This book is a rolled-gold, authentic, laugh-out-loud cack-fest that should be required reading for all historical wargamers. While I only took up this hobby 6 years ago, my childhood was so filled with toy soldiers and dreams of heroism and glory that the author's reminiscences struck a clear note of recognition in me. His descriptions of role-playing-games and their players had me laughing till I shed tears, and his descriptions of wargames conventions and the people who attend them was uncomfortably close to the truth!
The author shows how a little boy's obsession with war, fostered by the previous generation's personal experience (in a peculiarly Anglo-Saxon way), gradually morphed into an obsession with historical wargaming and its associated paraphenalia. It's a path that a lot of us in the English speaking world, of a certain generation (ie, baby-boomers to early gen. X) can relate to; certainly I know I could. I grew up with tales of my grandparents' WWII service, collected Matchbox soldiers, read Commando comics, lusted after my friends' GI Joe figures and ran around with my mates shooting each other with imaginary guns or chucking dirt clods (or 'yonnies' as we called them) at each other pretending they were grenades.
Incidentally, GI Joe finally revealed to me that Father Christmas did not exist, as at the age of 8, my family and I lived in the 3rd world where my father worked on an agricultural aid project. I was wavering in my belief of the existence of Santa before then, but gave him the benefit of the doubt. I thought if he really existed, then I would awake to find the aforementioned lusted after GI Joe action figure (NOT a doll!) would be in my stocking despite the non-availability of such a toy in the country we were living, during these pre-online shopping times. Needless to say, I didn't get my action figure, ergo Father Christmas was a sham!
From then on it was reading all the accounts of WWII action I could get my hands on and watching every movie on the subject that came along. I painted many a 1/72 WWII plane, my favourites being the massive Airfix Lancaster, although the Matchbox Stuka and Mosquito came a close second. After that came fantasy role-playing-games and my introduction to painting figures. We used Games Workshop and other figures to keep track of combat, and using my model aircraft painting skills, I can safely say mine were the prettiest figures (not boasting or anything!).
After that it was drinking and girls (but mainly drinking!), until settling down with Mrs. R and having a family spurred me on to picking up the hobby I'd always been fascinated by, but never had the courage to follow up. Initially there was the geek factor to overcome, but now that I'm a father, I'm so uncool (especially in my kids' eyes) that I am now immune to embarrasment. I came along to the NWA about 6 years ago and have been hooked ever since.
Besides geographical and generational differences, you can see that I had a similar obsessive start to my interest in all things war, although Asterix led me to an abiding interest in the ancient world, too. I would advise anyone involved in historical wargaming over the age of 40 to read this book and laugh and cringe in recognition at the stages of obsession that stay with you from childhood
Thanks to John R. who lent it to me (and to nearly everyone else in the club!).