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Discovering Tabletop War Games and Miniatures

It all started on my Fourth Birthday

The day I became hooked on miniatures (toy soldiers) I was a little boy living in North Little Rock Arkansas and it was my fourth birthday. Because of a fateful birthday present my father bestowed upon me in the most thoughtful of ways I remember only he could do. I received a massive box of little green army men!

My dad must have cleaned out the toy store of all the sets of little green army men, and all sorts of accessories to go with it. The real coup was the box they came in. It was a real ammo box which used to hold 120mm artillery rounds. The ammo box was a HUGE box to me then. I could probably have fit two of me in there at the time; and it was full of army men, tanks, APCs, and more! I spent most of the day playing with them and from then on I was hooked on little toy soldiers.

Playing "Army" - The early years

For years I played "army" on the floor with my younger brother. Thinking back on it my younger brother was a champ for letting me win all those "battles". Stew if you are reading this, I cant thank you enough for putting up with me. 

My father would sometimes come home from a hard days labor at work and find me there puttering away with my imaginary battlefield on the floor of our small living room. My dad would often drop down to his hands and knees and play with me and my little brother. My father was always positive when I was playing. Today with young kids of my own, I can only imagine how tired he was some days when he would patiently play with us. Dad would often let me "win" after a pitched battle and it was very encouraging as a young boy to have that kind of interaction. I played with those toy soldiers until I was twelve, and I kept those Army men until my own boys were four and I gave the toy soldiers to my own boys to play with.

Finding out about Miniatures

Years later a much older kid who lived around the corner named Scott showed me his miniatures collection. Scott was and still is a smart guy. He had a love of the miniatures and especially painting them. As a young kid wondering around looking for playmates, I would go over to his house and he would occasionally indulge me and show me some of the miniatures he had lovingly painted with such detail and tanks he had lavished details on. I loved looking through his copies of white dwarf magazine with their gritty look, great background stories, and exciting scenes in miniature, I had never known such possibilities existed! I really loved what I saw, and it was his gift of two white dwarf magazines that set me on the path to miniatures. Also because the issues were spelled using the Queen's English, "Colour and Armour" were spelled differently, because I read it so often, I often spelled those words wrong in some of my middle school papers to the consternation of my teachers. 

Scott, I am pretty sure you might read this... I want you to know how awesome you were for showing me this amazing world. I cannot thank you enough. I still have both of those white dwarf magazines and I keep them safely on the top shelf in my studio.

Later, at the age of 12, I must have been one of the few people in the entire state of Arkansas to have purchased the original Rogue Trader rule book published by a young company called Games Workshop. What really got me into Rogue Trader were Squats and picked up what I could with what little money I could scrounge up and I picked it up from the only tiny mom and pop game store in Little Rock that I knew of. If you never lived in Arkansas in the 80s you probably had no idea how hard it was to find another person to play a miniatures game with. Still I convinced a number of my friends to play, and loaned them miniatures to play with. I was still learning to paint and build scratch built models. It was definitely a challenge.

Finally finding other gamers like me!

Later after moving to surburban Chicago area when I was 15 years old, I found plenty of friends who played war games. Suddenly there were a lot of people who knew what I was talking about and also loved it too. Kevin, Larry, Brian, & Tom. My best friends in high school, and greatest foes on the table top.

We played and strategized for the next game all the time. We made fun of each others work, (mine was terrible in those days), and we would play massive games over the weekend. Larry was probably the best painter of all of us back then, his work was really good. Kevin was the strategist of all of us. Brian was a great guy to play a game and make some jokes with. Tom, he was tall and could make jokes and just seemed to get the power play aspect of the game.

We all went our separate ways after high school but would come together over the summers to play as often as we could into our early 20s. We also played Battle Tech, Dungeons & Dragons, crazy stuff with Legos, and of course the occasional PC strategy game. We enjoyed the games because it was the social aspect we enjoyed most.

Over 20 years later... Still gaming and still learning. 

Fast forward years later... I never stopped enjoying the games. My kids all think miniatures gaming and painting is fun, and I have to say it is with a bit of pride I get nostalgic as I spent time watching my kids paint models and play games together and with their friends. Sure the early years were tough. Try keeping little fingers off your $750.00 resin models which look sooooooo amazing. My oldest boy's first real word was "BOOOOOOM!" Which he would say loud and proud every time he saw a tank model. 

I am nearing the end of an amazing career in the Army and continue service in government and defense contracting. I even spent a few years as a director at Games Workshop and learned a great deal about how to paint better, and what it takes to build and run a company which makes fantastic games, and miniatures to go with it. More importantly I have made some amazing friends from all over the world and keep making new friends based initially on the love of war gaming. Today it is a lot easier to find other gamers and share in knowledge and joy of the hobby thanks to the internet.


I formed Covert Intervention Games to bring back great games and miniatures in 20mm as both a business to create jobs and a great way to give back to the hobby community which has given me so much. We want to bring a golden age back to the hobby and help introduce new people to this fun and exciting hobby. Nothing beats the spectacle of a large battlefield laden with beautiful scenery and with gloriously painted miniatures on all sides fighting for victory.

For those interested, I still have that old ammo box to this day. I used it a few times over the years to hold some of my army gear at home for a while. Now its getting new life again as a carrying box for when we travel to game conventions, and as a template for a new kind of packaging we are looking into for games and accessories.

Also, Dad, If you are reading this: Thanks.  You really did a great thing for your four year old boy. I will always love you for it.

So what about you?

Tell us your hobby story too. We find it fascinating to hear your stories of how you discovered the hobby. So please comment and tell us what started you on your hobby journey by shareing:

  • How did you come to find out the hobby?

  • Who showed you your first minis & game?
  • What part of the hobby made it exciting for you?
  • What would you love to see in war games you are not seeing now?

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  • Rory Crabb on

    Like many I played with classic “green army men” when I was younger and then discovered GW through a Warhammer club that was held at lunchtimes at my Middle School.

    As I got older I got into historical gaming, unfoutunately I didn’t play much when I went off to Nautical College and went to sea with the Merchant Navy. Since moving into shore-based employment and settling down my gaming has really stepped up a gear.

    I now write and publish my own rules online and play as much as I can :)…. Still tempted to get the old Army Men out.. maty be a good way of getting my kids involved :)

  • Mick Sayce on

    There were two high points. For a Christmas present in 1963 ( we were living in Hong Kong and I was 5) my father made a small wargames table with papier-mache hills on a hardboard base. To go with it I had two boxes of both Airfix 8th Army and Afrika Korps . Fast forward 8 years and at school I noticed a small diorama of a Highlanders v Cuirassiers (again Airfix). There was a note saying anyone interested should contact a bloke from two years above. That was in 1970 and I am still just as much interested in the hobby as I ever was.

  • James Manto on

    It was the Airfix WW1 tank . Someone gave it to me when I wax about 6, and my dad took me down to McCormick’s Hobbies to buy some WW1 Germans and Americans to go with it.

    Started spending all my birthday and Christmas money there.

    By age 12 I had a lot of Airfix soldiers and Roco minitanks then discovered the Featherstone and Grant books in the library and Wargamers Digest on the magazine rack of Dundas Hobbies.

    Haven’t looked back.

    I still use the boxes my dad made to keep my Airfix soldiers sorted.

  • James-CIG Dev Team on

    I miss my Army men. I remember having so many tanks though and that the tan Army was the evil army. Looking back, its why I liked playing tabletop games and the chance to do so again with CIG is an awesome opportunity!

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