Miniature wargaming

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Miniature wargaming is a form of wargaming designed to incorporate miniatures or figurines into play. The miniatures used represent troops or vehicles (such as tanks, chariots, aircraft, ships, etc.). The games may reflect historical situations and armies, or may be futuristic or fantasy-based.

Many miniatures games are played on a floor or tabletop, with terrain represented by miniature scenery (hills, forests, roads, etc.). In this respect, miniatures wargames theoretically offer players great freedom of play, as well as a visual spectacle. Movement of the miniatures is regulated using a tape-measure. However, like boardgames, miniature games can also be played using gridded terrain (demarcated into squares or hexagons) or even gameboards.

One of the main reasons people play miniature games, as opposed to computer or boardgames, is because many find the tactile element of soldiers and scenery on a tabletop to be aesthetically pleasing; additionally, some hobbyists enjoy the challenge of painting miniatures and constructing scenery. Miniature wargaming may be seen as combining many of the aesthetics of tabletop train modeling with an open strategy game predominantly, though not exclusively, with a military theme.

The strategy board games Chess and Go are regarded as precursors to wargaming. In turn, wargaming is a precursor to strategy video games and role-playing games.

Scale[edit | edit source]

Scale is generally expressed as the approximate height of the figure from base of foot to eyeline (though some count to top of head - hence the possible confusion) in millimeters, as opposed to the ratio values used in scale modeling. Popular sizes include:

                        54mm, 45mm, 28mm, 25mm, 20mm, 15mm, 10mm and 6mm. 

These roughly equate to ratios of:

                        1:32, 1:35, 1:64, 1:76, 1:87, 1:144, 1:160 and 1:300. 

"HO" (1:87) and "N" (1:160) scale are popular among model railroad hobbyists. Some model railroad scales are close enough to the smaller-scale figures to provide usable structures and/or vehicles, possibly requiring some modification. Some wargamers use card model structures because of their economy and the ease of scaling them to appropriate sizes, and many wargamers scratchbuild their structures.

Part of the reason for the profusion of miniature sizes is the need for manufacturers to differentiate themselves in what is a niche market. This results in what has been termed 'scale creep' where miniatures listed in a catalogue may be identified by a measurement, but in reality may vary significantly from that advertised size. This is to encourage the purchaser into brand loyalty based on the aesthetic desire to maintain a look of uniformity on the tabletop.

Also, choice of miniature scale is a direct reflection of the scope of the game to be played. Larger scaled figures (25mm and up) tend to be used in skirmish games where the single miniature represents (or signifies) a single man/animal/vehicle. This is for reasons of artistic sensibilities - a few single models do not capture the impression of many hundreds of individuals as if seen from a distance, and also for economic realities - larger figures are more expensive and consume proportionately more room on the playing surface.

Smaller scaled miniatures are typically mounted in groups and moved as groups. This creates the visual effect of a large mass of combatants, allowing games simulating platoon, company (military), battalion, and even corps level actions.

Historically, the perceived and agreed ratios of representative models to represented 'real world' objects was explicitly stated. This was particularly true of rules systems that claimed some form of historical authority. However, with the growth and popularity of fantasy games such as Warhammer Fantasy, model to man ratios are now predominantly left implicit in most modern commercial rules.

Notable Miniature Wargaming Organizations[edit | edit source]

Notable Miniature Wargamers[edit | edit source]

Role-playing games[edit | edit source]

Main article: Role-playing game

During the 1960s and 1970s, two new trends in wargaming emerged: First were small-unit rules sets which allowed individual players to portray small units down to even a single figure. These rules expanded the abilities of the smaller units accordingly, to magnify their effect on the overall battle.

Second was an interest in fantasy miniatures wargaming. J.R.R. Tolkien's novel The Hobbit and his epic cycle The Lord of the Rings were gaining strong interest in the United States, and as a result, rules were quickly developed to play medieval and Roman-era wargames, where these eras had previously been largely ignored in favor of Napoleonic and Civil War gaming.

The two converged in a set of miniatures rules entitled Chainmail, published by a tiny company called Guidon Games, headquartered in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Later, in 1974, TSR designer E. Gary Gygax wrote a set of rules for individual characters under Chainmail, and entitled it Dungeons and Dragons. Further developments ensued, and the role-playing game hobby quickly became distinct from the wargaming hobby which preceded it, developments which are not within the scope of this article.

Rulesets[edit | edit source]

There are any number of miniature wargaming rulesets, including some which are available free on the internet. Most rulesets are intended for a specific historical period or fictional genre. Rules also vary in the model scale they use: one infantry figure may represent one man, one squad, or much larger numbers of actual troops.

Wargaming in general owes its origins to military simulations, most famously to the Prussian staff training system Free Kriegspiel. Consequently, rules designers struggle with the perceived obligation to actually 'simulate' something, and with the seldom compatible necessity to make an enjoyable 'game'. Historical battles were seldom fair or even, and the potential detail that can be brought to bear to represent this in a set of rules always comes at the cost of pace of the game and enjoyment. Most rules aimed at the non-professional hobby market therefore inevitably contain abstractions. It is generally in the area of the abstraction liberties taken by the designers that the differences between rules can be found. Most follow tried and true conventions to the extent that a chess player would recognise wargaming merely as a different scaled version of his or her own game.

Some miniatures games have achieved widespread popularity. Of particular note are the Games Workshop games - Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Warhammer 40,000 (science fiction), and The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game. Games Workshop stores are open in most larger cities in the US and the UK. There is also a historical variant, Warhammer Ancient Battles.

Notwithstanding Games Workshop's success in attempting to drive a worldwide standard, there are dozens, if not hundreds of other manufacturers of miniatures and rules, each trying to carve out a portion of this niche market. Some are short lived. Others, such as Privateer Press's Warmachine, build 'steam' and market share through multiple media and distribution methods.

On historical wargames, the most popular Ancient-Medieval rulesets are De Bellis Antiquitatis AKA DBA and Warhamer Ancient Battles. For World War Two, the three most popular rulesets are I Ain't Been Shot Mum, Flames of War, and Rapid Fire.

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

  • Warhammer Tabletop
  • The Miniatures Page, the web magazine for miniature wargamers. Hobby news, manfacturers and painting services directories, forums, and more.
  • Civil War miniature gaming, a large photo gallery of 15mm Civil War miniature wargames.
  • NeoKaw miniatures and hobby games, is a growing resource devoted to the expasion of the hobby game community.
  •, is one miniature wargame hobbyist's (sporadically updated) attempt at providing a useful collection of tips and tricks of the trade to the online wargaming community. Looking for a particular article? Go to the "About" page for contact information.
  • The Wargames Journal
  • The Wargames Directory, A comprehensive directory of wargames traders with detailed information on the products and services they offer, plus links to wargaming and military history web sites, product reviews, rules directory, gallery, articles, forum and noticeboard.
  • MiniatureWargaming, A listing of free online wargames resources, including free wargame rules, paper figures and terrain, painting tips, terrain modeling tips, articles and more.

Rules / Scenarios[edit | edit source]

Manufacturers[edit | edit source]

  • Manufacturers Directory at TMP Listing of manufacturers
  • The Wargames Directory, A comprehensive directory of wargames traders with detailed information on the products and services they offer.
  • DeepFriedHappyMice A site featuring side-by-side comparisons of miniatures from over 30 different manufacturers. Also includes book and miniature reviews, how-to articles, and much, much more.
  • Battlefront 15mm WWII
  • Britannia Miniatures 20mm WWI, WWII, Vietnam
  • Copplestone Castings 28mm Colonials, RCW, CCW, Sci-Fi
  • Gammazon Publisher and distributor of historical miniatures rules and associated items, from World War Two to Modern.
  • Eureka Miniatures Manufacturer and distributor of quality gaming miniatures and associated items. Full online store. 2, 6, 10, 15, 20, 25, & 28mm ranges. Features the 100 & 300 Clubs were purchasers can specify new figures and have Eureka's sculpters produce them.
  • GFI / Minifigs Historical and fantasy wargaming figures and accessories / rules sets. 10mm, N scale, 15mm, 25mm scales.
  • Musket Miniatures Rustic Rails (HO) Structures (HO Buildings) Rustic Rails(N) Structures (N Buildings) Scenery and Terrain. Wild West. American Civil War. American Revolution. Mexican-American War. British Colonial. WWII.
  • Old Glory 25mm Ancients, Medieval, Renaissance, ECW, League of Augsburg, Seven Years' War, AWI, Napoleonics, ACW, Colonials, WWI, WWII
  • Peter Pig 15mm Ancients, Renaissance, ECW, ACW, Colonials, WWI, RCW, SCW, WWII, Moderns, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
  • Reaper Miniatures 28mm Fantasy, 10mm Mecha/Science Fiction, 72mm Collectibles
  • Renegade Miniatures 28mm English Civil War, Punic War, World War 1, and American Civil War.
  •    Miniatures 28mm Balkan War 1911 - 1913, Colonial German, Spanish-American War. Dutch Colonial.
  • SHQ 20mm WWII, Vietnam, Gulf War
  • Via Ludibunda 28mm Fantasy old school miniatures and resin accessories and scenery
  • Wargames Foundry 28mm Ancients, Medieval, Renaissance, ECW, Thirty Years' War, League of Augsburg, Seven Years' War, Napoleonics, Crimean War, Colonials, WWI, WWII, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
  • WTJ Naval 1/3000 Scale Naval Miniatures
  • Xyston Miniatures 15mm Ancients
  • Dragon Models USA U.S. importer of Zvezda's Age of Battle and King of the Rule series.