I recently had a most excellent wargaming experience. This led me to think about other great wargaming experiences I had had. The ones that inspired me and motivated me to be the gamer I am now.
So in a rough chronological order, my list of best wargaming experiences:
1. Reading the introduction to "Battles with Model Soldiers" by Donald Featherstone when I was about 10. Thinking about that moment still inspires me to want to play wargames.
2. My first role-playing game with a couple of mates, Ian Basford and Richard Bargh. I still recall the utter rapture I had imagining and creating a world in which we played the game. I was about 18.
3. Umpiring a role-playing game for a friend, Richard Bargh, in which he undertook a quest. I had sketched out some ideas, but found during the game that I was able to improvise and tell a story and lay clues for my gaming partner to pick up on. I remember feeling so empowered, so creative and so proud. He was so impressed with the game he told his father about it, as if he had actually done it.
4. Playing in Brian Cameron' game of consequences at my first COW in about 1991. I was taking part in developing an inspiring new approach to gaming. The game called for political and personal skills of oratory, diplomacy and obstinacy.
5. Playing in an exhibition Kriegsspiel run by Bill Leeson and Arthur Harman at a London wargame conference. The sheer feeling of this is what command and control must have been like, limited information, message writing, confusion, fear, indecision and exhilaration.
6. Being General Gallieni in Jon Casey's "Home Before the Leaves Fall" megagame. I had no input from any umpire. My vision of the game came from game reports from players reporting back their impressions of things they could not see. So it was as damn near to the real thing that a game can get.
7. Getting involved in a heated argument between myself as the USAF Bomber Commander and a US Army General because of my poor phone manner. This was during one of the large World War 2 megagames by Jim Wallman, played in the old Camberley Staff College rooms. I left the room after the argument with my comrade in arms, thinking, "that is that last time my air force will support HIS army." The insight into the emotional business that Command in war is like was stunning. I stopped, gobsmacked, total insight into Command.
8. Running the first of my two megagames in 1999, "Shamless and Impudent Lords". I stood there watching everyone get on with my game, everyone playing my game, using my rules and getting involved with my concepts. And I realised the game that I had lived with for about a year was no longer my baby.
9. Playing a board game in Vevey, Switzerland. The game was some strategic historical game about power and territory grabbing, I forget the name of the game. The main point was that I conducted the entire game in French, from the rules explanation, through to the player interactions and negotiations.
10. Sitting in a closed-down Armoured Personnel Carrier (a Mowag Piranha) with a team of 6 playing a networked bridge simulator game, Artemis. Utter immersion. Utter concentration. I was the engineer and spent the game "fiddling" with the engines and had no idea what was happening outside of my "engine room" other than handling requests for more power.
More role-playing experiences.
11. As an umpire I ran a long running Silesian campaign. One of the party, a charismatic priest, wanted to lead a mission to negotiate with the Mongol leaders. This was in 1240, Mongol recce teams had been sighted on the Polish / Ukrainian border. The team persisted in this ill-stared mission. And when they realised they Mongols listened but dismissed their diplomacy the team tried to assassinate the Montol leaders, knowing it meant certain death.
12. Listening to two players, Mark and Julie, discussing, or arguing about why Julie's character had had an abortion without telling Mark's character - the father of the child - about it.
13. My friend John Watkins ran a special game for my character Gaunte, Yelmalian Rune Priest / Lord, as part of my wedding present.