this stage I was really into Epic (as Space Marine was known) but I also flirted with games like ‘Mighty Empires’ and some of the board games that GW were producing around that time but nothing could compare to Epic.

I had pretty much every Epic army GW produced and spent my free time playing the game or preparing for games. Looking back its odd that I never got into the 2 big games GW sold, I did have a small 40K army when 2nd edition came out but I never really got into WFB.

Then in ’93 I tried a new game by GW called Man O’War and this became another hit game for me, although I was good only only got 3 fleets (which still aren’t finished)

by 1994 I started to look around for other games as Epic was starting to lose its appeal, yes I brought ‘Titan Legions’ when it came out but it wasn’t a favourite, even though Gav Thorpe was involved in writing it and he normally can do no wrong

Gareth my long time gaming buddy got a new job and moved to Nottingham, which was a blow, but I was in a small club by then and I was playing other games including some historical ones, like a new game called Spearhead and an older game called Rapid Fire.

these were fun but I found the people playing them were just a bit too serious, I also tried DBA which really wasn’t a game I enjoyed.

What I really wanted was a new game and as luck would have it in 1995 a new game appeared by a new company called Alternative Armies called ‘Flintloque’ and I just loved it.

Flintloque really appealed to me, it was a game that was firmly tongue in cheek, the Napoleonic players at my club hated it with a passion which just made me love it even more and this love affair continues to this day.

But before I get too distracted lets finish off the main story.

during ’96 and ’97 I was starting to play lots of different games and was putting together 20mm armies for WWII, a 15mm Napoleonic Army for a new game called ‘Shako’ and extending my collection of Flintloque figures. I still played the occasional game of Epic but my armies were gathering dust. then I found out that a new edition of Epic was coming out and that awakened something in me and on the day it was released I rushed to the shop and brought the new version of Epic 40,000

the first thing I noticed on opening it was the old classic 20 x 20 bases had been changed to 40 x 10, so if I wanted to use my existing armies I’d have to rebase.

then I noticed they had changed the army lists so units were in different sizes to what we had before.

I tried to play it, I even painted up some bases, but my heart wasn’t in it and I put the game away.

so here I am 20 years later, surrounded by thousands of models covering every scale and genre known to man, but I still have my collection of games from that period and occasionally I still get them out and think about playing them. Epic will always be the game that got me into the hobby and I still paint up the occasional model for my still unfinished armies, I guess one day I’ll get them back on the table and play a game just for old times sake…………..






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2 Responses “Genesis of a Wargamer – Part 3”

  1. Avatar
    Per Broden
    December 14, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Very interesting all three parts of this Mike. In Sweden we had a game that was called Drakar och Demoner (“Dragons and Demons”) that was similar to the Chaosium/Basic Rpg system that was used in Runequest, Call of Cthulhu etc. I would not swap that entry into the hobby for any Grant or Featherstone books! – we had a great time and we were to poor to buy any miniatures anyway! However I think I have more than caught up by now. / Per

    • MikeH
      December 14, 2016 at 6:18 pm

      it’s been interesting hearing similar stories from people who shared our experience of getting into the hobby, it looks like D&D and other RPG were a huge catalyst

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