"[I] invented a war game where different empires move across the
map capturing, and I played that a lot by myself until Finland captured
all of Europe. At that point I figured it was time to retire that game."
Sackson, An Exclusive Interview (Sackson is the well-known creator
Wiggly and other games).
games are a broad and popular field of games that may have very little
to do with war. Some board games have nothing to do with war.
Some "wargames" (for instance Battleship)
are so abstracted from war as to be only nominally
wargames.Generally, people who
play board games may sometimes play board games with military themes (Risk,
Axis and Allies)
and sometimes play non-military games (like Monopoly
based on the entertainment value of the game.
Nevertheless, from the 1950ís to the 1980ís, hobby
wargames were typically understood to be board games.The
market probably drove this tendency.Avalon
Hill, the first and most famous wargame company, could print and box
paper maps, cardboard counters, and rule sheets inexpensively for the market.First-time
players could draw upon the rules of chess and other board games and learn
new rules quickly.
In wargame board games, the board generally represents a scaled map
of some region (i.e. North Africa, Europe, the Rhineland).In
games representing particular battles, the board often represents a much
smaller area.Whatever the scale,
the map is normally divided into spatial units in order to facilitate movement.In
early games (like War Chess) these units were squares in a grid configuration,
which led to the diagonal movement problem.Moving
one square diagonally should theoretically take 1.4 times longer than moving
one square horizontally or vertically since a diagonal move covers 1.4
times the distance.However, fracturing
time this way does not make for clean, turn-based (my turn / your turn)
movement.To solve this problem,
game designers turned to a hexagonal grid, which allowed even distances
of movement constrained in six directions rather than uneven movement in
hex grid became the standard board division pattern for military board
games involving terrain and troop movements.(However,
some variants exist, such as area
Different colored hexes represent various terrains:
light blue for shallow water, darker blue for deep water, green for plains,
dark green for forests, etc.Some
hexes often represent cities, towns, or structures.The
character of a hex often influences the rules of combat and movement for
units that are present in that hex.Forests,
for example, will often help to conceal units within them, but may impede
Pieces of cardboard, plastic, metal, or a combination of these typically
represent military units in board games.In
world or hemisphere scale games, these units might represent fleets, infantries,
or other large-scale aggregations of military forces.In
smaller scale games, these units sometime represent individual soldiers
or pieces of equipment.Cardboard
pieces which represent units often contain numbers giving information about
the movement rate, defensive and offensive capabilities, and special abilities
of the unit.
Many a board game has been designed using merely a board with spatial
units, a set of units to place in spaces, and a set of rules to govern
play. (i.e., chess,
However, many games also use additional materials, such as cards, dice,
and non-unit counters or chits to facilitate play. Since thousands
of board wargames exist, and since novelty is not an uncommon aspiration
of game designers, there can be few categorical statements made about the
precise way that these additional materials contribute to game play.
Are Board Wargames Disappearing?
Game designers (Jim
Dunnigan and Mike Joslyn,
among others) have noted the recent decline in sales and popularity of
war board games. Though the popularity of board wargaming discussion
boards such as ConsimWorld and
board wargaming companies such as Avalon
Hill would seem to belie this argument, it is clear that role-playing
games, computer wargames, and fantasy/science fiction board and card games
have dramatically expanded their audiences during the past twenty years.
Presumably a portion of this number were former board wargamers who broke
ranks in favor of the new genres.
Previous Page | Site
Map | About the Site
See Peter P. Perla, The Art of Wargaming 115 (1990).
Id. at 116.
Please note image owners retain copyrights. Image of hex board courtesy