Tuesday 26 March 2013

Old School Wargamer

I must admit, I am a bit of a "Johnny come lately" on this topic that I saw on Steve the Wargamer blog, but I thought it was such an interesting note that chimed with a lot of my own thoughts lately about the hobby and some of the preferences we have when it comes to playing with toy soldiers. The thread came out of the chat amongst wargamers about the possibilities raised by the merging of Miniature Wargames and Battlegames, a subject I addressed earlier this month.

Steve talks about the way the term "old School" is used when describing wargamers and its association with Henry Hyde to describe the audience that Battlegames appealed to. I, like Steve, consider myself an "old school" wargamer, but hadn't really thought clearly what that definition implied. The post lays out what it doesn't imply, and I found myself agreeing. He then laid out his ideas about what it does imply and the values old school gamers bring to the hobby. This summary is quoted below and it pretty well sums up my own philosophy about my hobby.

"Old School wargaming is about the enjoyment of doing original research into the history of the period that you choose to wargame - our history doesn't come from the latest Annexe, or Supplement to our chosen rule set. The Osprey is not seen as the be-all and end-all - just a helpful starter, a pointer to other books we want to read....  Old School wargamers like to do research..  they like to read weird and interesting facts about our favourite periods in history...  an Old School Wargamer will have large bookshelves full of military histories, books about uniforms, tactics, organisation and strategy....

~ Because of their research Old School wargamers understand that what happens on the table top bears no resemblance to the horrors of what happened on the actual battlefield - it is not just a game, it is a representation, and while bearing no resemblance, the Old School wargamer will attempt to model some of the specific historical or military elements he has read about

~ By and large, old school wargamers are not tournament players (I've found) or rules lawyers - I prepare to be corrected but on the whole the tournament rule jockeys, and Old School, simply do not co-exist....

~ Old School wargamers would not think twice about taking the weaker side or playing an unequal scenario, they have an interest in seeing if they can turn the tables, or come up with a result that is not expected - and if they don't, then they enjoy the game for what it is - an intellectual exercise between two or more like minded people....

~ By and large, old school wargamers behave in a courteous/gentlemanly/ladylike manner (I've found) - playing a wargame with an Old School Wargamer should involve copious libations (hopefully alcoholic), lively good natured badinage,  and an agreement to meet each other half way - disagreements are quickly resolved with the D6

~ Old School wargamers have a practical, do it yourself, ethos...  if the thing you want can't be bought, or is too expensive, we make it ourselves - we write our own rules, make our own scenery, and get great enjoyment from it....

...but most of all, Old School is a way of life .... you just....    are....  "



  1. I agree entirely with what you have written & makes for a great definition of an OSW.
    The question waiting to be answered is what rules does the "Old School Wargamer" play?

    Many define an OSW by the rules he plays.
    WRG Napoleonics,Bruce Quarrie,Charles Grant & Don Featherstone rulesets.
    Figure removal.
    25mm figures
    Lists of lookup tables & modifiers.
    National stereotypes.
    Then I am not an OSW by the latter.

    What do you think?


    1. Hi Grant,
      I don't think Old School implies using old rules or even old style figures. It's more about the attitude of mind that one brings to the game as expressed by the values outlined above. An OS player is happy to change any rule set to help achieve the "intellectual exercise". As suggested the typical OS player is just as likely to come up with a rule set of his or her own design or an improved version of someone else's .

  2. I've chunnered a bit about OS gaming and I'm convinced it's a state of mind, not a particular style of game. I approach each period from the historical angle: if I'm interested in the period or war then I'll game it: if I'm not, I won't. BUT the game (rules) has to reflect my take on the feel of the period. So, 15mm for Napoleonics (homebrew rules) and ACW (F&F with small modifications), 28mm for AWI (haven't settled on a single set yet and will amalgamate ideas from a couple or three sets) I'll generally do my own scenic stuff, but I also use commercially available buildings etc. Essentially I'm not doing anything that different from what I did in the latte 60's, early 70's.

    Generally speaking, I take little on trust and don't accept rules as gospel.

    1. Crazy Joe, you sound pretty old school to me, keep it up