From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.
It all began with Battlecars, a very old board game by Games Workshop. I’d played other games before of course, the usual chess, draughts, Monopoly. I was already a gamer, but Battlecars was the first game I played that resonated this simple fact.
Everything I do today in terms of gaming stems from my first game of Battlecars. This was the first stop on my gamer’s journey.
For those who may not have played this 1983 classic, Battlecars puts you in charge of a vehicle driving around a futuristic wasteland – about as close as you can get to Mad Max 2 without being sued.
You get to choose your car’s layout before the game, and you then drive around the board trying to be the last car driving.
I wasn’t very good. I missed most of my shots misjudged my speed, and my car was soon a bullet-riddled wreck.
My driver was still alive though and this is where the game became memorable for my. The game allowed for this and my driver hoped out and began running across the board. His objective was no longer to win, but to leave the arena alive.
This sudden flip in the game, and the new challenge I faced stayed with me, even all these years later. He made it, by the way. This way my first major step on a journey that involves not only an enjoyment of games, but of the stories that can emerge organically from playing them.
I enjoy grand, sweeping stories and so games, whether tabletop or computer, needed to meet this dual requirement to really resonate with me. One computer game that succeeded with a similar vintage to Battlecars was the game Doomdark’s Revenge. Recently re-released, this game gives you a task, but leaves the completion method open to you in a game world where local lords raise armies and fight for their liege lord. On some play throughs the casualty list makes Game of Thrones look like Captain America.
Small models, big stories
The next tabletop game to catch my eye was Games Workshop’s Epic Space Marine. This game featured small scale (6mm I believe) models to achieve games which represented grand sweeping battles involving entire companies of space marines, and assorted titans battle tanks and more.
For me this proved to be short-lived, as Games Workshop in their wisdom decided to change the grand scale of the game and instead make it about squad combat that just happened to use tiny models. I’m still not sure why they thought this was a good idea. I passed, as did most other players, and the game sank with barely a trace.
Pixels or plastic
After the demise of Epic I turned back to the computer and was rewarded with the launch of the Total War series of computer games. These took over for me in terms of grand scale and mighty armies, with space aplenty for stories of the rise and fall of empires. Medieval II remains the high water mark of that series for me.
On the tabletop I turned to Warhammer at army end and Necromunda at the skirmish end for story-based games. I was more successful with Warhammer, but learned slowly that whatever game you play, you will ultimately feel let down. By the early 2000s I was ready to walk away from the tabletop.
The Lord of the Rings game kept me around, as the scale and storytelling worked so well together. Eventually, as with all GW games, it changed into something I no longer wanted to play.
At this point I was at the age of being interested in the historical titles I had always snubbed in the past. Along came SAGA, a game of battles set in the Viking times.
Now here was a great game in terms of gameplay and storytelling potential. With an army based around a single Warlord, with his bodyguard and closest warriors and allies, the scenarios made for some intense games and great story opportunities.
These days I still play a little SAGA, but have migrated back to the computer and board games for most of my gaming. I will follow the stories though, wherever they are.