Gatekeeper: When someone takes it upon themselves to decide who does or does not have access or rights to a community or identity.

Why bring it up?  Well, the board wargaming world is full of gatekeepers.  It’s not that unusual.  In fact, I suspect every hobby has their version of gatekeeping.  The term most commonly associated with “gatekeepers” in the wargaming world is: Grognard.  These are the stodgy old-timers who can tell you all about when wargames were first getting started and how good they were before cubes and other nonsense got involved.  There are even neo-grognards who want to gatekeep what is and isn’t a wargame just as vehemently as the old guard.

Why bother even bringing it up?

Simply, gatekeepers can have a chilling effect on a small community.  Even a community that seeks to find new members and that has success like wargaming can turn folks off.  I look at some of the nonsense related to Katie’s Game Corner and opposition she’s received to everything from playing solitaire, to being a woman, to calling Twilight Struggle her favorite wargame.  Frankly, this kind of garbage is what turns folks off of wargaming and makes them want to shy away for fear of not liking the things other people like or feeling inferior in their enjoyment of the hobby.

This article isn’t really about people though.  It’s about games.  It’s about games that don’t get a shot because folks want to value their view of wargames over what the game has to offer.  The central question I’ll try to get at today is: Can a wargame be FUN and have that be enough?

Yes

Maybe I should make you read a bit further, but why bother.  The answer is unequivocally, yes.

The real question then is WHY is it okay for a wargame to be fun above all else?  This requires a little more investigation into the nature of why people might play wargames.  There are as many wargamers as there are reasons for why they love wargaming.  There is bound to be overlap and it’s typically found somewhere in the neighborhood of enjoyment of history, competition, social interaction, and strategic thinking.  That’s not an exclusive list, of course, but it’s a start and tends to be the reasons rolled out by folks explicitly in their forum discussions or implicitly in what their gaming preference.

If the causes for wargaming have some common ground, perhaps that explains the degree to which different aspects of a wargame are valued.  I would argue that there are three critical components to the evaluation of a wargame that, while not exhaustive, tend to be cited most frequently in reviews as either an exemplar of excellence or indicator of poor design.

  • Components
  • Historical Accuracy
  • Gameplay

What do reviewers mean, in general, when bringing these things up?  It’s hard to pinpoint, honestly, because without being the author of every review I have to rely solely on what they write or say.  In fact, even that can be misleading.  Often times I’m left wondering whether the reviewer played the game more than once, or took the time to learn the rules at all.  As a result, I need to infer quite a bit from reviews.  Let’s take a quick look at each element of a wargame review.

Components

This is pretty straightforward.  Compare all those “shrink tear” and “whats inside the box” videos with the number of videos that actually show the game being played or reviewed.  There are FAR more folks showing off what they own than what they’ve played.  I hate to admit it, but I fall into that category…in my defense, I have more wargames than I suspect I’ll play in my lifetime though so who can hold it against a person?

What a reviewer is really saying during a component overview is … “Do I like/approve of the items found inside the box.”

A good reviewer will note whether the complete Order of Battle is there, the level of detail for the units, and any interesting quirks with the game.  I better hear all about those odd little circular units when someone reviews the components of No Retreat: The Italian Front.  The stranger the component mix or individual components, the more I want to hear about them.  After all, if the designers included non-standard components that should be a klaxon going off in a reviewer’s mind.

The underlying point here is that components have become a closely evaluated element of a good game.  We expect digital counters with high resolution, perfect die cuts, and accurate information.  We expect to see a nice map, mounted more frequently now than even 10 years ago, and above all, we want to see a well-written rulebook.  These expectations aren’t necessarily about the tactile feel or look of a game.  Instead, it’s the first blush with the fun of the game.  How quickly can I go from shrink rip to gaming with a friend?

Historical Accuracy

If we take for granted that folks who enjoy board wargaming are also interested, at least in some part, in the history of the topic they’re gaming, then historical accuracy is going to get some attention.  This begs the question…upon whose version of history are we evaluating the game?

I would argue that we’re relying on the designer’s view of history.  After all, many games to great lengths to provide a handy bibliography.  I’ve pulled some great books from those lists over the years.  More often than not, I see reviewers relying upon their own sense of history.  I won’t even say their expertise in history because for every well intentioned and well-informed wargamer on the topic there are a dozen (or more) who are simply spitballing their interpretation of history based upon a survey level course in high school or college.

So, why bother with historical accuracy at all?  After all, the game was designed, refined, playtested, refined some more, and published.  It must have passed quite a few sniff tests before making it into our hypothetical reviewer’s hands right?

In the immortal words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast there…”

Historical accuracy is relativistic when it comes to each person playing the game.  As such, the reviewer’s impression of the history of a game is critical to the opinion of their audience.  I will admit to trusting a friend’s opinion of the history more than my own far more often than not.  It’s not that I’m unwilling to speak up, but if they like or dislike the historical accuracy of our game based upon their interpretation of history…well…how would I ever overcome that?  Would such a discussion end with my gaming opponent willing to play against me again? Perhaps.

The fun of a game can directly be tied back to a person’s perception of its historical accuracy.  Since this is tied so specifically to each person’s sense of history…bias will undoubtedly show through here with all other elements of the game being equal.  After all, if we enjoy the history we’re more likely to buy into the narrative unfolding on our table!

Gameplay

Finally, it falls to yet another wildly subjective topic: Gameplay.

When I hear or see something reviewing gameplay I immediately jump to the actual act of playing the game.  Was it fun?  Were there too many markers to manage and thus the game became “fiddly?” How long did it take to play a turn?  Were the rules manageable?

You likely have your list of questions that pop into your mind as well!

If we consider the FUN of a game and have established that the game has adequate components, an adequate historical basis for the rules, then what’s left is playing the game.  Here’s where games can fall apart, particularly in our age of the non-stop release cycle.  Few games, especially three to five-hour wargames, get sufficient play to warrant what I’d call a fair evaluation of its merits.  We are hard-pressed to find time to play these games and it can be equally challenging to find opponents willing to give up their time when your schedules both permit.

A lot is riding on that first gameplay experience and, as we’ve discovered, each player is going to bring baggage about everything from their opinion of the topic to the history to their understanding of the rules.  That can leave players on different sides of the table feeling totally different even though they just played the same game.  I won’t lie…I’m more likely to enjoy a game I feel competent playing as opposed to one where I’m totally lost in the rules.

Therein lies the heart of the question.  Is it okay to like a game JUST because it’s fun?  Does a game need anything more than that?  Does it need to look a certain way?  Handle the rules for historical accuracy in a specific way?  What about play out on the map the way both players expect?

I would, again, assert that the answer is no.  Fun for the sake of fun is what hobbies like ours are built upon.  The more judgmental the hobbyist, the more distant from the spirit of the hobby they become.  Every hobby hopes to sustain itself.  Take quilting, the concept of the quilting bee is inherently social and attempts to bring others in rather than turn them away.  Games, and wargaming can be profoundly accepting.  It can, however, also show off a level of judgemental childishness that it’s no wonder the term Grognard has found a pejorative meaning.

So … have fun if only just to have fun with your games!

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and bought a traditional hex and counter wargame. What should you expect when you open the box? How long will it take for you to learn the rules? What about teaching someone else to play?
 
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
In this article, we’ll take a look at how you can get the most out of your new wargame. You’ll learn one possible pathway to enjoying your new game. In a future article, we’ll look at how to recruit and teach your new wargame.
 

Let’s put first things first…tear that shrink and grab the components from the box. You are likely to find some variation on the following:

  • One or more countersheets
  • One or more rulebooks / scenario guides
  • One or more maps (mounted on cardboard or heavy-weight paper stock
  • One or more player aid cards with charts and summaries of the game

Maps First

 
I always go for the maps first. After all, getting a lay of the land is important for any general. It’s worthwhile to see what information is on the map. Look specifically for the following:
 
  1. Terrain – What is the terrain and what are the terrain types on which we’ll be playing this game. In some games this is simple. Flying Colors, for example, only features ocean hexes. A game like Holland ’44, on the other hand, features many terrain types ranging from rivers and canals to cities, forests, and a special terrain type called Polder.
  2. Play Aids – What are the on-map player aids?  Does the game feature a turn-track, reinforcement schedule, Combat Resolution Table (CRT), or some other display of data?
  3. Size – How big of a space will I need to play this game?  It may seem obvious, but if you’re coming from a non-wargaming background you may be surprised to find just how much space some wargames can take.

Countersheets Second

If we know where we’ll be fighting, the next step is to determine who is doing that fighting!  Countersheets typically come in a few varieties, but the most common layout of a counter is to show the type of the unit as a NATO symbol with the statistics about the unit underneath the type.  There are generally other bits of information, but those are the two most important areas of each unit counter to examine.

If you see three number separated by a dash at the bottom of the counter, that typically means:

Attack – Defense – Movement

This isn’t universally true, but more often than not you can infer that as a start.  If you just see two numbers, typically those will be attack and defense.  Some counters may go well beyond the basics or use silhouettes instead of the NATO unit type symbols.  What is important is getting familiar with the shapes, symbols, and numbers found on a counter.

Next, you’ll want to look at the informational markers.  Most games include house-keeping markers to help you track different unit statuses throughout the game.  A game like Last Chance for Victory may provide you with unit strength markers while other games may have markers for things like supply, traffic, rubble, fires, broken units, hidden units, and a vast array of other details that might be tracked by the game.

While maps about the same topic generally look roughly the same, countersheets for different games, even covering the same subjects will typically look quite different.  This is your first chance to put a critical eye to what rules you might encounter when you skim the rulebook and how you’ll use the included player aid cards with the game.  Looking at the number of counters included will also reveal a lot about how many of those counters the game expects you to use.  So, if you see a lot of Out of Supply markers, expect rules that will leave units out of supply frequently if not managed properly.

Player Aid Cards Third

The player aid cards provide you with information on what rules are used most frequently in the game.  A good player aid card is developed throughout the playtest process as playtesters forget rules, need a quick place to look up information, and almost always for reference to information like the Combat Resolution Table (CRT) and Terrain Effects Chart (TEC).  Let’s take a minute to look at these two sections of the player aid card in detail.

Terrain Effects Chart

Almost always, you’ll find a small representation of the terrain depiction in a single hex listed alongside information about movement, attacking, and defending in that terrain.  Pay close attention to the defense and attack restrictions or notes.  Rulebooks tend to over-explain the TEC and if you keep this card handy you’ll be able to skip quite a bit and focus on the gnarly exceptions that might be included.

Combat Results Table

You don’t need to memorize this thing, but if you play the game enough…you will.  Most ASL players who have played for even a few months can start to rattle off most of the CRT for that game.  The important part of this chart is looking at whether there are odds listed as a ratio like 3:1 or whether combat strength is listed as a whole number.  This will give you some insight as you read those counters.

Rulebooks Last

That’s right.  I said it and I won’t back down either.  Rulebooks come last when I’m looking through a new game.  The simple reason is that without seeing the components first I’m not sure what I’ll be reading about in the rulebook.

How are most rulebooks organized?

From the broadest level you’re typically going to read an overview of the game first.  It may be some flavor text, a short paragraph, or even a page of background information.  This is typically followed by a breakdown of the components and terms found in the game.  Spend some time here looking at the components you reviewed and seeing how your expectations align with the game.  If they’re way off, this game may require a closer reading of the rules!

Next, you’ll begin seeing the famous “case system” rules organization.  Older games, particularly SPI games, will go into detail about how to read the “case system,” but suffice it to say that it reads like legalese and is sometimes about that engaging.  There are far more examples of poorly organized or confusing rulebooks in the wargaming world than the truly exceptional ones.  This isn’t the fault of an editor, designer, developer, or proof-reader.  It’s a function of hobby and the, at times, complex nature of the games.

Each rules section is give a number.  Each sub-rule is given a point number.  Each case found within that sub-rule is given another point number.  So you might see section 1 is for movement rules.  The sub-section covering armored movement may be 1.3.  The case that explains when armor bogs on soft ground may be covered in 1.3.4.

NATO Symbols Guide

NATO Symbols Guide

This seems far more intimidating that it actually is.  In fact, wargame rules, you’ll find are hierarchical by nature.  The rules that apply in the broadest terms most frequently in your games are found at the section and sub-rule level.  The cases typically refer to specific things that may or may not always come up in a phase, turn, or even in the entire game.

Don’t get tricked into thinking you must read and memorize this rulebook.  There lies danger and madness.

 So, as you look through the next wargame (or your first), give this method a little try.  In a future article, I’ll be talking about actually learning that first wargame.  Until then…learn up on those NATO symbols!

This is one of those annoying and hotly debated topics that has waxed and waned over the years across our hobby.  After all, definitions help bring order to chaos and make sense of expectations.  When I say that I’ve traveled a mile, in English units we understand that to be 5,280 feet.  There is is a philosophical tidiness to definitions.  After all, if we’re to enjoy these games together shouldn’t we understand where each other are coming from when we discuss wargames?

Here’s the rub though.  I don’t believe there is one definition of wargames.  In fact, I suspect that the greater scrutiny put to any individual person’s definition of wargame the more flexible it may become unless they’re inclined to entrench when faced with opposition.  So, as you read this article, understand that I both come in peace and that my definition isn’t meant to invalidate yours.  Further, and perhaps more importantly, I only intend for it to apply to my discussions so when you read my blog and see me refer to wargames you know what I’m thinking (regardless of how wrongheaded you may find it to be).

So, let’s put some additional caveats in place.  This blog, and therefore this definition, are intended solely to cover tabletop board wargaming.  Wargaming on different sides of the gaming world whether topically or geographically means different things.  To most outsiders, I suspect they immediately jump to Warhammer 40,000, Warmachine, or a historical miniatures ruleset.  In the truest sense, those are without question wargames.

Let’s put another caveat in place…I am referring solely to historical and hypothetical conflicts.  After all, War of the Rings is a wargame, but it falls outside of what I’ll be discussing.  The same is true of Jim Krohn’s excellent Talon and Space Empires 4x series from GMT Games.  Again though, these are speculative Science Fiction rather than hypothetical conflict.

Finally, one last important caveat, there are aspects of war so critical to understanding its conduct that I fully support the inclusion of games on these topics as wargames.  For example, Churchill is largely a game about a series of Conferences during which the national and strategic alliance strategy for the allies is set forth and executed in the most abstract terms militarily.  To me, this is a historical wargame.  The same would be true of a variety of other games like Quartermaster General, Supply Lines of the American Revolution, and yes even Twilight Struggle.  There, I’ve said it.

Our Three Rules

So, with our three rules in mind:

  1. Must be a tabletop board wargame
  2. Must be historical or hypothetical in topic
  3. May include topics considered crucial to the conduct of a war

What is a wargame?

Wargames are “conflict simulations,” but not all conflict simulations are wargames.  After all, I could have a game about competing railway barons who struggle for the territorial rights to build their rail empires.  While a conflict, this would not necessarily be a wargame.  If that’s the case, then we must examine what are eligible conflicts and what about those conflicts makes them materially different from our railway baron problem?

First, I would contend that the end goal must be for some sovereign, though typically national. entity to achieve a strategic goal.  The game itself can be a subset of any layer related to that problem.  In our railway baron problem, it is unlikely that two competing national or sovereign interests are engaged in conflict that largely benefits a baron of industry.

Second, I would suggest that a conflict that is covered by a wargame must include coverage of the use of arms at some level regardless of how abstract.  Arms may be a resource that is consumed as we see in an economic or logistical representation of conflict or it may be explicit as it is in hex & counter wargames.  Further, those arms may be something that’s a means to an end such as the Coup action in a game like Twilight Struggle.

Third, the conflict must have a measurable winner or loser, but not necessarily both.  For example, a winner may be determined but even at great cost.  In effect, the opportunity for Pyrrhic victories may be possible.  So, in our railway problem we see an economic victor and loser, but do we see a national winner or loser?  Is there a sense that the outcome of the economic struggle has affected a larger international or civil internal conflict?

These criteria and explanations may well be imperfect in your eyes.  I hope they challenge your assumption at least to a small degree, but if you find them lacking I hope they push you to consider what conflict is and its relationship with a wargame.  In the end, it is important to find those cellular levels of definition where we can agree or build agreement.

So, if we’ve solved the problem of conflict vs. wargame for my definition and we’ve narrowed our scope what other burdens must we undergo for the purposes of this definition?

In my opinion, none.  Components, size, complexity, scale, scope, and era are immaterial to the rest.  As I said, my definition is broad and is intentionally so because over the past 10 years or so I’ve begun to re-evaluate what it is that makes up a wargame and why I think it fits the definition I’ve built for myself.  In terms of this blog, and maybe even for your own thinking, my hope that this primer gives some clarity and sense to what I’ll be talking about.

As always, if you have other criteria or just completely disagree, please share below!

 

Without question what tabletop board wargaming and miniature wargaming are different creatures.  Aside from the decidedly…”flat” appearance of traditional hex & counter wargames there is the time that goes into painting, prepping terrain, researching rulesets for different eras, and of course, tape measures! Both styles of wargaming, in my experience, are a lot of fun, but not a lot of outsiders realize just how many tools can be used in traditional paper and cardboard-based wargames to make the experience better.

Today, I’ll address five of these accessories that make my life easier.  Realize, that this is a personal listing and that I look forward to hearing about the accessories you simply cannot live without in the comments below.

  1. Plexiglass – You know that stuff you buy when you want to make bird-feeders with a visible seed chamber or for other construction jobs requiring durable transparent materials?  Well, wargamers use that to keep their maps flat and hold them in place.  I have about 5 different sheets to use depending on the application.  The two largest are 72 inches by 30 inches and I use them when I have a 4 map game on the table like The Battle for Normandy or Last Chance for Victory.  Plexi is a cheap solution and a lot of wargamers find it to be fantastic.  There are some downsides…it is hard to get in exact sizes when pieces of plexi need to be large.  It is reflective beyond belief and makes photography without glare a challenge if you have overhead lighting.  When you bump the plexi not only the plexi moves but also the map and sometimes the pieces.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a good game ended early because we just couldn’t bear to put the the proverbial Humpty Dumpty back together again.
  2. Reading Glass / Tweezers – I’m going throw this little combo in there for the fun of it because while these are two distinctly different tools they are related to overcoming some kind of physical limitation from either ham hands or what I’ll just call experienced wargamer syndrome.  Tweezers help move those tiny counters around the map when they’re in tight spots.  Not necessary for all games, tweezers are a lifesaver for something like Advanced Squad Leader where you have counter density that exceeds most other games.  Reading glasses, can assist in reading those tiny numbers, pips, slashes, and dashes that litter an almost inconceivably small area that fits on a counter.
  3. Counter Trays – I won’t get into the holy wars of Plano vs. GMT vs. DVG vs. your system of choice.  Suffice it to say that beyond removing counters from frames and whether/how to deal with corners there’s little to nothing that’ more divisive!  Personally, I use GMT Games trays because they’re cheap, sufficiently sized, and stack well.  Why use them?  Well…what kind of barbarian would just leave their 1,680 counter monster wargame without some kind of easy to use organizational structure?  In reality, there are a lot of ways to organize games, and I’ll go into that in a future article, but for now I’ll just leave it at storage is as important as the games themselves.  After all, some games can take upwards of 2 hours to set up because of the number of counters that need to get laid out prior to play.  Imagine if there was no organization!
  4. Hobby Knife – You can, of course, separate counters from frames pretty easily with just your hands.  That dry feeling of the cardboard snapping in your fingers is delightful.  However, you can also save yourselves some serious work dealing with dog-eared corners by cutting out the counters from the frames.  In effect, the more you tear and rip, the more likely you are to start separating the layers of paper that make up the cardboard you’re going to use in your games.  You could go as far as I did, at one time, and spray counter-sheets with matte varnish prior to cutting out of the sheets but…that’s a bit overkill, to be honest.  Counters from the 1960s still look great even after hundreds of plays.  That loving wear and tear on a game is a trophy, not an unsightly mess.  What’s more unsightly is someone who has dog-eared their counters and the top printed layer is half-peeled due to muscling the counter off the frame.  If you’re neet enough with it, you can even leave those corners squared if you so desire!
  5. Tablespace – Most strategy games are design to be played on a typical table maybe 30″ by 60″ for the game and the folks who will be sitting around and playing the game.  Wargames, in some cases, will work great for this.  No Retreat, most COIN games, and every one-map wonder can do it for the most part.  However, wargames can have 4+ maps.  When I play The Battle for Normandy, I have to use 3 banquet tables and a little side card table top do the whole thing.  It’s a massive burden for home gamers or for a game store that wants to host such a game because you’re taking up 2 tables at a minimum and at times 3 or even 4.  These monstrous games offer players an experience that falls well outside of a normal wargame and is the place where legendary play sessions are often born.

I hope these 5 (maybe 6…) accessories are something you can find in your game room or home.  Again, having the right tools for the job can be important to supporting a positive play experience.  Too cramped of a table is a mess as is knocking about all the counters when you just want that ONE stack in the middle!  What are your favorite tools that should have made this list?

 

Gettysburg 125th Anniversary Cover

Gettysburg 125th Anniversary Cover

The box cover showed two soldiers locked in battle with swirling smoke and a tattered Confederate battle flag in the mix.  The Union soldier smaller, but hanging in there and the Confederate soldier with the upper hand, but clearly losing the upper hand.  When the flat box was opened, the representation of a hand-painted Gettysburg with the hex overlay was a revelation.

 

“You get to re-fight the battle!” my friend Chuck casually explained. To a 10-year-old kid who was addicted to reading about military history that phrase opened me up to a hobby that 29 years later I’m still enjoying as much as that first rainy afternoon in the September of 1988.

WargameHQ is an opportunity for me to help share that passion and love for wargaming.  There are so many fantastic games, designers, and publishers right now that I can’t imagine a better time to get into the hobby.

WargameHQ houses a library of the games I own, news from publishers, interviews with designers and other wargaming community members, as well as this blog which will also be cross-published over at BoardGameGeek.com.

So, why wargame when there are so many other games on the market?  Wargaming, after all, is a part of a broader golden age for boardgames in general.  Simply put, wargaming offers something unique that other boardgames rarely offer: the opportunity to learn about and more deeply interact with history.  I’ll even set aside historical boardgames like Freedom: The Underground Railroad from Academy Games or An Infamous Traffic from publisher Hollandspiele.

Games like Puerto Rico, World’s Fair 1903, Russian Railroads, and Steam offer a look at history, but you’re not engaging in an appreciable way with the history that surrounds those games.  The history is window-dressing to service the game mechanics and often provide a plausible reality for game sub-systems to exist in the design.  Kanban Automotive Revolution has about as much in common with Kanban lean manufacturing as La Granja has with the challenges of farming on Mallorca.  That’s not their intent, and great games like these don’t demand players care that much about the topic.  In effect, the topic can only serve to alienate rather than to recruit interested players in these non-historical strategy games that have a historical setting.

Wargaming, on the other hand, offers players an opportunity to experience the challenge of history.  There’s a wealth of great games covering well-worn roads in the historical world like the campaigns of Napoleon and World War II to lesser known and simulated topics like the battle of Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana during the Boer War.  Wargames also allow you to experience history from multiple perspectives.  Sometimes you’re the soldier on the ground trying desperately to take an objective in the next street.  Sometimes it’s the next town and you’re commanding a regiment.  Sometimes, it’s the next country and you’re acting as the strategic leadership for a country.  Sometimes, it’s a combination of these things or even more uniquely acting as a single person in a strategic role as we experienced in Mark Herman’s Churchill.

To that end, there’s a little something for everyone.  After all, the last five years have given us atypical wargames that cover historical conflicts with a different focus.  Supply Lines of the American Revolution, Churchill, Pericles, and the incredibly popular COIN series games like Fire in the Lake are all examples of an evolutionary step in wargaming.  Smaller publishers are focusing on topics not often gamed like The Battle of Adobe Walls.  Large publishers are getting in on the action as well with The Dambuster’s Raid or Comancheria.

So, the main question remains…what’s holding people back from playing these games?

The issue is thorny enough that I can’t possibly cover it with any depth of fidelity here, but I will point out a few generalizations that I think work against wargaming having a wider audience:

  1. Access – Wargames are not typically sold in many online or brick & mortar stores with any depth or breadth to truly get eyeballs of casual games on the products.  I am thankful that The Gamer’s Armory is my local store and they carry a great variety of depth of wargaming products.
  2. Complexity – Though this has become far less of a barrier in an era with YouTube tutorials, great bloggers showing off the games, and a focus on refining overly complex rule-systems it remains daunting.  Most non-wargamers consider rulebooks of over 15 pages to represent a “complex” game.  The typical length of a wargame rulebook is around 25-30 pages and its three-column layout can be intimidating.  Even lengthier rulebooks in the non-wargaming world, like Twilight Imperium 4th Edition from Fantasy Flight Games, clocks in at around 21 pages.  Those pages are full of graphics, examples, and a 2 column colorful layout with plenty of white-space.  Add to this the complexity of then teaching someone who doesn’t want to read the rulebook the rules and it can be daunting for both the teacher and the learner!
  3. Player Count – It’s not too hard to find someone who is into history and is willing to give a wargame a try.  For that person to then go and snag another person can be the stumbling block though.  Even for lighter fare, getting someone who wants to sit down across the table from just one other player during a game-night at an FLGS and play something like Commands & Colors: Ancients can be difficult which leads me to my next obstacle.
  4. Setup & Play Time – Most non-wargames take anywhere from 2 – 3 hours for setup and play with 3 – 4 players.  Longer games, like the aforementioned Twilight Imperium, take ~8 hours.  Folks tend to shy away from lengthier games.  In an episode of the popular “The Secret Cabal” podcast, the hosts were talking about classic Avalon Hill titles when The Campaign for North Africa briefly topped the BoardGameGeek “Hotness” list in 2016.  Their takeaway was, “I don’t see how anyone can get another person to play one of these games.  Just the time it takes to play them is enough of a turnoff.”  I don’t disagree and think their audience probably largely feels the same way.  Consider that in the last issue of Special Ops from Multi-man Publishing had an article for the Operational Combat Series (OCS) games that included how many maps, units, setup and play time each scenario in each game would take.  It was one of the coolest things within the issue and yet, to a huge group of gamers seeing a scenario with a 3 hour setup time would likely have them running for the hills!
  5. Hobbyist Misconception – Though I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone willing to admit it, the perception that wargamers are warmongers or are some kind of fringe militant is tricky to shake.  I’ll be the first to admit I’ve participated in some odd discussions around the gaming table at my FLGS about things like when German optics remained the superior optics throughout World War II in tanks or just how many Shermans would be necessary to take down a Tiger.  To outsiders, these conversations might sound like glorifying Nazi warmachines or even to the less savvy, a celebration of World War II.

So, how do we overcome this?

I think the answer is easier than it might seem at first.  Be visible.  Be accessible.  Show don’t just tell folks about wargaming.  The wargaming community has so many fantastic voices, bloggers, video creators, and reviewers that at this point we should be getting near the tipping point of showing off the incredible games being put out on a nearly bi-weekly basis.  I look forward to being one of those positive voices and hope you’ll subscribe to this blog and check it out as new content gets added!