Fort Mill war board gamers offer hands-on history

Special to the Fort Mill TimesSeptember 9, 2013 

Players get into a history-oriented board game at the Fort Mill Library.

ZACH CLAYWELL - SPECIAL TO THE FORT MILL TIMES — Zach Claywell - Special to the Fort Mill Times

— Charles Cabell calmly rolls the dice.

He is explaining the rules of a fairly complex World War II-themed board game to its eager participants.

“What I love about these games,” he says, “is that history is in your hands.”

The six players are huddled around the board of a game called “Memoir ’44,” which features a miniature map of Northern France in the days after D-Day. Tiny toy tanks and miniature soldiers, all painstakingly hand-painted by Cabell, are placed on the board in exacting detail to replicate the conditions of one particular battle after the Invasion of Normandy.

“It’s sort of like chess,” he explains. “Tanks can move three spaces and fire three. And infantry can only move one and shoot one.”

But it’s the dice that controls the soldiers’ fate.

And the dice are in Cabell’s hand.

He rolls them. Etched on each of the three die are emblems of tanks and soldiers and grenades and big X’s.

Cabell has rolled two tanks and an X. He explains that his tanks would get to fire on the enemy twice and miss once.

“Memoir ’44” is a game of military war strategy, but even the best commander-in-chief finds that a battle’s outcome often amounts to a throw of the dice.

“You can see history unfolding,” Cabell says. “Instead of pulling out a book and reading about Normandy, you can experience it and see what people faced.”

Any of the games played by the Fort Mill War Gamers put you in control of battles from throughout history and allow you to learn the strategy and decision-making skills required for victory.

There were 20 other enthusiastic people of all ages in attendance that afternoon at the Fort Mill Library. They were all playing unique and challenging games.

The simplest was a card game played like poker, except the cards were emblazoned with ancient Roman generals and different battle formations.

The most complex was an entire table dedicated to an exquisitely detailed miniature town, complete with hand-crafted houses, trees, infantry and tanks. The game seemed to involve more than a dozen different types of die to throw, each in its own way simulating the drama and confusion of battle.

“You find yourself learning about the battles and trying to understand the decision making process that real commanders used throughout history,” Cabell says.

He picks up the dice again.

“But really,” he says with a smile, “I just love rolling the dice.”

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