My First Wargames

Early eighties, Vienna VA, eleven year old me sat in my lair (the basement) thrilling over the three giant  boxes my older sister had brought me from her latest garage saleing. I did not know what they were, I had never seen anything like them before. Rish and Stratego were the closest to war games I had gotten to.  Two I could tell were something to do with WWII.  The other I recognized as I had recently read my father's copy of The Hobbit. The huge gun on one cover reminded me of a movie, Guns of Navarone (wrong theater). No idea who the dusty dude on the last cover was.

Although I have copies of all three now, they are not my originals. Other than a moldy smelling mounted map and chits to WotR. Teenage years, college, military service, several cross country moves are not conducive to keeping one's childhood artifacts intact.  Following are stock photos of the covers.


I've played War of the Ring to completion numerous times solo and face to face. I really, really like it despite its flaws. I enjoy playing games, who wins is tangential at best. The experience, the lessons learned, solving its puzzles are the fun parts of wargames. This attitude is in part due to War of the Ring being such a flavorful and imagination stirring game. The Event Cards, Characters, Magic Items and multiple mechanic systems (individual combat, search, servants of sauron) and the Asymmetric conflict were all extremely innovative. It was many years before I experienced games with similar attributes. I feel very lucky to have been exposed to these so early.




I've started Atlantic Wall campaign several times, always solo. But never finished, as my short attention span always gets distracted by some other game or activity first. At age 11-12, it taught me NATO symbols. They were so logical and regular, built up from smaller set of symbols. In a word elegant. I loved learning them, loved knowing them. I balk at recent tendency to use vehicle, or worse soldier, silhouettes on counters. Rocket Artillery, was so cool. I tried so hard to drive the US back into the sea with those Nebelwerfers, but failed. Perhaps my first historical lesson learned from war games.




Campaign for North Africa, ...

Imagine this and the monster Atlantic Wall were your first and only for a decade or more examples of wargames. I "learned" this size of maps, this number of counters, this level of complexity and detail are what wargames were suppose to be. Lord of the Ring was my sample of a light game.

I've been computerizing CfNA since I was a teenager, ~35 years. Although infrequently with many breaks, several of years long length. I've used it to learn new programming languages. First in COBAL (it's what my father did and the books / computer I had access to used it). That was extremely short lived as luckily also on my dad's bookshelf was one of the best programming books ever written K&R The C Programming Language and I got my own computer. I spent many hours creating data structures and data entering all the planes, tanks, guns, and formations. In college I rewrote everything in Pascal (Turbo Pascal specifically).  Then later, while still in college, into the latest, hottest language, C++.  In which much progress was made. Since then it's been rewritten in Perl, back to Pascal, a short dabble into Delphi. The last and final was to Python. Where it has remained for 16 or so years. I don't really intend to ever finish it. I mean I might, but that's not really my goal. It's my "project car", the thing in the garage that I tinker with when the fancy strikes me. Although, recently I've made significant progress towards a web based companion to playing physical game, spurred by few solo plays.


I can't express how influential these items were to my life. It was the birth of a lifelong hobby. I spent hundreds of joyful hours with these at a very young age. I learned how to read technical documents and still love SPI's numerical section format.  (The first "programmed instruction" Avalon Hill game I tried to learn confused the hell out of me because of it's "weird" structure). I'm sure I'm predisposed to analytical / problem solving skills. But I can't help but believe studying, untangling and applying the rules of these games gave me a strong leg up. Analysis of complex systems has never seemed like work to me. It's always been fun, like these games. A challenge I seek out. I was learning programming at the same time which turned into a career where those skills are paramount and that I have excelled at.

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