In addition to interesting gameplay and miniatures, one of the things that keeps wargamers coming back for more is the universe that’s centered around a particular game.
In some instances, becoming involved and informed about that universe is a fairly simple endeavor, especially if you’re playing historicals. The source material (i.e. historical books, films, museum exhibits) for the game is readily available in libraries, bookstores, streaming services, etc. You can customize your units as intricately as you want, and provide them realistic and fascinating backstories, because what they’re recreating on the table really happened – In World War II wargaming alone there is a massive store of details on uniforms, troop types, weapons, theatres of combat, battles, and so forth that will allow you to delve deeply into the game and really make what you’re playing something special.
Other games have resources that are almost equally as detailed and have a similar backlog of outside information that you can use. Those of you in the Star Wars wargaming community have a wide range of inspiration to draw on, from the canonical films themselves to books, comics, cartoon shows, and even toys.
Other gaming properties have started their own universes on a small scale and then expanded outward. Probably the best example of this is the grimdark 41st millennium of Warhammer 40,000. Starting small as Rogue Trader in the 1980s, the franchise blossomed into a massive mythology that spans millennia, from the upheaval of the Horus Heresy to the Dark Imperium of 8th Edition. And through all of that there are also the many novels, and associated games (Necromunda, Titanicus, Kill Team) that add granular heft to the setting.
These universes provide a narrative interest and excitement for the player. When you’re involved in these games, you’re not simply moving plastic minis across a table and rolling dice; you’re inserting yourself into the actual story. That makes play seem larger and grander, and makes you invested in what you’re doing. Aside from the tactical challenge of play, buying into the universe of the game you’re playing makes it interesting, and places you there.
Which is why it can also be fun to create your own universe of wargaming. This sort of thing isn’t uncommon in RPGs when a gamemaster creates a “homebrew” campaign world.
What are some of your favorite aspects of the wargames you play? What are the things that you keep coming back to, that fire your imagination the most? Make a list of them, and start extrapolating from there. Let your mind wander. Where would you like to see those ideas and concepts go? What kinds of characters and locations would you like to have inhabit those murky regions?
And there, you’ve got a kernel of an idea for a homebrew wargaming universe. From there, you can hunt down miniatures that fit the concept, or even customize your own. Find a rules set that fits your idea, and you can start to go to town.
About the Author;
Peter Kuebeck is a writer, gamer and award-winning mini-painter living in the Midwest. He wages a constant battle against the ever-growing tide of unpainted minis in his basement, and occasionally GMs role-playing game sessions with friends. Catch his hobby shenanigans on Twitter at @popculturecube