How to: Wargaming

Really, there are two components to any historical wargaming:

First is the collecting of an army; the satisfaction as you watch your little collection of soldiers grow into a veritable horde of tiny troopers. To begin wargaming, you must first pick a time period and historical country so you can start looking for models. Personally, I chose Napoleonic wargaming, and resolved to go with the country that had the gaudiest uniforms. To my eye, that was the Russians, for their utterly tasteless hussar regalia.

The army takes time to amass, of course, but how much time depends on how much time and care you put in (and Lord knows, some put in a lot). But even if you don’t put too many hours in, the soldiers still always look good, because of how they all stand in formation amongst their 28mm plastic pals.

The occasional wonky moustache or helmet-coloured hair will become unnoticeable when they stand as a battalion. I’d say they’re a thing of beauty. Heck, I’d put the soldiers on display on my shelf if I had one.

The second component is the actual battles. Here you get together with one or more of your fellow collectors to duke it out in the largest seminar room you can book on Planon. Now begins the process of attempting to simulate the high-stakes strategising and tactics of a battle. There’s no let-up in the game, because it is only rarely obvious who is going to win until the last minute. That’s because the game is dice-based. Sometimes, just as it looks like you’re on the back foot, one incredibly brave battalion will somehow hold out against round after round of enemy fire, giving you time to reform and counterattack.

That might seem questionable at first, but it’s not inaccurate; history is littered with units that held out against the odds. It also adds a new component to the battle, because it’s all about weighing up the odds; of pressing the attack versus maintaining the integrity of your line, of putting artillery in a more vulnerable but potent location, of charging cavalry and breaking the line or being cut down moments after they arrive.

It helps to have a larger army, because the more dice you both throw the more luck averages out. Because if there’s one thing you learn about the tragedies and comedies of historical wargaming, it’s that Lady Fortune is a tricky mistress, but ultimately a fair one.

Except for David. She always lets David pass his morale saves for some reason.