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A wargame is a strategy game that deals with military operations of various types, real or fictional. Wargaming is the hobby dedicated to the play of such games, which can also be called conflict simulations, or consims for short. When used professionally to study warfare, it is generally known as a military exercise or war game. Note that hobby wargamers have traditionally run the two words together, but the military has generally kept them separate; it is not a hard and fast rule, however. Although there may be disagreements as to whether a particular game qualifies as a wargame or not, a general consensus exists that all such games must explore and illuminate or simulate some feature or aspect of human behaviour directly bearing on the conduct of war, even if the game subject itself does not concern organized violent conflict or warfare.[1] The business wargames exists too, but in general they are only role playing games based on market situations.

Wargames are generally categorized as historical, hypothetical, fantasy, or science fiction. Historical games by far form the largest group. These games are based upon real events and attempt to represent a reasonable approximation of the actual forces, terrain, and other material factors faced by the actual participants. Hypothetical games are games grounded in historical fact but concern battles or conflicts that did not (or have yet to) actually happen. Fantasy and science fiction wargames either draw their inspiration from works of fiction or provide their own imaginary setting. Highly stylized conflict games such as chess are not generally considered wargames, although they are recognized as being related. Games involving conflict in other arenas than the battlefield, such as business, sports or natural environment are similarly usually excluded.

The modern wargaming hobby has its origins at the beginning of the 20th century, with the invention of miniatures games in which two or more players simulated a battle as a pastime. During the 1950s the first large scale, mass produced board games depicting military conflicts were published. These games were at the height of their popularity during the 1970s, and became quite complex and technical in that time.

Wargaming has changed dramatically over the years, from its roots in miniatures and board wargaming, to contemporary computer and computer assisted wargames; however, both miniature and board wargames maintain a healthy, if small, hobby market with lighter games being popular with many 'non-wargamers'.



Like all games, wargames exist in a range of different complexities. Some are fundamentally simple—often called "beer-and-pretzel" games—whereas others attempt to simulate a high level of historical realism. These latter games may produce long rulebooks that encompass a large variety of actions and details. These games often require a considerable study of the rules before they can be played. Wargames also feature a range of scales, from games that simulate individual soldiers, to ones that chart the course of an entire global or even galactic war.

Wargames are generally a representational art form. Usually, 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. Fantasy and science 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.

Because of these attitudes, there are many games and types of games that may appear to be a wargame at first glance, but are not accepted as such by members of the hobby, and many that would be considered debatable. Risk could be considered a wargame; it uses an area map of the Earth and is unabashedly about sending out armies to conquer the world. However, it has no readily-discernible timeframe, and combat is extremely abstract, leading many to not consider it as an actual wargame, or only tangentially as one.

The highest percentage of war-themed games that are not wargames come from the video game industry. Most markedly real-time strategy games (such as StarCraft) deal with combat nearly exclusively, but the gameplay-enhancing conventions of the genre also destroy realism. For example, in actual combat, vehicle armor is generally a binary proposition. Either the round penetrates and the vehicle is knocked out, or it does not and the vehicle is unaffected. RTS games make a habit of giving a vehicle a "health bar" that generally allows it to survive even powerful single shots, but each hit reduces its health by some amount, allowing a high volume of rifle fire to knock out a well armored tank. Other notable genre conventions include the construction of buildings and vehicles within the timeframe of a battle (i.e., hours, if not less) and a lack of any command and control, supply, or morale systems.

A major determinant of the complexity and size of a wargame is how realistic it is intended to be. Some games constitute a serious study of the subject at hand, whereas others are intended to be light entertainment. In general, a more serious study will have longer, more detailed rules, more complexity, and more record keeping. More casual games may only bear a passing resemblance to the subject, although many still try to encourage the same types of decision making as the player's historical counterparts, and thereby bring forth the "feel" of the conflict.

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. While results vary, many of these mechanisms can be cumbersome and onerous in traditional games. The "edge of world problem" raises the issue of what to do at the artificial boundary of the physical edge of a board game, in contrast to real life where there is no "edge" and units off-board can have a tangible effect on a scenario. Computer wargames can more easily incorporate these features because the computer can conceal information from players and act as an impartial judge (even while playing one side). However, due to interface issues, these can still be found to be as frustrating to the player as traditional methods.


Modern wargaming originated with the military need to study warfare and to 'reenact' old battles for instructional purposes. The stunning Prussian victory over the Second French Empire in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 is sometimes partly credited to the training of Prussian officers with the game Kriegspiel, which was invented around 1811 and gained popularity with many officers in the Prussian army. These first wargames were played with dice which represented "friction", or the intrusion of less than ideal circumstances during a real war (including morale, weather, the fog of war, etc.), though this was usually replaced by an umpire who used his own combat experience to determine the results.[2]

The first specific non-military wargame club was started in Oxford, England, in the 19th century.[citation needed] Naval enthusiast and analyst Fred T. Jane came up with a set of rules for depicting naval actions with the use of model ships, or miniatures around 1898 (Reprinted 2008). The 1905/6 edition of Jane's Fighting Ships includes a revised edition for "The Naval War Game".[3]

H.G. Wells' books Floor Games (1911) and Little Wars (1913) were attempts to codify rules for fighting battles with toy soldiers (miniatures), and make them available to the general public. They were very simple games, and in some ways just provide a context for shooting spring-loaded toy cannons at toy soldiers, but "in his Appendix to Little Wars, Wells speaks of the changes required to convert his admittedly simplistic rules into a more rigorous Kriegspiel."[4] However, Wells also states in his rules that combat "should be by actual gun and rifle fire and not by computation. Things should happen and not be decided," in opposition to the general nature of Kriegspiel play.

In 1940 Fletcher Pratt's Naval War Game was first published. The game started in New York, but other clubs formed around the USA. Jack Coggins was invited by Pratt to participate, and recalled that Pratt's game involved dozens of tiny wooden ships—built to a scale of about one inch to 50 feet—spread over the living room floor of his apartment. Their maneuvers and the results of their battles were calculated via a complex mathematical formula, with scale distances marked off with tape measures.[5] The game's popularity grew and moved to using a ballroom for games with 60 or more players aside.[6] The game was respected by the Naval War College and serving naval officers regularly participated in games [7] For an evaluation of the Fletcher Pratt Game versus reality see Chapter 10 of The Fletcher Pratt Naval Wargame book. link

All of these games were meant to be accessible to the general public, but actual play was made difficult owing to the expense of purchasing an army or navy's worth of miniatures. As leisure time and disposable income generally rose through the 20th Century, miniatures games slowly gained a following. Most gaming groups informally wrote and/or revised their own rules, which were never published. In 1955 Jack Scruby started producing miniatures using RTV rubber molds, which greatly reduced their expense, and he turned this into a business (Scruby Miniatures) in 1957 and started publishing War Game Digest.[8] It, and its successors, put fellow miniatures enthusiasts in touch with each other, and provided a forum for ideas and locally-produced rules to be shared with the rest of the hobby.

Around the same time in the UK Donald Featherstone began writing an influential series of books on wargaming, which represented the first mainstream published contribution to wargaming since H.G Wells. Titles included : Wargames, Advanced Wargames, Solo Wargaming, Wargame Campaigns, Battles with Model Tanks, Skirmish Wargaming. Such was the popularity of such titles that other authors were able to have published wargaming titles. This output of published wargaming titles from British authors coupled with the emergence at the same time of several manufacturers providing suitable wargame miniatures (e.g. Miniature Figurines, Hinchliffe, Peter Laing, Garrisson, Skytrex, Davco, Heroic & Ros) was responsible for the huge upsurge of popularity of the hobby in the late 1960s and into the 1970s.[9]

Meanwhile, the first modern mass-market wargame, based on cardboard counters and maps, was designed and published by Charles S. Roberts in 1952.[10] After nearly breaking even on Tactics, he decided to found the Avalon Hill Game Company as a publisher of intelligent games for adults, and is called "The father of board wargaming". The modern commercial board wargaming industry is considered to have begun with the publication of Tactics II in 1958, and the founding of The General Magazine by Avalon Hill in 1964. In 1961, AH published Roberts' Gettysburg, which is considered to be the first board wargame based entirely on a historical battle. D-Day and Chancellorsville, the first commercial games to use a hexagonal mapboard, were also published that year.

Avalon Hill had a very conservative publishing schedule, typically about two titles a year, and wargames were only about half their line. By the end of the 1960s, a number of small magazines dedicated to the hobby were springing up, along with new game companies. The most important of these were undoubtedly Strategy & Tactics, and the company founded to save it from failing: Simulations Publications, Inc. (SPI). Under SPI, S&T started including a new game in every issue of the magazine, which along with the regular games SPI was publishing vastly increased the number of wargames available.

Coupled with an aggressive advertising campaign, this caused a tremendous rise in the popularity of wargaming in the early 1970s, with a large number of new companies starting up. Two of these would last for some years: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW), and Tactical Studies Rules (TSR). TSR's medieval era miniatures game, Chainmail (1971) included a fantasy supplement that led to a new phenomenon that would become much bigger than its parent hobby, role-playing games (RPGs). (For a better look at these developments see the history of role-playing games.)

The seventies can be considered the 'Golden Age of Wargaming',[11] with a large number of new companies publishing an even larger number of games throughout the decade, powered by an explosive rise in the number of people playing wargames. Avalon Hill's PanzerBlitz (1970), Panzer Leader (1974), and Squad Leader (1977) were particularly popular during this time, with their innovative geomorphic mapboard system. Wargames also diversified in subject, with the first science-fiction wargame (Galactic Warfare, published in the UK by Davco) appearing in 1973 and one of the longest lasting and most successful (Star Fleet Battles, published by Task Force Games) appearing in 1979; and in size with both microgames such as Steve Jackson's Ogre, and "monster games" appearing during the decade.[12]

The boom came to an end, and was followed by the usual bust in the early 1980s, most markedly with the acquisition of SPI by TSR in 1982. The hobby never truly recovered from this, and is today much smaller than it was during the seventies.[13][14] Numerous factors have been implicated in the decline, including the rise of gaming alternatives (such as RPGs), the ever increasing complexity of wargames, and changing demographics and lifestyles.[15]

During the 1980s, much of the market for wargames was dominated by roleplaying games. Then, when personal computers became available, gamers could simply "sit down and play" without learning masses of rules, clearing physical space, and finding and coordinating schedules with opponents. However, in 1983 Games Workshop published Warhammer Fantasy Battle, initially as a "Mass-combat Role Playing Game", which quickly moved to dominate the fantasy wargaming market. When collectible card games arrived in the 1990s, the gaming market became even more competitive. By this time, many wargame publishers were already long gone.

Despite the decline, wargaming continues to survive in different forms. Advanced Squad Leader (1985) became a niche hobby in and of itself, and Axis and Allies (1984) was very popular with the mass market audience and Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy Battle (1983) spawned a long-lasting line popular miniatures games including the successive editions of Warhammer and the science-fantasy Warhammer 40,000 game. The genre of 'card-driven games' emerged with the publication of We the People by AH in 1994, and continues in current releases from GMT. Battle Cry (2000) and Memoir '44 (2004) proved that light wargames can still be commercially successful, as long as the rules are clear and accessible, and the components are high in quality. Block wargames, such as those published by Columbia Games remain quite popular. Companies like GMT Games and Multi-Man Publishing continue to survive and publish highly detailed hex and counter wargames.

Miniature versions

Several men surround a table, on which lies a small scale model of an undulating ground.  Many small figures of monsters and medieval warriors and siege weapons are placed on that terrain.  Dice are scattered among the figures.
Warhammer Fantasy Battle in progress. Painted miniatures represent the troops, and dice are used to determine the results of actions taken.

Miniature wargaming typically involves the use of 6–54 mm painted metal or plastic miniatures for units, and model scenery placed on a tabletop or floor as a playing surface, although other open areas such as gardens and sandboxes are sometimes used. Games with miniatures are sometimes called tabletop games, tabletop wargames, miniature wargames, or simply wargames. Miniatures games generally measure distance for movement and range with a string or tape measure.

Miniature wargamers generally prefer rule sets that can be used for any battle in a particular era or war, instead of a specific event, as is common in board wargames. Because armies and terrain can be combined in all possible ways, miniatures wargaming is generally more varied and flexible than other forms of wargaming. The preparation also tends to be more time consuming and expensive. Miniature wargamers typically enjoy painting miniatures and constructing terrain, and this is an important part of the hobby for them.

Because information cannot be displayed on a miniature figure as conveniently as on a cardboard counter, miniature wargames often lack the complexity and detail of some of the heavier board wargames.

The popularity of miniatures wargaming stayed relatively stable during the boom and bust of board wargames. Today, games such as Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Flames of War, Field of Glory and the newer collectible miniatures games continue to recruit new interest into the oldest form of the wargaming hobby.

Board versions

In the United States, board wargames are often equated with the entire hobby of wargaming. In Europe, and especially Britain, they are a relatively minor part of the hobby. The genre is known for a number of common conventions that were developed early on, but these do not necessarily appear in all board wargames.

The early history of board wargaming was dominated by Avalon Hill, even though other companies, such as SPI, left their own permanent marks on the industry. With the purchase of Avalon Hill by Hasbro, no one company is identified with the hobby as a whole. GMT and Decision Games are two of the more influential board wargame companies in existence today.

Card versions

Because of their nature, cards are well suited for abstract games, as opposed to the simulation aspects of wargames. Traditional card games are not considered wargames even when nominally about the same subject (such as the game War).

An early card wargame would be Nuclear War, a 'tongue-in-cheek game of the end of the world', first published in 1966 and still published today by Flying Buffalo. It does not simulate how any actual nuclear exchange would happen, but it is still structured unlike most card games because of the way it deals with its subject.

In the late 1970s Battleline Publications (a board wargame company) produced two card games, Naval War and Armor Supremacy. The first was fairly popular in wargaming circles, and is a light system of naval combat, though again not depicting any 'real' situation (players may operate ships from opposing navies side-by-side). Armor Supremacy was not as successful, but is a look at the constant design and development of new types of tanks during World War II.

The most successful card wargame (as a card game and as a wargame) would almost certainly be Up Front, a card game about tactical combat in World War II published by Avalon Hill in 1983. The abstractness is harnessed in the game by having the deck produce random terrain, and chances to fire, and the like, simulating uncertainty as to the local conditions (nature of the terrain, etc.).

Dan Verssen Games is a specialist designer and publisher of card games for several genres, including air combat and WW2 and Modern land combat.

Also, card driven games (CDGs), first introduced in 1993, use a deck of (custom) cards to drive most elements of the game, such as unit movement (activation) and random events. These are, however, distinctly board games, the deck is merely one of the most important elements of the game.

Computer versions

As in all aspects of modern life, personal computers have had a profound impact on wargaming. Computers allow gamers separated by many miles to play a game. They also handle many of the tedious aspects of wargaming, such as highly technical rules and record keeping. Finally, with the development of artificial intelligence, computers can actually serve as opponents, and thus provide opportunities for solitaire gaming.

In the video game industry, "wargames" are considered a subgenre of strategy game that emphasizes strategic or tactical warfare on a map. These wargames generally take one of four archetypal forms, depending on whether the game is turn-based or real-time and whether the game's focus is upon military strategy or tactics.

Comparison with traditional versions

On the right is a small vertical panel witch icons and a small map. The remaining three quarters of the screen is a digital depiction of grass plain, with black and grey areas to represent unexplored regions. Three metallic looking buildings are placed on the plain, surrounded by military vehicles and personel. Certain units have gauges above them, representing their state of damage.
Bos Wars is a real-time strategy game, featuring fog of war.

Many contemporary computer strategy games can be considered wargames, in the sense that they are a simulation of warfare on some level. The mechanics and language have little in common with board and miniature games, but the general subject matter is popular. That said, most war-themed computer and video games are generally not considered wargames by the wargaming hobby. This usually occurs because of if there is a perception that slavish attention to 'realism' it will cause a game to be rejected as 'uninteresting' or boring so the mass-market video games tend to be easier to get into, and quick to play.

On the other hand, many 'unrealistic' video games do include fog of war, meaning that what is visible on the map is limited to what is within a certain range of the player's units. This is a feature often talked about in traditional wargames, but traditionally impractical to implement outside of a computer. And not all games are equally 'unrealistic'. For example, the Total War games are a successful RTS series that is historically based, and the Hearts of Iron game series looks at World War II-era politics.

Computers used in traditional versions

Computer-assisted versions

In recent years, programs have been developed for computer-assisted gaming as regards to wargaming. Two different categories can be distinguished: local computer assisted wargames and remote computer assisted wargames.

Local computer assisted wargames are mostly not designed toward recreating the battlefield inside computer memory, but employing the computer to play the role of game master by storing game rules and unit characteristics, tracking unit status and positions or distances, animating the game with sounds and voice and resolving combat. Flow of play is simple: each turn, the units come up in a random order. Therefore the more units an opponent has, the more chance he will be selected for the next turn. When a unit comes up, the commander specifies an order and if offensive action is being taken, a target, along with details about distance. The results of the order, base move distance and effect to target, are reported, and the unit is moved on the tabletop. All distance relationships are tracked on the tabletop. All record-keeping is tracked by the computer.

Remote computer assisted wargames can be considered as extensions to the concept of PBEM gaming, however the presentation and actual capabilities are completely different. They have been designed to replicate the look and feel of existing board or miniatures wargames on the computer. The map and counters are presented to the user who can then manipulate these, more-or-less as if he were playing the physical game, and send a saved file off to his opponent, who can review what has been done without having to duplicate everything on his physical set-up of the game, and respond. Some allow for both players to get on-line and see each other's moves in real-time.

These systems are generally set up so that while one can play the game, the program has no knowledge of the rules, and cannot enforce them. The human players must have a knowledge of the rules themselves. The idea is to promote the playing of the games (by making play against a remote opponent easier), while supporting the industry (and reducing copyright issues) by ensuring that the players have access to the actual physical game.

The four main programs that can be used to play a number of games each are Aide de Camp, Cyberboard, Vassal and ZunTzu. Aide de Camp is available for purchase, while the other three are offered free. Vassal is in turn an outgrowth of the VASL (Virtual ASL) project, and uses Java, making it accessible to any computer that can run a modern JVM, while the other three are Microsoft Windows programs.

Play-by-Mail (PBM)

Wargames were played remotely through the mail, with players sending lists of moves, or orders, to each other through the mail.

In some early PBM systems, six sided dice rolling was simulated by designating a specific stock and a future date and once that date passed, the players would determine an actions outcome using the sales in hundreds value for specific stocks on a specific date and then dividing the NYSE published sales in hundreds by six, using the remainder as the dice result.

Nuclear Destruction, by the Flying Buffalo was an early PBM game in 1970. Origins Award Hall-of-Fame member Middle-earth PBM is still active today.

Reality Simulations, Inc. still runs a number of PBM games, such as Duel2 (formerly known as Duelmasters), Hyborian War, and Forgotten Realms: War of the Avatars.

E-mail and traditional versions

Since e-mail is faster than the standard postal service, the rise of the Internet saw a shift of people playing board wargames from play-by-mail (PBM) to play-by-email (PBEM) or play-by-web (PBW). The mechanics were the same, merely the medium was faster.

At this time, turn-based strategy computer games still had a decent amount of popularity, and many started explicitly supporting the sending of saved-game files through email (instead of needing to find the file to send to the opponent by hand). As with all types of video games, the rise in home networking solutions and Internet access has also meant that networked games are now common and easy to set up.


While wargaming is a genre itself, it can be categorized into a number of sub-genres. The most obvious division is by the categories given above. i.e., miniatures, board, computer, etc. This is so obvious, in fact, that most people verbally (and mentally) skip over it. A person might discuss (depending on context) 'board games' or 'wargames' and assume the other element without feeling any need to state 'board wargames'.

Beyond this, there are a few other characteristics that are used to define wargames. Another element that tends to be assumed is the environment, or type of warfare (land, naval, air) depicted, at least if the subject matter is land warfare (a game on naval or air warfare will specify such if not immediately obvious). The most common genres that categories are explicitly based on is the period or era of the game, and then the scale of the game. Naturally, games concerned with a particular combination of period, scale and environment tend to emphasize similar features.


The bulk of wargames concentrate on land warfare, the oldest of all types of warfare, and generally the easiest to simulate. Naval warfare and naval wargames are also popular, and go all the way back to the beginnings of the hobby. Aerial warfare is relatively recent, and wargames on the subject are usually tactical games simulating dogfights, there are relatively few dealing with just the air war of a larger conflict. Dealing with multiple elements complicates the model of the simulation side of a wargame, so games with a true combined arms approach tend to be strategic in nature, where all aspects are abstracted to a greater degree. While there are some near-future possibilities for space warfare, there are very few 'serious' games on the subject, and wargames set in space are almost purely in the genre of science fiction.

Historical period

Six men sit around a table, studying the contents atop it. On the table are a map, many small cardboard chits (counters), and cards. One man has his left hand hovering above the map, finger pointing at a stack of counters.
Here I Stand session in progress. Players struggle for religious and political influence over 16th century Europe in this 2006 board game by GMT.

As wargames are generally historical, games are generally grouped into periods. These divisions mirror the scholarly divisions of history to some extent, but as certain subjects are very popular, certain wars are a category all by themselves. World War II, the American Civil War, and the Napoleonic Wars are the most popular historical categories, with other subjects generally being broken down as Ancients, Middle Ages, Early Gunpowder, and Modern. Note that much of history from 1800-1950 is often not reflected well in general parlance as they are overshadowed by the 'big three', games on other subjects in this era are often referred to by the actual war they deal with. Unsurprisingly the various periods and wars, especially the better known ones, are usually referred to as initials or acronyms. Thus 18th century is usually broken down into sub periods such as 'WSS' (War of Spanish Succession), 'WAS' (War of Austrian Succession), 'SYW' (Seven Years War) and 'AWI' (American War of Independence). Some rules will take a broad brush approach, and cover a large period of time, such as 'Black Powder' which advertises as covering both 18th and 19th centuries, and have period specific sub-rules. Others concentrate purely on one war, such as 'Beneath the Lily Banners' (or BLB as it is often called) concentrates purely of the War of Spanish Succession.

Early 'modern' wargaming, as popularised by Grant and Featherstone, usually broke down the history into "Ancients", usually Biblical and Classical eras, "Horse and Musket", covering the 18th and 19th centuries, and "Modern", World war Two onwards.

In the early days, wargames were either historical, or somewhat abstract. Tactics II, the first general commercial board wargame, featured a fictional landscape with two made up countries but whose armies had capabilities based on contemporary conventional forces. Analogous to those, are the 'contemporary' games, ones that simulate current forces and postulate what an actual war involving them would be like. These were popular during the Cold War, but have faded with the fall of the Soviet Union. During the 1970s, fantasy and science fiction made themselves felt as genres that could work inside of wargames. These tend to be more varied, as different assumptions can lead to vastly different types of warfare, but there has been no real concern with subdividing the genres more closely.

Finally, wargames do not necessarily have to involve traditional concepts of warfare and battles and games can enact typical film genres such as gang battles, crime and law enforcement. Similarly martial arts or even non-combat situations and adventures can be gamed where there are other objectives that require strategy combined with the elements of chance (dice/cards etc.) to be achieved.

Unit or map scale

  • Grand strategy — military strategy at the level of movement and use of an entire state or empire's resources, with the focus being on a war (or series of wars) usually over a long period of time. Individual units, even armies, may not be represented; instead, attention is given to theaters of operation. All of the resources of the nations involved may be mobilized as part of a long-term struggle. This simulation almost always involves political, economic, and military conflict. At the most extreme end of this is the branch of strategy games in which the player assumes the role of an entire nation-state's government where not conducting war is a possibility. Axis and Allies, Risk, and Empires in Arms are examples of this type of wargame.
  • Strategic — military units are typically division, corps, or army-sized, rated by raw strength. At this scale, economic production and diplomacy are significant. This sub-genre will often make use of all branches with the whole force of the engaging nations, covering entire wars or long campaigns.
  • Operational — common units are battalion to divisional size, carrying a value based on their overall strengths and weaknesses. Weather and logistics are significant factors, although a single army is the largest player-controlled element in most cases. Other branches of military force are more or less abstracted, having a mere campaign generally span the session of play.
  • Tactical — units range from individual vehicles and squads to platoons or companies, and are measured by the types and ranges of individual weaponry. A solitary force, others occasionally intervening, will usually cover the single battle or part of a large battle to be simulated.
  • Skirmish — represented by individual soldiers, units may have tracked wounding and ammunition count. A game is composed of a small firefight, introducing the "man-to-man" scale; the first of this type in the modern era of board wargames include Patrol and Sniper!. Early role-playing games were derived from skirmish wargames, and many are still played as such.

Notable people

  • Georg Leopold von Reisswitz and his son Georg Heinrich Rudolf von Reisswitz - inventors of Kriegsspiel.
  • H.G. Wells - Pioneer in miniature wargaming, author of Little Wars. His usual companion in wargames was Jerome K. Jerome (of Three Men in a Boat fame).
  • Jack Scruby - After H.G. Wells, he did the most to make miniature wargaming a respectable hobby. He also popularized miniatures wargaming with a cheaper production process for miniature figures, publishing the first miniature wargaming magazine, the War Game Digest, and community building.
  • Don Featherstone - Known in the UK as the "co-father" of modern miniature wargaming.
  • Phil Dunn - founder of the Naval Wargames Society, the only international organisation of naval wargaming to date, and author of Sea Battle Games.
  • Charles S. Roberts - Known as the "Father of modern board wargaming", designed the first modern wargame, as well as the company most identified with modern wargames (Avalon Hill).
  • Richard Berg - Designer of Terrible Swift Sword, and worked at SPI.
  • Larry Bond - Designer of Harpoon, and best selling author
  • Frank Chadwick - A co-founder of Game Designers Workshop (along with Loren Wiseman, Marc Miller, and Rich Banner), one of the first major competitors to Avalon Hill, and himself a prolific wargame designer and innovator.
  • Jim Dunnigan - considered "The Dean of Modern Wargaming", founder of SPI and the most prolific print wargame designer in history. His designs included many firsts in wargaming, including the first tactical wargames.
  • Charles Grant - Author of The Wargame.
  • Lawrence Groves - Founded Martial Enterprises and designed La Bataille de la Moscowa (1974), recognized at the first "monster game." Died in the late 1970s in a motorcycle accident.
  • E. Gary Gygax - Designer of several miniatures and board wargames who went on to co-create (with Dave Arneson) and publish Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Larry Harris - Designer of Axis and Allies, Conquest of the Empire, and other games in the Axis and Allies Series.
  • Bruce Quarrie - wrote rule sets for Napoleonic and World War Two wargames and also on military history.
  • Mark Herman - Member of the "Hall of Fame" and designer of We The People, the first Card Driven Wargame; worked originally at SPI and was the CEO of VG. Most recent designs are For The People and Empire of the Sun, each of which won the Charles S. Roberts Award for best game in their category.
  • John Hill - Designer of Squad Leader, Johnny Reb, and other well-received designs.
  • David Manley - author of "Iron and Fire", "Fox Two" and other air and naval rules systems, editor of the Naval Wargames Society journal "Battlefleet"
  • Redmond Simonsen - Co-founder of SPI and introduced many advanced graphics design elements to wargame designs.

Notable examples

Board versions

While a comprehensive list will show the variety of titles, the following games are notable for the reasons indicated:

  • Plastic Army men are nowadays used to play *[wargaming] by following a standard set of rules in which one player vs. the other. For rules on this, go to www.alliancemartialarts.com *Diplomacy - (1954) a classic multi-player game from the "golden age" of wargames in which strategy is exercised off the game board as well as on it.
  • Tactics II (Avalon Hill, 1958) - the wargame that launched Avalon Hill.
  • Risk (Parker Brothers, 1959) - Widely accepted as the first mainstream wargame.
  • Gettysburg (Avalon Hill, 1961) - the first modern era wargame intended to model an actual historical event, published after the success of Tactics II, which was a non-representative strategic game.
  • Tactical Game 3 (Strategy & Tactics Magazine game, 1969); re-released as PanzerBlitz by Avalon Hill in 1970. The very first tactical wargame. The game pioneered the use of "geomorphic mapboards" and PanzerBlitz was a game system rather than just a game in that forces could be used to depict any number of actual tactical situations rather than one specific scenario. Pioneered several ground-breaking features, such as use of various types of weapons fire to reflect battlefield conditions. Also created new level of realism in reflecting tactical armored vehicles.
  • Sniper! (SPI, 1973) - along with Patrol, the first Man to Man wargames where game pieces depicted a single soldier. An adaptation of Sniper! also became one of the first multi-player computer wargames.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men (Battleline Publications, 1974 Avalon Hill, 1976) - the definitive game of Age of Sail warfare for many years.
  • Rise and Decline of the Third Reich (Avalon Hill, 1974) - The first serious attempt to model WWII in Europe in its entirety, including (in a limited way) the economic and industrial production of the nations involved. It has seen numerous versions and editions, and is currently available as John Prados' Third Reich from Avalanche Press, and as a far more complex descendant game, A World At War, published by GMT Games.
  • La Bataille de la Moskowa (Martial Enterprises, 1974) Later republished by Games Designers Workshop and Clash of Arms. With 4 maps and 1000+ counters, it is credited with being the first "monster" wargame (by famed designer Richard Berg.)
  • Squad Leader (Avalon Hill, 1977) and Advanced Squad Leader (1985) have become the most prolific series of wargames, including 3 add-on modules for the former, and 12 for the latter, with additional Historical modules and Deluxe modules also having been released. ASL also sets the record for sheer volume of playing components, with thousands of official counters and 60+ "geomorphic mapboards" not counting Deluxe and Historical maps.
  • Star Fleet Battles - (Task Force Games, 1978) one of the older still actively played and published wargames today; based on Star Trek, it is arguably the most successful tactical space combat system that does not rely on miniatures (published by Amarillo Design Bureau).
  • Storm Over Arnhem (Avalon Hill, 1981) - pioneered the use of "point to point" or "area movement" in tactical wargames.
  • Axis and Allies - (Nova Games, 1981) the most successful of Milton Bradley's (1984) 'GameMaster' line in an attempt to bring wargaming into the mainstream by appealing to non-wargamers through simplicity and attractive components.
  • Ambush! - (Victory Games, 1983) the first solitaire board wargame depicting man to man combat, in which each game piece represented a single person.
  • Blue Max - (GDW, 1983) is a multi-player game of World War I aerial combat over the Western Front during 1917 and 1918 with an extremely easy to play mechanism but allow the development of complex strategies.
  • We the People - (Avalon Hill, 1994) this game started the Card-Driven wargame movement, which is very influential in current wargame design.

Miniature versions

  • Rules for the Jane Naval War Game (S. Low, Marston, 1898) - The first published miniature wargame. A 26 page rule set limited to naval miniature battles. It came in a crate measuring 4 ft. X 4 ft. X 2 ft. Written by Fred Jane. As only a handful of these games survive, they are highly collectible.[16]
  • Little Wars (H.G. Wells, 1913) - The first popular published wargame rules. Includes the common miniature wargaming mechanics of dice rolling, range, line of sight, and moving in alternate turns. This game earned Wells the title "The Father of Miniature Wargaming".[17]
  • Miniature Wargames du temps de Napoleon (John Chandler, 1964) - First period-specific historical miniature wargame.[citation needed] Also the first in a long line of Napoleonic miniature wargames.
  • Chainmail (Guidon Games, 1971) - An extension and distillation of rules previously published in various periodicals. Major elements of this game were adopted by the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Unlike Dungeons & Dragons, Chainmail used two six-sided dice to resolve combat. Previous fantasy miniature wargames had been written, but this was the first one published. Drawing on the popularity of The Lord of the Rings, this game featured the novelties of combat magic and fantastic creatures as combatants.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Battle (Games Workshop, 1983) - An internationally successful fantasy miniature wargame. The First Edition rules introduced innovative open unit design rules, however later editions eliminated the option to build custom units and make use of standard army lists mandatory. Warhammer was one of the first newly-developed miniature wargames to enjoy popularity after role-playing games came to market in 1974. In fact, it is because of Roleplaying games becoming so popular, and people having too many models that were rarely used, that this was first published[citation needed].
  • Warhammer 40,000 (Games Workshop, 1987) - A futuristic wargame featuring rival armies with different fighting styles. This wargame has very conceptual artwork suggesting a post-apocalyptic neo-gothic universe gone awry. Arguably the most profitable miniature wargame ever, it has popularized competitive tournament gameplay in large, international events sanctioned by Games Workshop.
  • De Bellis Antiquitatis (Wargames Research Group, 1990) - Radically minimalist rules differentiate this game from other notable miniature wargames. A number of systems have been strongly influenced by DBA.
  • Mage Knight (WizKids Inc., 2001) - Innovative game popularizing the combat dial, pre-painted plastic miniatures, and the collectible miniatures games. Mage Knight has inspired numerous collectible, skirmish miniature wargames.
  • Warmachine (Privateer Press, 2003) - A steampunk-inspired miniatures game featuring steam-powered robots fighting under the direction of powerful wizards. Also has a sister game, Hordes, which features large monsterous creatures in the place of robots.
  • Heroscape (Milton Bradley Company, 2004) - An inexpensive, simple wargame that has been successfully mass marketed to both younger wargamers and adults. As miniature wargaming is often an expensive hobby, Heroscape and the collectible miniatures games have opened the miniature wargaming hobby to a new demographic.
  • BrikWars is a wargame that uses Lego bricks as miniatures and scenery and is steadily growing in popularity mostly due to the looseness of the rules.
  • Flames of War (Battlefront Miniatures, 2002) - Popular WW2 wargame at 15mm (1:100) scale, currently focusing on the European and Mediterean theatres. Splits into three time periods (Early War 1939-41, Mid War 1942-43 and Late War 1944-45) to bring some balance and historical matchups.

See also List of miniature wargames.

Computer versions

  • Panzer General - (Strategic Simulations, Inc., 1994) - probably the most widely popular computer game that is recognizably a traditional wargame. It spawned several sequels, some of which explored different subject matter.
  • Steel Panthers - (Strategic Simulations, Inc., 1995) - an early tactical wargame on the same scale as Squad Leader, which led to two sequels, and a complete revision of the title for free release.
  • Close Combat - (Microsoft, 1996) - not the first wargame to break out from hexes, and still presented in a 2-dimensional format, Close Combat nonetheless uniquely addressed factors such as individual morale and reluctance to carry out orders. The original title led to 5 very successful sequels for the general public, as well as being developed into a training tool for military use only. Close Combat stemmed from an early attempt to translate the Squad Leader boardgame to the computer.
  • Combat Mission - (Big Time Software, 2000) - not the first 3D tactical wargame (titles such as Muzzle Velocity preceded it), but a groundbreaking game series featuring simultaneous order resolution, complete orders of battle for numerous nationalities, with three titles based on the original game engine. As of 2006, a campaign layer is in testing as well as a revised game engine to be released before 2007. CM's genesis was also as a failed attempt by Avalon Hill to translate Squad Leader to the computer.
  • TacOps - (battlefront.com, 1994) - commercial version of “TacOpsCav 4”, an officially issued standard training device of the US Army. It is a simulation of contemporary and near-future tactical, ground, combat between the modern armed forces of the world.

Unique Game Systems

  • Ace of Aces - (Nova Games, 1980) - this flip-book system has long been considered one of the best simulations of aerial dogfighting.
  • BattleTech - (FASA, 1984) - initially conceived as a board game, it has created a brand that now includes various different boardgames (tactical as well as strategic), miniature game rules, a role-playing game, computer games, flip-book games (by Nova Games) as well as novels and a TV series.
  • Car Wars - (Steve Jackson Games, 1982) - initially printed as a board game, it quickly evolved to incorporate elements of miniatures games.
  • Up Front - (Avalon Hill, 1983) - the most popular of the very small class of card wargames.

See also


  1. ^ "What is a Wargame?". http://www.alanemrich.com/PGD/Week_03/PGD_What_is_a_Wargame.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-14. 
  2. ^ Leeson, Bill. "Origins of the Kriegsspiel". Kriegsspiel News. http://www.kriegsspiel.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=15&Itemid=58. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  3. ^ Pelvin, Richard. "Jane's Naval War Game". http://www.gwpda.org/naval/janeswgm.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  4. ^ Costikyan, Greg (1995). "An Introduction". Little Wars & Floor Games. Hogshead Publishing Ltd.. 
  5. ^ Miller, Ron (2001). "Jack Coggins". Outre Magazine (23): 42–49. 
  6. ^ Donald Featherstone's Naval Wargames, reprinted by the History of Wargaming Project www.wargaming.co
  7. ^ See The Fletcher Pratt Naval Wargame, printed by the History of Wargaming Project
  8. ^ Beattie, Robert. "The Courier's Timeline of the Historical Miniatures Wargaming Hobby". The Courier. http://www-personal.umich.edu/~beattie/timeline2.html. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  9. ^ See James Dunnigan's Foreword to Donald Featherstone's Lost Tales, published 2009. Dunnigan clearly places Featherstone in his role as a key propagator of wargaming as a hobby and tool for professionals.
  10. ^ Roberts, Charles. "Charles S. Roberts: In His Own Words". http://www.alanemrich.com/CSR_pages/Articles/CSRspeaks.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-10. 
  11. ^ Owen, Seth (July 1990). "The History of Wargaming 1975-1990". Strategy & Tactics (136). http://pawnderings.blogspot.com/2008/04/history-of-wargaming-1975-1990.html. 
  12. ^ On Jan. 14 and 15, 2002, Ed Wimble of Clash of Arms games and Richard Berg discussed (on the Consimworld online forum) the origins of the "monster game." Berg is famed for his classic monster game Terrible Swift Sword. They agreed that Lawrence Groves, and his Martial Enterprises, created the first monster game with La Batatille de la Moscowa in 1974:
    If one is capable of tracing any roots in such an internecine business back to any original source (which I think is fairly improbable), I'd say Yes . . . the genre being the marketing concept of producing games on such a large scale. However, I have always been rather open and forthright about giving the credit to Larry (snd his partner) for providing the idea of doing TSS to everyone at SPI watching the swirl of activity around that pivotal appearance of "La Bataile" outside Baltimore. Richard Berg, Jan. 15, 2002
  13. ^ Dunnigan, James (1992). The Complete Wargames Handbook (2nd ed.). New York, N.Y.: Morrow. ISBN 0-688-10368-5. http://www.hyw.com/Books/WargamesHandbook/Contents.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  14. ^ Peck, Michael (2006). "The State of Wargaming". Armchair General Magazine. http://www.armchairgeneral.com/the-state-of-wargaming.htm/1?cat=59. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  15. ^ Szymonik, Peter (Nov-Dec 1989). "Collecting Wargames". The Wargamer 2 (16). 
  16. ^ A reprint is available from the History of Wargaming Project at wargaming.co
  17. ^ A reprint is available from history of Wargaming Project at wargaming.co

Further reading


  • Stuart Asquith Wargaming World War Two , Special Interest Model Books; New edition edition (31 Dec 1998) ISBN 978-1-85486-000-2
  • Stuart Asquith Military Modelling Guide to War Gaming , Special Interest Model Books 1987
  • Stuart Asquith Military Modelling Guide to Siege War Gaming , Special Interest Model Books 1990
  • Stuart Asquith Military Modelling Guide to Solo War Gaming , Special Interest Model Books 1989
  • Phil Barker Know The Game: War Gaming, EP Publishing 1978.
  • Phil Barker Airfix magazine Guides : Ancient Wargaming, P.Stephens Ltd 1975.
  • Jim Dunnigan, The Complete Wargames Handbook: How to Play, Design, and Find Them, Quill 1992. ISBN 0-688-10368-5 This is available online at hyw.com (verified January 2009).
  • Jon Freeman, The Complete Book of Wargames, Simon and Schuster 1980. ISBN 0-671-25374-3
  • Nicholas Palmer, The Comprehensive Guide to Bord Wargaming, Arthur Baker Limited London 1977. ISBN 0-213-16646-1
  • Nicholas Palmer, The Best of Board Wargaming, Hippocrene Books, Inc. New York, NY 1980. ISBN 0-88254-525-6
  • Donald Featherstone Featherstone's Complete Wargaming, David & Charles UK 1989. ISBN 0-7153-9262-X
  • Donald Featherstone War Games, Lulu 2008, ISBN 978-1-4092-1676-6
  • Donald Featherstone Advanced War Games, Sportshelf & Soccer Assoc 1969. ISBN 0-392-00441-0
  • Donald Featherstone Tank Battles in Miniature: Wargamers' Guide to the Western Desert Campaign, 1940-42, P.Stephens Ltd 1973
  • Donald Featherstone War Game Campaigns, S. Paul 1970
  • Donald Featherstone War Games Through the Ages Vol. 2 1420 - 1783 , S. Paul 1974
  • Donald Featherstone War Games Through the Ages Vol. 3 1792 - 1859, S. Paul 1975
  • Dorca Bis Alejo, El Hobby de los soldados en miniatura, el wargame, el rol, el modelismo y el coleccionismo. primera edición: 23 de agosto de 2008, ISBN 99920-1-701-5, 212 p.
  • Charles Grant Battle! Practical Wargaming, Model and Allied Publishing (MAP) 1970. ISBN 0-85344-034-4
  • Paddy Griffith Napoleonic Wargaming For Fun, Ward Lock Ltd, London, 1980, reprinted 2008 by the History of Wargaming Project link
  • Paddy Griffith Sprawling Wargames multiplayer Wargaming, Ward Lock Ltd, London, 1980, reprinted 2009 by the History of Wargaming Project link
  • Peter Perla The Art of Wargaming, Naval Institute Press 1990. ISBN 0-87021-050-5
  • Mark Herman, Mark Frost, Robert Kurz Wargaming for Leaders, McGraw-Hill 2009. ISBN 978-0-07-159688-6
  • Bruce Quarrie Airfix magazine Guides : Napoleonic Wargaming, P.Stephens Ltd 1974.
  • Bruce Quarrie Airfix magazine Guides : World War 2 Wargaming, P.Stephens Ltd 1976
  • C.F. Wesencraft Practical wargaming, Hippocrene Books, 1974 ISBN 978-0-88254-271-3 reprinted by the History of Wargaming Project link
  • C.F. Wesencraft With Pike and Musket, reprinted by the History of Wargaming Project link
  • Andrew Wilson War Gaming, Penguin 1970.
  • Terence Wise Airfix magazine Guides : American Civil War Wargaming, P.Stephens Ltd 1977.
  • Terence Wise Introduction to Battle Gaming, Model and Allied Publishing (MAP) 1972. ISBN 0-85344-014-X
  • Terence Wise Terry Wise's Introduction to Battlegaming including his unpublished wargaming rules Printed by the History of Wargaming Project link


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