My story about Kyle was originally printed in the November 2020 issue of The Walleye. It has been edited and reprinted here.
When Kyle was 13 years old, he visited a friend who had a basement full of miniature hand-painted game figures.
It was a moment of inspiration: “I don’t know what I’m looking at but it’s awesome. And I want in.” What Kyle was looking at was a huge collection of Warhammer miniatures.
To put it simply, Warhammer is a futuristic fantasy themed tabletop game that uses miniature figures (space marines, elves, alien races, and androids), and simulates the battle and strategy of opposing armies or teams.
In the Warhammer universe, there are three main components of player participation. The first is the stories and the books. A Warhammer fan might want to read all the stories and strategy books and follow the gaming news without actually joining an in-person or online game.
The second is the collecting and painting of miniatures. Many people just love collecting the game pieces and either purchase them already painted or do the artwork themselves.
The third component is the actual game itself. Players can band together online or gather in person. There are little groups of gamers all over the world and often these little groups gather together at conventions where the numbers of players can measure in the hundreds. There have even been Warhammer gatherings in Las Vegas with up to one thousand participants!
Kyle participates in all three components of Warhammer. He’s been playing the game since he was 13 and that led to reading books and studying strategies and history, which led to figure collecting and painting. Kyle and his wife Scotia are both involved in Warhammer and spend many cozy fall and winter evenings together, painting amazing characters and creatures for their personal collections; occasionally taking on commission work as well.
Kyle is also the leader of the local monthly competitive games. He guides young and inexperienced players through the Warhammer universe and helps with strategy. He cares so much about guiding and helping and is known as one of the best players and teachers in the country. When he’s not teaching, he’s winning. He’s won many national tournaments and even placed in international tournaments.
One would think that being a champion would go to Kyle’s head, but he’s incredibly humble. He says, “Warhammer isn’t really a mainstream game, but it’s been slowly growing in popularity for almost forty years. And it’s pretty awesome watching it all grow and being a part of it.”
Many years ago, Kyle was struggling. He readily admits that he had a “big old nasty drug problem.” It’s one thing to admit when there’s a problem, but figuring out how to solve the problem can be extremely challenging. Kyle knew he enjoyed playing Warhammer and wondered if he’d be able to channel that enjoyment into long term sobriety. And it’s been working. The dedication and focus and creativity has helped Kyle become mentally strong and healthy. He says, “becoming obsessed with Warhammer was like replacing one addiction with another, but Warhammer doesn’t damage my health or hurt my relationships.”
It can be easy to cast judgement on something unknown. Maybe a bunch of quiet gamers gathering around a table of miniature knights and dragons and weapons seems strange. Maybe it even seems a bit scary or silly. But each gamer has a story about how and why they started playing. And what this game – and other similar games – does for people is almost revolutionary. Imagine feeling alone or out of place and discovering a community who will embrace you and mentor you and cheer you on, whether you’re just reading, painting, or playing.
To some, this game is life. To Kyle, this game represents creativity, community involvement, family togetherness, and sobriety. A peaceful evening at home entails children laughing, dogs barking, cats meowing, dinner cooking, and a beautiful and supportive wife handing him the perfect green paint.