Tuesday 22 May 2012

Games that define us Meme

The Frontline Gamer kicked off an interesting Meme that has started building momentum on various wargaming blogs (check the posts on Ferbs Fighting Forces and The Wargaming Site). Games that Define Us was his Sunday Sermon a week ago and I responded with my own list of 10 games that have defined my gaming heritage. Far be it for me to ignore a good meme so here's an expanded version of my reply to his post.

Fighting Fantasy - In my original list on the Frontline Gamers Blog I didn't list the Fighting Fantasy books partly because I discovered them just prior to and simultaneously with D&D. But over the weekend I was thinking about my list and realised that I shouldn't have left these off because without the Fighting Fantasy series I might never have got into D&D and from there into a lifetime of other great games. One the first (if not the first) I read was the classic Warlock of Firetop Mountain. It opened my eyes to a whole new way to play games and I remember sharing books excitedly between my group of friends. I have long since lost that original copy but a few years ago I bought a new edition of the book in a revamped boxed set and started playing these with my youngest daughter instead of a regular 'boring' bedtime story!

Dungeons and Dragons (Red Box) - Discovering Dungeons and Dragons was life changing, without a doubt. My group of friends at school had just discovered the Fighting Fantasy books  and then someone suggested this game called Dungeons and Dragons. I had a vague understanding of what it was - based mostly on negative press about this supposedly dangerous game - and jumped at the chance to give it a go. We bought a copy of the Red Box version of the game and played the scenario that was presented in the DM's book. I’ll remember my first ‘kill’- a Carrion Crawler - for the rest of my life. That first character wasn't particularly well rounded or even original (a hulking barbarian with a passing resemblance  to a certain Cimmerian) but he sparked a love of the game that still burns strong thirty years later!

Risk/Diplomacy - I played both of these boardgames obsessively for six months while I was in the 6th Form of my school. I probably should have spent those 'free study' sessions studying because I flunked most of my exams as a result! But instead of learning Biology or English Literature I learnt an important life lesson - success or failure was in my own hands and nobody else's. Somehow I managed to scrape a place on a University course and with the experience of failure still burning brightly within me I decided to buck up my ideas and work hard. I probably had the most boring and well behaved University years of any student, but I came out the other end with a 1st Class Honours degree thanks in no small measure to the lesson I learned playing Risk!

Warhamer Fantasy Battle - My group flirted briefly with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay in between D&D but we then moved on to WFB and our first venture in Wargames. For me this was an important time because this was when I really got into painting miniatures in a big way. Up till this point I had only painted a few models for replaying with and these had been done with enamel paints and little or no skill! But with WFB I suddenly needed to paint large numbers of troops and special character models meaning I needed to buy a proper set of paints and brushes. I chose Citadel paints mainly because they were the easiest to get hold of, and I stuck with these for years. I always fielded a fully painted army but would invariably get my backside whooped by masses of unpainted miniatures.

Warhammer 40,000 : Rogue Trader - This was the first incarnation of the WH40K universe and was our first foray into Sci-Fi gaming. I loved the models as much as the game and still have the first Space Marine I bought. Despite all the versions of this game that have followed I still love the old Mk I  Power Armour of the Space Marines. I always felt that the original game still allowed for a little bit of the spirit of exploration and optimism that Sci-Fi embodies. Later versions feel like that have become increasingly bleak and dark and while I understand the creative merit of this path its not something that I find particularly attractive.

I still have the Rogue Trader rulebook amongst my treasured collection of old games and now and again I get it down just to admire the artwork in its pages. We didn't play this game for very long but it was important as it got our group into Epic which we stayed with for many years.

Epic - My group of friends played this for a long time. Once again I always fielded a fully painted army, and nearly always lost to unpainted figures! Darn-it!! This was my first foray into small scale miniatures (I think these were 6mm) although the Titans were significantly larger. The pride of my Space Marine army was a huge Emperor Titan that literally towered over everything on the table. Unfortunately my tactical prowess was still zero resulting on one game where I failed to turn it at a crucial moment denying myself the use of half its weapons.

Blood Bowl - Space and money were limited and Blood Bowl filled the gap. I wish I had kept my original box because this is a great game to play over an evening. It would serve our group well now when we can't play our regular campaign and need something quick and easy to fill the evening rather than cancel. I'm tempted to buy one of the newer versions but I may hold out for one of the original boxes if I can find one at a reasonable price.

Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition - Third Edition got me and my group back together after a few years in the wilderness. It got us playing RPG's again and for me, is still the best version of the game. Sure it had its flaws but if one thing is certain it is that any sufficiently complex game will be flawed in some way. But I always felt that for everything this game got wrong there were ten things it did brilliantly; which isn't a ratio achieved by 4th Edition IMHO.

Flames of War - My first venture into WWII Wargaming and 15mm. Regular readers will know that this game has ignited a long dormant passion for 2nd World War history in me. Personally the game system is secondary to the history, I just happened to stumble upon Flames of War first. The key thing about this game is that it gave me the impetus to get back into wargaming again after many years away from it. It has also helped forge a lasting friendship with my Brother-in-law who like me shares a passion for Second World War history.

Fire and Fury - Another set of rules I really enjoy playing are the Fire and Fury rule for the American Civil War. After WWII this is my favourite period and one I love to play. The first game I played with my current wargaming group – Posties Rejects - used these rules and I have enjoyed them ever since.

As I said in my original comment of the Frontline Gamers post this list may not be to everyone's taste but these are the games that have defined my gaming career and hold a special place for me. Of course I could add lots more to this list - such as Dungeon Quest, Talisman and Call of Cthulhu RPG - but I'm limited to just 10 choices!


  1. Hiya Lee, we could all add more games. At one point I seriously considered making it 20 games, but then I'd still be missing some games, =P

    So I decided 10 and keep it manageable, plus it forces many of us to really narrow it down and think about the games that really matter to us. Thanks for posting this up, I found it a really enjoyable read. It's been quite funny watching these posts pop up all over the place over the past week or so. That was kind of the intention, but I really didn't think it would be this successful. Cheers.

  2. So many goodies I remember, I would add Shogun to my list as it started my love of Samurai....

    1. OMG... my dad used to love Shogun. I think he was secretly disappointed I didn't provide him with more of a challenge as a 9 year old. Yep I remember I was 9 because he got it me for my birthday. Canny bugger that he was, used my birthday to get something he wanted!!! I did enjoy pretending to play with him though! :P

  3. Warlock of fire top mountain! Hell yeah! Fighting fantasy books was my first taster, then red box D & D as well. Awesome. I will have to have a think and make a similar list.

  4. Most of those resonate with me, but most especially Fighting Fantasy books, which I introduced my son to and have had a ball playing him on trips away and in the car on the iPad

  5. I forgot the FF books! The time I spent re-doing the same dungeon trying the different options!

  6. When D & D first came out Gary sent me acopy for review in The Courier. My review editor, Arnold Hendrix (now an award winning designer of computer games) wrote that "the rules were very good but much too complicated for the average wargamer (we all played Historical Miniatures in the 60's and early 70's) and would not go very far." I understand that Gary had a framed copy of that review in his office and never let me forget the review whenever we met at conventions, etc.

    Charge! There are no widows.
    Dick Bryant

  7. FF I too forgot them, not my introduction but it fueled the fire.

    Red Box D&D, we got that after AD&D so it just got looked at rather than played. I too will have to have a look and put together a list on my blog


  8. This list could become massive - have to agree with Lurker, Shogun was excellent and kept us sane in Cyprus; also, the old GW game Rogue Trooper - brilliant!

  9. I love the Risk/Diplomacy story. It really is funny how something like a game (or our obsession with it) can have such an effect on our lives, for good, for ill or for both.

  10. I'm with you here, for most of your choices, though I never got into Epic, and havent so far found Fire & Fury enjoyable...


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