Archaeologists have discovered a backgammon set that dates to 5000 years ago. Like many games of this type, backgammon – including variations of the ancient Egyptian game of Senet – was often played for both leisure and to hone the strategic skills of ancient military tacticians. These games of skill are strategic war games involving a tree of decision making and a contest between two opposing sides.
The Golden Age of War gaming
Though modern wargaming had its official beginnings in the 19th century, it did not become a popular hobby until the 1950s, when a variety of war gaming rules involving miniatures and terrain were published.
As the 1970s dawned, a number of new players in the market formed, including Avalon Hill, TSR and Games Designers Workshop. Though TSR was known for the introduction of Dungeons and Dragons to the market, its Chainmail game made extensive use of miniatures rules and war gaming concepts, as it was based on the creator’s war games playing history.
During this time, Avalon Hill was the driving force par excellence when it came to war gaming in America. Titles like Panzer Leader, AfrikaKorps, and Squad Leader featured complex rules that favoured a painstaking simulation of reality over light and fast play. By contrast, games like Ogre, from Steve Jackson Games, featured rules based on more complex war games, but diluted so that play could be completed in about 30 minutes.
War gaming for the Masses
As more and more people became interested in wargaming as a hobby, something happened. The intersection of traditionally complex rules, mainstream culture, role playing games, and the age of the eight-bit computer led to the ongoing development of lighter war games in the tradition of Ogre. This helped to change the perception that war gaming was only for grizzled old men sitting around a very large table pushing lead and white metal miniatures around a complex terrain map.
Fast forward to 2016 and designers like Games Workshop have moved on from their role playing games publishing era, and have fully embraced miniatures-based games like Warhammer 40K. Their range alone includes entire lines of paintable miniatures, paints, and terrain modules for the modern wargamer.
War games in this vein have found great favour amongst gamers in general and have been able to make headway into previously separate gaming groups, including role players, board games and computer gamers. This recent popularity also means that war gaming rules, miniatures and other related paraphernalia are now as easy to obtain as going online and choosing a gaming store.
Getting into the Hobby
If you’re considering getting into the hobby of modern war gaming, it pays to do a bit of research first. Are you into traditional war gaming that emphasises reality and historically accurate wars and battles, or are you looking for something lighter and faster to play? Do you have an interest in science fiction and fantasy, or would you prefer your tabletop battles to feature real life military units?
Getting into the hobby has really never been easier since there are now so many options to choose from, and so many online game stores that stock what you need.