I was walking my dogs at a local park this morning. It's a very nice park, one that both my dogs and I like very much. For whatever reason, my mind always goes to the hobby when I am there.
This morning, I was thinking about the beginnings of my love for wargaming and toy soldiers. It all began when I was about 4 or 5 when I saw some very small painted soldiers being sold at a local flea market. This was the early 80s and my memory tells me they were someplace between 6mm and 10mm. They were horse and musket era infantry in shakos, red tunics and sky blue trousers. Someone's effort at Napoleonic British? Perhaps 19th century Danes? Who knows but I loved them.
(These aren't Brunswickers but you get the idea)
The next purchase I remember was a pack of Minifigs 15mm Brunswick infantry. These would be my first foray into painting toy soldiers. I found a uniform book (probably from the local library) and did my best effort to paint them in their black and sky blue uniforms. I used Testor's gloss paints and I can only imagine how sloppy and shiny they turned out. As a boy of 6 or so, I was fairly proud of my efforts.
I spent a good amount of my childhood summers at my father's house and the local library had an excellent collection of military history and wargaming books. The one that I cherished above all else was Paul Hague's Sea Battles in Miniature. I read every word and poured over every picture hundreds of times.
During those Summer days, I made my own ancient galleys out of balsa and card and even attempted to use the guide in the book to assemble an Italian Duilio-class ironclad out of balsa.
Many years later I purchased my own copy of Sea Battles in Miniature and it remains a hobby inspiration to this day.
It was in high school that I was introduced to formalized wargaming with proper rules. My friends stumbled into Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy Battle 4th edition. I purchased a discounted box set from the Walden Bookstore at my local mall. I swapped the elves in my set with a friend to get his goblins. My painting was crude, slapping on black, olive green, red and yellow to those simple plastic miniatures.
Over the years we would have many epic and massive battles in the Warhammer world...we even branched out into 40k and other GW sets. My best friend Rob is still painting and collecting GW stuff, however my collection these days is limited to vintage green skins, Man o' War and some unpainted box sets.
It was in college that I returned back to my historical roots and never really turned back. Projects were started from 6mm to 28mm from biblical to 20th century. I tried, and failed, to make sense of DBA and DBR.
It has been over 4 decades since I first laid eyes on those tiny red and blue clad tin soldiers and I still love the hobby very much.