Unlike many gamers who seem to have been playing Scrabble in the playpen, I came relatively late to games. I'm sure there were all the usual favourites at Christmas, but there was no tradition of year round gaming in my family. And there still isn't, which makes me wonder from where I got the taste for them. My first proper boardgames were played at about ten or twelve years old, with my schoolmates: long, often contentious games of Moviemaker, Masterpiece, Monopoly and Buccaneer and subsequently more games of Seastrike, Risk and Escape from Colditz than any man should have to endure. Meanwhile, from the age of thirteen, I had been drawn into the exciting world of historical figure gaming which I have stayed with, on and off, ever since.
In the mid Seventies four major events occurred that would shape my gaming destiny: my mate's brother told him that Diplomacy was the best game ever invented and we should try it (we did, and he was badly mistaken); D&D was released (and we were hooked); I bought a copy of Football Strategy (and promptly became a lifelong sports gamer) and I discovered Charles Vasey's excellent Perfidious Albion. I have never been the same since. We played D&D exclusively for a couple of years, then Traveller, Chivalry & Sorcery and the many spin offs, with me creating huge campaigns and adventures that eventually fizzled out. Although it has proved difficult to recapture those heady days, they remain among the best games I have ever played.
In 1978, or thereabouts, I got tired of painting figures and roleplaying and decided to try boardgames again. As the non-fantasy British industry was decidedly low key, my wallet turned to the expensive American imports from SPI and Avalon Hill. Weekly visits to the shop of AH's UK agent usually resulted in the purchase of a White Dwarf and concern as to how I would ever afford these games. Russian Campaign cost $10! After scrimping and finding a Saturday job, the first game I bought was SPI's Outreach, which nearly put me off for good, but this was quickly followed by Jutland, Victory in the Pacific, Squad Leader and the infamous Warlord. We then entered something of a golden age, which kept us happy through hours of Cosmic Encounter, Junta, Acquire etc till we all started work and my collection started to bloom. By the early eighties, I was starting to show signs of frenetic game buying, then there was calm and the great sports game era (literally hundreds of games of Statis Pro Baseball and Pennant Race) but by 1988, with the German games starting to appear and lots of spare cash (I was a pseudo-yuppie), I was into the mega-acquisitive phase of my gaming existence. You can read elsewhere in the Cabinet about just how bad this got. Nevertheless, it is hard to measure the impact of the European titles and but for them I might still be playing long, turgid stuff like Civilisation.
In 1989, when the German game invasion was really rolling and I had all but tired of writing for Games International, I decided to start my own magazine, Sumo. And the rest is history (but can be found hereabouts in The Cabinet). My tastes are now pretty much honed down to European games, traditional card games, sports games, the odd wargame and computer game. And I'm still plugging manfully away at some of my own designs. I buy the occasional RPG for ideas and I'm quite taken with card game systems, but loathe the collecting aspect with a vengeance. My game group has solidified into a tried and trusted group of eight or so stout fellows who rotate neatly to provide plenty of gaming and nowadays I enjoy the social aspects as much as the games. My main gaming interests are innovative systems, design and atmosphere.
On a personal note, I'm 34, and until very recently I was employed as a corporate treasurer. Following redundancy, I am now between jobs and while deciding whether to return to further education, I am trying to make a go of self employment. This will involve consultancy work, some more freelance writing and PC related solutions. My other interests are cinema, books, baseball, history, computer graphics, railways, sumo, cycling, mountain biking and kite flying. I'm an active member of Sustrans (a cycle paths charity), Greenpeace, Transport 2000, The Railway Development Society and the Pendon Museum Trust.
[Ken: In 1998, Mike sold the rights to Sumo to the publishers of
Games Games Games and the magazine ceased publication. Mike continued to write
for G3 for some time, however, in addition to penning articles for The Cabinet.
Sadly, in early 2000, Mike left us. He retired from the world of games and is now only occassionally spotted in smokey bars in Paris gazing wistfully into the rain.
But, alack and alas, he writes no more.]
The Game Cabinet - email@example.com - Ken Tidwell