Wargaming is an incredible hobby and today we’re looking at 10 reasons why wargamers are awesome. It can be easy to forget about the loads of great people who support the hobby on a daily basis in big ways (publishers & designers) and in little ways (the guy down the street who is always up for a game). Consequently, I want to spotlight just 10 reasons why wargamers are awesome (in no particular order)
10 – History Buffs
It almost goes without saying. Wargamers value history. This isn’t just lip service paid to the hobby because of the historical topics that dominate the games we play. Actually, it’s a compliment that runs far deeper than outsiders might realize.
Wargamers have a much better broad understanding of history. Most wargamers have a staggering level of knowledge about a handful of historical topics. We’re talking about being able to break down communication protocols of tank leaders on the eastern front down to the month and year. This isn’t casual, “I’ve read a few books on the topic” expertise, but rather the knowledge brought on by years of fascination with a few topics.
The result is playing games against people who know a great deal and care deeply about the topics they game. That’s hard to find in the eurogame world outside of train gamers. The games don’t demand that depth of knowledge and wouldn’t reward it in most cases.
9 – Fierce competitors
Wargames are, by their very nature, cutthroat and competitive. After all, you’re talking about games centered on the direct confrontation of forces in armed or political struggle (sometimes both). Wargamers are amazing competitors who know how to feint, attack, blitz, execute a fabian strategy, or even how to stand and fight.
This isn’t a coincidence! Wargamers, to some degree, persist in the hobby because of a passion for that level of competition! They brings a deep bag of tricks alongside solid tactical or operational doctrine from their understanding of history (see above). The result are games well played and competitive. Seeing guys like James Pei hone their expertise over decades to dominate certain games is stunning. It’s also equally stunning to see players move from a novice to a tougher competitor because of solo and competitive play in home games.
8 – Gracious Hosts
I have never met a wargamer who wasn’t a gracious host. Often, games come with insufficient player aid cards (especially old ones) and wargamers will prepare by creating copies or homemade aid cards. Further, wargamers typically welcome others into their homes. This is particularly true when playing monster games that require they remain setup for weeks or months on end.
Wargames aren’t always the kind of game that you can set up in an evening, play and taken down again. Instead, wargames typically require that the host invest 45 minutes to 2 hours in some cases setting up the game before the other player arrives. An unspoken rule of wargaming is that if you invite someone over to play a game, you will be the rules expert. The opponent will attempt to learn the rules before arriving, but the host serves as the game’s “rules sherpa” when the going gets tricky. That’s a lot to ask because wargames can often have tricky devils in the details.
7 – Interesting Personal Lives
One of the things I enjoy most about boardgaming, but wargaming in particular is the interesting lives that wargamers have outside the hobby. We are some crazy successful folks (at least the people I’ve gamed against). This isn’t just to pat each other on the back here either.
In the last two year’s I’ve played against:
Database Administrators & Programmers
Space Program Freelance Photographer
The list could go on! These are super interesting folks who have a lot to share about their life experience. They bring exceptional critical thinking skills to the table with them and hearing about their work is sometimes as interesting as what’s happening on the table.
6 – Helpful Attitude
Questions are going to come up as a result of the complexity inherent in the hobby! Wargamers tend to be eager to help by nature. We all love a particular game and the wisdom of the crowd generally provides a great deal of expertise when asked.
This past Monday, I did an article spotlighting Zones of Control that used examples provided simply by asking in the Twitter community. That was a useful exercise. It helped build some anticipation about the article, but it also provided an opportunity to get some help.
The same is true in game forums on CSW or BGG. Players know they’ll need help at some point and give help generously and often. One of the cool things is to watch folks who love a game so much they’ve become the unofficial oracle for all rules questions. These people selflessly give endless guidance to hapless newbies.
5 – Patient
This goes hand-in-hand with the point about helpfulness. Wargamers are patient.
This isn’t an action packed hobby. There are games when the downtime can be incredible. This is particularly true of monster games where the other player(s) may need sufficient time to check their moves and consider them before you’re able to “phase” or take a turn.
Game setup is no easy task either! I just finished setting up Thunder in the East from Victory Point Games and it took the better part of a week spending 15-20 minutes a day plugging away at it. Some of that was because I’m new, so I was checking and re-checking rules compliance during setup. That said, it is illustrative of the time commitment just to get a game on the table and ready to play.
Finally, everyone has had that moment where they’re just at a loss about what to do or loses sight of where their strategy was headed. In those moments, an encouraging word or piece of guidance goes a long way. I’ve always benefited from a patient opponent willing to clarify a rule or go over options with me. (See Fierce Competitor).
4 – Detail Oriented
Wargamers are detailed oriented. We might not always enjoy that part of the hobby, but by and large wargamers are detailed oriented.
Consider the effort that goes into organizing games, learning rules, setting up scenarios, and resolving combat. There are elaborate systems of component storage that folks have cooked up that go well beyond just putting counters into trays.
My ASL collection is split between #2 coin envelopes with custom made counter stickers to show me what counters are inside for armor and guns to planos arranged by nationality and troop quality. That might seem a little fussy…but it’s one of the more basic configurations of counter organization for ASL. Don’t get me started on my Romney’esque “Binders full of scenarios.”
3 – Thoughtful Analyzers
The culmination of many of these positive traits is that wargamers tend to be thoughtful analyzers. Now, that can bleed over into analysis paralysis, especially in crucial turns where every counter move is a huge deal.
This analysis takes into consideration game rules, historical outcomes, past experience, personal or established strategy, and weighing the risk/reward of the various options.
The analysis is often done “on the fly” and with great clarity. Wargamers demonstrate an elasticity of thinking. Finding and considering these novel solutions requires a level of familiarity and thoughtfulness that goes beyond simply “knowing the rules.”
The best AARs from wargamers put this expertise on showcase as they break down the decision as it was made in the moment and consequently what was learned from further consideration. AARs are infrequently simply session reports. They usually involve self-reflective statements that judge what players did in the context of the game and how they evaluated it. AARs can be reviews of games masquerading as session reports which makes them absolutely worthwhile reads from the gamers who put the time into creating them.
2 – Curiosity
Wargames offer, in many cases, a sandbox to explore alternative history. It is fun to consider the “What-If” scenarios of history! Wargames provide a “laboratory” to consider some of these strategies, missed opportunities, or avoided chance deaths.
One of my favorite is exploring what would have happened had Reynolds lived at Gettysburg. His leadership, calming influence, and insightful mind might not have affected the Gettysburg campaign, but I wonder whether a coherent argument from Reynolds might have influenced the decision to pursue the fleeing Rebel army and increase Union advantage.
Would my outcome be historical? Almost certainly not. The curiosity of exploring these alternate paths of history can be rewarding. Wargamers share this sense of “what if” and it makes for interesting debate and gameplay.
1 – Sense of Humor
Let’s face it…wargames rely on dice usually. Those dice don’t always tumble and land the way we want. Having a great sense of humor goes a long way in the face of a failed roll.
The topics covered by wargames can be heavy. There are scenarios in ASL that are incredibly grim and showcase less the tactical combat of World War II and more the human suffering of the combatants.
The competition is fierce (see above) and sometimes levity helps all these things. Wargamers have a great sense of humor. It’s an endearing quality and runs the gamut from boisterous and silly to wry and dry. Finding that nugget of humor in a disappointment or dark moment of a game gives a spark to the enjoyment found at the game table.
Wargaming can be a rewarding social hobby for those who desire that aspect of gaming. Consequently, the time spent (sometimes considerable) around a game table hovered over maps and chits (or miniatures) can be made that much more enjoyable by sharing a laugh in the midst of competition.
This is just a quick thank you to everyone who has made wargaming a joy for me or for someone else. The games are a delight to engage in usually. The experience is only amplified by the people with whom we share these moments.
So…take a minute to thank an opponent (new or old) in the next week for all the ways they make gaming fun!