We cannot enter into alliance with neighboring princes until we are acquainted with their designs. We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country—its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, is marshes and swamps. We shall be unable to turn natural advantages to account unless we make the use of local guides.

–Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter XI: The Nine Situations, [52].

I remember my first tabletop wargame: Warhammer Skirmish Battles. I was complete newbie, didn’t know the rules, didn’t have my own painted figures, and tried to use the logic I’d learned from Dungeon & Dragons and other RPGs.

The scenario seemed okay enough: the forces of chaos were out to fight a holy relic hidden in a village and destroy it. I played Skaven supported by demons and undead.

In retrospect, I’m not sure if my side lost because I was newbie or if the game was stacked against us. There was something about a mounted knight having magic helmet. This helmet let out a flash of light which paralyzed half our troops for a turn or two.  And when we tried to fight back, it seemed like our opponents each had an armor save of 2+.

The game master, who just so happened to run some of the forces of good, kept saying: “Well, the points for both sides are equal. See? The points are equal. See?”

He was very insistent.

I never want to wish an experience like that on anybody.

Also, in retrospect, I’m surprised I entered the wargaming hobby all. But I found another group, a few people who mentored and guided me.

One these actually ended up being The Bearded Bastard…

Next on The Art of Wargaming:

My First Game With the Bearded Bastard.