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(Redirected from Wargame)

This article is about the military exercise and civilian hobby. For the 1983 Matthew Broderick movie, see WarGames.

Wargaming can be one of number of ways of exploring the effects of warfare without actual combat. It can take the form of a hobby in which one or more players simulate battles or entire wars, or a model or computer simulation of possible scenarios in military planning, (this is also called warfare simulation, see also defense contractors); or the full-scale rehearsal of military maneuvers as practice for warfare. In this case, the two sides in the simulated battle are typically called "blue" and "red", to avoid naming a particular adversary.


History of wargaming

Modern wargaming grew out of the military need to study warfare and to 'reenact' old battles for learning purposes. The stunning Prussian victory over the French in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) is sometimes partly credited to the training of Prussian officers with the Kriegspiel. The first specific non-military wargame club was started in Oxford, England in the 19th century.

H.G. Wells' book Little Wars was an attempt to codify rules for fighting battles with toy soldiers (miniatures), and make them available to the general public. The first modern mass-market wargame, based on carboard chits (counters) and hex-board maps, was invented by Charles S. Roberts in 1952 called Tactics; he went on to found the Avalon Hill company, and is called "The father of board wargaming".

Wargames have existed for centuries — chess is an ancient example. In fact, one could make a case that all competitive zero-sum games may be considered wargames. Wargames, like all games, exist in a range of complexities: some are fundamentally simple (so-called "beer-and-pretzel" games), while others (generally in an attempt to increase the 'realism' of the situation) produce rule sets that may encompass a large variety of actions (so-called "monster" games).

Wargames vary in the level of complexity of rules and record keeping they require. Detailed wargame rulesets (some of which require hundreds of pages of small print and intensive recordkeeping) generally result in a slow (and for many, less enjoyable) game. Simpler "beer and pretzels" rulesets, on the other hand, produce "fun" games and encourage tournament or competitive play, but may not accurately depict events that historically took place in a conflict.

Tabletop wargaming (miniature wargaming)

Missing image
A WWII game played with miniature vehicles and infantry

Main article: Miniature wargaming

Miniature wargaming typically involves the use of miniature plastic or metal models for the units and model scenery placed on a tabletop or floor as a playing surface. Games with miniatures are sometimes called tabletop games, tabletop wargames, miniature wargames, or simply wargames.

Board wargaming

A typical non-computerized wargame (Kriegspiel) consists of the following components:

  • Map: The map shows the terrain over which the battle/war is fought, usually overlaid by hexagons to regulate movement. Other variations include the "point to point" map where areas are connected by lines to show possible movements, and the area map (similar to Risk).
  • Counters: These are usually cardboard squares that represent armies, military units or individual military personnel, as well as markers to show current status that these units might be in.
  • Dice: These are generally used to add the element of chance. Given that many military actions have been influenced or even decided by odd events, straight-forward strategy games such as chess and go may be considered too abstract to represent real war.

Board wargames typically use cardboard counters to represent the units, and a printed mapboard as the playing surface.

Computerized wargaming

Computer wargames display the units and scenery on the monitor screen.

Computerized wargames have several distinct advantages over "paper and pencil" wargames:

  • no need to roll dice over and over again
  • no recordkeeping (the computer handles all the 'paperwork')
  • ability to start, stop and save the game at any time (if there is no need to coordinate with a human opponent; note that this is also possible with board games, as long as no children or animals have access to the game area)
  • no need to paint miniatures
  • easy to find opponents on the Internet

Disadvantages of computerized wargames:

  • computer may not be as competent as a human opponent (this problem can generally be avoided if there is a multiplayer mode)
  • lack of human interaction (of course, the computer won't tip over the board if it is losing)
  • computer arbitration allows more complex rules, which can be more difficult to understand and analyze; especially since these rules may be "hidden" from the player(s) in the software code
  • ability to view only a part of the battlefield in detail at a time
  • player(s) can't easily modify the rules or adapt them to similar situations
  • the tactile satisfaction in moving finely painted figures about the tabletop

Traditional wargaming differs from so-called real-time strategy computer games in that traditional wargames are generally turn-based (an obvious exception being 'in-the-field' wargaming by military organizations). Traditional wargames focus on the ability to analyze in-depth, plan to achieve a goal, and adjust plans to changing circumstances. Real-time strategy games (which might better be called vastly-speeded-up-time strategy games) focus more on reflexes, coordination, and the ability to make snap decisions with limited information. Also, real-time strategy games require less sophisticated artificial intelligence on the part of computer players.

Computer wargames are often played against human opponents via e-mail (by exchanging save-game files) to provide the human interaction and a more interesting opponent than that of the program. This has the disadvantage of taking much longer to finish the game, depending upon how often the players check their e-mail. It is still much quicker (and easier) than the older method of playing board wargames by postal mail. A faster alternative (not available with all games) is playing over a direct connection, either LAN, modem or Internet.

Types of military wargaming

Wargame simulations can usually be categorized according to the type of technology available to the 'armies' involved, the branch(es) of the military, the period of military history, and the unit size or map scale.


  • land battles
  • sea battles
  • air battles
  • combinations of land, sea, and/or air battles
  • space battles

Historical period

All periods of history have their wargaming enthusiasts. Historical games are generally by these periods:

Wargames can also be used to simulate fictional situations:

Unit or map scale

  • Strategic — military units are typically division, corps, or army-sized, and they are rated based upon raw strength. At this scale, economic production and diplomacy are significant. The simulation typically involves all branches, and often the entire forces of the nations involved, and covers entire wars or long campaigns
  • Operational — units are typically battalion to divisional size, and are rated based on their average overall strengths and weaknesses. Weather and logistics are significant. The simulation typically focuses on one branch of the military forces, with others somewhat abstracted, and usually covers a single campaign.
  • Tactical — units range from individual vehicles and squads to platoons or companies, and are rated based on types and ranges of individual weaponry. The simulation almost always focuses on a single branch, occasionally with others abstracted, and usually covers a single battle or part of a large battle.

Notable wargamers

Notable wargames

Wargames and wargaming as computer terms

Another common use of the term "Wargame" is among the Hacker community (specifically White-hats), referring to a server that is set up specifically for the purpose of being hacked into. This allows the hacker to have a server to hack into, without the need to worry about the legal issues, as the owner is knowingly allowing this to happen.

See also

External links

fa:رزمایش fr:Jeu de guerre it:Wargame zh:战争游戏


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