My Gaming ‘Origins’

While I have written a lot of role playing and table top miniatures gaming material (and novels) over the years, my start in gaming was with board games.  Like so many people, I started with Avalon Hill and SPI.  I had a copy of Tactics II that I played long and hard.  A veteran on my paper route had a game collection and we played almost every week – starting with Panzer Blitz, Strategy I, Panzer Leader, Squad Leader, Blitzkrieg, Soldiers, and other titles.

A bunch of us traveled to MichCon at Oakland University one hot summer, staying in the un-air-conditioned dorms and gaming to all hours of the night. In 1978 I went to Origins (I think in Ann Arbor) and actually got to play D&D under Gary Gygax himself.

During my recent move (we are building a new house) I came across two relics of that era.  One is the photograph of Tim Hopkins and me, in February of 1978, playing Arab Israeli Wars.  I’m the goofy looking kid on the right.  That was a great game.  It made me do research into the weapons and the war itself, which was what was great about gaming.  It’s a gateway drug to broader learning.

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The other relic I found was my Origins 1978 coin they gave out. Note:  RPG’s are not mentioned on the coin!  It is odd, but I think traveling to these colleges helped me decide to further my education – so another positive byproduct of my gaming.

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One summer I played Terrible Swift Sword with some guys…and we played weekly, all summer long.  That was wild.  I also got into miniatures, playing Tricolor Napoleonic’s using Airfix minis.  No matter what you did those Airfix minis would not hold the paint.

I started with RPG’s in high school, 1977-ish and still have my white box D&D first edition.  I never lost my love of board games – but I did lose the time needed to play them.

In college, my Freshman year, I fell in with a gaming group.  We played D-Day, with Panzer Leader.  It was on a series of maps that covered four ping-pong tables and we played round the clock, all weekend.  Thousands of counters – tons of fun.  My airborne forces (I was the 101st) were scattered but managed to cling onto our objectives…barely.

Of course I moved on to RPG’s, hell, many of us did.  I still have a good collection of board games though that I cherish.  There was something about those early days, moving the counters, rolling the dice, that was pure fun.

Anyway, I thought I would share these with you and I invite you to share your origin stories in gaming in the comments.

One thought on “My Gaming ‘Origins’

  1. Lonnius Maximus

    Great post, Blaine! My older brother got me into D&D, because he and his friends would play and I would watch from the top bunk (until they decided they didn’t want me bothering them). The 80s cartoon also got me excited about it, and reading my brother’s books (namely Dragonlance) further engaged my imagination. The first time I remember stepping into the realm myself was in 5th grade. I often wore camo pants to school, and one of the “nerdy” kids walked up to me out of the blue and asked if I’d be interested in playing Dungeons & Dragons with him and his brothers. He already had an idea for my character: Someone who could camouflage himself like a chameleon. That sounded so cool, and I immediately said yes! He described the rest of the “Misfits” and their powers, which were based on quirks of the players: one could shoot electricity from his fingers (he had red hair and they called him “Coppertop”, like the Duracell battery), one could guide any thrown object to its target (he was always the quarterback in their front yard football games), one who could read minds (he was my newfound friend, who was very, very smart), and one who could turn things into chocolate (because his last name sounded like “Chocolate”). We could also, under the right conditions, all merge into one being that could use all of the powers! I had no idea about rules or how powers worked or anything (one interloper even told us we couldn’t do any of this). All I knew was I felt included in this cool fantasy world where my uniqueness was valuable.

    That game never really went very far, because we had so many interests in other things, but I continued to play with different systems with my brother and his friends as I got older, including Battletech, Fortress America, Talislanta (I think we spent the whole time just creating our characters and never actually played!) and Car Wars.

    When I started college, I was married with a toddler and one on the way, so I had no time for involved gaming or money to spend on it, but shortly after graduation I was given a Barnes & Noble gift card, and I discovered that they had the D&D box set and even sold dice. I purchased them both and became the DM for my family. Now my kids are grown, and I continue to DM 5e with them while my toddler grandson rolls/throws dice around the room! We’ve also played Battletech, Magic the Gathering: Arena of the Planeswalkers, and lots and lots of other board games together (Space Team, Dungeon Mayhem, Codenames, and on and on.) It is our family tradition to have game night on Fridays, although it has been changed to Sunday afternoons. And every year for Christmas we have a tradition of gifting the whole family a board game. I’m passing on the tradition to another generation, and hopefully it will continue long after I’m gone.

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