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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Father's Day Musings

Once upon a time, there was a boy whose father gave him a copy of A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs and I was forever hooked. I traveled to Barsoom, and then Pellucidar and then the Hyberion Age with a certain famous barbarian who would be king.

It wasn't long after that I was in Lost Worlds, traveling with Lord Greystoke and fighting evil with The Shadow.  About the same time I discovered 1/72 scale Airfix plastic figures and a company called Avalon Hill. My father bought me my first board game, Stellar Conquest and I bought my second - Panzer Blitz.  Not bad for someone who was 11 . . . and the rest they say is history.

Fast forward to the age of 25 and I was an Infantry Captain in the US Army when I met my Beautiful Bride (The Chief of Staff and Minister of Finance). She thought my 15 mm Minifig 42nd Napoleonic Highlanders were "cute". I explained that they were accurate miniature representations of military soldiers from history . . . yeah, she bought that one.  Okay, they are toy soldiers.

 My Beautiful Bride (Chief of Staff and Minister of Finance), "Call it what you want, they are still toy soldiers and you are still playing with them."

Somewhere along the way my Beautiful Bride and I picked up 5 Honorable Sons: Honorable Son #1 (The Librarian), Honorable Son #2 (The Captain), Honorable Son #3 (The Engineer), Honorable Son #4 (The best 18th Century General that ever lived) and Honorable Son #5 (The Skirmisher). These were my geeks in training and over the years we fought many a battle through time and space.

 . . . and then Dad made a bone-headed move with his Tiger platoon and my T-34's smashed him.

Honorable Son #1 (The Librarian) got married to Daughter-in-Law #1 (The Doctor).

With Honorable Son #1 (The Librarian) I remember getting "for us" Games Workshop's earlier version of Space Marines (now called Epic 40K) for Christmas in 1994; he was 5 years old. He loved the plastic Titan that came with the kit and we spent many a night battling with Space Marines, Space Orks, Eldar tanks and giant robots with our own modified rules. I also remember about a year later when he accidentally knocked some Eldar scout stands on the floor and he stepped on two when he went to pick them up. He was upset that he had broken several of my figures. Not a problem I told him - with the broken figures removed, now the scouts look like they are spread out.
I also remember lining up my War of Spanish Succession troops with him and having a parade.

I remember a game with him when he was 8 or 9 when we were stationed in Germany. We were playing Fire and Fury (which I still think is the best war game rules for the American Civil War) and he was the Union and I was the Confederates. I had given him some basic lessons on linear warfare and the formations used for the game. To my surprise, he led with his artillery right out in front with his infantry trailing behind. I tried to unsuccessfully hint to him, that he might want to hold up and wait for his infantry to support his guns. I was unsuccessful in my suggestions on how his army should advance on the tabletop field of battle. I was determined to teach him a gentle lesson and seize his guns. As the soldiers of the South started to move into assault position and take the guns, I was dumb-founded as he calmly unlimbered his artillery batteries and decimated the gray and butternut hordes (Malvern Hill anyone?) that came within his range. My forces broken and his infantry advancing he remarked to me, "This is a fun game and I liked the way you painted the guys in the red hats (the 14th NY).

He always liked robots, Gundam, and Japanese anime. It was no surprise that during High School he decided to build Tau forces for GW's Warhammer 40K. GW pioneered the hobby with multi-part hard plastic figures which allow more figure variety and easier figure conversions. He wanted a unique figure for one of his squad leaders and I'll never forget how proud he was when he converted his first figure by cutting and repositioning an arm to hold a helmet - instant unique figure for his leader. But I won't mention how many times his Tau decimated my proud Imperial Guard (The Guard's motto: "If we don't take at least 85% casualties, we aren't trying hard enough!). 

When I was 7, Dad introduced me to Fire and Fury and I was the Union.  He told me I really shouldn't lead with my artillery . . . have I ever told you how Dad kept muttering it's Malvern Hill all over again?

Honorable Son #2 (The Captain) got married to Daughter-in-Law #2 (The Lawyer).  For him, the more figures on the dining room table, the better.  Whether it was the sands of North Africa (where in one game my Afrika Korps pulled defeat out of the jaws of victory against his Australians) to 5th Century Europe and into the ECW - this guy likes figures on the table.

Honorable Son #2 (The Captain) deploying his Aussies.  You play better with a hat.

 Honorable Son #2's girlfriend (now wife) asks: "Okay, explain to me again how a high school freshman beat a retired infantry officer and an Army cadet?"

Nothing fancy for us at all.  Just line 'em up and point them in the right direction - we are professional warriors after all!

Honorable Son #2 (The Captain) drinking his secret weapon - hot coffee.

During a Late Roman Civil War Honorable Son #2 (The Captain) crushed me.

Honorable Son #3 (The Engineer) married Daughter-in-Law #3 (The Social Warrior). He likes tanks. Lots of tanks. The more tanks the better. Did I mention he likes tanks. Gee, I wonder who built a World War II Soviet Tank Army? After Honorable Son #3 (The Engineer) got married, he and his beautiful bride (The Social Warrior) reintroduced me to board games and now I have a whole new genre of games that I lose at!

 Honorable Son #3 (The Engineer) showing me his new Mark III Ogre that he is about to crush my command post with this last Christmas.

 Leading the Soviet 42nd Guards Tank Battalion is Comrade Colonel Colinovskii. Colonovskii has seen victory slip from his grasp several times during the long war; would today be different? (you always play better with a hat!)

Honorable Son #4 (The best 18th Century General that ever lived) went to (insert Bama joke) Cow College. I have never beaten him in a game that had a musket in it. Really. The War of Spanish Succession, The American Revolution, Napoleonic, the American Civil War . . . I'm batting .000. I can't wait to try the French and Indian War against him once I am finished painting the French.

 Honorable Son # 4 (The Best 18th Century General who has ever lived) as the Imperial commander redeploying his infantry in response to my advance toward his left flank

On the right flank is my brilliant advance through the woods. Since all of the stands were touching I used one disordered marker to show that the entire division on the right is disordered because woods disorder close order infantry. One regiment of the Infantry division on the left and slightly behind the first division is also disordered. Please notice that Honorable Son # 4, the Imperial Commander, is patiently waiting for the slowly advancing French to emerge from the woods so he can blast me with his stationary line.

Sure I can beat him in WWII, but give him a musket and I am toast.

Honorable Son #5 (The Skirmisher) is still in college, is now the closes of the 5, and is forced, umm, I mean asked to play the most games now. He is also the famous Witch Kind of Sokar and we are rapidly working on updating our characters for IHMN2.
  "Yep, looks like line of sight to me," states Honorable Son #5 (The Skirmisher)

He's my Lord of the Rings player and GW's Lord of the Rings game plus Warmaster got him going with gaming.  Of all the boys, he really likes games where figures represent one figure but does enjoy the occasional massed battle - especially if there are elves, orcs and dwarves. Also you have to deal with his devastating wit during a game. I still convinced it was his wit that destroyed the Russian Forces at the recent Battle of Malana during the Anglo-Russian War.

 Our first skirmish game using Playmobile figures.

 You always play better with a hat on.

 Just when victory was in my grasp, Bolg (the army general) and the Goblin Guard were reduced to one stand.  Knowing that I would lose the game if Bolg was killed, I moved him and and the guard back behind a line of goblins.

Unfortunately there was a small gap and Gandalf the wizard cast a fire ball spell that caused 3 shooting hits - just enough to eliminate the last stand and Bolg with it!

Honorable Son #5 (The Skirmisher) advances his Uruk-Hai crossbows.

These are my boys and now I have daughters. God has truly blessed me. Happy Father's Day.


  1. Great looking family photos, Neil. Happy Father's Day!

    P.S. my two sons (now both active duty - AF and Army) were introduced to wargaming when little, but too soon got into computer and online gaming.

    1. Thank you Dean. Mine did the computer gaming but indulged their poor old dad with his miniature games. It’s nice when they visit they want to play a game.

  2. Thanks for sharing your memories of games with your children. You are very lucky of having such a great family, congrats.
    I have a 16 yo son now who I tried several times to get into the wargames world with different games but though he sometimes agrees to play with dad, he's been always more interested in animals, plants and music.
    Here's a batrep playing with him if you're interested:

  3. Congratulations sir; you should be very proud of your family - and the fact that they are all proficient gamers too simply a bonus :)
    A great read. Thanks for posting.

    1. Duc de Gobin,
      Thank you. I’ve been truly blessed.

  4. Wonderful recollections and your sons do you proud long May your gaming continue and there does come a point when you’re allowed to secure a victory

  5. Wonderful recollections and your sons do you proud long May your gaming continue and there does come a point when you’re allowed to secure a victory

  6. Have to echo the other comments Neil. My son came to a games show with me once when he was about ten and we played in a participation game of ACW with a Union Command...I annoyed our opponent by telling him (my son) that we were the goodies because we were fighting to free the black slaves LOL! He came to my mate Julian's one time too at about the same age...can't remember why but we were having a game...he wasn't really interested though. As for my wife and daughter...they tolerate it with long suffering smiles...whenever I go to a game though, they do always ask if I won! Happy Fathers's not Fathers Day here in NZ....I think that's in Sept but could not say for sure!

    1. Thanks for the story. I have always been thankful that my Beautiful Bride has been supportive of my hobby.

  7. Great stuff, Neil! You have done very well. Happy Father’s Day!

  8. Thanks to all for your Father’s Day wishes. It wasn’t always easy, especially with deployments, but is has been rewarding. I could not done it without my beautiful bride (why can’t I age well like her?) of 35 years.