The trick is to lie on your stomach, chin on the floor, and study the toy soldiers from really up close. From this vantage, Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia—the hated Prussians, Tom says—looks terrifyingly authentic. The prince is wearing a black uniform and a black hat with a white plume. He's astride a white horse, and he carries what appears to be a swagger stick. Considering all the terrible things that are about to befall old Ferdinand, he ought to have more in the way of weapons.
"CHARGE!" yells Tom. His command rolls low across the battlefield like a hot wind, heavy with the malty scent of Labatt's Beer.
Aw, wait a minute, Tom. Hold off on the attack a second. How come you always get to be Napoleon? Or you get to be Marshal Lannes, one of Napoleon's favorites?
Tom Glassic, the 6'3", 260-pound left guard of the Denver Broncos, smiles. "I get to be who I want because it's my game," he says. "And I've never lost one of these battles." Glassic is wearing a yellow billed cap with NAPOLEON lettered across the front. His hair hangs along both sides of his face, and his beard bristles with combativeness. His eyes are narrowed to slits behind tinted glasses. He reaches out with a giant hand and repositions a field cannon, sighting along the gun's barrel directly at Prince Louis Ferdinand, the hated Prussian.
Oh, oh. Watch your fanny, Ferdy.
"Now, if all of this was real," Tom mutters, "this neighborhood, all of Denver—the whole world!—would be part of the French Empire."
Probably true. But, heck, it's already real enough without going quite that far. Consider this scene: There are hundreds and hundreds of tiny soldiers spread around the floor, all scaled to 25 millimeters, roughly one inch, all correctly uniformed and painted in high-gloss colors, mostly vivid reds and blues. They come singly and in groups, some on horseback, some on foot—all bent slightly forward, as if to attack. Even their skin tones are accurate: Minuscule eyebrows seem drawn together in scowls, and tiny mouths are curled in scorn. There are regiments of infantry, some kneeling to fire, others advancing boldly. Squadrons of cavalry charge, sabers raised. Batteries of horse artillery trundle along. There are fierce Hussars, fur jackets hanging rakishly off one shoulder: swaggering bounders every one. There's a new Polish regiment from the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. And here and there are little villages to sack and farms to pillage; a castle or two and stone walls and forests.
All of these bitty people fill the main room of a small guesthouse on Glassic's property. These miniature armies attack and circle, retreat and skirmish across a vast lumpy swatch of wrinkled green burlap. Long strips of brown burlap represent dirt roads. Blue strips are rivers. Empty cardboard boxes have been stuffed under the cloth to create bluffs and mountains. And if one of these little buggers were to stand atop one of those ridges and look toward the horizon, he'd see carnage that would make his plastic blood run cold. Ah, the horror of it all: Out there is pure desolation, guys—an entire outer perimeter of empty beer bottles, many half-stuffed with sodden brown cigarette butts punched in in the heat of long battles. War is hell.
And now Thomas Joseph Glassic, age 28, stands towering over it all, with his big feet planted carefully in among the regiments, and waves by its red ribbon a replica of the French Legion of Honor medal. "As Napoleon said, 'Give me enough red ribbon and I'll rule the world!' " he roars. "For these..." he dangles the medal over his armies, "...are the baubles that men die for!"
Gee, that's terrific, Tom. Heck of a nice ring to it. Medals all around, men, and let's open another Labatt's. This is a great game.