What makes a good wargame game?

  • I've seen a few folks around here talk about making their own wargames, and we know that WA is working on one or more of their own rulesets. So I thought it might be an interesting place to talk about what makes a good wargames according to the community.


    I'm just branching out into the wider hobby after living in one specific corner (Battletech) for decades, so I don't have a lot of experience. Tell me what I'm missing out on.

  • It varies from person to person, but for me, personally, it's all about the mechanics, narrative, and the setting.  I've moved into minis-agnostic solo/co-op games; competitive games I tried always succumbed to the dreaded, inevitable "meta," and I'm too into playing what I think looks cool to keep up, or even bother, with meta-gaming.  Plus, a lot of settings I want to fart around with, like Weird West, or Weird 1700s, or Low/Horror Fantasy aren't covered by PvP games - at least, not in the way I'd like.

    Solo/co-op games also work better for narrative gaming.  Playing a campaign where a story unfolds as you go just appeals to me more than a bunch of disconnected battles.  They may not be as "crunchy" rules- and tactics-wise as some PvP wargamers like, but they scratch me where it itches.

  • My thoughts echo those of@Benjamin Hayward

    What I like makes a good wargame for me but it may not be a good wargame for someone else. 

    For example I favor the Toofatlardies games, so Chain of Command rather than Bolt Action (Warlord Games) and Sharp Practice rather than Muskets & Tomahawks. I like narratives but also something that “feels” like the genre presented. 

    I prefer that over the smoothly streamlined rules other prefer. Warfare is not balanced in my opinion so carefully balanced, competitive tournament focused games like GW’s 40k do not float my boat so to speak. 

    I do not need a game to finish in 1 to 2 hours but I can see where that appeals to people. I like big maps but I like each miniature to represent 1 of something, be it a person or a vehicle. I am not keen on one mini represents ten soldiers or a tank model represents an armored company. 

    That does not make the games I like the best... just the best for me.

  • I have to agree with @Benjamin Hayward  @Grumpy Gnome,  so many games exist in so many sizes and genres and styles because they all appeal to at least some audience.  Or in other words what makes a wargame "good" for one player, may not make it good for another.

    For myself, I want the game to be decided by maneuver and massing of fires, etc.  In other words tactics.  I don't want the game won by combining character bubbles for re-rolls and coming up with cool "strategy" card combos (If I wanted to play Ug Gi Go I would).  Looking at you current 40K.  

    An example of this.  I'm moving away from Saga to Ravenfeast or similar because I want to "fight" my troops.  Not a game board.   (All Saga warband have a unique game board with different abilities on it.  It's kinda neat, but that's more the game than the moving about of troops.  Your mileage may vary).  



    (Ravenfeast.  All rules and expansions are free!)

    Like Grumpy Gnome I prefer the miniatures represent 1 to 1.  This generally means I will only ever play company sized actions and I'm generally OK with that.  

    I am however consequently interested in 6mm sci-fi and 12ish (whatever size the Warlord Epic Napoleonic miniatures are) in order to play larger force size games.  

    I will say what makes a good game is mysterious.  I really enjoy playing "B-17 Queen of the Skies."  So much so I got the reimagined "Target for Today."  But I honestly can't tell you where the "game" is.  It's a solitary "simulator" with very few decisions to make.  None the less it enjoys a strong following all these years later.  (There's a free printable B-25 in the Pacific game floating around out there somewhere if you want to give similar a try.)  (I've always wanted to do a 40K Marauder bomber version as well.....  the problem largely being it's a sh*t load of work and I'm lazy/have a job.)  Note:  B-17 is not a miniatures game per say.  Although it could be with 1/144 models and it would be awesome.

    B-17 Queen of the Skies

    EDIT:  Here is the B-25 game.  Look under "Files" for the printable rules, etc.

    B-25 game



  • Once upon a time, I should have replied: the best set of rules -read balanced. For instance, I played Fantasy Warlord instead WFB (just cause of Initiative rules) or Alternative Armies' Firefight instead of W40K (for urban scenarios).

    But now, since I am old and wise, I am more inclined to reply "Fluff and only coherent Fluff", rules became optional to my mind when the game setting is awesome. Frostgrave/Stargrave/Oathmark rules are fine but setting is "so-so". So I am using OnePageRules -fantasy, grimdark and their extensions- since I am fond creating my own game setting mixing elements from various sources and inspirations with such a good set of rules.   

  • I would say it depends entierly upon the game size. small, independent model proper skirmish games are best when fast and easy to learn, with thematic scenarios, but a grand tactical game is probably going to be mostly historical accuracy and morale.

  • First thing first, never played a wargame... yet...

    but what I am looking for in games is that they aren't overly complex, that is as close to 1:1 and have some story/aesthetic. I can forgo 1:1 when it comes to aesthetics, like with Turnip28 (although I do think small warbands are actually quite logical for the setting) or my plans for some fantasy armies (Low fantasy Middle-Earth, Witcher and Game of Thrones).

    For the big battles I like to see giant armies, so I favour 2mm and 6mm for those and like to see them nestled within a campaign. I am working on a Gallic Wars campaign to go alongside the upcoming Strength and Honour.

    Besides that I am also working on two rulesets for 2mm; Late Sengoku and the Eighty Years War. Both are more concerned with the overall strategy to win the war, rather than win battles. "Soldiers win battles, Generals win wars". I don't really like battles in a vacuum, and rather focus on the whole of the war or campaign. An army was raised from the Alsace to relieve the city of Bergen op Zoom, they battled the Spanish at Fleurus (Belgium), lost but managed to circumvent the Spanish host forcing the siege to be lifted.

  • I agree with @Benjamin Hayward and @Grumpy Gnome, I like a wargame which isn't about fielding an even army which is best because I focus on the winning and the meta and I when I play rules A, B and then C I get an amazing, unbeatable combo.


    For me (who would describe myself as a casual gamer at most but primarily a collector) its about the fluff, which grips my interests and gives me room to add to it or form my own army with its own identity. Its that which will help me build up my collection and inspire conversions which I can bring to the tabletop. When I started with wargames, I was all about the win which I found distracted me from the creation side of things and meant, when I lost, I felt obliged to buy more units or just walk away as I ended up playing overly competitive people.


    Let's not forget another important part of the whole wargame scene- community. A good wargame should reinforce the message it should be a pleasant, social event where you have friendly banter during the game, can chat about conversions new models and even things outside of the wargaming world, with the option of a cheeky beer mid way!

  • Well said@Chris Smith. Years ago I remember playing 40k and eventually giving up on the game after one too many games with overly competitive people that just sucked the joy out of the game for me.

    Then after decades of PC gaming instead of analog tabletop wargaming a mate sat down with me and Mrs. GG to play Saga. We had a blast and giving up PC gaming I promptly got back into wargaming. 

    However, as we began playing Saga together Mrs. GG and I realized it felt a bit too... “gamey” and that we wanted something more narrative driven. So we moved to GW’s Middle Earth Game, specifically the Battle Companies. Originally we were going to do big battles but the smaller, character driven Battle Companies better suited us. This was great fun for us but rather than narrative driven, we wanted to try narrative creating... which Frostgrave is good at. It is so superficial in its lore that we find ourselves creating a narrative around our games. 

    However, we also learned we are not best at playing against each other.  It is great having a spouse that games but things can get a bit... tense... at times. So for our marital bliss we find cooperative game play much better.

    But everyone's mileage may vary.

  • @Grumpy Gnome 

    I've been on the Official Competition Circuit for about a decade, back then arbiters were monitoring uber-competitive players since those were quite proned to bullying other people: "hey your models just suck." or "Look at your [place the name of your most expensive unit there].. ahaha look how I am smashing them" and so forth... Back then, players were rewarded for being Fairplay, while aggressive ones were expelled thanks to their borderline behaviour.

    Since I moved in Canada, I am only playing with family and handpicked persons: some from my RPG ring and some met in shops.

    The time of huge battles with tons of minis is behind me now, I am looking for the quietude of small games (30 minis max on a 2x2 surface) within a narrative campaign.

    Some battles could occur (so 60 minis max on a 4x4 surface) but they are quite rare event (only happened twice during lockdown). So for a time, I used Frostgrave -skirmish- and Oathmark -battle-, quite a win-win combo back then... OPR was the solution since I was unhappy with the Wizard-led band (or the Stargrave equivalent), too restrictive to my mind. 

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