Monday, February 4, 2013

How to War Game in a War Zone

I'm a military contractor.  I and my spouse live on a military base in Afghanistan with 3000 or so soldiers from America, Bulgaria, Romania, France, Canada and a few other countries.  I arrived in country in January 2009 for my second time, having previously been in country from 2004-2007 and I knew that I would get bored, quick.

In April 2009, we had a new guy transfer from another base.  His name is Ray and on the third day he was here I saw that he was reading a 40K novel.  We started talking and it turned out that he was a long time gamer and was interested in talking 40K and maybe, if we could swing it, we could get a game or two in.

I had sold off all my models in a fit of depression the previous year and immediately started kicking myself.  After talking with him I started searching the web for anything 40K related, trying to rekindle my love and passion for the hobby.  I quickly found the 40K Radio podcast as well as a few others and I was hooked.  I contacted my favorite game store, Gamer's Haven in Colorado Springs and placed an order for the models I would need to build a Black Templar army and Ray had his wife send him a box of his stuff.  As soon as the models showed up I dug in and got the 1500 point army assembled in two days.

Ok, so now we have models but where do we play?

I went over to Self Help, the base carpentry shop and cut myself a 4'x6' sheet of 1/2'" plywood.  We have an MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) area above our PX (Post Exchange, the military version of Wal-Mart) that has a coffee shop, a few fast food places and some pool tables.  I took that plywood up there and laid it across a table and we started playing without terrain.

We played like this for a few weeks and were constantly getting asked what the hell we were doing.  Pretty soon we had an airman show sufficient interest and I helped him order some Necrons.  Now we were three. I got tired of playing on a bare board so I got a felt mat from Sabol as well as a bag to carry my models so they weren't being carried around in a box and got a few terrain pieces from Games Workshop.

By this time I was getting sick of seeing my bare plastic models so I did something I had always been afraid to do; I started painting.  The hardest part of being over here is getting your hands on spray primer.  I went through every channel I could and had several friends sending it to me.  It was pretty expensive because only about half would make it here and the other would get confiscated (can't send spray paint through the mail).

Well, I got them mostly painted and was pretty happy with the results.  They wouldn't ever win an award but at least they weren't grey plastic anymore.

About this time we got some interest from a few other people and before I knew it we had 8 people playing twice a week... but we didn't have the models to facilitate this so when I found out about Special Operations: Killzone, a set of fan made rules by Big Jim from Galaxy in Flames I knew this was our answer.  We played a campaign using rules that I came up with by kitbashing the Necromunda campaign rules and ran that every Tuesday and Saturday for two months or so until we came up with a winner.  This time allowed the people that were actually interested in getting their own armies together to do so and once we were done we had 4 or 5 players with armies.

Of course, being a military base in a war zone, people rotate in and out and after many of those players rotated out Ray and I found ourselves alone once again but before long we had a few new people contact us through the flyers we keep on the bulletin board at the PX.  We've had interest from people of all branches and several Canadian soldiers and even one French soldier.

Over the last four years we've had over 25 people join our group and many of them keep in touch after their tour is done.  These days we are still playing 40K every Tuesday and Saturday with 4-6 players showing up.  I'm even trying to get some interest in Dreadball because it's an awesome game.

Painting, which used to terrify me has now become my favorite part of the hobby.  I'm not fast and I'm not great but my skills have improved to the point that I'm very pleased with the results almost every time and we have a ton of terrain for use... in fact, I get comments from many players that our terrain is better than their FLGS has.

I guess the point of all this rambling is, if we can make it work over here, so can you.

Stay tuned for more ramblings.

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