Is Historical Wargaming Dying? Nope, Here’s Why!

Is historical wargaming dying? I don’t think so. The inevitable rise of the historical gaming genre is as obvious to see as the Red Coats advancing up Bunker Hill. So, why is it that some gamers are so quick to write off historical wargaming?

Here, we take a quick dive off the deep end to explore some of the reasons why historical wargaming is not only relevant, but thriving.

Is historical wargaming dying? Historical miniature gaming popularity - vertical banner feature

Summary (TL;DR): Is Historical Wargaming Dead?

The death of historical wargaming has been greatly exaggerated. People will always be drawn to the challenge, accuracy and immersive experience of historical gaming. In spite of some people’s pessimism, historical wargaming remains an incredibly popular genre and is continuing to grow in popularity.

Historic scale models, miniatures and other tangible tools are being used to create an incredibly immersive experience that cannot be matched by digital experiences. With the advent of more digitally augmented miniature tabletop games, such Carnage and Glory II or even board games like Descent, historically-themed wargaming will only become more accessible and enjoyable for gamers around the world.

Whether you’re drawn to the tactical challenge as a history buff, the immersive experience of gaming miniatures (and the fantastic scale model battlescapes) or just because it’s fun, there is no denying that historical wargaming has a lasting place in the gaming industry.

3 Popular Historical Wargaming Titles

  1. Carnage and Glory II (Our favorite historic wargame system)
  2. Bolt Action (WW2 theme)
  3. Black Powder (European 19th Century theme)
Is historical wargaming dying? Historical miniature gaming popularity - Descent board game with miniatures
Descent is not a historical tabletop game…but, it’s super fun! Descent Legends of the Dark is a tabletop board game that uses a digital app on your mobile phone or tablet to play. You get all the immersion of using 3D miniatures without the tedious bookkeeping with piles of tokens and other accessories.

Is historical wargaming dying? Historical miniature gaming popularity - Bolt Action miniature historical WW2 game in progress black and white photo
“Check your corners…” – A game of Bolt Action (Warlord Games) takes all of the thematic elements of WW2 and puts in a neat package that players of nearly any age can enjoy. I photographed this game while at a nearby convention.

What is Historical Wargaming and Why is it Becoming Popular Again?

Historical wargaming is a form of gaming that simulates military conflicts from history. Players can use miniatures, board games, or computer games to take on the role of generals and commanders, leading their troops to victory.

The appeal of historical wargaming is that it allows players to experience famous battles firsthand and learn about important military strategy and tactics. There are huge number of books dedicated to the hobby of historical tabletop gaming.

Is historical wargaming dying? Historical miniature gaming popularity - Carnage and Glory II miniature tabletop game
Photo of a game of “Carnage and Glory II” – Napoleon era

Additionally, with the rise of social media, historical wargaming has become more accessible than ever before, making it easy for gamers to connect with like-minded players from around the world.

As a result, historical wargaming is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, attracting both new and experienced gamers alike.

Is historical wargaming dying? Historical miniature gaming popularity - Napoleon era wargaming miniatures rule book
Want more historical wargaming from the Napoleonic period of Europe? Check out Black Powder! Easy to play, hard to master.

How is Historical Wargaming Different?

Most people are familiar with modern wargaming, whether it’s strategy games like Risk or Civilization, first-person shooters like Call of Duty, or even online games like World of Warcraft.

But what about historical wargaming? What sets it apart from its more modern counterpart?

For starters, historical wargaming focuses on simulating specific conflicts that actually took place, rather than fictional ones. This means that players will either be familiar (or become familiar) with the details of the battles they are replicating, in order to make strategic decisions that accurately reflect what happened.

Is historical wargaming dying? Historical miniature gaming popularity - Axis and Allies Miniature Tank on sandy beach
I spent a day at the beach with some miniature tanks from the Axis and Allies miniatures game. I was trying to hone my miniature photography skills.

At the same time, I’ll note that some historical wargames take some abstractions to reduce the complexity of game play. But you’ll find that historical wargaming also tends to be more complex than modern wargaming, which tend to be more casual.

Historical miniature games tend to have rules that take into account things like economic resource management, troop morale, character leadership charisma, terrain features, and even dynamic weather effects.

toy airplane on vintage newspaper
A period in history where World Powers clashed in the sky, land, and sea. Photo by TOLGA AKAGÜN on Pexels.com

This makes for a more realistic and challenging experience, but one that can also be very rewarding. The tactical depth of many historical games lends to the feeling that you are truly in command of your troops, and that the decisions you make can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

Is historical wargaming dying? Historical miniature gaming popularity - Cruel Seas Starter Set box art
No rest for the weary, even over open water. The world is a cruel place because it cares not for the weak, young, or helpless.

Some historical wargames often come with detailed miniatures and terrain pieces that add to the visual beauty and immersion factor. It’s not uncommon for gamers to spend hours painting their figures and constructing elaborate battlefields to recreate epic battles, blood thirsty skirmishes.

And for the adventurous, you can find some wargames of the historical nature can take place in the sky or on (or under) the high seas.


Where to Start? The Road to War….

For those who love history and gaming, historical wargaming offers the perfect blend of both worlds. However, getting started in this fascinating hobby can seem daunting.

Where do you begin? What rules should you use? What miniatures should you collect? Here are a few tips to help you get started in the wonderful world of historical wargaming.

First, decide which period of history interests you the most. Do you want to stage grand battles from the Napoleonic Wars or recreate skirmishes from the American Civil War?

Is historical wargaming dying? Historical miniature gaming popularity - Unpainted Civil War Miniatures
These need a coat of paint, but you get the idea. Civil War wargame miniatures are ready for a fight over an open landscape. Here you can replay the pitched battles from a time when America tried to tear itself apart.

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, do some research on the subject. Read books, watch documentaries, and visit historic sites. This will give you a better understanding of the people, cultures, and militaries involved in your chosen conflict.

Next, choose a set of rules that appeals to you. There are many different rule systems available, so take your time and find one that seems like a good fit. In addition, check out some of the online resources devoted to historical wargaming. These can be a great source of information and inspiration.

soldiers in historical clothes during reenactment of battle during napoleonic war
Napoleon Bonaparte tore Europe to pieces in his drive for conquest. Loved or hated, this was a turning point in European history and for the world at large. So much of today’s Western Civilization is still shaped by this wartime period (source). Photo by Dmitrii Fursov on Pexels.com

Finally, start collecting miniatures. There are many different ways to acquire them, but the best way is to buy them in bundled starter sets.

Not only is this more economical, but it also gives you the opportunity to try out different manufacturers’ products before committing to a specific range.


How to Get Started in Historical Wargaming: Home brew Tips from the Experts

When it comes to wargaming, historical campaigns can be some of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences. You also don’t have to buy pre-packaged games or kits. Instead, you can create your own campaigns based on some research.

If you take this route, then you’re in for a challenging albeit educational experience.

Not only does this approach offer you an opportunity to dig into a deep well of rich content, but you’ll learn to explore different cultures and periods of history. It would overwhelm you….or take you directions you never thought you’d go.

Certainly, historical campaigns can also be extremely challenging to create. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Do your research: A historical campaign should be based on real events and accurate information. The more you know about the period you’re recreate, the better. Be sure to consult multiple sources and cross-check your facts.

2. Plan ahead: A good campaign will have a clear objective and a well-defined sequence of events. By planning ahead, you can avoid many of the pitfalls that can make a campaign feel disjointed or unfocused.

3. Pay attention to detail: The little details can make all the difference in historical authenticity. If your units are using outdated equipment or your map is inaccurate, it can take away from the immersion of the game. Try to find resources that will help you create as realistic an experience as possible.

4. Keep it flexible: Despite your best efforts, things will inevitably go off course during a campaign. Rather than trying to force everything back on track, embrace the chaos and use it to add excitement and unpredictability to the game.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to start crafting home brew historical wargames. For more info, check out my favorite book on the topic of wargaming: The Wargaming Compendium.

Is historical wargaming dying? Historical miniature gaming popularity - Cover of the Wargaming Compendium Book by Henry Hyde

Of course, if you’re a bit less inclined to starting from scratch, you can buy into wargaming products from different gaming companies.


Examples of popular historical wargames

Popularized historical games like Bolt Action (from Warlord Games) or Victory at Sea are great examples of games that accurately recreate the feel of specific periods or conflicts without bogging you down in statistics (aka, realism).

Photo credit: Warlord games community

Other popular games, like Warhammer 40k (from Games Workshop), take a more fantastical approach, but are still based on historical themes and settings.

Is historical wargaming dying? Historical miniature gaming popularity - Warlord Games Band of Brothers Bolt Action Starter Set Americans Versus Germany
I have this starter set and the miniature quality is top notch. Scale model much? You’ll love these minis even if you don’t play the wargame itself.

In the digital age we live in, many games have started augmenting their gameplay with computer AI to determine and resolve combat and other in-game effects. Carnage and Glory II is one such example, as well as many of the Total War video games which are rumored to become physical miniature games.

Is historical wargaming dying? Historical miniature gaming popularity - Victory at Sea Miniatures
Imagine fleets of these incredible vessels floating across your kitchen dining table…. Ever play a game late a night? An alternative to this type of seascape miniature game is Dystopian Wars, a steampunk themed 10mm scale game by Warcradle Studios.

For more examples of other popular wargames with historical or fantasy/sci-fi themes, check out this miniature wargaming list and overview.


The Future of Historical Wargaming Looks Bright!

There’s something undeniably fascinating about historical wargaming. It combines the strategic thinking of chess with the added element of chance, and there’s something very visceral about recreating famous (or not so famous) realistic battles on a tabletop.

For many people, historical wargaming is simply a fun way to while away a few hours, but for others, it’s a serious hobby. Whatever your interest in historical wargaming, it’s safe to say that the future of the genre looks very bright.

Is historical wargaming dying? Historical miniature gaming popularity - Scythe board game miniatures close up photo
Historical-fantasy games that combine features of real-world history and imagined world building are gaining steam in the gaming community. Games like Scythe are popular!

There are now more historical wargames available than ever before, catering to all interests and levels of expertise. With the advent of digital technologies and social media, many of these games are now more accessible than ever before. There is certainly a wargaming club or community near you, if you haven’t found one already.

Finally, crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter have made it easier than ever for independent developers to bring their ideas to life. As a result, we’re seeing a real renaissance in historical wargaming, with new and innovative titles appearing all the time.

So whatever your interest in historical wargaming, make sure to keep an eye on the future of the genre. With so much innovation happening at the moment, it’s an exciting time to be a fan.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is tabletop war gaming?

Tabletop war gaming is a hobby in which players use miniature models to simulate battles or other military operations from history. It can incorporate strategic planning, terrain simulation and historical accuracy into the game system.

What are some popular tabletop war games?

Some of the most popular tabletop war games include Bolt Action (from Warlord Games), Victory at Sea (from Warlord Games), Warhammer 40K (from Games Workshop), Carnage and Glory II, and Age of Sigmar (from Games Workshop).

Is tabletop war gaming expensive?

Tabletop war gaming can either be a very affordable hobby or a very expensive one depending on how much you invest in it. If you’re just getting started, there are plenty of great starter sets and expansions that will be more than enough to satisfy your needs. However, if you’re looking for a more detailed and immersive experience, you may have to spend some serious money on purchasing miniatures and other gaming supplies.

What is the best way to learn how to play tabletop war games?

The best way to learn how to play tabletop war games is to start off with a basic gaming system and then slowly add more elements as you get comfortable with the rules. It’s also helpful to join an online or local gaming group so that you can observe different strategies and ask questions if needed. Finally, there are many tutorial videos online which can help teach you different rules and strategies.

What age is appropriate for tabletop war gaming?

Tabletop war gaming is generally recommended for older players who can process mature themes, including aspects of violence, and the complexity of some game systems. However, if you feel comfortable teaching your younger players basic rules, there are several family-friendly options available which usually entail engaging with a board game type-format, e.g., Scythe board game, Blood Bowl (Games Workshop).

Is historical wargaming dying? Historical miniature gaming popularity - Blood Bowl from Games Workshop box art
Not historic, unless you consider…well, nope. But it’s one of the most popular miniature tabletop games right now. Games Workshop (GW), of course, is the company you go to for games like Warhammer 40k, Age of Sigmar, and the Lord of the Rings miniature game. If you’re interested in miniature gaming at all, most people would suggest starting with GW.
Is historical wargaming dying? Historical miniature gaming popularity - Scythe board game box art
Another way to approach historical wargaming is to start with a board game that takes specific time periods and twists them into an alternative-history. Scythe is a game that has taken the miniature tabletop gaming community by surprise as one of the most engaging “serious” board games you can sink your teeth into.

For those looking for the authentic, sprawling historical miniature gaming sets without breaking the bank, then I would recommend any of the games from Warlord Games, including Bolt Action, or Flames of War, another WW2 themed tabletop wargame. The models for Flames of War are some of the coolest miniatures you’ll find at the 15mm scale. Read more about scale model sizes and conversions.


Final Thoughts

Historical wargaming is here to stay. From a personal perspective, I see many benefits to historical wargaming, from developing critical thinking skills to gaining a better understanding of history.

And if you didn’t realize it already, you’re living within history right now. From all evidence, we’re in a golden age of tabletop miniature wargaming. With the 3D printing and the digital sculpting technologies that have emerged in recent years, and the increasing interest in the war-gaming community, it’s no wonder that more people than ever are trying their hands at historical wargaming.

Today, there is no shortage of amazing, creative titles from both large publishers and indie developers alike that make historical wargaming an entertaining experience. If you’re interested in getting started, there are plenty of resources available to help you get started.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and it gave you some inspiration to explore the historical gaming niche (if you haven’t already).

Are you playing any historically-themed games that you love (or hate)? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below!

Until then, happy gaming!

DID YOU MISS THESE 3 Popular Historical Wargaming Titles?

  1. Carnage and Glory II (Our favorite historic wargame system)
  2. Bolt Action (WW2 theme)
  3. Black Powder (European 19th Century theme)

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