Ode to Joy!
My mental twin Frontline Gamer wrote an article yesterday about the games that has defined him as a gamer. I thought it was an interesting concept and even though I've touched upon it in my 'About Me' page I haven't distilled it down to its essentials. In this list I'll simply go through board and miniature games as my roleplaying career has a history of its own.
So here we go...
Drakborgen (aka DungeonQuest). It was back in 1985 and I was merely seven years old when my parents bought this new Swedish game called Drakborgen (The Dragon's Keep) for me and my older sister. I don't think they could have imagined the repercussions...
The game had lots more rules than other board games we'd come across (like Monopoly and its ilk) and I think it took a couple of years before I had got all the rules down pat. And then the expansion was released with more heroes, catacombs and more nasty monsters and traps. We played this a lot! Dying most of the time but always having a blast. Drakborgen also introduced me to roleplaying but I'll leave those for another post and simply focus on board and miniature games this time around. Bottom line is... this is where it all started.
Battle Cars (aka Combat Cars in Sweden. Yes, they "translated" it into another title in English. I do think it sounds better though). By now I had played a couple of roleplaying game, including the Swedish post-apocalyptic game Mutant. It was a small step from that world to the world of Battle Cars and its roaring engines! In fact there was rules for using Battle Cars in Mutant and the scenarios included in Battle Cars took place in the Mutant setting. Anyway, this was a kind of step up from Drakborgen as you could customise your own car and it was an entirely adversarial game! You actively hunted your opponents and used every cheap trick in the book to get them to bail out of their burning wrecks, so you could run them down as they tried to flee! Muahahaa!!
This was my second big board game experience, but it was still games in Swedish and I had no idea what was waiting for me 'out there'...
Space Marine, 2nd ed. My first foray into miniature gaming was through GW's second edition of Space Marine (epic). This was back when they supported their "specialist games" equally and epic was serious business. Me and two friend shared the starter box, splitting the three factions among us. I took the Eldar and gradually built up a sizable force, including several titans and loads of infantry. I'm still proud of how disciplined we were when it came to painting; although we used unpainted models now and then it was never for long as we systematically painted everything we bought (sure, epic is easy, but still!).
About this time I bought my first White Dwarf (issue 140 with Tyranids on the cover) which had a great impact on me! It included the Golden Deamon finalists and those pictures etched themselves onto my retinas. I can remember many of them even today! This lead me to ask my uncle, who lived in London, to buy me the original Rogue Trader book which started my 40k interest.
Axis & Allies. I was tempted to throw in Risk in this list but even though I played that continuosly through my childhood it wasn't until I bought Axis & Allies that I realised how simplistic and luck driven it is. A&A was my first really heavy (at the time!) wargame and it was fun discovering different strategies as you learned the game better. We played it a lot but did feel it started to get a bit 'samey' after a while as the basic scenario didn't change. It felt like we had figured out most of the best moves and each bout started to look the same. It would be interesting playing it again now and see if we would see other strategies now.
Necromunda. I entered the GW world through epic and although I played both Fantasy Battles and 40k as well they never really got me hooked in the same way (I've never had a "complete army" for any of them). However Necromunda really blew me away! I was weary of the cheesy cover, with the over-muscled Goliath ganger, but the game itself looked like fun and painting 10-15 models seemed a lot easier than an entire army. So I got a Cawdor gang going while Anders painted some Delaque and other friends started working on their gang of choice.
What really made Necromunda a unique experience for me was the campaign system, allowing you to not only develop your gang, but also aqcuire new territories and create a name for themselves in the Underhive. The rpg elements of the game are what stand out as I think back on it today; it was very easy to get immersed in the setting. Much more so than, for example, Infinity even though that is a much better game. Another important aspect of my Necromunda experience was that all my friends played it as well. It wasn't just two or three of us (like it is today) but there were probably eight or ten gangs fighting for dominance which lead to a lot of cool stories being told!
Necromunda also opened the door to GW's other smaller games and I've enjoyed them a lot more over the years than their Big Two.
Twilight Imperium, 3rd ed. Since Axis & Allies I hadn't really invested in any other board games (ok one: Blood Bowl) but when I came across Twilight Imperium it was an instant buy! It just seemed so cool! Trying to learn it was like going from Risk to A&A, but by now reading rules was becoming second nature and we were up and running fairly quickly. TI had the wargaming and production aspects we liked from A&A but on top of this was exploration, politics, research and trade! Even though each game took an entire day we probably played this almost once a week at times.
This lead us to start looking more into FFG and we played a lot of Warrior Knights and Arkham Horror as well.
It was right about now (2005) that I moved to Japan and for a couple of years I didn't play any analog games at all. I did buy a PS2 and later on an Xbox 360 when I was there. And after I got married I discovered an international gaming club based in Tokyo (JIGG) and I started going to their bi-weekly gaming nights...
Battlestar Galactica. I remember watching the tv series and being all excited about a board game based on it being released... by FFG nonetheless! One of the other club members got it (Goran I think) and after our first game we were all like "this is the best game evaaaar!!!" and proceeded to play it at almost every game night for quite some time. The extra level of player interaction that BSG brings to the table was new to me and the whole traitor mechanic felt like a fresh breeze (yes I know it wasn't the first game with this mechanic). As it happens I was a Cylon during my first ever game (which we won) but since then I have almost always just been a plain old boring human. :(
Full Thrust. This is a bit of an odd one as I've actually only played Full Thrust a few times, but it was the game that opened my eyes to the world of miniature gaming beyond GW. Up until now I'd simply not bothered with anything else as the minis didn't look as good or the production values felt cheaper. However, I ordered two starter fleets for Full Thrust from GZG and was surprised at how cheap they were and how well made the actual models were. Discovering an entirely new ruleset that didn't mention WS or BS anywhere was extremely refreshing! This also helped me re-evaluate my notion that if a game didn't have slick full colour rulebooks they weren't worth reading, and as I began reading StarGrunt II the door to 15mm gaming started to open...
Heavy Gear Blitz! Locked & Loaded. This is even more odd as I still haven't actually played a single game of Heavy Gear! So how can this game define you?! I hear you ask. Well, it was kind of a follow-up of Full Thrust. I had know about Dreampod 9 for several years but I was actually more interested in their Gundam-esque setting of Jovian Chronicles. However, the miniature game based on it was put on the back burner but I still felt like playing with big mechs, so Heavy Gear it was. I had read several of the rpg books so knew the setting fairly well and decided to order a Northern army during one of DP9's Christmas sales.
The miniatures were lovely and fun to paint (and magnetize!) but reading the rulebook was the true eye-opener for me. Full Thrust had been different, but it was still a space based game so was bound to be different from a land based wargame. However Heavy Gear seemed like it had a lot in common with, say, 40k (a few squads, a vehicle or two etc) but the rules were completely different. Not just different in resolution mechanics but conceptually completely different! There was electronic warfare, flanking fire, target painting, shooting through cover, airstrikes... everything with rules that made sense (although convoluted at times). I still haven't played it but it lead me into a different path of 15mm sci-fi wargaming.
Infinity. I remember seeing the first Infinity minis back in 2005 and thinking "wow, those look really cool, I wonder what the game is like" but as a GW player it never went further than that (although I did check back now and then to look at the minis). Right now I can't actually remember what made me start looking into it again but this was in 2010 and I had just moved back to Sweden. I had a bunch of 15mm stuff I was painting but thougth it would be fun to play a skirmish game again. I bought AE Bounty which I still think seems like fun, although I haven't tried it. Then I started looking at Malifaux and although the minis are beautiful I was tired of the whole grimdark/steampunk/cartoon aesthetic of GW/HoMachine and I didn't feel that Malifaux was different enough.
I started looking at Infinity again, this time reading through the rules and being impressed at all the opportunities they offered! As I started talking about it with my friends Beasts of War ran their Infinity week and Corvus Belli announced their 50% off army deals and that was that. I ordered my Yu Jing and... I think you know the rest.
And that's where I am today! I could probably have squeezed in 15mm sci-fi gaming as 9½ but it really was Heavy Gear and Full Thrust that opened that door for me. These days I mostly play a lot of board games which is what most of my "gaming friends" enjoy. Or rather, that's the only thing they enjoy. Anders is the only one interested in miniature gaming but even so, he hasn't played Infinity since September last year and although he's gearing up for Dust Warfare I wonder how often it will actually hit the table.
Bah! I shouldn't end the post all doom and gloomy! We have tons of fun with the board games, and I can get my miniature game fix from other places. Not quite sure what to do with my desire to play more roleplaying games though...