Saturday, September 19, 2015

I'm Not A Real Wargamer

I recently read a thread on a miniature wargaming site, where several posts were dismissive and insulting of gamers with gaming preferences different from that of the poster.  The posts reminded me of the a moment in 1982, at my first gaming convention, when one of the figureheads from a large gaming club/group told me that I wasn't a real wargamer, because I gamed WWII. He said" Real wargamers don't play games with tanks." I ran into this recurring theme several times in the 1980s.

This lead me to reflecting back over the last 33 years, of all of the things that I've been told that "Real Wargamers" don't do.  In thinking about this, it struck me as curious that the term "Real Wargamer" or "Real Wargames" was used in so many of these instances.  I've never had any particular attachment to the idea of being a "real wargamer" or any other sort of label related to the hobby.  Apparently, over the years I've gotten it plenty wrong.  And just to help make sure all of you don't get it (real wargaming) wrong, I thought that I'd share these with you:

On scales:
Real wargamers don't game with 6mm figs. (as I was running a micro-armor game at a convention)
Real wargamers don't game with 15mm figs.
Real wargamers game with 20mm figs.
Real wargamers game with 25mm figs. (while running a 20mm Cold War game at a convention)
Real wargames use a ground scale that is different from the figure scale.
Real wargames use 54mm figs.

One basing:
Real wargamers always put multiple figures on a base (or stand).
Real wargamers never base figures individually.

On the scope of games:
Skirmish games don't really matter, because they aren't real wargames. (while running a skirmish game at a con.)
Real wargamers always want to command divisions.

On Terrain:
Real wargamers don't need terrain, it just gets in the way of the battle. (during a WRG ancients tournament)
Real wargamers game on a colored sheet. (offered in contrast to my 3D modular foam terrain)
Real wargamers game on a wargaming mat.
Real wargamers use terrain to indicate an area of affect, not as individual terrain features. (while running a skirmish game with wysiwyg terrain at a convention)

On Tournaments:
Real wargamers only play in tournaments.
Real wargamers never play in tournaments.

On Numbers of figures/stand/elements:
Real wargamers never game with more 30-40 stands.
Real wargames never have less than a thousand figures.

On periods and genres:
Real wargamers don't game WWII. (as I was running a micro-armor game at a convention)
Real wargamers don't game Vietnam.
Real wargamers don't game the Cold War.
Real wargamers never play games with tanks.
Real wargamers don't do role playing.
Real wargamers don't game fantasy.
Real wargamers don't game science fiction.
Real wargamers don't game Star Trek. (while playing a SFB tournament with miniatures, at a con.)
Dogfighting is not wargaming.
Middle Earth is not wargaming.
Real wargamers don't play adventure games.
The American Civil War isn't a real wargaming.
Colonials aren't real wargaming.

On painting:
Real Wargamers only game with painted figures.
The most important thing in wargaming is quality of the painting.
Real wargamers only paint their own figures.

On dice:
Real wargames use six sided dice.
Real wargames don't use d10s.

And other things:
Real wargamers paint there own flags.
Real wargamers are only concerned with winning.
Real wargamers don't use points.
Real wargamers always use army lists (in this case, he was referring to lists with points)
A real wargame should only last a few turns.
A real wargame should last all day.
Real wargames are only about history.
Wargaming is serious business, there shouldn't be laughing at the game table. (to which I broke up laughing and walked away).

And at a Baordgame convention, I was set straight:
Miniatures aren't real wargaming, real wargames are boardgames.

I'm sure I missed a few, but there you have it.  So, get it right people. And whatever you do,  have fun.


  1. I tend to use 'real wargaming' disparagingly in my posts. Like yourself I've heard every contradiction over the years. I actually don't care whether I'm a 'real wargamer' or not.

    I play with tanks, even the odd occasional flying saucer. I love adventure games, my few figures are based singly. I've dabbled in RPGs... OMG I'm going to wargamer hell. ;-)

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  3. Real wargaming is whatever is real to you. That other gamers are pontificating on what you should be doing says far more about them than it does about you.

    Cheers WW

  4. I've heard a lot of them, but only a few really aggravated me:
    1. Anyone using lichen in their terrain isn't really trying.
    2. If you're not playing a historical battle with 100% accurate T/O, terrain, and weather conditions you're not a real war gamer.
    3. Anything less than 15mm is akin to Braille and you should just play a board game.


  5. Sounds like you've (as have we all!) run into your share of Real A**Holes....the point is to have fun and not be a bloody snob!
    Great post!

  6. I mostly just ignore fuckwits these days. It does wonders.

  7. Cognitive dissonance much?

    Better to play your own game than talk about someone elses....



  8. I don't run into this sort of thing nearly as much as I used too. I think the internet has served to make a lot of us much more aware of the scope of the hobby, and that we are more tolerant as a result. I guess my post was inspired, because I was surprised by the recent comments that I found.

    All things considered though, the good in the hobby far out weigh the bad.

    1. The internet does some wonderful things (the Guild) and some terrible things (TMP).

      One must be selective.

  9. One of the local lads told me I wasn't a real gamer, I was just a collector. Guess my union card was cancelled. Needless to say, the emotional trauma was nearly more than I could bear.

    By the way, isn't the Featherstone First Rule of Gaming, "Make fun of those who game in other scales, and show them how to wargame."

  10. Well I think that if you play with unpainted figures you are not a real wargamer... is like playing with proxies... this especially at show. What is the point to put a display game with unpainted terrain and figures?

    Also if you eat immediately after having played with unpainted resin and metal figures and do not wash your hands... well...

    Said that recently I was reading a blog (I will not reveal the name) that was arguing that games with only 50 figures per side are not wargames. Of course the blogger sells 25mm miniatures in big bags so maybe he has something at stake in numbers, but is is annoying to see people defining wargames and wargamers on these ground. Yes there are differences between games and wargames, but I think a lot of the criteria Brian has listed were more or less fake. Well Risk is not a wargame, and just because a game has figures in it is not by default a miniature wargame...

    well I had a n acquaitance who defined himself wargamer but IMHO he was not anymore... He did not even unwrapped boxes anymore, I found any possible reason to not play a specific game (like Joe Johnston finding every possible reason to not commit to an attack), and found everything wrong with current games. He was definitely not a wargamer... oh well he did not play...

    Also I do not think we run int those guys as often because:

    1) they tend to isolate themselves
    2) they now have TMP and blogs to rant.

    Ah about real wargamer... once at a show in Italy I ran into a chap who was touting another chap (I met him a couple of time he is a pain in the ass) and because the third chap had won a couple of tournament he was defined "the best wargamer in the world". I answered that some of my friends were better... they did not only play on map and tables but also on 1:1 scale (not representation "figure") and tend to win... oh well I once played a game against Julian Thompson...

  11. Many years ago when the Blues Bears put on our first Participation game at a show (Partizan no less no pressure.) we were next to a beautiful game based on a famous movie scene with custom made terrain and hundreds of 28mm figures painted to high standard. Our game was, as always, based on a dyed sheet with simple balsa buildings and 20mm toys from our own collection. Every time the gent running the other game would pontificate to his many friends about hoe we "Were not really a show game; how standards were slipping and he was going to make sure we wouldn't be back!" Dinky Shand and myself would look at his game with no one playing it then at ours with eight or nine kids having a great time and think "thank @#~* we aren't real wargamers."


    Mind you we did think it was a good idea when they moved us out of the main hall so we didn't annoy the grown ups.

  12. We all know that it doesn't pay to be rude to a Real Wargamer™, but sometimes it really does save a lot of time and aggravation.