How this Bolton primary teacher became one of the best Warhammer players in the world

Being a primary school teacher, a parent, and one of the best Warhammer players in the world is no easy feat. But that’s the life of 41-year-old Mike Porter.

Last month, the Bolton Primary School teacher finished third in the International Warhammer Tournament Circuit (ITC) which saw him travel to places like Austria, Spain, Canada and the United States. Beating out nearly 3,500 players, he finished the tournament in third place during a tense final in Las Vegas.

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Originally from Southport, Mike fell in love with the board game through his older brother when he was just 11 years old. After catching the bug, he spent his youth in Warhammer shops throughout the North West, such as Stockport’s Element Games, honing his craft.

“It’s a wonderful hobby, you paint, build and make figures. There is a lot to do on the social side, as well as on the gaming side.” He told the MEN.

“We meet first thing in the morning on Saturday, at five or six in the morning. Go to a McDonald’s and have breakfast and then go to our place, which was an old mill in Stockport,” he said.

“It was very run down and you have 50, 60 people in there, all crammed together playing the game you love. You arrive at nine in the morning and play until seven, eight at night and then you get up the next day and do it again.

Mike also represents GB in Warhammer tournaments (Image: Vincent Cole – Manchester Evening News)

“There was the typical ‘you’re playing a board game, you’re a nerd,'” Mike added.

“I grew up with top-level sports, representing my county in hockey, soccer and track. I have always been very competitive and competed at a good level. There was certainly a stigma, but when you get past that college stage, everyone accepts everyone for what they like.

Despite his great love for the game, Mike stopped playing for a while, distracted by the pressures and joys of college life. After graduation, he got back into the swing of things thanks to the husband of a colleague who had continued to play well into adulthood.

“I had a brief hiatus from college because there were obviously other things to focus on with studying and the social aspect,” said the father of two.

“I probably had a three or four year break and a teacher’s husband was playing and I did it again through them.

“I started a journey to find out what the scene was about. We realized there was this whole world out there and it wasn’t just you playing with your friends in your garage, there were tournaments, international matches and you could represent your country.”

Mike fell in love with the game when he was 11 years old.(Image: Vincent Cole – Manchester Evening News)

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What is Warhammer?

Warhammer is a miniature tabletop wargame that was created by three staff members of Games Workshop, the wargames company founded by alumni of Greater Manchester’s Altrincham Grammar School for Boys.

The game involves a player taking command of an army of humans, elves, orcs, and other creatures. Players collect miniature plastic models of these characters and use them to simulate warfare on a makeshift battlefield.

It shares similar features to popular board games, but the pieces are not restricted to particular moves. The game, which was created in 198, has a deep and storied history where each model has its own stats and abilities.

“I’m very excited to bring in the next generation,” says Mike. (Image: Vincent Cole – Manchester Evening News)

During the lockdown, the most popular iteration of the game, Warhammer 40,000, saw a massive surge in popularity, fueled further by celebrity players like Ed Sheeran and Henry Cavil professing their affinity for the game.

The rise in popularity meant that the game Mike returned to was drastically different from the one he left: a much more professional scene with sponsorships and international tournaments featuring finals in Las Vegas, Nevada. “I used to watch it from a distance, via home broadcasts in England of tournaments from all over the world,” he said.

“I was a little envious, really, thinking that I would never be able to do it myself. To be in the place that I used to stare at almost in awe when I was little is practically a dream come true.”

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Mike’s success has seen him not only become the third best in the world but also represent his country. The Year 6 teacher also coaches other budding players, but despite the temptation to turn professional, his heart is still very important in teaching the boys at Bolton School, which he joined in September last year.

Mike will soon be leading a Warhammer club at school after his success has inspired many of the students. At the club he will teach them how to build and paint models and play games.

“As soon as I mentioned that I play Warhammer and that I’m doing well on the leaderboard, they got interested,” he said. “Since I got back from Las Vegas, a lot of the kids have gone out and bought Warhammer stuff. .

“I am very excited to bring in the next generation.”



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