Why I Love Wargames: Part One

I always want to write late at night, I get so many ideas flying through my head but then I come to write them down and they disappear so here I am, at 11pm, hoping to write something coherent. Of course I enjoy writing reviews and about the games I love but, I get my true joy when I’m writing about the things that make me happy in a different kind of way. I am going to write a series of blog posts describing why I love wargames and here is your first instalment.

I often think about why I play the games that I play and I guess you could say that about anybody but my tastes have gotten pretty specific over the last year or so, and I wanted to talk a little bit about wargames and why they have a special place in my heart. Now you can say the same thing about boardgames in general, they are so full of theme, full of exciting stories and adventures but there is something that’s just a little bit different when it comes to wargames for me.

Learning about Historical events and Military history

Growing up, I wasn’t really into history at all. I studied it at school, because it was mandatory but beyond that, it didn’t really grab me. Looking back, I feel like maybe the history lessons at school were a bit crap in the first place and I was focused on other stuff  but fast forward quite a few years and I am obsessed. My love of wargames did not start out due to my love of history, it was in fact the other way round.

The more wargames I discover, the more I start learning about history and the more excited I am to do research on the different events or wars that I may be playing a game about. Playing wargames also let’s me do more with historical events than just read a book or watch a movie. I now love doing those things too, but playing a wargame is a highly thematic and immersive experience. Does that mean I love war? not at all. I get asked sometimes if I do and the answer is simply no, but do I love learning about history and getting to know events, what happened and why things are the way they are now? of course I do. Like a lot of other boardgames, wargames tell a story.

There’s something so extraordinary about a designer telling an elegant story, as well as highlighting important parts of history.

I intially discovered wargames through GMT Games, I had played and fallen in love with Twilight Struggle and needed to find more games that would excite me the way that Twilight Struggle had. So I did a bit of research and played a couple of COIN games, Fire in the Lake and Cuba Libre to be exact and I was hooked. I didn’t really understand the COIN system back then but there was something about it, I knew I loved it and wanted to learn more.

Strategy and Mechanics

I love the strategy that is often involved in wargames. Yes, they do include the usual mechanics that I love including area control, hand management and so on but after playng heavy euros, 18XX games and all of the games I still love, I wanted something new to obsess over and wargames were that for me. I see it as a challenge, learning new stratgies and new ways to play games.

I also find it so interesting to discover other strategies that we might have pursued and how that could have changed the way a lot of these historical events played out.

Solo wargaming

I know that other boardgames can be played solo and I do that occasionally, but I learned to play a lot of wargames by playing them solo and it’s something I really enjoy and actively do these days.

I talk alot about mental health and boardgames and the relationship between the two and this is a perfect example. There’s something so theraputic about playing a solo boardgame when I’m feeling anxious or struggling with my mental health. I can sit down, focus on the game and the tough decisions that I am going to have to make during the game. Sometimes I want the experience of sitting down and playing a heavy game but being an introvert, sometimes I can’t socialise and need my own space so being able to do something I enjoy, on my own, in a safe space is so valuble to me.

It’s not always that way though, sometimes I just want to play something because I’m bored, or want to learn a new game or nobody else is around to play a game or because it’s fun. It’s great to have that option and a lot of wargames do.

There’s just a few reasons I love playing wargames, keep an eye out for part two, thank you for reading and let me know why you love playing wargames.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

6 thoughts on “Why I Love Wargames: Part One

  1. Luke says:

    I love them because they offer more than just a game. They often offer painting and collecting (I’m thinking Warhammer), so an exploration of new skill, as well as an awesome community of both like minded and different people. There’s also the maths and science side which pleases my inner analyst. Well put in the article and I would definitely say that was coherent 🙂

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  2. Russell Phillips says:

    For me, I was interested in military history (specifically WWII), and found wargames to be an extension of that.

    As for being asked if you like war, I think lots of wargamers get asked that, but most of the wargamers I’ve known have been anti-war. I have a theory that wargamers are more aware than most that wars lead to death and suffering, and that tends to make them anti-war.

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  3. Neil Biggs says:

    Hey Katie

    I’m tempted to try wargames, so I don’t have any favourites ones yet. I’ve got Wings of Glory (WW1) which is a tactical skirmish game between aircraft, and has some very interesting game design decisions – it uses no dice, and because of that (vs adaptations that were made to the system in Fantasy Flight’s X-Wing game), it plays fast and can accomodate huge numbers of players with BGG session reports talking about having up to 99 players at some conventions. It also tries to incorporate complexity (different turning circles) and quirks (some planes could turn faster to the right than they could to the left because of the rotary engines) beneath the hood, so detail is included, without making people memorise all the little rules that each plane would have. I’m tempted to look at the Sails of Glory game too (both games come with beautiful pre-painted miniatures)

    If you don’t mind, I’ve got some more general questions on wargames:
    Do you think there is a distinction to be made between war games that try to represent a complete conflict (e.g. Twilight Struggle, COIN series), and games that represent battles/skirmishes (e.g. Memoir 44, Wings of Glory)? If so, what would you say you like about each type?

    Out of interest, have you ever looked at some of the computer games like the Total War series? I heard you talking about C&C: Ancients on The Long View podcast, and it reminded me of the many hours I’ve spent playing as Rome in Total War (Rome, Attilla), and the different strengths of various military units (Roman legions were phemonal in close combat, much more mobile than Greek hoplite formations etc). There was a show briefly on BBC2 years ago called Time Commanders where they had people act as generals directing people controlling the units, and that did a really good job of describing the historical battles and the different unit types. I’d possibly recommend both (though definitely Time Commanders if you can find it, it’s no longer on iPlayer),and if you have played the computer games, how would you say that board games compare to board games?

    Finally, have you played some of the Academy Games titles like 878: Vikings? If so how do you think these simpler titles compare to something like COIN?

    Thanks for reading this, looking forward to reading your part 2

    Neil

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  4. John says:

    I think that there is something that a war game has to offer that other games don’t. Implementing the rules and seeing the game come to life through the initial plays is very rewarding. I love the tension that builds when playing, yet I don’t feel the stress to do well because even the best plans can fail and in the end the sequence of events tells an exciting story and gets me to asking “what if” and none of the choices are really wrong. Twilight Struggle actually had me thinking “We can’t lose that country to communism.” and Comancheria had me transported to the tall prairie grass while pondering what is best for the tribe as a whole while knowing that a powerful war party is looking for us and we have only bows and spears.

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  5. Geek Gamers says:

    What a great find, your blog! As a fellow female wargamer it is wonderful to hear your perspective on things and to see another woman online creating content about wargames. (I do so through my YouTube channel but as you know there are far too few of us.) I look forward to following your blog from now on!

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  6. BlueDonim says:

    Thank you for your post, I definitely agree with solo wargaming/boardgaming helping with mental health. I’d go as far to say that it’s saved my life. Something to distract me, unwind, healthy escapism. Having a long campaign as something to work towards, painting figures ready for battle, having progression rather than one off fights giving you a sense of achievement. And on top of all that blogging about it so it is still a shared experience you can be excited about and inspire others to do the same. Really glad I found your blog. Keep playing, keep writing!

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