A nostalgic trip back, featuring goblins of Moria and space elves.
Hello and welcome to a new segment I will be doing, detailing my experiences with a franchise or series of games. Fair warning, these articles will most likely be dripping with nostalgia and childish glee, as I delve into my past and discuss the memories and moments that shaped me into the gamer I am today. Today I am going to be discussing Warhammer, the miniature board game that hooked me like no other.
First of all, board games have always been present in my life, from a young age, as well as card games. We had the staples: Cluedo, Monopoly (both regular and Duel Masters for reasons nobody knows), Scrabble and Pictionary. We had Guess Who and Ker-Plunk. We Buckaroo’d and chess’d. We even had Risk, an absolutely brilliant game which went the same way every time; I’d start in Australia and New Zealand and then cry as my brother’s Asian forces obliterated me. That never got old.
I wasn’t just immersed in board games however. I was taught how to play poker, go fish, rummy, gin rummy, patience, blackjack and eventually bridge, which is the best card game in the world, honest. I also found my dad’s pen and paper RPG games – Dungeons and Dragons, as well and Tunnels and Trolls. But more on them later. The point of all this is that by the time I was ten/eleven, I had been immersed in table top gaming in all its forms for quite a while. I considered myself a hardened veteran; I knew my way around a pair of dice. I could checkmate people in four moves while chewing on a piece of straw and bemoaning about the good old times when all we had was wooden chessboards, not roll up ones. I was an annoying eleven year old. Then, one day at my grandparent’s house, everything changed forever.
The family had congregated together at Christmas for feasting and awkward silences as was tradition. I spent as much time as possible with my older cousin, who I idolised as he was extremely kind, extremely tall and looked vaguely like me. That made him literally perfect in my eyes. At the time, he was interested in Warhammer, specifically the Lord of The Rings range of models they had. He showed me some goblins he had painted and let me slap some paint on a pair. I did a horrible job and was old enough to know it was bad. He also showed me an issue of the magazine White Dwarf, the Games Workshop magazine that is sadly no longer in print. He let me keep the magazine and pair of goblins I’d defaced. I later skimmed through the magazine before quickly losing interest. I didn’t know the games, I didn’t understand any of the deep lore. Confusion lead to boredom led to me forgetting about the whole thing, until a few weeks later. Clearly the Warhammer Gods (Khorne, Nurgle, Slaanesh and Matt Ward) weren’t finished with me yet.
At a new friend’s house, I was introduced to Warhammer 40k. We played the brilliant Battle for Macragge starter set that pits super- human space marines versus horrific alien creatures known collectively as Tyranids. Playing the actual game, being taught the rules, was wonderful. Suddenly everything clicked and I could see the immense appeal; buy models, glue them together and paint them lovingly, the way you want. Once completed, unleash your army against a friend’s in glorious, messy, complicated warfare with rules that are fun if not always practical. There was a huge amount of lore and backstory, over a dozen unique races and endless possibilities. I went home that night and read the magazine my cousin had given me like it was a holy text. If I slept that night it was for about eight minutes.
From that night my descent into the world of Dreadnoughts and Fire Warriors was quick and delirious. I collected White Dwarfs and read them until they were ragged. I joined an online forum to debate the merits of painting one’s ork trukks red. My dad would bring my brother and myself on trips to Dublin to visit the Games Workshop store and gawk at beautifully painted dioramas. My first models bought were 20 militia from the Fantasy range. I spent a wonderful evening assembling and painting them while watching The Scorpion King. I still have some, they’re wonderfully woeful. I never got to play many games, put the ones I did were brilliant fun and the lore and hobby side of the game was more than enough to keep me happy. My experience with Warhammer as a child was fantastic. It fuelled my imagination, gaming spirit and artistic skills, all this in spite of its outrageous prices. I’ll just sit here, chew on my piece of straw, and bemoan about the good old days when a box of 20 militia was only €19.50.