What is a wargame? The politically correct term is ‘conflict simulation.’ Wargaming is simply the simulation of conflict as a game. Chess is a wargame — it actually simulates pre-gunpowder battle quite well. Wargames can be simple and abstract or complex and detailed. Wargames cover not only historical subjects but science fiction and fantasy as well. In fact one of the best aspects of wargaming is its ability to explore the ‘what if’ situation of historical or future conflict. The grand daddy of wargaming, the now defunct Avalon Hill Game Company, used to promote its wargames by stating, ‘Now you are in command!’ A simple statement that summed up what wargames do quite well.
When the uninitiated hear ‘wargame’ they very often associate it with ‘warmonger’ or, at least, violence. In our experience this is usually very wrong. There are of course bad sorts in any hobby but the intellectual ability needed to play most wargames usually means most wargamers are quite thoughtful. The hobby itself delivers a knowledge of warfare that few outside of the military or academia posses, and as a result, wargamers are often far more aware of the costs of war than the general population. This of course does not make all wargamers pacifists by any means but wargamers generally do not play wargames because they love war; they play them for the unique blend of intellectual challenge, fun, social interaction and, for historical wargamers, history. There are few other pursuits that offer such a rich mix.
There are currently three broad categories of wargames; board wargames, miniature wargames, and computer wargames. They all share similarities in play and execution but differ in the medium used for play.
Board wargaming started the commercial wargaming hobby with Avalon Hill’s ‘Tactics’ game published in 1953. An example of a popular, and simple, board wargame is ‘Risk’. With a board wargame a player moves units, often made of cardboard counters but sometimes plastic, over a map or game board. Dice are almost never used for movement in a wargame but exist to provide for chance, or ‘fate’, in the resolution of combat or actions. Board wargames can be simple or extremely complex and cover every topic imaginable. Because of newer pursuits board wargames are less popular than they once were, but it is tough to beat them for enjoyable play and social value.
Miniature wargames probably represent the true start of wargaming with the publication of ‘Little Wars’ for lead soldiers in 1913. In miniature wargaming the cardboard units of board wargames are replaced by detailed metal or plastic miniature models and the map or board is replaced by a terrain table. Miniature wargames are often, but not always, simpler than board wargames. The limitations of the medium simply restrict the amount of simulation they can achieve. Miniature wargaming is almost two hobbies in one because most miniatures are small models and require assembly and painting. The terrain tables can be simple affairs or can be composed of elaborate buildings and terrain that require their own work. But not all miniature games require modeling and painting skills and there is even a new technology of pre-painted miniatures that removes the modeling aspect of miniature wargaming and allows one to concentrate on play. Because miniature wargames are often played at large tables with the players needing to stand or at least move around a lot they are the most social type of wargaming.
The newest category of wargames, computer wargames, is simply wargaming on the computer. Such games are sometimes simple translations of their board and miniature game brethren but also include all new forms of their own. Computer wargames also include the ‘simulator’ that allows the player to actually take control of a vehicle or actual role. Flight simulators, tank simulators, and naval simulators are examples of the simulator aspect of computer wargames. The simulator ability is certainly unique to computer wargaming but the computer also allows for more detailed simulation of traditional wargame mechanics and the ‘fog of war’ that is difficult to do with board or miniature wargames. Computer wargames are probably the best for solo wargaming, known as ‘solitaire gaming’, but can also include massive multi-player games over a local network or the Internet.
If you are new to wargaming you have come to the right place. Our goal is to provide you with the resources and links to the best of wargaming currently available. Welcome and enjoy!
Wargaming – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wargaming
History of Wargaming – http://www.hmgs.org/history.htm
History of Wargaming by Scott Mingus – http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/wargaming/history.aspx
Our Favorite Introductory Wargames