So what’s a wargame?

Military simulations, also known informally as war games, are simulations in which theories of warfare can be tested and refined without the need for actual hostilities. Many professional contemporary analysts object to the term wargames as this is generally taken to be referring to the civilian hobby, thus the preference for the term simulation. However historically this name has been used e.g. Strategic War Game of 1905. Simulations exist in many different forms, with varying degrees of realism. In recent times, the scope of simulations has widened to include not only military but also political and social factors, which are seen as inextricably entwined in a realistic warfare model. Whilst many governments make use of simulation, both individually and collaboratively, little is known about it outside professional circles. Yet modelling is often the means by which governments test and refine their military and political policies. Military simulations are seen as a useful way to develop tactical, strategical and doctrinal solutions, but critics argue that the conclusions drawn from such models are inherently flawed, due to the approximate nature of the models used.

Wargaming, a strategy board games hobby

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.

More on Wikipedia

Wargames are games dealing with wars or battles. But a wargame is much more than just a reenactment of the event; it is dynamic: it re-creates the situation and underlying conditions of the event, show ing the major factors which influenced the outcome. It is also competitive: two players vie against one another to win the game, creating a drama and intensity in game terms which echoes that of the real battle. The combination of the two–dynamic and competitive–results in a game that is both exciting to play and representative of the event. People play wargames for many reasons. They enjoy playing highly competitive games. They have an interest in history (either in general or in military history specifically)–an interest in the events that shaped the world we all live in. Wargaming is a hobby, and, as in other hobbies, sharing your interest in wargaming with other gamers in the hobby is fun.

A board wargame is a wargame that uses a map-board and counters as its basic elements. Although board wargames come in many forms, most have four common features: a map, counters, rules, and charts.

  • Map: The map shows the area where the battle was fought, depicting important terrain, roads, or other features that influenced the course of the battle. A map usually has a grid superimposed on it. Hexagonal grids are most common because they are efficient and easy for players to use, but other grids (squares, irregular-shaped areas, and so on) are possible. Whatever the form, the grid helps to position the playing pieces and to regulate their movement and combat.
  • Counters: The counters represent the historical forces involved in the battle and are usually square, die-cut pieces of cardboard. The printing on them specifies the type of military units they represent, their nationality, and their combat and movement abilities.
  • Rules: The rules tell how the counters move and engage in combat, what the victory conditions are, and any other information needed to play the game. The rules to all good wargames try to show the situation covered by the game in realistic terms: what was and was not possible on the battlefield is or is not possible in the game. Consequently, wargame rules tend to be more complex than those of other games (such as Chess or Risk), but players are rewarded with an exciting and challenging game situation.
  • Charts: The charts summarize often-used game information for quick reference during play. Most wargames have a terrain effects chart, which specifies the effects of terrain on the movement and combat of the counters, and a combat results table, which is used when resolving combat between the counters.
An old but nice intro to wargames was published in 1977 by SPI, and you can download it here:
To get familiar with these basic concepts, you can start this intro game: “Battle for Moscow“, offered by Web Grognard.
Another good one would be the Battle of Mollwitz, available here.

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