The allure of wargaming

Warhammer army

I’m a big fan of miniature wargaming, both the assembling and painting the figures, but also the tactical complexity of the game itself. I thought it was high time to bore you as well, or at the very least give you an understanding of what miniature wargaming is.

Miniature wargaming?

Miniature wargaming has its roots in military training exercises, where battles were re-enacted with models to learn about tactics. Of course, this being lots of fun, and children loving to play with miniatures, people turned it into a game. H.G. Wells famously wrote two books of rules covering how to play wargames with toy soldiers.

The origins of this type of game is rule sets developed for existing miniatures. Compare this to Chess, which originated from a wargame, but over its thousand year history has been developed to have almost nothing to do with actual combat. Chess has a set of rules which require a fixed board with 32 fixed playing pieces. Miniature wargames have varying numbers of models, and varying model terrain, with varying rules on how to move the pieces and engage the enemy.

The basis of these types of games is that two (or more) players each have an army of models that they face off against each other on a qualified play area. In its most basic form, the armies are of equal strength, but objective-based play is possible, or differently-sized armies facing off with terrain advantages for the weaker side.

There are legions of models to play with and as many game systems. And it’s not just toy soldiers, but fantasy armies, medieval armies, contemporary armies, futuristic armies, aliens, and naval combat. Just about any minitiature that can possibly be used in organized combat has at least one corresponding game system. Some examples of systems include Kings of War (fantasy), Hordes (fantasy), Warmachine (steampunk), Warhammer 40K (scifi), X-Wing (Star wars space battles), and many more.

A game like X-Wing is a good starter, because the rules are relatively simple, but ingenious enough to allow for complex strategies . It has pre-painted models, so if you also want to partake in painting miniatures, Infinity (not the Disney game) might be for you to get started. This is also based on miniature people, and not ships. Once you develop a taste, larger armies fill your local game shop. If you already have some models, Kings of War – among others – has basic rules for free on their site.

A modelling hobby

Miniature wargaming originated with toy soldiers that children (and older) wanted to play games with. The hobby evolved, but models still stand at the heart of the hobby. Some games have pre-painted miniatures (X-Wing for example), but most require the player to assemble and paint the models themselves. This assembling is a hobby in itself, and for some even the only part of the hobby. The scale of the models differ, but the most popular systems scale humans to roughly 1:35 (ships and vehicles are usually different).

You buy unassembled plastic (or metal, or resin) sprues:


To assemble the models, you cut the tiny parts out of the sprue, glue them together to form an individual model, usually with a choice of stance and weapons, and then you have a gray model of some five centimetres in height (roughly two inch).


To paint them, you first spray-paint them with a primer (basecoating). After that you can apply different colours of paint, using various techniques to highlight and shade the models, until you’re satisfied with the result. Finally, you should apply a varnish to protect the paint from chipping. This pain-staking job is repeated for each model, until you arrive at something like this: QuestingKnights– and yes, I did that block-pattern on the horses by hand.

I can highly recommend assembling and painting miniatures. It is a very relaxing hobby, and combines well with watching Netflix or listening to audio books.


I hope this clarifies some of the mysteries surrounding wargaming. I hope this introduced at least some of you to a new world of gaming, because miniature wargaming is a blast. Buy some models, find some friends, and get to it.


Martin Stellinga Written by:

I'm a science fiction and fantasy author/blogger from the Netherlands