"So you wanna be a wargamer?" Article in PCGamer

I’ll save us the PCG comments, because I’m sure we’ve been through them at least once before or something. And don’t even think about hijacking my thread. :)

October’s issue of PCGamer, which arrived in my mailbox two days ago and should be on newstands in a few weeks, has an excellent article written by Will Trotter on the genre of wargaming. It’s called “So you wanna be a wargamer?” and is a great primer for anyone who’s ever been curious about the genre.

There’s an introduction to why it’s often considered inaccessible, it’s core appeal to its constituents, an explanation of the different game levels (tactical, operational, grand strategic), and some game recommendations for entry-level, intermediate, and advanced wargaming. By far the best point is Trotter’s explanation of the genre’s appeal to wargamers. To paraphrase, wargamers want to see how’d they fair compared to the great generals from history. Could I have matched Napoleon’s successes? Could I have defeated Rommel in Africa? Since most every wargame emphasizes historical accuracy as much as any other game feature, those questions can be answered.

On another front, I’m the type of person who really enjoys mixing the gameplay experience of mainstream games with wargames. For example, on one night I can play on the BF1942 map Operation Market Garden and then switch to Airborne Assault to play the same battle for Arnhem, Belgium.

Although I am tooting my own horn in the process, I really can’t recommend the article enough. So swing by your local Barnes & Nobles and browse through the issue. :)

While there are still plenty of good wargames out their, the mass commercial appeal does seem to have dwindled.

I think the mass just got bigger. 50k units sold used to mean something. Now it’s a failure. I wouldn’t be surprised if wargames, flightsims, etc., were selling now in the same or slightly greater numbers than before, only now those numbers aren’t successful enough to merit a big budget.

FWIW, This is all a big fat guess on my part.

Arnhem is in Holland/Netherlands… :wink:

Im slowly turning into one of those turn based fantasy strat people. Never used to be. So I assume given time ill turn into the turn based wargamer people. Twitch gaming just isn’t for me anymore.

Partly cause I dont like the EXTREMEE atmosphere, and partly cause I suck.

Turn based gives me the opportunity to improve without being smacked down for being too damn slow.

I too am a TBS gamer but unfortunately, TBS games are far and few between nowadays. Mr Angry, you may prefer fantasy TBS now but soon you’ll be craving any war TBS game. Thank the powers that be AoW:SM was released.


Casual wargamers have it the worst. There are plenty of good hardcore wargames kicking around, but there aren’t any good light wargames any more. I miss Fantasy General.


I still enjoy a good twitch now and then — but I just gave up multiplayer Half-Life, after countless hours of play, because I just couldn’t stand being on the playground anymore with all the semiliterate sociopaths. :?

Fortunately for me, there are dozens of time-tested war, TBS, and SP twitch games I’ve never played, since I missed most of the games of the 90s. I’m currently pruning the tangled tech tree of XCOM:TFTD, and recent acquisitions include Combat Mission, Deus Ex, and Thief II.

And Morrowind! I’ll add my two cents to the ongoing Morrowind thread when I get around to playing it, sometime in 2005. :D

(N.B.: This post is on topic, since I mentioned Combat Mission.)

Curse you Jason! CURSE YOU! Oh, and Gal Civ rox! Cept the whole everyone hating me thing.

That may be the appeal to some wargamers,but it’s not why I play them.I play them in part because I like games,and I’m interested in history,but mostly because I want to have a better understanding of why things happened the way they happened.A good wargame can lend some insight to a battle or campaign that may be difficult to glean from a book,or a library of books.

I don’t play Streets of Stalingrad to see if I can do better than Paulus or Chuikov,rather I play it because I want to study the situation from a different angle than you’ll find in a book.Not to mention the fact that the look and feel of wargames is appealing to me.Frankly,I never really understood the mentality of someone who plays these things to convince themselves that they are a better strategist than Napoleon,or Monty,or whoever.

There never was a mass audience for wargames, and never will be. SPI, the big boardgame publisher of the 1970s, went belly up because their hubris convinced them that they could sustain dozens of games every year plus a game a month in their magazine (S&T). The market wasn’t there. SSI seemed like it was a “big” wargaming outfit on 8-bit machines, but the actual numbers of games sold were IMO 1) not as big as people think and 2) skewed anyhow by the historical accident that made wargames a major percentage of the games available at the time. That in turn was because wargamers were quick to get into PCs and the marriage of wargames and programming/computers seemed incredibly logical.

But wargames have always been the hobby of the overeducated, as who was it, Dunnigan? once said. And there ain’t that many overeducated historically minded detail and military history freaks like me out there to sustain a mass hobby. :)

overeducated? nah. detail obsessive? sure.

I think you’re fairly wrong about why SPI failed; in its heyday it and AH sold wargames in the tens of thousands each. And, if I recall correctly, S&T was bi-monthly, like it is now (not 100% sure about that). In the early 80s there was a wargame crash and SPI pretty much went with it (rising costs of paper, printing costs, and a recession really hurt). These days board wargames barely even get 2000 copies printed.

— Alan

I just reinstalled Sid Meier’s Gettyburg (now with a Win2k/XP patch!) and Antietam. Those are fun. I wish they looked a bit better though. Damn sprites.

Now Gettysburg with a 3d engine? <drool>

You me and TSG need to form a SMG tourney. Remember I beat Brian Reynolds at SMG!*

  • he forfeited**
    ** [size=2]he might not have known about the competition***[/size]
    [size=2]***[/size] [size=1]he could have probably beaten me[/size]

So you, me, and TSG makes three.

Who else wants to do some retro wargaming?

Fantasy General was an incredible game.

Fantasy General was an incredible game.[/quote]

And it had a kick-ass soundtrack. In fact, the only game I can recall with a more kick-ass soundtrack was Chaos Overlords from New World Computing.

I still play Chaos Overlords. I love the Happy Campers… :D