Does anyone remember the rather complicated baseball simulation McDonald's Restaurants handed out back around 1970 or so? It was comprised of about a hundred 1/2" perforated chits (imagine that!), a gameboard with the baseball diamond on it, and a set of rules that looked like calculus to an 8 or 9 year old. I believe the game was played by drawing a chit out of a cup for each pitch, and then moving your player around the bases accordingly.
My own nostalgic game quest revolves around the card-driven paper sports games that came in boxes of Pop-Tarts around the same time. You drew cards from a regular deck and matched it up to a grid of possible results. I remember baseball, football, basketball, hockey, bowling...
I did something like this with my buddies and baseball cards, and we did a football game, too. A penny was the ball and you placed it on the ball carrier. We took turns "flicking" cards at each other's and if one of the defenders hit the ball carrier he was down. If the card took to the air and flipped over, that player was out for the rest of the play. If your card overlapped another one, the one that has covered was "blocked" and couldn't be flicked.
My story is pretty similar, since my intro to wargaming came through Outdoor Survival's sister game, Yellowstone. My uncle, who had been a wargamer when he was in college, got it for my family after we visited the park one summer. I remember that we played it a few times, but none of my brothers or parents really got bit by the bug. But there was that catalog lying seductively in the bottom of the box......oooooohhhh, everything sounded so complicated, but cool. It wasn't until high school that I finally decided to dive in and order War at Sea.
Interestingly, Yellowstone went through a little revival for me in college when my roommates saw it sitting on my shelf and asked to play it. We had a great time and must have played it 20+ times over the course of the year. We also played a hyper-violent version of it - one of our favorite tactics was to have the hunters hunt each other instead of the animals if there weren't any reasonably close by. Then again, this was a game where the females and young of the herd were worth the most points, so it basically encouraged you to try to kill the women and children of your opponents. Maybe we were just keeping in line with the high standard that Avalon Hill set with that one!
(I didn't realize my post was truncated earlier. Here's the rest of what I wrote.)
So, after playing the hell out of my Outdoor Survival game (which I still have, BTW), I headed to the hobby shop outside the front gate of the base, hard-earned cash in hand, and I went to buy my own game. I saw all sorts of mysterious and wonderful new things in that hobby shop that day, even though I'd been in there a number of times before to buy my airplane and tank models. But I was now looking through the eyes of a financially self-sufficient teenager (heh!), and I was going to step up to the "serious" stuff.
I bought a copy of AH's Waterloo that day; the price is still marked in black on the box lid: $7.00. Seven dollars! I was wiped out! I barely had enough to pay for the game, but pay for it I did, and my buddy Andy and I headed back home and we played it for hours. This was at the beginning of the summer after my freshman year, and that game became a focal point for the genesis of my new and still very real hobby.
I still have that Waterloo game, too, though I can't r emember thelast time I had it out to play it. I picked up PanzerBlitz that summer, and maybe one or two others, also discovering that AH wasn't the only company that made wargames. I bought a copy of Conflict Games' Overlord and Bar-Lev, even though they were very expensive at $8.98 per copy! I played those a lot with Andy and other buddies for the next couple of years, and I really got into them. (I remember always playing Overlord on this table in the recreation center on Chanute, sitting beneath a huge reproduction of Picasso's Guernica. Cool, huh?)
I kept going from there, buying games when I could afford to, and finding other kids who also liked games. Being on the base and playing at the rec center also provided access to some GI's who also were into gaming. We started to do clubs and bigger, "team" games. There was also a classmate who's dad fought in the '48 Arab-Israeli war, and had a huge house in town where we set up a miniatures table in the basement.
Tons of fun!!
My folks neither encouraged me nor discouraged me. I guess they were happy enough I wasn't getting myself or any girls "in trouble." Heh!
I started on my eleventh birthday, when my grandparents took me on a shopping trip to Children's Palace. I discovered Milton Bradley's war-oriented line, and a huge selection of Avalon Hill games. I walked away with Battle Cry! and 1914. I was playing Battle Cry! in short order, but it took a couple of years to get through the rules to 1914. I still have them both, though I had to buy a better-condition used copy of the latter on e-Bay a couple of years ago because 1914 had been played to death.
My dad absolutely reviled wargaming, especially after the first year, I played in an extremely hostile atmosphere. He thought that they distracted people from things that mattered, like school, sports and church, plus he couldn't understand them, so he figured they were all stupid. Every time I bought a game it was a fight. He used to quote some Bible verse about putting down the things of a child and picking up the things of a man, and wargames were definitely in column one. When he wasn't angry about my hobby, he was making fun of it, and going out of his way to ridicule me in the process.
Strangely, he was a lot less upset when I slowed my wargame expenditures, and spent more on reefer and booze.
Then he bought my subscription of S&T. I thought he'd finally come around, and then he confessed it was to keep me from buying any more games. If I had six a year coming in through the magazine, then there'd be no more reason for me to waste money on anything else. I remember when I bought Squad Leader, I rode five miles to the hobby shop on my bike, carried it back strapped to the back of the seat (where the rear tire scarfed up the box a little bit), and he threw an absolute tirade.
He started coming around a little bit when I was in college. My grades were up, I'd gotten incredibly bored with smoking dope, and I credited my frequent appearances on the Dean's List, rather than in the dean's office, to the fact that wargaming was a valuable asset for a political science major and history minor. By grad school Dad was no longer actively hostile, in fact he was somewhat encouraging, though to the day he died he insisted that his earlier attitudes were entirely correct for the time.
He found out too that there celebrities who wargamed. One of his customers told him that Pat Sajak was a wargamer, so if the guy on Wheel of Fortune endorsed it, it must be okay.
My dad lived long enough to see my articles published in The General, Fire & Movement, Moves and Command. At the same time, that writing got me into some places that impressed him, such as work at a think tank project at Carnegie Mellon University.
He ended up very proud when Inchon was published.
One reason why I started this thread was to see if anyone else had begun wargaming in a home that was actively hostile toward it. I know people who started gaming with their dads, and a fair number of men who taught, or are teaching, their sons to wargame. One of the things that made me feel the best about designing Inchon was finding out that a couple of guys I know were using it for just that purpose.
My experience was the exact opposite, and I have to confess being slightly envious. I had an extremely complex relationship with my father, and wargaming complicated even worse. However, if it wasn't that, it probably would have been something else.
So I do regret having the most unhappy story so far to thread that I started. Just remember how lucky you were if your parents were even neutral, but if they were encouraging, then you hit the wargaming jackpot.
Wow! Jim, that was a very moving and sad story. I never realized anyone so close would be so negative of a somewhat healthy hobby.
I am very lucky then to have at least 2 of my 3 sons interested in gaming (they like any game and they along with fellows like Chris Fawcett and some other local fellows have shown me the fun in any board game besides war).
I would rather have my sons playing games with me then them playing video games or off running around. I hope this does not hurt you too much Jim but I really feel for your dad if he could have seen the fun look on your face if he played with you it could have changed things a bit. When I play my sons I try to let them win but also lose so they know how to do both gracefully but just to see their looks when they are playing with 'Dad' in the 'big boy games' and their excitement is really worth it.
I am glad you and your dad made mends in the end.
I am that much more thankful and grateful that my mom bought me war games when she could have used it for food or clothes.
Sometimes we take things for granted, thanks for showing me the joys I can experience with my boys.
This conversation reminds me of a letter to the editor I read in the General many years ago (I don't have the issue anymore so I don't remember which one it was, unfortunately). It was from a prisoner in the Nevada correctional system writing to tell his story of trying to play wargames as an inmate. I think this occurred some time in the early 80s. He played them in the prison library, but eventually his games were confiscated because the administration deemed them to be anti-social and likely to encourage hostile, aggressive behavior. It seemed funny (in a sad way) back then, and it seems 10x more so now. Compared to the violent content of some video games and cable TV, wargames seem downright intellectual!