Tuesday 21 March 2017

My gaming story (or how i became a massive nerd)

It was back in the halcyon days of 1998 that the bug of tabletop gaming bit me, leaving a red mark that would last a lifetime. Back then I was part of a local youth club connected to my school where kids would get offloaded for an evening to play games and dance to innapropriate music (Sex on the Beach was a perennial favourite back then for obvious reasons).

One night I got talking to one of my friends, who was prostletyzing about this game involving space marines, weird aliens and jetbikes. Jetbikes! This was my introduction to Warhammer 40,000 and the world of tabletop gaming. It sounded incredible.

Some years earlier I was bequeathed a pile of yellowing second hand Fighting Fantasy books by my step dad, who got them from a local university book shop. Looking at the Russ Nicholson and Iain McCaig art boggled my tiny mind and set all the right neurons firing. These books planted the roleplaying seed early on, but back then I had no idea it would grow into a lifelong hobby and a small business for me.

The smell of the cookie shop in the shopping centre wafted over me as I set foot for the first time in a Games Workshop. The shelves were packed with colourful boxes of minis - so many I found it difficult to comprehend where I should start. A nice employee told me I should grab a paint set because it came with five Space Marines. It was also a fiver, so this seemed like a good deal (hard to believe now), so I bought it, went home and painted my first Ultramarines.

Soon I would be playing in Saturday morning games in the store, matching my pathetically painted marines against whatever new nonsense was pitted against me that week. I would buy White Dwarf every month to marvel at all the things I couldn't afford, but I loved the play reports. Issue 233 was my first and I still think it's my favourite issue, although I stopped buying them over a decade ago.

At around this time a certain craze was taking off. Pokémon was all the rage and the cards by Wizards of the Coast were a hot commodity in schoolyards across the world. I was perhaps the first to bring in a deck, having spotted it in a toy store and thinking it looked like a fun game. But it blew up and I realised that people didn't even want to play the game, or if they did they butchered the rules something terrible.
To get a good game, I had to play with my best friend, who had also caught the Warhammer bug. Through Pokémon I realised that I loved card games - but if only there were more.

Not long later I was on a caravan holiday and I was allowed to peruse Game (the holiday was boring, so this was my moment of fun). There something caught my eye. It was the Portal starter set for Magic the Gathering.

Now THIS was right up my alley. The art blew me away and I loved the intricate strategies around the game. It began a hobby that continues to this day, though admittedly I have stopped buying the cards and just use my vast collection.

Now I was deep into a new world. Whereas I knew a lot of kids who played Warhammer and Pokémon, nobody knew about Magic. I felt like a member of an exclusive club. I became a fully fledged nerd.

A couple of years later I was talking with my best friend about a board game I was given a while back about warriors and sorceries. I couldn't actually remember what it was called (I still can't, but I remember there was a tower in the centre that was interactive in some way), but I assumed it was Dungeons and Dragons. Unfortunately I couldn't find the game at home - I have no idea where it went, but this led me to my FLGS where I asked about Dungeons and Dragons. What I was presented with wasn't the board game I remember - it looked way better. This was the year 2000, when 3rd edition was fresh from the publisher and everyone seemed really excited about it. There were still shelves stacked with 2e, but I went with 3e because the previous version was 'Advanced', so I assumed you had to work up to that. What an idiot. I picked up the Starter Set, you know, this one:

Oh the joy that came from this box. The contents were actually really good - lots of tokens and a big old dungeon map, along with a book of adventures. This is where everything clicked into place. The lite roleplaying of Fighting Fantasy, the tactical minis of Warhammer and the art and, well, the magic of Magic: The Gathering. Everything in D&D conspired to hook me in and enrich my life, and dammit that's exactly what it did.

So that's the story of how I found gaming, or as I like to think of it, how gaming found me.

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