This article is a community-based project to help catalog and remember the humble beginnings and many phases of this very website, which over the years, has become something very special to many of us. If you have something you'd like to add or you spot a fact that needs to be corrected, by all means hop in and edit the article. If you aren't sure about an event, before editing the article please go into the comments thread and discuss with others exactly how and when this event occurred.
Most of the classic pictures from this article were taken off of old versions of the site that are saved on an internet archive service called the Wayback Machine. Just type in www.dakkadakka.com and you can see semi-working versions of every iteration of Dakka all the way back to 1998. Why not have a look yourself and see what nostalgia you can dig up and add to this article?
The Origins of Dakka Dakka
The Gaming Club
Russ Wakelin: In the mid 90's a small group of die hard Games Workshop fans in New Hampshire and Massachusetts began playing regularly at "The Wizard's Tower" located in Nashua, NH. The group always had two goals: providing a competitive playing environment while encouraging every aspect of the hobby. This focus on both game play and on modeling, painting, and army background appealed to many. Slowly the group grew into a league. The league was originally founded by Craig Gallant (it actually all started with Necromunda then progressed to WH40k) who eventually got busy with other commitments and I foolishly agreed to take over running the league and tracking scores.
The Web Site
Russ Wakelin: In order to make it easier for league members to keep up with the rules, dates, and scores I started a small web site in 1997. Originally the site was hosted on some free space offered by a web host, but members could never remember the URL. I decided we needed something people could easily remember. While batting around name ideas, I discovered that WH40K.com was available, and thought that would be a good idea, but the next day I discovered GW had registered it. Instead went for my second choice (which was really kind of a joke) “DakkaDakka.com.” Its Funny how that kind of thing works out.
classic Dakka photoshop
Russ's Roughnecks army pofile
Once the site was up, for fun we began taking pictures of armies and events and putting them on the site. Also, members began writing fiction about their battles and armies. At the time there were not many web sites with such offerings. Slowly the word began to spread and we started seeing folks in our forums that weren’t local, asking questions about our armies, how the league worked, and how we played certain rules. But things really started rolling after our first trip to Baltimore as a group.
Games Day ‘99
Russ Wakelin: Games Day 1999 was the first year that many of the Dakka members went down. We handed out the now infamous "Got Dakka?" buttons which were both fun and helped folks find out about our unique little site. Never had we seen so many Games Workshop fans in one place, nor did we know that many existed! We were inspired. On the long drive home John Wakelin (my brother) and I discussed the feasibility of bringing our dream gaming environment to life in the form of a store. We're not sure anyone took us seriously at the time.
The Store Years (2000-2004)
Russ Wakelin: On April 16th, 2000 we opened up Dakka Dakka the store in Manchester, NH. John, Russ and Nicole Wakelin (my wife) ran the massive 4,000 square foot event venue. The primary goal of the store was to provide the ultimate gaming tables to play on and all the tools needed to do battle.
We received a lot of great feedback from our fans and customers about the store, and we were also still amazed as the website fan base continued to grow. Many fans from around the world stopped by the store on vacations to the US because they’d seen pictures on our site.
Sales were also extremely strong, with growth every year. According to our GW sales rep we were one of the top (if not the top) GW distributors on the east coast.
As with any business it is a lot of work, and can be a lot of fun as well. My wife, brother, and I all learned a great deal running the Dakka store, and made many lifelong friends thanks to it. It was truly a family business with a strong community that made the whole thing work. But when families start to grow, priorities change, and our focus had to change.
The Family Years (2004-2007)
Russ Wakelin: Both Wakelin families had children at roughly the same time (late 2002) and as time went on, we realized that we could not spend the time with our growing families we wanted AND run a top notch store. A couple years after the babies, we knew it was time to move on. We sold the store to a close friend; however I kept the website, as I still enjoyed working on it and didn’t want to see it go away.
For a variety of reasons the Dakka Dakka store eventually closed. Despite this the gaming club still managed to meet elsewhere, and the web site continued to grow. By now the site had transformed nearly completely from a web page that reported on activities of a local gaming group to an international community that shared all their gaming experience. To keep the forums under control I brought on several moderators from around the world, and one of these exceptional helpers was Jon Regul, known online as yakface.
A Changing of the Guard (August 2007)
the auction was a nail-biter at the very end!
Russ Wakelin: 2007 marked the 10th anniversary of the DakkaDakka.com website. As I reflected on this I realized that I was no longer able to put the time and effort into the site that a community of its size deserved. I wanted to pass the site onto someone who was serious about it, and I decided the only way I could determine who was most serious was to hold an Ebay auction.
In August of 2007, yakface won the auction and took over running of the web site. I couldn’t have been happier with this result as I knew ‘yak’ would take the site in a great direction while still hold true to what made the site unique. Although my time running Dakka Dakka was at an end, I look forward to seeing how future chapters unfold.
Dakka Dakka 5.0 (November 2007 to present)
yakface: I first became aware of Dakka around 1999(ish), although the exact date is now lost to the mists of my mind. I spent several years just lurking and reading many crazy ideas, strategies and rules discussions about Warhammer 40,000. At some point, probably around 2001 (I think after Dakka had migrated from EZboards to UBB board software) I began posting, mainly in the 'You Make The Call' 40K forum arguing and discussing rules.
Several years, and thousands of posts later Russ needed another moderator to help out with Dakka and I felt honored to be asked. The site had provided so much enjoyment to me, especially during slow periods of work that I most definitely felt that I wanted to help out in whatever way I could.
In those last few years that Russ owned the site, I think it was very apparent to those of us who had been around a while that his priorities were shifting away from running the site. He began to post less and less and it seemed like where it used to take hours to get a technical issue corrected, now it was taking a day or two. So it really didn't come as that big a surprise to me when Russ announced he was going to sell the site.
There was much concern all around the online gaming community about what was going to happen with the site since Russ decided to make the sale on Ebay. Many believed that some gaming site or ad service was going to buy Dakka and utilize its name and community to essentially push advertisements and links. There was even talk of members from other prominent forums buying the site just to shut it down.
For me, Dakka was still my primary connection to an online community and still represented my favorite place to go discuss gaming. Several Dakka members put forth the idea that I should buy and run the site. This got me thinking and after a while I decided I didn't feel comfortable that there was any potential buyer who was likely to run the site in a way that would properly represent (what I feel) is the legacy of Dakka. At the very least I felt like I couldn't take that chance.
So I made up my mind that I was going to try and win the auction and I must say that the support I received from other members on the site was amazing. That so many people would choose to rally behind me and donate their money to me asking absolutely nothing in return was very humbling and I definitely felt like I had to do them proud.
But the fact is, I have absolutely zero website experience and I know nothing about programming or design. My original plan was to bring on my roomate, who works in web design in search engine optimization and he was going to bring in one of his programmers to help implement my ideas. While this idea may have ended up working, I really believe that at some point since neither of them are gamers that any excitement they had for working on the project would have invariably faded.
Lucky for all of us, after I announced I was going to try to win the auction, I was contacted by a Dakka member I had never seen before, named Legoburner. This guy worked as a website designer and maintainer and was passionate about gaming. He was interested in buying the site himself but wanted someone on board who was familiar to the community to help keep the site focused on the right path. He also had lots of great ideas about things he wanted to implement into the site and wouldn't you know it, but almost every idea he had was a close match to the ideas I had!
It wasn't long before I figured out that this was who I should be working with on the technical side. And with that, two guys who lived on different sides of the world and had never met decided to move forward and make Dakka into the best miniature wargaming site on the planet.
Iterations of the Dakka Website
Images taken from internet archive. In many cases portions of the page are now lost.
It is important to note that over the many years Dakka has been in existence the database of older forum posts was lost due to migration from one forum software to another. As such, the current forum database of posts only goes back as far as 2006.
Dakka MSFrontpage (1997-1998)
(no images available)
Russ Wakelin: The very first forum software we used for Dakka was the built in forum tool in MS Frontpage. That proved clunky with no ability to scale. So I switched to EZBoard.
Dakka EZboard (1998-2001)
Russ Wakelin: Initally EZBoard was free, fast, feature rich, and hosted by EZbord which meant I could just link to it and not worry about all the overhead of running a forum and heavy forum posting didn't impact the main site's performance.
EZboard splash screen
EZboard main forum
EZboard YMTC forum
Eventually EzBoard starting running VERY annoying ads, esp pop ups. We tried paying to keep the pop-ups down, but as our traffic grew the EZBoard pricing to keep Dakka ad free became just too expensive.
Dakka UBB board (2001-2004)
Russ Wakelin: After the challenges of EzBoard, I got the urge to host the forums myself and really customize what could be done. Using UBB and modifiying the PHP code and using MySQL I was able to make what many remember as the 'best' Dakka forums under my watch. This itteration had the many different options for 'ranking titles' based on army, the emorkcons were introduced, and performance was reasonably good.
UBB main forum
UBB home screen
UBB splash screen
The main site was still 'separate' from the forums. And I really wanted to integrate the site with the forum software. Also, as we continued to grow, we started having reliability problems with MySQL. I wanted to move to a higher end database.
Dakka ActiveForums (2004-2007)
Russ Wakelin: A few things colided at once that resulted in the DotNetNuke/ActiveForums version of Dakka. I wanted a fully integrated site that knew the user in the forums and on the main site. The long term goal was to build a platform to allow gamers to post photos, articles, and forum threads under the same log in. At roughly the same time we started receiving presure from GW to reduce the amount of GW IP that appeared on the site. So I went for a totally new look and feel, and tried to broaden the site beyond just GW to other games.
ActiveForums home screen
ActiveForums forum version 1
ActiveForums forum version 2
The DotNetNuke/ActiveForums move proved to be challenging. The forum software was not nearly as mature as the available PHP products out there, and although DotNetNuke and MS SQL can be very powerful, our web host had a lot of trouble handling our traffic. Fortunately the new software that yakface and Legoburner brought online in late 2007 was a vast improvement. It really achieves all of the goals I had hoped for with the DotNetNuke approach, and is far more robust and feature rich. And brings back the Dakka look and feel that was most popular.
Off-Topic Schism from "Imperial Dakka"
The Phantom Lord's OT board (1999-2002)
The OT board was created as a separate forum for Dakka members to talk about non-miniature gaming related topics (like movies, books, politics, etc) and also gave them a place to discuss topics without worrying about the 'family friendly' guidelines imposed by Dakka.
At one point, Kid Kyoto posted links to an adblocker software on the forums, and the board was locked by EZboard due to violation of user agreement.
(Note: Since EZboard is now owned by YUKU, the board has since been reinstated as of April 2008, 6 years after its closure).
The Phantom Lord's OT Board MKII (2002-2004)
The Forum closure incited a migration to a new board, which in later years would mimic Dakka's own numerous iterations. The Phantom Lord was no longer present, but his spirit lived on and the new EZboard was named The Phantom Lord's OT Board MKII and later named MK2.5.
The Dakka CCG Forum (early 2004-late 2004)
During Dakka's 4th iteration Games Workshop licensed a CCG to Sabertooth Games and Dakka made a section of their forum for discussion of that game. Popularity in the CCG died, but the use of that part of Dakka inexplicably grew in 2004. Unknown to Russ or Nicole Wakelin, the posters of the OT board gathered there in secrecy and made use of that portion of the forum for their own off topic needs. At least until when one day the off topic posts were discovered by Nicole Wakelin later on that same year.
The Wasteland (2004-present)
The OT board lives on today in its current form at The Wasteland. But be warned, it is indeed 'a more wretched hive of scum and villainy' and the discussions are not for the faint of heart!
Classic Dakka Content
Do you remember a classic event from Dakka history, especially one that has been lost in the mists of time (hopefully with locally saved text or images), why not write about it here?
click for full size image
yakface: The old Dakka site featured several Army Profiles showing off players armies who regularly played at the old Dakka Dakka store. One very random "army profile" posted by Russ was the 'Tyranid Picnic'. It was just an odd little story of some Imperial Guardsmen BBQing up some tasty Tyranid meat, only to be ambushed by some marauding Orks.
In all, it is a fun little piece of Dakka history.
Hellfury: For me, this one article solidified Dakka as the best in 40K forums at the time. The Fumetti style article showed that the webmaster Russ Wakelin had a sense of humor and the majority of the Dakka community felt likewise. Such things made Dakka not only the place to discuss 40K but have fun while you were there. A much different feel to other forums at the time who were more draconian in their moderation and content.
Its great that this article is still remembered a decade later.
The Whistling Termagaunt
Who can shed some light on this classic chain story?
Classic Dakka Posters
Got an old favorite who no longer posts on Dakka? Tell some tall tales about their glory days.
Drew's old avatar
yakface: I can say, without a doubt, that one of the posters that finally got me out from lurking and into actually posting on Dakka was Drew Riggio. I don't know much about the guy (as I never met him in person) except for the fact that he liked to get in heated arguments. . .er. . ."rules discussions" about Warhammer 40,000.
His passionate discourses at times were so infuriating to me as a lurker, that I felt compelled to sign up to the website just to throw my 2 cents in. Sometimes I think it is hard to accept at the moment, but people who push your buttons in retrospect are powerful agents of change for getting people off their butts and 'into the game'.
I hope Drew is doing well wherever life has taken him (anyone have any info on what he's doing now? If so, post it here).
EDIT by DrewRiggio - thanks for the mention. Since you asked, I am currently working from home and doing what I do best - acting as an agitator online. My primary work is as a news commentator for Yahoo! News and Yahoo! Voices, where I get paid to write controversial items about hot-button topics like politics and religion.
While I can't say I knew it while posting at Dakka it turns out that getting people frustrated is the most effective way to prod them into action and get them to join a debate. Some of my news commentary articles have drawn thousands of responses for that reason. Nobody cares about wishy-washy opinions, but they do love to dive in and respond when you take a stance and do so by poking the public with a verbal stick.
I gave up 40K a few years ago, though I still remember the players fondly. To Russ Wakelin and the rest who first introduced me to the Starsiege: Tribes video game - I have played every game in that series and am currently hooked on the latest iteration of it. You guys sure picked a great game. Thanks for some amazing memories and great times.