Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wargamers School


I have been getting a lot of request from people for me to put out something for those who are new to wargames or would like to know more about us odd wargamers. So, let me layout a few basics here and please feel free to add any suggestions or comments.

Lesson #1 Defining a wargame (in the context of boardgaming) in a sentence according to Joe Steadman. (version 1.0)

-a board wargame is a boardgame that attempts to simulate a historical or fictional battle or war where the players are pitted against each other resulting in direct confrontation.


Like all games, wargames exist in a range of complexities. Some are fundamentally simple (often called "beer-and-pretzel games") whereas others attempt to simulate a high level of historical realism ("consim"—short for 'conflict simulation'). These two trends are also at the heart of long-running debates about "realism vs. playability." Because of the subject matter, games considered 'simple' by wargamers can be considered 'complex' to non-wargamers, especially if they have never run into some of the concepts that most wargames share, and often assume some familiarity with.

Wargames are best considered as a representational art form. Generally, this is of a fairly concrete historical subject (such as the Battle of Gettysburg, one of several popular topics in the genre), but it can also be extended to non-historical ones as well. The Cold War provided fuel for many games that attempted to show what a non-nuclear (or, in a very few cases, nuclear) World War III would be like, moving from a re-creation to a predictive model in the process. Fantasyscience fiction subjects are sometimes not considered wargames because there is nothing in the real world to model, however, conflict in a self-consistent fictional world lends itself to exactly the same types of games and game designs as does military history. and

While there is no direct correlation, the more serious wargames tend towards more complex rules with possibilities for more calculation and computation of odds, more exceptions (generally to reproduce unique historical circumstances), more available courses of action, and more detail or "chrome". The extreme end of this tendency are considered "monster games", which typically consist of a large subject represented on small scale. A good example of this would be Terrible Swift Sword, which tracks individual regiments in the Battle of Gettysburg, instead of the more common scale of battalions. These games typically have a combined playing surface (using several map sheets) larger than most tables, and thousands of counters.

Wargames tend to have a few fundamental problems. Notably, both player knowledge, and player action are much less limited than what would be available to the player's real-life counterparts. Some games have rules for command and control and fog of war, using various methods. These mechanisms can be cumbersome and onerous, and often increase player frustration. However, there are some common solutions, such as employed by block wargames, which can simulate fog of war conditions in relatively playable ways.

Lesson #2 The Three General types of Board Wargames

Grand Scale

More on this next time...