Understanding The Hobby of Wargaming
Many wargamers report having begun the hobby of wargaming as a young kid. As young boys and girls you were excited by the idea of controlling large squadrons of small military figures and your weekly allowances would go towards your supplies and more miniatures. Has your child shown an interest in wargaming? I know many parents will perhaps be concerned or perhaps confusion, because wargames can be harder to relate to. I feel that the hobby is a positive one overall. In this article I will attempt to address some of the many concerns many parents may feel towards wargaming. You may be apprehensive about this hobby and not sure how much you should encourage or discourage your child from becoming involved with wargames. This article aims to be an effective parent’s guide to understanding tabletop wargaming.
Introduction to Wargaming
Kids are typically introduced to wargaming through a buddy or while browsing a hobby shop much like the one my father owned in the 70s. The miniature figures can be eye-catching with exciting and uniquely painted artwork that is displayed in various cabinets along a wall. Learning how to paint tiny figures is part of the hobby and can be great for your kid in developing their fine motor skills and creativity. They are small and usually no taller than an inch or two. They are referred to 10mm / 15 mm / 20mm because that is how small they are. They come in either 10 or 15 or 20 millimeter sizes. In addition to the people, you will have larger things like canyons, tanks or buildings. The most common type of tabletop wargaming, and the one which my father, John Hill, designed and orchestrated, is Civil War or World War II. When it comes to the types of historical tabletop wargaming my father designed, they can not only be entertaining but educational as well. There are, however, many more genres of miniature wargaming all with their own set of rules. There is science fiction, fantasy, horror or Victorian theme-based wargames.
Components to a Wargame
A wargame will have these basic features:
- A large-scale tabletop miniature wargame
- Instead of game pieces, you use armies of miniature figures.
- Instead of squares on a board, you use tape measures.
- Dice are still the main decision makers as the number of the die will determine the battle outcomes.
- In order to complete a mission, you battle opponents
- Your goals will be to wipe out the enemy or kill their commander or take over a fort.
- Civil War Miniature wargames are going to be long in nature. You cannot play a game in 30 minutes or less like other tabletop games.
- Wargames can take up a large amount of space
- An entire dining / kitchen table will be necessary and sometimes you might need more room than that. My father had an enormous custom-built wargame table in our basement in the house I grew up in Indiana and it took up nearly the entire 12 foot space. But you can modify it if space is an issue. Just be prepared it will take up more more than your average game of Checkers or Chess.
- With wargames, you add terrain like houses, hills and trees add that add to your child’s imagination and true understanding of what it must have been like fighting during Civil War battles.
- There are few games that will aid in your child’s creativity more than wargames.
Some wargames are going to be more difficult to understand and learn how to play than others. It will depend on your child and their age and their overall determination to learn how to play. One of my father’s earliest games was Battle of Stalingrad and that is best suited for ages 12 and up as well as Squad Leader. You can also get the Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit for under $30 which is also meant for ages 12 and up. You get two 8″ x 22″ full-color beautifully illustrated mapboards that can be rearranged to create several various terrain configurations along with 280 fully detailed with differently colored counters representing both half and full squads, leaders, and support weapons which were used for fighting across Europe.
What is a good age to start the hobby?
As a parent myself, I understand that the first question you may have is at what age is the best to start the hobby. I first off wish to say that it is ultimately up to you Mums and Dads if you feel this is an appropriate hobby for your child, because you know your child better than anyone else. I will say that playing wargames can be intense and does require patience, maturity and the ability to interact with others. Most kids are ready to be introduced at the age of 12 because that is the age in which they can understand what can be often confusing rules along with intense disagreements. After seeing and observing my father and his wargaming buddies throughout my childhood as well as adulthood, I can attest that the intense disagreements don’t just occur amongst the kids. Fully grown men can sound like a bunch of angry young boys when there is an intense disagreement. If you are a wargamer, don’t try and deny it, because you know I am right! 🙂 By age 12, most kids usually have enough fine motor skill development to be able to paint miniature figurines because that is a huge part of the hobby.
Allow Things in Moderation
Too much of anything can be bad. If their school work or other responsibilities are being impacted, don’t blame the game. Any hobby like watching TV or playing video games and even sports can take away from their responsibilities. If it becomes a problem, just limit their time. You are the parent and you are in charge and have total control of what you think is best. School and grades should always come before their hobbies.
What’s the difference between “Wargames” and “Roleplaying Games”?
There are many differences to wargames and roleplaying games.
In roleplaying such as in Dungeons and Dragons, players take the role of a single character in a fantasy world. They develop and gain experience. They level up and acquire riches and more power. Games are played from the perspective of that role or character. They act out things and talk to one another as if they were these characters. Since there is no “end” or “winners” in roleplaying games, things are less intense and much more cooperative and friendly. However, players can become attached to their characters and often can loss sight of reality at times because they become too immersed in it.
Wargaming is more like a fancy oversized chess game. Players control will control their squadrons and every game has an end. Someone loses. There’s no roleplaying to it. You do not put yourselves in your troops’ shoes. You do not act things out. All you are doing is moving figures around on a tabletop. Like any sport, there will be winners and losers.
Just How Complex are Wargames?
It is true that these games can get very complicated and adults have numerous disagreements too as I eluded to above. The rules are certainly more difficult to learn than games such as Monopoly and Checkers. Understanding tactics are can on a new whole new world completely. I compared wargames to Chess, calling wargmes a fancy oversized Chess, but with wargames you have many more options than in Chess. There definite advantages in that kids who grasp these concepts end up learning a lot about analytical thinking which could ultimately lead to a better grasp of complex school work. As I said earlier, there are educational benefits to learning and understanding wargames. If you are unsure if your child is ready to master the complexities, one piece of advice for you is to take them to a hobby shop, because most hobby stores will gladly show people how the games are played and this is an excellent way to see if your kids can comprehend the system before spending either yours or their money.
How Much Does it Cost?
Wargames are sometimes more expensive than your typical board game. However, if you keep an eye out, you can sometimes get good deals. You can peruse the ADF Amazon Store or the Squad Leader Amazon Store to find great bargains. I also have a page to an ADF Barnes & Noble Store. It is no more expensive than buying a computer, game console with a bunch of video games or athletic equipment for a kid who plays sports. A musical instrument and/or music lessons are also expensive. Just about any other hobby these days will cost money. You an get a starter kit for around $30 or so. These starter kits can make a great birthday or Christmas gift. This is enough to get your kids started and see if they like the game.
There is a little more beyond just the models, especially when you are talking about painting the miniature figures. You might be looking at $20 – $40 in other hobby expenses to include glue, paint and brushes. These are an aboslute necessary to assemble and paint the figures, but it’s also an extremely important part of the hobby and one that I think leads to their creativity and fine motor development. Aside from the glue, other supplies can be purchased after you decide if it’s something your child(ren) want to stick with.
Once they playing the basic game, your kids will want to increase the size of their army. This is something that is very affordable that they can use their weekly allowance for or obtain a part-time job delivering newspapers or cutting neighbor’s grass. Models can be bought for around $10-20 or they can save up for larger things such as entire squads, tanks, weapons, canyons, buildings, trees, fences, etc. Another thing your kids can buy is more paint and replace brushes as required. This is trickier as a gift, because you will not know what models they want so look over their shoulder when they are on Amazon and see what they are interested in. Amazon gift cards make a great holiday present and that way they can get whatever they want. And the nice thing about Amazon is you can buy things used as well making it much cheaper. The downside of getting wargaming pieces used is they might come already painted and part of the fun of wargaming is painting your own pieces.
Can Girls Play?
Girls can definitely play wargames, but typically it is considered a “boys” hobby. Most of the players are primarily male, but that does not mean girls cannot play too. Just like in some sports where most the participants are male, but that does not mean girls are necessarily excluded. Being a female myself, I can attest to having a difficult time trying to integrate into a male-dominated interest. When I was a teenager, I joined a program similar to a Junior ROTC program called the Sea Cadets. I was the only girl and I endured some chauvenism but that did not stop me from going. If your daughter is interested in wargaming, chances are she is strong enough to endure the occasional remark from insensitive boys.
Is Wargaming Popular?
With the high amount of interest in video games and other electronic devices, it can be hard to get kids interested in old fashion board games rather alone tabletop wargames. But kids will learn more and develop more skills such as social interaction and team building not to mention analytical and creativity by playing wargames than sitting in front of the television gripping to a joystick. There is much to be said about interacting with real people instead of making only online friends.
Your kids can probably find friends to play with through school or local clubs. Help your kid put an ad in the school newspaper and see if they can meet new friends who are interested.
What if They Lose Interest?
What can I say? Kids will do that. That is why it is always best to go with a starter kit to begin with and if they like it, then you can invest more. You can hold off buying it and if your kids keep asking for it instead of forgetting about it, then maybe they have a real strong interest. You can also let them spend their own money and if they do lose interest that is a part of growing up, spending money and realizing later it was a mistake. It can be a lesson learned about spending money.
My advice to you is if they do decide to quit, find out why, because with the complexity of wargames, it might just be a matter of not understanding the rules. Sit down with them and find what why they say they are no longer interested. It could be something as simple as helping them to understand the complexities of the game and once they understand the rules better, their interest might be peaked once again.
How Long Do Wargames Take to Play?
Miniature wargaming as mentioned above can take a good portion of the day. But so do athletic events and sporting games. If they are using your dining room table to play a wargame and the day turns into evening and they are still playing, it can get in the way of supper time. But parents are used to dealing with pleading children and you know best how to negotiate with your child. If the dining room table is being used more often for wargaming than for supper, consider investing in a couple folding tables from your local Home Depot or where ever you would go to get folding furniture.
To summarize, wargames can teach kids how to analyze scenarios, think critically, interact socially with real people, team building skills, how to lose with dignity, about mathematics and adding and making predictions. As kids become more interested in wargames and play more often, their ability to understand complexities will increase as well. If your kid is showing any interest, it does not hurt to get an Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit or check out the online stores below.
In addition, Barnes & Noble are offering Columbus Day Sales: Columbus Day Sale! Buy 1, Get 1 50% Off Educational Toys & Games. Shop BN.com. Valid 10.10 – 10.12.15
I hope you enjoyed this article. Thank you for visiting my website today. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
Thanks for a thorough introduction to wargaming! I did not know it was so different than the Dungeons and Dragons-type of fantasy role-playing games. I get your point that the wargames are studies in strategy and critical thinking. Your post gives a really balanced view of the pros and cons and should be very helpful to parents with youngsters who are interested in it.
There are plenty of similarities between Dungeons and Dragons and tabletop wargaming. They both deal with strategic thinking and role playing. I am glad you found my article to be well balanced. It is my aim that it helps parents to decide if this is something they want their child to become interested in or not.
Have a great day!
Stephanie (AKA John’s Daughter)
This is a surprisingly informative article – I’m personally a big fan of D&D (Though it’s been tough to find a goruo to play iwth lately), but I’ve never even heard of wargames before. Was this what my dad was doing all those years in the garage? Haha!
Thanks! I’m going to check this out later today..Maybe drag my girlfriend into playing with me.
I am glad you found this article about parent’s guide to wargaming to be informative. If you are a fan of Dungeons and Dragons, you will easily be able to transition to wargames. The concept is very similar because both are exciting strategy games requiring your imagination.
You also might like CHALDEA: War Room Online. It is free and offers lots of imaginative play. And yes, I think your girlfriend could get hooked too.
Great looking site Steph, not sure I can add much value looks like you’ve got it covered. I’ve actually been on your site a few times before this.
One thing I’ve found works well on some of my sites is email capture, using sumome and MailChimp, then send out monthly news or posts.
Thank you the comment. I have been looking into an email marketing campaign and have been considering AWeber. Thank you!
Aw man I dont play really but i love the idea of Table Top war games and i used to love playing Dungeons and Dragons.
I’m really glad someone has a site like this. The pictures are top notch and the information is great!
This would help someone understand the art of Table Top Wargaming no doubt 🙂
Thank you for visiting. I am glad you found the article to be useful. I too played Dungeons and Dragons when I was young.
Have a wonderful day.
I think wargaming sounds like a great pass-time or hobby for children.
My daughter is a little too obsessed with the iPad and watching videos on it.
Something that would get her more engaged and able to use analytical and critical thinking skills would be fantastic.
Also a lot more social and interactive than sitting on her butt with a computer or tablet.
Thanks for the great article it’s given me a bit to consider…
Thank you for the chuckles. I too am a parent who struggles with your kids being too addicted to the electronics. Some of the benefits of wargames is that they are educational and your child also gets social engagement which is something they do not get when staring at an iPad or TV for hours at a time as you also noted. The wargames my father John Hill designed are based on historical facts. Many of them are on the ACW (American Civil War) era and her daughter can get a sense of what it was like for the soldiers who died in the Civil War.
Thank you for visiting my father’s tribute site. I hope to see you again soon.
What a good article. Opens up my perspective towards board games. My favourite board game in the past is RISK & I rmb that I used to act like I was the commander of those armies. I could relive those memories thanks to this review. I’m in Singapore , where tablets & Ipads are more common than actual toys itself.
I am glad my article brought back some memories of acting like the commanding officer in armies while playing wargames and other games like Risk. It can not only be fun to pretend, but wargames are not only entertaining, they are educational as well. They can teach us about our history and give us a glimpse of what war was like.
Singapore is just like the USA. We have more tablets, ipads and other electronic devices too instead of actual boardgames.
Thank you for visiting and I hope to see you again very soon.
Sincerely, Stephanie (John Hill’s Daughter)
What a great read! This is a whole new world I knew nothing about, my family is full of online gamers and I bet none of them have tried Wargaming!
I hope to show my little man more things like this as he grows older, thank you for such great information!
You are welcome. I am glad you enjoyed the article. I am not sure how old your son is, but 12 is about the right age to be introduced to wargames. The Civil War board games are a great way to educate your kids on American history. They are not as violent as some parents may think. There is educational value in wargames. Come back soon.
I like the topic! It is unique and it doesn’t seem like there is as much information on other sites compared to yours! It’s neat and it works lovely on the mobile platform. The content is organized and it seems like you are very passionate about what you are talking about which is good for your readers! Good job!
Thank you Tempest for visiting my website. My father is the one who was passionate about wargames. He passed away before his most recent ACW rulebook came out – Across A Deadly Field: War in the West. Thank you for visiting. I appreciate the kind words.
Very, interesting article. I didn’t know there was a game behind some of these civil war models I have seen at various museums and other “hobby shops.” I just thought they were just that, a hobby.
I have played the board game Axis and Allies before and that was a blast, but I am not sure these wargaming games are for me because they seem to have a lot more rules to learn.
Axis and Allies is fun and didn’t take too long to learn. Nonetheless, I think if I had a freind that was into it, and could teach me, then I would be willing to play against him for sure! lol
Thank you for visiting. You are right about the number of rules that there are to learn with ACW (American Civil War) wargames. They can be difficult and that is why the recommended age to begin getting into wargames is 12 years of age. I am familiar with Axis and Allies and that is also a fun game as well. I am glad you visited today. I hope you decide to come back and visit.
Great read, I never played any table top war games when I was a kid but I knew a couple of people that would get together and play.
Obviously this is not at all the same thing but I could relate to the aspect of playing a game, while actually interacting with another human being before video games we all consuming. Me and some of my friends used to play magic cards which was a ton of fun.
My boy is just about to turn three, so I imagine the demographic for these classic style games being nearly gone in 7-10 years when he’s old enough to play.
Thanks for some quality reminiscing Steph,
Thank you for reading my article on a parent’s guide to tabletop wargaming. I too knew many people both young and old who would get together on the weekends to play wargames. My father and his friends would always fill up the basement of our house for endless hours of excitement. Many Dads would bring their sons and everyone would teach the younger generation how to play.
Many people think that wargames is a dying sport but in actuality I would imagine that it would still be in existence 7 to 10 years from now. There is a e different type of enthusiasm that comes with playing wargames that you cannot get from the video games.
Thank you for visiting my site. Have a great day!
I love this site reminds me of simpler days when there were no such thing as video games as when I was a kid. I played with Tonka trucks and went to the slot car track on the weekends with my Dad.
Boy have times changed. Great that you are into promoting this type of activity for kids and your site is so interesting and informative on where to purchase the products associated with it. Your father seemed a very talented man to have designed all of these cool wargames.
Thank you Fredric for visiting my site and for the kind words. I am just like you and I also grew up playing with Tonka trucks and toys which opened up your imagination as opposed to the digital age generation where kids are glued to the TV and their Nintendo. My father indeed was a very talented man who believed in games that promoted creativity while teaching both young and old about the America Civil War and other appropriate wars. Afterall, wargames are not only entertaining, they are educational as well.
Please come back and visit again soon.
Wow, the very birth place of mobile and some popular war games, nice article, Despite it is a game, I personally would go for video games for the animation and effect that i love but i would also love a big board like that despite from were am from it would just act as decorations but if have people, i’ll definitively play a round for fun =^-^=
Video games are definitely popular, but I think video gamesdo not leave much for imagination whereas when the graphics are not provided, you come up with your own imagination of what it must have been like fighting in the ACW (American Civil War) or World War II. Thank you for checking out my parents guides to wargames.
I enjoyed your take on a healthier outlet than videogames for kids.I had previously thought that the costs to getting started in one of these games would be a lot higher than $20-$40. I also liked how you figured out a good age recommendation for kids who want to get started in wargaming. Do clubs and meets commonly have prizes for winners? It’s nice to hear about this topic from someone with such a familial perspective. You definitely sound like you have a passion for what your father helped pioneer!
Best of luck,
I based the age of the recommendation from what my father had placed on Amazon for all the games he designed. Each one to include the following:
Across A Deadly Field: Regimental Rules for Civil War Battles (American Civil War,
ADF: War in the West (American Civil War)
Advanced Squad Leader
Battle of Stalingrad
Each of the above wargames all recommend the age of 12 but parents know their kids better than anyone. So, it is really what to you when you think your kids are old enough.
Keep in mind that wargames can be pretty complex with in depth complexities and your child will need to be old enough to be able to comprehend the rulebooks. There are approximately 200 pages to the ADF rulebooks so it is quit involved.
There are annual wargaming conventions that I have written about on this website to include Naschon and Historicon. They do give prizes to winners, but I am not sure how regularly that is done.
Thank you for noticing my passion for continuing my father’s legacy.
Have a wonderful day.
Thanks for your informative article about wargames. I was wondering if you have to join a club or something to be able to play games against others? Where are the games held and how do you move all of your stuff? If you have such a huge battlefield it might be a bit hard to transport..
I am glad you enjoyed the article on parent’s guide to wargaming. As far as joining a club, there are no real clubs you have to join, but there are clubs and memberships you can join and online communication groups you can look into. The games are most often held at annual wargaming conventions. I spoke about Historicon and Naschon here on this website. As far as the massive amount of materials to transport, if you are organized and keep your miniature figurines and toy soldiers is easy to transport plastic containers, you can easily transport your items. With any hobby or sport, there are going to be a massive amount of equipment that goes along with it. Just think about the equipment needed for sporting events such as balls, rackets, special uniform jerseys, head gear, and other body protective gear. With the huge battlefields you asked about, all you need are tables and then the rest of the equipment can be rolled out once you arrive at the wargaming convention.
Thank you for visiting and asking great questions. I hope to see you again soon.
This is the very first time I read about wargaming. Perhaps, as I was born it to the “sega & nintendo” era, wargaming got a bit eclipsed by those two. Regardless of popularity contest, I perceive wargaming as benchmark & influence to modern, turn-based strategy & real-time tactics computer games. I’m not sure how true that stands, but the way I’m looking at it, I see an important predecessor. I wish I had something like that to play with at the age of 7-8. For nowadays, it’s debatable, I think 12 is already way too old – it’s just how quickly we evolve. Let’s take a look at kids playing Minecraft, they’ll blow your mind & I, as rigorous gamer a ka no-lifer, have felt pretty untalented if not stupid after looking at their inventions. Kids can often teach us more than we can teach them. Unfortunately it’s pretty obvious, vast majority goes with electronic games – they’re made convenient: won’t take space; very quick to set-up or take down; with endless flowing-variety & possibilities; as mass production overall price is also lower. In my opinion, I see wargaming as hobby for wargaming enthusiasts who can definitely add unique touch to it making it very special. These are like the high-end accessories we’re used to see in movies. How well it translates & can be introduced to modern children.. seems like a challenge that boils down to parenting skills in first place. But that’s just one opinion among many. Thank you for interesting article!
Thank you for visiting my website today and for reading about my parent’s guide to understanding tabletop wargaming. I absolutely agree with you that because you were born into the sega and nintendo era that you probably had less of a chance of being exposed to the traditional board games and perhaps certainly not tabletop wargaming. Many feel that wargaming is a dying hobby, but evidence to the contrary suggest that it is still a very much enjoyed hobby with plenty of men and women both young and old playing. There are numerous conventions which I write about here on this website to include Historicon and Naschon.
You mention that twelve years of age maybe too old, but on the contrary, it is not. The reason is a seven or eight year old would not have the mental and intellectual capacity to understand wargaming due to the complexity of the rules involved. My father rulebooks that he designed for ADF for example are over 200 pages. I do not know too many seven years who can digest a 200 page rulebook unless they are a child prodigy. 🙂 I do agree with you that seven-year-olds are able to use a computer with terrific ease, but that is not tabletop wargaming is about. That being said, there are computer games based on wargames which might be doable for young children.
I like what you said about seeing wargaming as hobby for wargaming enthusiasts who can definitely add unique touch to it making it very special. That is too and wargaming enthusiasts do make it very special. The creativity and imagination not to mention the bonding that goes into wargaming makes it very special. My father, John Hill, had many wargaming buddies that remained good buddies with him for a long time.
Thank you for visiting. Have a wonderful day!
Hey Steph, I’m glad I found this article. This might be something that my son and I can get into together. My father briefly did with me but I think I may have been too young to have really appreciated it. I remember painting the figures with him in his workshop, though. My son’s birthday is coming up. I’m definitely going to keep this in mind as a gift idea.
Interesting post, I agree with you completely that 12+ age is appropriate for this game since it is essential to understand the rules in order to avoid disagreements which can turn out to be game spoiling quarrel and it’s true that disagreement don’t just happen among kids while playing such games.
I am aware of the super addictive nature of such games and that could become an issue for the parents however it is a common problem from which they can’t escape whether let it be a video game or tabletop game.
I believe that this tabletop war game has good advantages..like it helps to exercise the imagination,decision making(in case of war troops) and most importantly it exercises a subtle component present inside kids(the passion to get better).. Great work! 🙂
Thank you for reading my article on a parent’s guide to wargaming. I am glad you found it interesting and yes, I believe age 12 is a good age to being, but I want to emphasis. It does depend on the kid too. And yes, many times games have been ruined by the quarreling getting out of control – for both young and old. I meant that remark to be humorous and not as a put down or anything like that and I hope it is seen as such.
You are correct about hobbies becoming super addictive. Often times, these addictive hobbies can lead into illustrious careers as was the case for my father. His passion for wargaming led him to having a successful wargaming business as an adult.
It certainly does have great advantages such as creativity and imagination. It can also be fun and help with team building and social interaction with their peers.
Omg wow i should really get this for my cousin’s son! The amount of time they can spend together playing this is great! Thanks for the info!
Glad I could help. Have a wonderful day! Many fun hours can be spent playing wargames.
This is awesome! I didn’t know that such things exist. I particularly like the idea of custom painting your own miniature figures. That can be a hobby on its own.
You mentioned that the games will take longer than 30 minutes. How long is the average time taken for the game?
Oh and lastly, it’s joystick. Not joyce stick. Just clarifying 🙂
Thank you for visiting my website today. And you are right about painting miniature figures can become a hobby all of its own. As far as how long a typical wargame can last, it can last a good portion of the day. I cannot give you specifics, but your child will get many hours of great fun by using their active imagination and enhancing their creative thinking skills.
And thank you for catching the typo. I found it and corrected it. 🙂