By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
Behind blacked out windows of a game business on Stan Schlueter Loop, a war is being waged.
Tanks explode and planes crash on a thankless landscape littered with the remnants of a thousand-year war.
This is Warhammer, a table-top game of miniatures that hundreds of Killeen residents from the age of 6 to 50 play avidly at Battlefield Games.
On Thursday, about a dozen regulars began filing into the store in the early afternoon. Battlefield Games owner Will Ellis said Thursday is a particularly busy day because Fort Hood soldiers leave work early.
Gamers brought in cases containing their vast armies. The cases are made with individual compartments for different miniatures. Larger than tackle boxes, they are multi-layered and covered with wall-to-wall foam to make sure none of the models break.
By 6 p.m., the gamers have fueled up on Mountain Dew and Chinese food from the restaurant across the street. Opponents are picked, the game is chosen and the armies are placed on tables the shop has provided for the night's games.
"That was one of my priorities that I made when we moved here," Ellis said of his store. "I wanted to keep that mentality of a gamer."
The intricate game requires its players to purchase, assemble and paint assorted pewter and plastic armies.
They resemble a variety of military forces from medieval times to a far off future where soldiers are fully adorned in body armor and are armed with laser cannons.
Love to play
Avid gamer Troy Lancto said he has been playing Warhammer and other table-top games since 1993. He estimated he has spent $30,000 on the hobby.
"There's never such a thing as being done," he said.
Different gamers are attracted to table-top miniature games for different reasons. Some love the aspect of painting intricately designed miniatures. Some enjoy the lore of the games' epic story lines. Some just love to play.
"You got some people who play to win, some just casually," Lancto said. "There's a few people I'll beef it up against just to watch them cry."
Table-top games have existed for decades. The oldest and most famous is Dungeons and Dragons, a pen and paper role playing adventure game that has evolved and persisted since first published in 1974, according to Dungeons and Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast.
Today, a host of miniatures are offered for various games including a Lord of the Rings-themed tabletop game published by the makers of Warhammer. Several locals like Sauneric McQuagge favor the Steampunk game Warmachine - a futuristic game set in the Victorian age.
But at Battlefield Games, the Warhammer is king.
Larry Smith and Nathaniel McWinters played a two-versus-two match of Warhammer 40,000 scenario called four corners. The purpose is to take and hold objectives placed on the map.
Smith and McWinters were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan together with the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, which is part of the 1st Cavalry Divison's 4th Brigade. Both are now out of the Army, and neither knew the other played tabletop games while deployed.
On the same side in a real war, they were now partners on a different battlefield.
"To play the game is a lot like chess, you come to flex your mental muscle," McWinters said.
To determine the outcome of the battle, players roll a lot of dice. In a single turn, a player can roll upward of 20 dice to determine if a shot hits, if it causes any damage, how bad the damage is, how the damage affects the morale of surrounding soldiers and a host of other factors.
Gamers interviewed insist that a vital factor to their gaming community is humor. Most jokes cracked are in tabletop jargon that resemble a foreign language to the layman, though it is not uncommon to hear the occasional Star Wars joke.
The local community of gamers is as diverse as Killeen itself. Active-duty soldiers and veterans make up the bulk of the community. There are few women, and most there are usually brought into the realm by their husbands or boyfriends.
Kelly Hunter said her husband, Greg, got her into Warhammer. Hunter rarely plays, but as an artist, she enjoys painting the miniatures.
"I had never heard of (Warhammer)," she said while painting a Spacewolf model. "I came from a small town where this just doesn't happen."
Hunter said the local gaming community is similar to a big family. Though the family resides part time in a world of make believe, their friendships are real.
"It's all about having fun and hanging out with people," gamer Marcus Glowczak said.
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553.