Saturday, September 24, 2011

Early Gaming Clubs

A recent discussion on EN World regarding game clubs back in the day got me thinking about my own early game club experience in Northern Illinois in the Seventies and early Eighties.  There were a number of clubs that existed and I frequented two primarily.  Both included wargaming and tabletop roleplaying games, eventually.

The first club I attended was in the early Seventies, not too long before the release of the first (O)D&D game booklets.  I had already been playing some wargames, having moved on from chess and parlor games like Monopoly, for the most part, seeking games with a bit more complexity and variety.  Some neighborhood friends had started going to the Belvidere Recreation Center, part of the Waukegan Park District, on Saturday afternoons.  It was a fairly diverse group, in that it was frequented by both younger gamers and experienced players, some of whom were military personel from Great Lakes Naval Training Center and Fort Sheridan.  I remember that we used their meeting rooms, which only needed to be reserved and didn't charge a fee for the space.  Sometimes we would be allowed to use their indoor basketball court to layout elaborate naval battles using rules from Jutland (1967) but mostly we played tabletop games.  I recall that the vending machines included Glen Rock Soda and Vitners snacks.

After a time a club formed at the Lakehurst Mall on the outskirts of Waukegan, that inlcuded players from the Belvidere club but was more RPG oriented.  By then, in the mid- to late Seventies, a lot more folks had begun playing D&D then AD&D.  Although most players like myself had regular weekly games in homes of friends, we would gather on weekends for larger games or games with other local players.  By then we also had begun looking forward to gaming at Gencon each year which was finishing up its run in Lake Geneva (expanding to use the Lake Geneva Playboy Club and Resort before moving to the University of Wisconsin–Parkside campus in Kenosha in 1978).  That space in Lakehurst Mall eventually became a dedicated space for the Chamber of Commerce, if I recall correctly, though I believe by the early Eighties most players had moved on.

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