Over the past 10 days, I’ve played more wargames, and gamed more significantly, than I probably have my entire life. It’s been nuts. I’m not trying to brag at all, as I know there are a lot of people out there who sit at their hobby benches, painting minis with a gleam in their eye of someday rolling the dice.
I’d been in a wargaming drought so huge that I likely hadn’t played any wargames at all since sometime in early-2017 (I believe it was Mantic’s Dreadball Xtreme). It’s been kind of a lot to process. I played my first game of Warhammer 40k EVER, for instance, and won my first game of Dust 1947 (my first game of this particular iteration of the franchise – Dust Tactics got me back into wargaming years ago, but I hadn’t played it in probably five years). For me, it’s a kind of gaming golden age right now, and I’m enjoying it, because these bonanzas just don’t last.
But this embarrassment of riches has made me think about the state of wargaming in general. The industry seems to be on an upswing in a lot of ways. Games Workshop, for instance, has very publicly had great financial success over the past year, and the hype machine for the second edition of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is being set up for a rousing victory. My Twitter feed is full of people participating in their local gaming clubs, playing a variety of games both familiar (Warhammer 40K) and less so (Gaslands). I’m seeing the best miniatures and terrain pieces of my life offered by companies both large and small. I’m seeing enthusiasm for a hobby that, by all rights, should be thought of as an anachronism, at an all-time high.
Recently I had a chance to chat with a friend of mine about the state of tabletop gaming in general, and why we seem to be in such a renaissance of the genre. Over the years I’d read a number of articles tackling the topic, and almost to a number they all diagnosed the situation thusly: That people, tired of the way digital communications had isolated them from others, have turned to tabletop gaming as a way of connecting on an in-real-life, personal basis.
(Which, interestingly enough, has given rise to an ability to play a variety of tabletop games in a digital space [for instance, using Roll20 and other such apps to play role-playing games with people separated by great distances, a-la a teleconference]).
Wargames, with few exceptions, have to be played in realspace. While increasingly we augment the experience with digital resources (using PDFs of rulebooks on computers or tablets, accessing unit stat cards via apps on phones, etc.), there’s no easily constructible way of fighting an opponent in a traditional wargame anywhere but across the table from you.
And that’s part of the appeal, certainly, of wargaming. Moving physical miniatures across a board with physical terrain on it, rolling physical dice – there’s a tactile attraction to that. While human life is certainly the life of the mind in many ways, we still need to reach out and engage with an idea as a physical thing. The vision of the artist made manifest in the stone of the sculpture.
We’ve found ourselves in a mighty age for the rolling of the dice, for meeting our friends and clashing in friendly fashion across the gaming board. Let’s not let the light of this lamp dim.
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
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