On Board: Getting Started in Board Wargaming

By Scott Parrino 06 Jun 2004 0


Why on earth would anyone want to engage in a wargame played atop a dining room table? The answer is simple: chairs.

Chairs set around a table invite others to grab a seat and share a bit of conversation over some common fare. It follows that wargaming at the table provides a means for face time ? it?s the heart of gaming, where players, their friends, and their kids revel in a few hours of chatter driven by the ebb and flow of battle. The appeal, quite simply, is spending time with each other.

Before we skew this article into a treatise on ?Family Values through Wargaming,? it should be stated that many of The Wargamer staff grew up commanding troops splayed across kitchenettes and ping-pong tables, and many staffers still do. We love the tactile feel of artful cardboard counters, painting miniatures, and rediscovering out-of-print games now available online. More importantly, we love the stories those playing pieces brought into our lives. So, is it any coincidence that The Wargamer offers up the following, the first in a series of articles, aimed at getting players started in the hobby? Hardly.

The genuine aim here is to provide a list of titles and resources that we believe offer an easy and enjoyable introduction to board wargaming. This list is by no means an exhaustive one, yet our desire is to arm gamers with enough intelligence to explore gaming on their own terms. As is the nature of such a creature, people are going to have their opinions about what made the list and, more to the point, what didn?t. We encourage readers to take this article to task in our forums. Lively discussion is encouraged - needed really - if we?re to get more people on board with wargaming. Read the article, and get in there.


Little Green Men

There?s something elemental about the plastic army man. Many had their own little polythene platoons that weathered tours in the sandboxes and firecracker barrages. Gnarly old grognards find them hard to resist and children graduating to more ?adult? games are provided with a familiar touchstone. Credit the game designers who caught onto the charm of plastic figurines and introduced them as playing pieces for introductory wargames!

While generally not a means of introducing ?traditional? wargaming concepts such as combat results tables or simple rules of supply, these games still capture the notions of overall strategy and managing limited force pools to great effect. Consider the following a sort of ?Wargames 101? through plastic pieces that are a kick to knock around:

Axis & Allies Series [Learn More - Read The Wargamer's Review]
Avalon Hill/Hasbro

It?s easy to start with this one as Axis & Allies is the next logical step for players who?ve mastered Risk, which four out of five gaming closets are likely to have in their inventory. The original edition recently underwent a revision that added updated units and a map that breathes new life into the Russo-German slugfest in the east. The basics are still the same ? a balance of production and planning that culminates in die-clacking combat ? and to me nothing beats seeing Japanese tanks knocking at Moscow?s back door.

Battle Cry [Learn More - Read The Wargamer's Review]
Avalon Hill/Hasbro

Terrain tiles, miniature cannonry, standard-bearing cavalry, and a reactive, card-driven system captures the hue of 15 American Civil War battles. It?s a snacky little piece that plays quickly and focuses on the capture of enemy flags. This is perfect stuff for the younger set, yet it?s also tactically minded enough to appeal to the older folks. Also from the designer of Battle Cry is a similar game set against the backdrop of D-Day. Called Memoir ?44, it was recently released to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the invasion. Look for the upcoming Wargamer review.

Axis & Allies series

Battle Cry



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