Let’s Talk Wargaming

Photo taken by Adrian Benson

Let’s talk Wargaming.  Wargaming on a RPG focused blog?  What sort of madness is this?  Mad like a fox you mean.  I have played RPGs and currently play World of Warcraft.  Much enjoyment can be had playing any number of roleplaying games and this blog is a great place to read about that type of game.  However, TrollITC is much more than a RPG blog.  It is a gaming blog.  Board games, card games, RPGs, and miniatures games can be found when you access www.trollitc.com.  That last category of game is where my gaze is cast.

Hearing the word “Wargaming” may elicit varied game names.  Surely it means games in which war is depicted?  So, games like Warhammer 40k, Warhammer Fantasy or Warmahordes count?  Not quite.  How about Dystopian Wars, Axis & Allies Minis, and D&D Minis?  Sorry, but no.

War games have been defined by Charles Grant as “Based on contemporary or historical strategy and tactics, it is governed by rules which are designed as far as possible to reproduce the particular conditions of the warfare of one’s chosen period, and it is played by one…or more players, to the discomfiture of one side and the delight of the other.” (Grant 1971)

One popular war game would be SAGA, which depicts the dark ages where Vikings engage in combat with Anglo-Saxons and with Normans.  Black Powder is another war game rule set, which covers just about everything from the War of Spanish Succession up to the Napoleonic Wars and beyond to the Mahdist War in 1899.  There’s numerous other war games including Hail Caesar, which covers a variety of Ancient settings, and then there’s Flames of War, which depicts World War II.

The options for you to war game are endless.  If there is not an actual time period or conflict that you wish to game, then you can follow in the footsteps of Phil Olley, Charles Grant, and Henry Hyde.  Instead of restricting yourself to a conflict that actually happened why not be inspired by one of those time periods and create your own imagi-nation?  You can base your fictional campaign in the reality of the American Revolution where the colonies of Trollandia wish to break free because they’re sick and tired of paying the exorbitant taxes to remove troll slime from the King’s chambers.

My own war gaming has taken a unique twist where I’ve attempted to marry the imagi-nation with the historical.  Several friends and I use the Black Powder rules to play the American War of Independence (aka American Revolution).  My force is focused on American militia with a small contingent of Continental soldiers.  I’ve diverged from recreating real units and instead created fictional regiments comprised of fictional people.  The fighting force is inspired on real units but have their own uniforms, names, and characteristics.  My 22nd Massachusetts Brigade reported for duty and fought in the Battle for Abington.

If you choose to war game then I have some suggestions for you based on the wisdom of those with far greater war-gaming experience than I have.

  1. Unless imagi-gaming you must be historically accurate.  Don’t paint a unit wearing purple uniforms if they wore green.
  2. Pick a conflict/era that your gaming buddies and you love and want to play.
  3. Consider your storage space and available time to paint when choosing the model’s scale.  Don’t collect 40mm if you only have the space for 15mm.
  4. Research.  Visit your local library and peruse the 355 and 900 sections (if they use the Dewey Decimal system) for books on gaming, history, and militaria.
  5. Use a rule set that meets the needs of your gaming group.  If you want a lot of detail then use rules that include that.
  6. Have fun.  Never forget that this is a game.  No real people have suffered as a result of your tabletop battles.
  7. Set realistic goals.  Don’t become determined to buy and paint a large army when you have few hours each week to devote to the task.
  8. Ask questions.  Join a mailing list, post on a blog, chat with your gaming buddies.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help or admit that you don’t know something.  Chances are someone out there will be glad to help.
  9. Grow the hobby.  Invite others to watch your games.  Allow people to play with your toy soldiers.  Maybe they’ll want to war game with you.  Don’t forget that you were a new player once too.
  10. Don’t be afraid to create an imagi-nation.  It can be a lot of fun to command a fictional nation.  It allows you to change the course of history!


Grant, Charles. Introduction to The War Game. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1971.


4 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Wargaming

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  1. NIce piee, Jonathan — and thanks for the mention!

    However, I disagree on one point — I would certainly classify Warhammer 40k, Warhammer Fantasy and their kind as wargames — they are, admittedly, science fiction or fantasy wargames, rather than historical wargames, but they are still wargames, using mechanisms that any historical wargamer would recognise. And of course, Warhammer Ancient Battles was born out of the Warhammer Fantasy gaming rules, just as several of the other Warhammer Historical titles such as “Legends of the Old West”, “Legends of the High Seas” and the World War One rules “Over the Top” are based on the 40K mechanisms. Likewise Warmaster Ancients and Medievals are essentially identical to Warmaster Fantasy, but without the magic.

    And of course, those of us who indulge in the imagi-nations you mention are, in essence, creating fantasy worlds based on the historical reality. Some don’t like to admit that’s fantasy — but it is! 🙂


    1. I had a feeling someone would make that point. I’m still up in the air as to whether ahistorical genre games can or cannot be wargames. Using Grant’s definition one could argue, as you have, that those other types of games are wargames.

      Looking at games of that ilk the closest I can come to one being a wargame would be the LoTR miniatures game. Inasmuch as LoTR is fantasy I would argue that it has much basis in history and is, perhaps, Tolkien’s very own imagi-nation.

      The overarching point of import, which I buried in the middle of my top 10 list, is “have fun.” If we’re not having fun we’re doing it wrong.


      1. What you have to remember, Jonathan, is that when Charles Grant wrote “The War GAme” back in 1971, the only fantasy gaming at the time was D&D, which is of course primarily roleplay. Mass-battle fantasy and sci-fi gaming didn’t really develop until the mid- to late-1970s, with manufacturers like Ral Partha and Minifigs developing lines, followed by Citadel in the early 1980s (which then, of course, sparked the whole GW thing). LotR/WotR are certainly wargames, for sure – -and I like your comment about Middle Earth being Tolkien’s imagi-nation!


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