I attended Historicon the other week and it was the first gaming convention I had ever attended. In fact, it was the first convention of anything I had ever attended since I accompanied my father to the Cow Palace in San Francisco Bay Area a few decades ago for a gun show.
I can't really put the experience into words. Except that I distinctly remember many hours spent in my grandfather's basement when I was a young boy and paging through model railroading magazines, picturing in my mind what it might look like with scale equivalent model soldiers marching across the train tracks featured in all those magazine photos. And at Historicon I saw those faded childhood fantasies brought to life on several score of tables.
I grew up in a small town in Northern California. So small that my family drove us, my younger sisters and I, more than 30 miles to the county public library. Once a month. The public library was an amazing place for me between the ages of six and thirteen. I don't remember exactly when my mother signed the release form so that I could acquire an "adult" library card, but after that day I was allowed to go beyond the children's section and borrow books about World War II, books about the American Civil War, books about guns, tanks, planes, and ships. I'm not sure why these things appealed to me as an 8 or 9 year old boy, but I couldn't get enough books about military history. Roman Legionaries: Check! Buffalo Soldiers: Check! Machine Guns & Trench Warfare: Check! How to build 10 historical forts in wood and clay: Check! By the time I was in third grade I was leading marching and rifle drills on the school yard. At some point, however, many of my classmates decided running around spraying imaginary bullets from infinite magazines in Tommy guns while throwing dirt clod grenades was more exciting than completely understanding the several steps of loading a flintlock musket and then marching in parade formation.
By the time I was in high school, I had abandoned my boyhood games of playing French Rangers in the forest behind my home or Vietnam Sniper (I watched a lot of Vietnam movies like Hamburger Hill, Platoon, and I was an avid fan of the TV series Tour of Duty, so I spent a good deal of my weekends packing PBJ sandwiches in my genuine Korean
War surplus pack through apple orchards and mountain wilderness to pretend scouting missions against enemy depots at which I would call in air strikes and sneak away before the napalm rained down; yes, I was a very strange little boy, but I had learned the basics of gun safety from my father at an early age, and I understood the difference between sneaking around in the woods with a wooden stick pretending to be a rifle and an actual rifle at the gun club range with one of my father's REAL firearms). I started playing historical wargames, beginning with some of the classic Avalon Hill titles as well as some from West End Games, and then, through the years, enjoying games from GMT and others.
But when I moved to Virginia four years ago, I felt uprooted and ready to try something different. So I tried a miniature tabletop game where, instead of using cardboard counters on a hex map, I started using little plastic toy soldiers to play games. Now I'm feeling enthusiastic to try new games and paint new figures, starting with a relatively new set of rules for the French & Indian War and a range of figures in 1/72 scale.