Benjamin Crehor, 62, of Midland, does many things a typical retiree can do. In the winter, he competes at the Midland Curling Center. He reads history books. And he works on his N-scale model train.

But he also has a lifelong desire that will be new to most people.

Since he was about 10 years old, Krehor has played historical military simulations in board game format, commonly known as war games. Having spent a lifetime buying, learning and studying games of increasing scope and complexity, he takes the hobby very seriously.

The 28-year US Navy veteran has now accumulated more than 650 war games, including 26 at the Battle of Waterloo alone.


Krehor admits that it is not easy to explain his gaming hobby to others, but he tries.

“It’s hard for people to understand. … I usually see deer-in-the-headlights,” he said. “So I usually bring up the risk, because everyone seems to know the risk (published by Milton Bradley). I describe Risk as a level one game, whereas the game I play is level 7 to 10.”

He’s not kidding.

Serious war gamers, like Krehor, fight historical battles on maps that can reach the size of a ping-pong table and have more than 2,000 small, square pieces representing land, air, and sea units. Most rule books are 20 to 40 pages, but Krehor says his collection has 90 pages.

Rule books are long because game designers want to accurately simulate battles and battles. For example, tactical games may attempt to affect lines of sight, air support, or morale during battle.

Strategic games can include variables such as diplomacy between nations and the economics of countries trying to support their war effort as they train soldiers and build reinforcements.

Needless to say, these games are not for the faint of heart – or the pocketbook. Krehor said his most expensive game — a large replica of the Russian front in World War II — costs $600, although smaller, simpler games can cost as little as $20.

Depending on the scale and complexity of the conflict, the game can take days, weeks, or months to play.

Krehor said he likes to watch history unfold while using different tactics and strategies used in actual combat. He often reads a lot about the battles he recreates.

“It’s strategy and history … and trying to see if you can do better than the actual generals”. “And I’m the kind of guy who likes to root for the underdog.”

Krehor began playing war games as a youth and continued the hobby as an adult. Ironically, it was difficult to play when he himself was on active military duty. He spent 18 of his 28 years in the Navy on ships, leaving little room to fight his board battles.

Now that he has retired, things are much easier. His basement northeast of Midland is filled with small, movable tables that can fit together to allow him to create the maps he uses for his wargaming.

Recently, he had set two games, both on the Allied invasions of World War I – Omaha Beach in France and Tarawa in the Pacific Ocean.

“It’s a lot easier if someone comes into the house and says, ‘What is this?’” he said.

Once it happened that some workers came to his house to see his furnace. They saw his setup and one was interested because he also played war games.

Crehor plays most of his games himself. Some gamers find it difficult, but others enjoy directing both sides of the battle, making tactical or strategic decisions that face both sides – and trying to do the best of both sides.

Should the Allies have landed in a different location than Normandy? What would have happened if the Axis powers had counterattacked quickly with their nearest armored forces?

Simulation Publications Inc. His favorite play is “Wellington’s Victory” made in 1976, which recreates the Battle of Waterloo.

Krehor thinks he’s played the game more than 30 times. He has studied warfare most of his life and used many different tactics against the French, British and Prussians and their allies.

He also enjoys World War II games, collecting more than 300 from that era.

He said there was something cool about having fighters deployed on a large map, ready for battle, and knowing that he was going to direct the conflict and create his own history.

“I’ve always loved big games. Setting one up, researching it, studying it and thinking about my next move,” Krehor said.

“I’m 62, going on 17.”