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Everything you wanted to know about wargaming but were to afraid to ask

Don’t panic, we know all this stuff. The world and practise of wargaming can be mind boggling for the novice or even a professional organisation wanting to use wargaming as a toolset. However, it doesn’t have to be.

In this blog we will help you unravel the mysteries of the art of wargaming. This is your FAQ for novices, skeptics and wargaming illiterates.

#1 Why would I wargame? isn’t it childish? Isn’t it playing with toy soldiers? Isn’t it just for fun

Yes, it is fun! But it is also educational. You can learn a lot more in an hour of gaming, than an hour of formal education (Actually, Aristotle said this). Among other purposes, you can use a wargame to learn and gain insight into ideas, concepts, plans, strategies and human behaviour. The great benefit being that you will gain these insights through experience. Sometimes there are toy soldiers involved (we call them units, playing pieces or counters), sometimes there are not.

#2 So I can use wargames for a variety of purposes?

Yes, you can! In our experience, we have designed and used wargames for:

  1. Personnel selection and recruitment: because the adversarial use of wargaming reveals character, (or lack thereof).

  2. Developing concepts: I have an idea and I want to game through all my options. For example: what option carries most risk? What is the safest? What is the most economical? In doing so, I can arrive at a plan and/or strategy? And now that you have a plan, you can wargame that too!

  3. Every stage of a project in development can be wargamed.

  4. Yes, it’s fun; you can play wargames with your friends just for a nice evening of entertainment.

#3 But hang on, why are they called wargames?

Well, because a wargame is by its nature adversarial. There are two - or more - sides competing directly against each other.

#4 So, what does a wargame comprise of?

Whatever you need to make it work. Typically, a wargame encompasses a board or a map, units in the form of counters representing resources and assets, mechanisms for play and rules which guide process of the game. Obviously, you also need participants. Seriously, that many.

#5 How many people are needed for a wargame?

Normally a minimum of two. Playing with yourself is not recommended. We have designed and facilitated wargames for groups between 2 and 15000 participants.

#6 But wait a moment, won’t this take up too much of my valuable time?

Apart from recreational purposes, wargames are used to improve the efficiency of existing systems and processes by refining plans, strategies, SOPs in a low cost risk free environment. Through play you can win back time and money. Of course, as a result of introducing wargaming to your company for example, you will have better trained people. Some recreational wargames have been known to last for days or even months.

#7 What types of wargames are out there already? Where can I get them?

Commercial wargames have been around for over a century. It really depends what you want to play and the complexity you want to tackle. Even H.G. Wells, the famous science fiction writer, drafted one of the first sets of rules for a wargame, which you can find in his book ‘Little Wars’. Everybody has heard of the game Risk and of course, Chess. Risk is a game that is to easy to learn and simple to play. Chess is one of the oldest adversarial wargames in history.

There are many types of wargames. Some are strategic with nations agains nations (think Risk or Diplomacy), others are right down to the tactical level, such as the famous Avalon Hill game system, Squad Leader. Some are historic, others are contemporary and some are fictional. You can find any wargame that suits your interests and needs.

#8 But I don’t have the skills to make or play wargames. How do I get these?

Like anything else, it is about interest and practise. By playing you develop the skills that you need. Many games have common mechanisms, rules and processes. Once you are hooked, you will want to learn more and apply wargaming to almost anything.

#9 But isn’t this very nerdy? Won’t I have to join any local Dungeons and Dragons or Warhammer clubs for this? Will I still have friends?

Of course you don’t have to join a club. Wargames are made and played by highly intelligent and interesting people. It is a social activity - as well as a professional one - that doesn’t require you to join a nerdy club. However, you can if you want to. Be the nerd.

#10 Ok I am interested, so please recommend me some wargames to get me started?

If you are a complete and utter novice, why not start with the following games?

  1. Chess: the ultimate classic, easy to learn, difficult to play well.

  2. Risk: this simple wargame about global domination, has ruined friendships since the late sixties. It has simple rules, a board, dice and counters that will give you and your friends hours of fun. This is a great game for personnel selection. Diplomacy: set in the period of just before World War I, it depicts the rival European Empires. Interestingly, this game has no dice. It relies upon, written orders and the building and breaking of alliances. This game is a backstabbers paradise. Some relationships have never recovered from contact with this game. Professionally this game is great for practicing negotiation and diplomatic skills as well as forward planning.

  3. Axis and Allies: a strategic wargame set in World War II. Yes, you can play the nazis. This game has more layers of complexity than Risk or Diplomacy. For example: you will have to consider economic factors.

  4. Wooden Walls, Iron Men: this is an interesting game, produced by Avolon Hill, and depicts maritime conflict in the Age of Sail. This game introduces players to many different mechanisms, including hexagonal area movements, victory points even to considering wind direction in planning movement.

  5. Finally, the classic, Squad Leader. A land based tactical wargame which is being used by military professionals as well as hobby gamers. Here you literally command small squads of soldiers.

#11 Can’t we just use digital wargames?


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