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Why We Game

posted Jul 23, 2016, 2:22 PM by Douglas Sun   [ updated Jul 23, 2016, 2:23 PM ]

Our gaming group that meets at Game Empire was taking a lunch break last     Saturday when the question came up: What was the first wargame you ever played?

This was a question that I had not considered in a very long time. My answer was Napoleon at Waterloo, the gateway, intro-level game that SPI used to give away with a subscription to Strategy & Tactics. But I realized later that this was wrong; my subscription started with S&T 53 before Napoleon at Waterloo arrived in the mail, so my first wargame was actually Punic Wars.

That, of course, leads to the question of why I got into wargaming. The older I get, the easier it is to forget the things that I used to do, and I sometimes forget all together that I played chess I was a kid. Started in the 3rd or 4th grade. I was never exceptionally good at it — I could see up to five moves ahead, but  any deeper than that smoke would come out of my ears — but I played on my high school team for a while.

When I was in middle school, I saw an ad for SPI in Scientific American. Board wargaming as a hobby that could support commercial game publishers was still young, and this was the first I’d ever heard about it. I still enjoyed the strategic challenge of chess, but it was beginning to feel too mechanical, too constrained, too abstract. These wargames seemed to offer a similar level of strategic intensity, but with a wider range of challenges and a little randomization to keep you on your toes. Plus you’d get to geek out on history.

Opinion seems to be divided now on whether or not those SPI games from the ‘70s and early ‘80s stand the test of time. But mostly, they did not disappoint me. I still have great respect for chess, even though I have long since forgotten all the variations on the Ruy Lopez and the Queen’s Gambit. I don't discount that I’ll get into it again someday. But I have not looked back. The wargaming hobby continues to grow. The games continue to evolve in interesting ways, and I’m still excited to see what’s coming next.