Monday, 23 February 2015

Of John Hill and Boardgames

I was skimming through the latest edition of Miniature Wargames (March 2015) when I saw a photo of a set of boxed games on one of the pages. Squad Leader no less ! I then read the article that announced that John Hill noted Boardgsame designer and in particular the designer of Squad Leader had died earlier this year. Why this post you may ask.

As a spotty adolescent I had already been introduced to RPG gaming through Dungeons and Dragons that was released in around 1977. At that time although we had unpainted Citadel and Ral Partha figures representing characters we used chess pieces for the baddies. Goblins were pawns Werebears were knights and a Rubiks cube doubled as one of the gelatinous variety. Lots of imagination and most importantly good honest fun.

At the same time a friend who was a boarder at my school started talking about a board game  game called Squad Leader that he played in the evenings with one of the older boys. I was intrigued and after I had stayed behind one evening entranced.

Pocket money was saved and a postal order was despatched. Soon after I had my very own copy. This was my very first true wargame.  Gareth and myself learnt tactics through playing the game and trial and error rather than reading books. The first series of scenarios surrounding The Tractor Works were simple elegant and infinitely replayable. One winning tactic immediately invited a counter. I remember him basing his chances of winning one scenario on making his Russians go ' beserk'!

The names on the counters of Cpl Uhl, Cpl Jones and Cpl Rosenberger (the infamous 6 +1 leader), remain ingrained in my memory. We played numerous campaign games trying to get a 7-0 leader to the almost mythical 10-3 status. One evening saw four geomorphic boards stretched end to end along a corridor as we played the final SL scenario. God knows how normal people ever managed to play this on a table as it must have been 8 -10 feet long. Along came Cross of Iron with its bright orange Russians followed by the unglamorous Brits in Crescendo of Doom. Panzerblitz,  Arab Israeli Wars (I always played the Arabs) Festung Europa, Road to the Rhine and Caesar at Alesia  followed.

As started Sixth form 4 of us played lengthy sessions of Kingmaker whilst under the influence of Heinekin Lager and Double Diamond Bitter. For some reason Lord Scrope always seemed to be the sacrificial lamb in battles......

Finally a mutual friend invited me to his house where I saw hordes of 15mm French and British Minifigs facing each other across a large table for the very first time. Rules were by Bruce Quarrie. The rest is history.

My point is that all of us had a catalyst that started our engagement with the hobby and John Hills Squad Leader was mine.

Thanks John, you have no idea how many happy memories you were responsible for


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