Welcome to Wargamer Secret Origins. We’re going to discover the origins of our hobby’s greatest heroes and villains. Which is which? That’s for you to decide …
Our first Secret Origins features Michael Corr’ from the blog, St Andrews Wargaming. Michael’s blog is a 40k blog focussing on his different armies. He also includes regular hobby and battle reports, too. You can follow him on Twitter @standwargaming. One of the cool things on his blog is the “Better Know a Blogger” series where he talks to other 40k bloggers.
Hi everyone, Mike from St Andrews Wargaming here to talk about my wargaming origins. When Adam first announced this series, I was eager to take part. If there’s anything we bloggers do well, its ramble on and on about our hobby and ourselves! I’m going to talk about how I first got into gaming and wargaming, and my current gaming routines. Thanks to Adam for letting me put together my thoughts, though he may regret it. This may go on for a while! Hope you enjoy.
My first foray into gaming happened at a very young age, around primary school I think (pre-12 years old). For my birthday one year, I received a copy of a game called Dark World. This was a game where you led an adventurer through a monster-infested castle to battle the Dark Lord that was threatening the land.
This was a great game, featuring plastic models of the monsters and heroes, a plastic terrain throne room and cardboard walls that fit together to form a castle you had to fight your way through. I played this game so many times with my siblings and friends, and still have my copy back home in Glasgow.
This was also my first foray into miniature painting, as I tried to put some paint on the models with some paints I also got as a birthday present.
Before long, the simple rules of the game were not enough for me. I was a big fan of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” style books of Ian Livingstone, loving the dice combat system and wealth of options in the game. It wasn’t long before I was making up my own “advanced” rules for the game to add a bit of depth to the gameplay. I even had a go at “converting” the board, seeing if I could arrange the walls in different ways in order to create a non-linear path to the throne room.
Not long after that, I got a copy of Dragon Quest for my birthday. In fact, I somehow got two copies of the same game from different relatives on the same birthday! They must have sensed the gamer in me from an early age.
This was a beginners Dungeons and Dragons game, featuring a simplified version of the core rules, a castle board and a whole host of cards; spell cards, item cards, monster cards, etc. I absolutely loved this game. I spent hours reading through the rules and all the cards. I carefully traced the blank map provided and spent a ton of time making up my own adventures and campaigns, writing up dozens of stories and using almost every combination of monster and card in my plans. Despite the many, many hours I devoted to the game, I only ever actually played it once. After I had read and absorbed the rules, my brother, my sister and my Dad agreed to play a game with me. I explained the rules, helped them pick characters and we set off. I think we only got a couple of rooms played when it was time for bed, saying we would pick it up in the morning. We never did though, and it got cleared away without finishing the first adventure. That did not dampen my enthusiasm for it though, as I continued to work away at it for a long time.
Those first few experiences with board games paved the way for a hobby that would become a huge part of my life, an almost all-consuming passion at times that has been as much of an impact on my life and most of the major occasions in it- Warhammer.
Interestingly, my first experiences with Warhammer were before I had even heard about the game.
One day, we were on the train back from Glasgow and there were two teenage boys sitting on the seats in front of us. They were discussing the results of a game. One of them said something along the lines of: “…and then my Knights made the charge on his Orc unit. Thanks to the lances, I was able to kill a bunch of them and rout the unit. After that, I could clear up the flank and win the game.”
I was hooked on what they were discussing, having no idea what it was. It was only in hindsight that I realised they were probably talking about a game of Warhammer. It was such a fascinating conversation to me that I still have that memory decades after it occurred. When we got off the train, my Mum made a remark about how strange what they were talking about was, and probably the problem with kids these days! Little did she know that the seeds had been planted…….
When I was in High School, around the age of 14 or 15, my friend told me about a great new game he had gotten for his recent birthday- Warhammer. He invited me round to try it out with him. This was the 5th edition boxed set, featuring the introduction of two new races; the Bretonnians and Lizardmen. I went round the following weekend, and between games of Goldeneye on the N64, we gave it a go. I was hooked on it. He let me borrow the rulebooks and I devoured them, reading them cover to cover and drooling over the incredible pictures of the armies and miniatures.
We played several more games and it wasn’t long until I wanted to collect my own army. I wasn’t sold on the Lizardmen, they had taken too many beatings at the hands of the Bretonnian! My first purchases were a few boxes of Orcs.
These were the split boxes featuring 4 Orc Warriors and 4 Orc Bowmen. I also got a box of Black Orcs. When I first painted these, I went to the local hardware store and got some white spray paint (I know, the shame!!!). I picked a brand called Plasti-cote, thinking it would be suitable for plastics. Little did I know that what it actually did was coat them in a thick, plastic-like covering, completely obliterating any detail on the models themselves! Don’t worry, I followed it up with a particularly garish paint scheme to match.
I was all set for collecting an Orc and Goblin army until the release of White Dwarf 211. This issue featured the re-vamp of the studio’s Undead army and featured a “How to paint” guide for the new skeleton warriors. The new army was fantastic and made we want to collect them instead. I purchased a few boxes of skeleton warriors and got them assembled and painted up using the guide, though not as good with my fledging painting skills.
This army also featured my very first conversion. I took the arm off of the Heroquest sorcerer and added a sword arm from one of my Orcs to give me a Necromancer to lead my Undead army.
Not long after picking up a few units, the Skeleton Warriors regiment boxed set was released. I picked up a box and got them painted. I remember coming back from school and undercoating them and getting them painted up in a single night. I was very proud of the job I had done on them. At that time, we were doing our gaming at the Games Workshop store in Glasgow. The next day, we went to the store to play a game. I showed the regiment to one of the members of staff, exclaiming “I painted these up in a single night!”. “Yeah, it shows” was the sullen response I got in reply. Those three words kind of stunned me and completely deflated me. Now, I don’t want to be negative on Games Workshop employees. In my 20 years of gaming in the stores and shopping there, this is just about the only negative experience I have had in the store. They are normally very helpful and encouraging to hobbyists, but for some reason, this one sticks in my mind. Fortunately, the Braehead store opened not long after that and I took my gaming and shopping elsewhere.
I also managed to get the GorkaMorka boxed game when it was released for one of my Christmas presents. This was a fantastic game, and my friend and I had a lot of fun playing a campaign against one another.
When 3rd edition was released, my friend and I switched to that. I started with the Space Marines from the boxed set and decided that they would be Dark Angels. That was the start of my first 40k army and one that would be built upon over the next 20 years.
After leaving high school and attending university, my hobby took a bit of a break. I still purchased White Dwarf every month and bought and painted the occasional miniature. My long uni hours combined with my part time work and inability to drive had a big impact on my gaming during this time.
I got back into gaming properly when I moved to St Andrews in 2010. I was still collecting and painting, but hadn’t been doing much gaming in that time. While walking to work one Sunday, I spotted someone carrying a GW case. I stopped and asked where he was going. He told me the university gaming club. I tagged along and was delighted to find a great little community of players. I started attending the club on a regular basis and was back to getting my gaming fix. During this time, I became heavily invested in the club, storing much of my terrain collection there and building and painting a whole bunch of terrain for the club to use. In this time, I started and finished a bunch of major terrain projects, including a 2-foot by 4-foot modular trench system, my homemade Zone Mortalis board and completing about 30 foamboard ruined buildings for a Cityfight campaign.
I started running campaigns at the club. First, the Vogen Cityfight campaign that was run in White Dwarf, then a map-based campaign. During the Vogen campaign, I would write up a two weekly newsletter email to let players know about the results and share some photos from the games. During the map campaign, I started writing up battle reports to share with the players. I also become more heavily invested in reading gaming blogs online and was getting seriously tempted to start one of my own. I had signed up to attend the Blog Wars tournament (run by Alex at From the Fang) and decided that I should start a blog of my own. With that, St Andrews Wargaming was born and has continued to go from strength to strength (if I do say so myself!).
Currently, I am based in Oxfordshire and have been attending a couple of gaming clubs in Oxford and Reading. I have been enjoying the recent release of 8th edition and building up my new 40k armies. Plans for the future include continuing with the blog and writing for Frontline Gaming, as well as attending some tournaments in the UK. I may also look into setting up my own local gaming club to stop me from having to travel so far, but that is way down the line at the moment.
I hope you have enjoyed hearing about my gaming history and encourage you to have a think about your own!
Massive thanks to Michael for being our first Wargaming Secret Origins. If you’re a wargamer, I’d love to hear your Secret Origins. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org or let me know in the comments below.