The origins of the HAWKS (Harford Area Weekly Kriegspielers), was in the spring of 1994. Andrew Haag, a wargamer from Aberdeen, MD, offered to teach a non-credit course through the local comity college, Harford Community College, entitled: “Wargaming With Miniatures (A tool to make learning history fun)”. A main reason for his development of this course was to seek out any unknown gamers in the Harford County area, in hopes of establishing a small circle of gamers who may not have otherwise known about each other. The course ran for seven weeks, from 3/29/94 to 5/17/94 and met once a week in the evening at Bel Air High School. The course had an enrollment of four: John Duda, Chris Palmer, Eric Schlegel, and Tracey Roy. The students all came to the course with previous wargaming experience, so Andy eliminated much of the introductory material and concentrated the course mainly towards game playing.
At the conclusion of the course, Chris Palmer offered the use of his parents’ basement as a location large enough to run multi-player games, if the class wished to continue meeting on a regular basis. Haag and the students agreed upon this, and held games without any formal schedule but with some regularity. All the participants were eager and willing to run games, creating a trend that is still one of the strengths of the club today.
As the months passed, word of mouth brought other interested gamers to the meetings and the active membership grew to about eight. Members also ran games at Andy’s house and at Eric’s. The scheduling of games became more formal and the gamers decided that it was time to develop a name for the group. At a brain-storming session at one of the regular game meetings the “Harford Area Weekly Kriegspielers,” or H.A.W.K.S was thought of by member Rob Dean and quickly agreed upon.
In the Fall of 1995 Chris Palmer and his wife Jennifer (also a HAWKS member), moved to a new house with a room large enough in which to establish a gaming table. Most scheduled games, which by this time had been set regularly on alternating Thursday nights, were held at this location with some continuing to be held at Haag’s and Schlegel’s houses. By the following summer, the membership had reached about a dozen active members and the Palmers’ game room became too small to accommodate the group. This coupled with the problem of running single games large enough for all the members to take part forced the HAWKS to consider other quarters; some place large enough to run more than one game and accommodate a continually growing club.
Member Buck Surdu was on the vestry of St. George’s Episcopal church in Perryman, MD. He suggested that the Parish House was available, and the membership decided on the move, even though it would necessitate the periodic collection of dues for the use of the building. The facility proved ideal for the HAWKS’ needs and meetings were held there every other week, with meetings subsequently being moved to Friday evenings.
In the first few years the HAWKS met the club developed a distinct personality that has continued throughout its history. Members are of all ages, with those under 16 requiring the company of an adult, and of both sexes. All periods, rules, figure sizes, and levels of experience are encouraged. In fact, the club prides itself on its wide range of wargaming endeavors; from the classic periods such as ACW, Napoleonic, and WWII to more obscure fare such as WWI East Africa, Franco Prussian War, and even Buck Rogers; from skirmish games to corps level actions; from 6mm to 54mm. Another distinguishing feature is the determined belief of the membership to avoid formal organization. There are no officers or bylaws. Dues were avoided as long as possible, and were just enough to pay for the gaming venue.
The club stayed at St George’s until 2016, when the closing of the church forced the club to find a new home. They were able to then find a permanent meeting space in Grove Presbyterian Church in Aberdeen, MD; and have been meeting there since.
The HAWKS have not remained isolated in their enjoyment of the hobby. They actively take part in conventions sponsored by other wargaming organizations such as HMGS East, especially Historicon, Cold Wars, and Fall-In. At these conventions they participate in both playing and running games. At Cold Wars 97 for the first time, the HAWKS organized their own club room of games run by the membership. These games were open to all convention participants, but the HAWKS wanted to have all their games co-located. This allows us to assist each other, watch each others stuff, and socialize. This was very successful and has become a permanent practice for the club ever since. Another practice that became a convention staple for the HAWKs since 2001 is occasionally running kids’ games throughout the Historicon convention each year in an effort to help promote the hobby to the next generation.
Members of the HAWKs, often called the HAWKs Expeditionary Force, have also attended a number of conventions run by other organizations in several different states; such as Nashcon, NJ-con, Huzzah!, Origins, and others.
The HAWKS launched their own regional convention, called BARRAGE. The first one, held at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, MD in October 1996, was a huge success with over 100 people attending, and is now an annual project for the club. The HAWKS have continued to hold BARRAGE every year, though they have since changed venue a few times. The con was held for many years at Archbishop Curly High School in Baltimore, Maryland. Then in 2012, the club moved the location of BARRAGE to the Havre De Grace Community center, bringing it back into Harford county, where the club is based. In subsequent years the attendance has grown close to 150 attendees, and the con is now held over two days.
Outside of participation in conventions, the HAWKs have embarked on other outreach programs as well. In the late winter of 1997, the HAWKS cooperated with an area school to present a learning oriented program and game to a class of Cecil County second graders who were learning about the American Civil War. Both the students and their HAWKS instructors had a great time.
Another project undertaken by the HAWKS was the presentation of a battle from the war of 1812 each year on Defenders’ Day at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. The fort is the site of the writing of the national anthem by Francis Scott Key. The HAWKS ran this project from 2002 to 2004.
Starting in 2011, the HAWKs established the “Armies for Kids” program, in which the club gathers donated armies and terrain; prepares, paints, and bases everything, and then runs a special kids game at every Historicon where each attending child is presented with 2 painted and based opposing armies, a box of terrain, and a bag of other game aids, like rules, rulers, and dice.
The HAWKs have reached a number of milestones at this point. In 2004, the club celebrated their 10th anniversary, and at the HMGS East Cold Wars convention that year, they hosted a party for the convention goers with a wargame themed cake, a display of photos of current members and a large 40-player pirate game extravaganza. Then in 2014, the HAWKs celebrated their 20th year as a cub at that year’s Historicon. Festivities included a cake, ceremoniously cut with a civil war cavalry saber. In 2019 the HAWKs reached their Silver Anniversary, celebrating 25 years as a club! Who know what the next 25 years will bring!
~~ Christopher Palmer, 1/98, Revised 11/09, Revised 7/19