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How Achtung Panzer! channels World of Tanks into a wargame

Warlord Games co-founder John Stallard talks about how popular WW2 videogames are creating the next generation of historical wargamers.

Achtung Panzer! inspired by World of Tanks - two tanks rumble out of a field and crash down a fence

In an interview with Wargamer, Warlord Games’ co-founder John Stallard explains how modern military videogames like World of Tanks have popularised historical warfare, and even influenced the development of Warlord’s new WW2 tank duelling game Achtung, Panzer!

Stallard’s career in miniature wargames began as a “Mail Order troll” for Games Workshop, working under the late Bryan Ansell at the Citadel Miniatures office. He founded Warlord Games along with fellow GW exodite Paul Sawyer in 2007, investing a redundancy payout into a model kit of 28mm scale plastic Roman legionnaires. The firm’s most successful line now is World War 2 game Bolt Action.

Stallard estimates there are around 300,000 historical wargamers worldwide, “100,000 in the UK, 100,000 in the rest of the world, and 100,000 in the USA”. Despite that fairly modest player pool, he thinks that the scene is very healthy. “It’s never been better to be a historical gamer”.

Achtung Panzer! inspired by World of Tanks - tanks emerge from cover and open fire on one another

Stallard points to popular media from the ‘90s onwards driving today’s interest in historical gaming. Films like Saving Private Ryan and the historical Call of Duty games “have really made World War Two sexy” for gamers. “You get 15 and 16 year olds coming into our store and buying Tiger tanks, Churchills, and everything else”.

While it might seem like WW2 was canonized as the definitive period of human conflict as soon as the war ended, Stallard recalls that “there was a period in the ‘80s when people just didn’t know anything about it”.

Stallard and his peers were raised by people with direct experience of the war: “My dad was a Royal Marine in World War 2, my uncle was on HMS Howe”. But that cultural experience gradually died out. Popular culture has brought the war back into gamers’ minds. “They know what a Tiger tank is, and they’re informed about it, and they know it’s going to blow the heck out of a Sherman”.

World of Tanks (and similar titles like War Thunder) may be part of the reason that so many young people recognize the iconic tanks of WW2. “It’s quite remarkable how many millions of people play that tank game”.

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Stallard himself used to play: “I wasn’t terribly good”, he admits, getting “beaten by 11 year old Lithuanians, who of course are much sharper than [I was]”. What he particularly enjoyed was “the incredible detail, the way you can get better gearing, better binoculars, better camouflage scrim, better this and better that”.

He tasked the team developing Achtung Panzer! – Warlord’s new wargame of WW2 tank duels – with capturing some of that flavor. “There’s ways of increasing your drivers skills, and your commanders’ skills, and adding different camouflage patterns” – optional upgrades that tweak the performance of your tanks.

Games Workshop is another force creating new audiences for historical wargames. “They’re like a magnificent icebreaker smashing open the channels” for other companies to follow in. “Warhammer 40k is still a great game, but after a while gamers look over at another wargame table in a shop or a club and think What are they playing? Oh, that’s a Tiger tank, I know what that is”.

Achtung Panzer! inspired by World of Tanks - tanks emerge from bocage to exchange fire

He jokes that the price difference between historical miniatures and Games Workshops’ products might also help with converting people across. “They look at the Tiger tank and think Oh, that’s only £24, not £55”. The wide availability of plastic kits in general also helps: “If you’re making a Napoleonic army and you need 400 metal infantry at £2 each, that’s a lot of money”.

Achtung Panzer! is available for pre-order already, with a starter set and a rules and card pack for players who already have forces of 28mm scale tanks. It isn’t the only tank-themed WW2 wargame on the docket: Gale Force Nine recently revealed Clash of Steel, a game of armored conflict set during a hypothetical reignition of WW2 hostilities in 1948 – you can find out more about Clash of Steel in our article.