Miniature wargaming is a form of wargaming designed to incorporate miniatures or figurines into play. The miniatures used represent troops or vehicles (such as tanks, chariots, aircraft, ships, etc.). The games may reflect historical situations and armies, or may be futuristic or fantasy-based.
Many miniatures games are played on a floor or tabletop, with terrain represented by miniature scenery (hills, forests, roads, etc.). In this respect, miniatures wargames theoretically offer players great freedom of play, as well as a visual spectacle. Movement of the miniatures is regulated using a tape-measure. However, like boardgames, miniature games can also be played using gridded terrain (demarcated into squares or hexagons) or even gameboards.
One of the main reasons people play miniature games, as opposed to computer or boardgames, is because many find the tactile element of soldiers and scenery on a tabletop to be aesthetically pleasing; additionally, some hobbyists enjoy the challenge of painting miniatures and constructing scenery. Miniature wargaming may be seen as combining many of the aesthetics of tabletop train modeling with an open strategy game predominantly, though not exclusively, with a military theme.
Scale is generally expressed as the approximate height of the figure from base of foot to eyeline (though some count to top of head - hence the possible confusion) in millimeters, as opposed to the ratio values used in scale modeling. Popular sizes include:
54mm, 45mm, 28mm, 25mm, 20mm, 15mm, 10mm and 6mm.
These roughly equate to ratios of:
1:32, 1:35, 1:64, 1:76, 1:87, 1:144, 1:160 and 1:300.
"HO" (1:87) and "N" (1:160) scale are popular among model railroad hobbyists. Some model railroad scales are close enough to the smaller-scale figures to provide usable structures and/or vehicles, possibly requiring some modification. Some wargamers use card model structures because of their economy and the ease of scaling them to appropriate sizes, and many wargamers scratchbuild their structures.
Part of the reason for the profusion of miniature sizes is the need for manufacturers to differentiate themselves in what is a niche market. This results in what has been termed 'scale creep' where miniatures listed in a catalogue may be identified by a measurement, but in reality may vary significantly from that advertised size. This is to encourage the purchaser into brand loyalty based on the aesthetic desire to maintain a look of uniformity on the tabletop.
Also, choice of miniature scale is a direct reflection of the scope of the game to be played. Larger scaled figures (25mm and up) tend to be used in skirmish games where the single miniature represents (or signifies) a single man/animal/vehicle. This is for reasons of artistic sensibilities - a few single models do not capture the impression of many hundreds of individuals as if seen from a distance, and also for economic realities - larger figures are more expensive and consume proportionately more room on the playing surface.
Smaller scaled miniatures are typically mounted in groups and moved as groups. This creates the visual effect of a large mass of combatants, allowing games simulating platoon, company (military), battalion, and even corps level actions.
Historically, the perceived and agreed ratios of representative models to represented 'real world' objects was explicitly stated. This was particularly true of rules systems that claimed some form of historical authority. However, with the growth and popularity of fantasy games such as Warhammer Fantasy, model to man ratios are now predominantly left implicit in most modern commercial rules.
Notable Miniature Wargaming Organizations
- Historical Miniatures Gaming Society - Also known as HMGS. A collective name for several miniature wargaming societies/organizations. Each HMGS chapter holds its own wargaming conventions. HMGS-EAST holds three major conventions: Cold-Wars, Historicon and Fall-In. HMGS-EAST also supports several smaller, yet equally as fun, conventions. HMGS-EAST also supports several affiliated clubs such as the South Jersey Confederation of Wargamers (SJCW). There are chapters of HMGS in most regions of the USA. A full list of chapters (with e-mail addresses and phone numbers of key contacts) can be found at www.hmgs.org.
Notable Miniature Wargamers
- H.G. Wells - Known as the "Father of Miniature Wargaming" and author of the miniature wargaming classic Little Wars.
- Don Featherstone
- Duke Seifried
- David Waxtel-Publisher/wargamer. One of the founders of the Historical Miniature Wargame Society. Publisher of Fire & Fury, Spearhead, Shako, They Died for Glory, Crossfire, Tactica, Armadi, Grande Armee, Age of Eagles, and over 20 other published games.
- Mark Anderson
- Charles Grant
- George Gush
- John Hill - known for his classic Squad Leader board game, also the author of the popular Johnny Reb rules
- Phil Barker - founder of the Wargames Research Group, and inventor of the De Bellis Antiquitatis game series.
- Dave Wesley - Twin Cities area wargamer, his "Braunstein" wargame scenario was famous for putting the players in the persona of individual characters in a Napoleonic battle, and was one of the first role-playing games.
- Walter Cronkite - Famous CBS News anchor.
- Gary Gygax - Creator of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D).
- Michael J. Varhola, creator of the Skirmisher miniature system and co-author of the Chevauchee medieval miniatures rules.
- Bill Armintrout - Webmaster/Owner/Editor of The Miniatures Page.
- Roy Harrison UK - game and rules designer latest notable rules system being AK-Intervention for modern world wide small wars
During the 1960s and 1970s, two new trends in wargaming emerged: First were small-unit rules sets which allowed individual players to portray small units down to even a single figure. These rules expanded the abilities of the smaller units accordingly, to magnify their effect on the overall battle.
Second was an interest in fantasy miniatures wargaming. J.R.R. Tolkien's novel The Hobbit and his epic cycle The Lord of the Rings were gaining strong interest in the United States, and as a result, rules were quickly developed to play medieval and Roman-era wargames, where these eras had previously been largely ignored in favor of Napoleonic and Civil War gaming.
The two converged in a set of miniatures rules entitled Chainmail, published by a tiny company called Guidon Games, headquartered in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Later, in 1974, TSR designer E. Gary Gygax wrote a set of rules for individual characters under Chainmail, and entitled it Dungeons and Dragons. Further developments ensued, and the role-playing game hobby quickly became distinct from the wargaming hobby which preceded it, developments which are not within the scope of this article.
There are any number of miniature wargaming rulesets, including some which are available free on the internet. Most rulesets are intended for a specific historical period or fictional genre. Rules also vary in the model scale they use: one infantry figure may represent one man, one squad, or much larger numbers of actual troops.
Wargaming in general owes its origins to military simulations, most famously to the Prussian staff training system Free Kriegspiel. Consequently, rules designers struggle with the perceived obligation to actually 'simulate' something, and with the seldom compatible necessity to make an enjoyable 'game'. Historical battles were seldom fair or even, and the potential detail that can be brought to bear to represent this in a set of rules always comes at the cost of pace of the game and enjoyment. Most rules aimed at the non-professional hobby market therefore inevitably contain abstractions. It is generally in the area of the abstraction liberties taken by the designers that the differences between rules can be found. Most follow tried and true conventions to the extent that a chess player would recognise wargaming merely as a different scaled version of his or her own game.
Some miniatures games have achieved widespread popularity. Of particular note are the Games Workshop games - Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Warhammer 40,000 (science fiction), and The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game. Games Workshop stores are open in most larger cities in the US and the UK. There is also a historical variant, Warhammer Ancient Battles.
Notwithstanding Games Workshop's success in attempting to drive a worldwide standard, there are dozens, if not hundreds of other manufacturers of miniatures and rules, each trying to carve out a portion of this niche market. Some are short lived. Others, such as Privateer Press's Warmachine, build 'steam' and market share through multiple media and distribution methods.
On historical wargames, the most popular Ancient-Medieval rulesets are De Bellis Antiquitatis AKA DBA and Warhamer Ancient Battles. For World War Two, the three most popular rulesets are I Ain't Been Shot Mum, Flames of War, and Rapid Fire.
- Ætherverse (Multi-Verse)
- All Things Zombie (Near Future Zombie Apocalypse)
- American Battlelines (AWI, MAW, ACW)
- AK47 Republic (Postwar)
- Axis & Allies Miniatures (WWII)
- Battlefleet Gothic (Space)
- Battlefront WWII (WWII)
- Battle of Five Armies (Fantasy)
- Bayonets and Ideology (SCW)
- Black Powder Battles (Napoleonics and similar)
- BlitzkriegCommander (WWII)
- Chainmail (Fantasy - obsolete)
- Chain Reaction (Modern SciFi)
- Charlie Company (Vietnam)
- Classic Battletech
- Close Action (Age of Reason/Enlightenment)
- Command Decision (WWII)
- Confrontation (Fantasy)
- Conquerors and Kings (Ancients-Medieval)
- Contemptible Little Armies (WWI)
- Crimson Skies
- Crossfire (WWII)
- De Bellis Antiquitatis DBA (Ancients-Medieval)
- De Bellis Multitudinis DBM (Ancients-Medieval)
- De Bellis Renationis DBR (Renaissance)
- DBX (Ancients-Medieval)
- Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures (Fantasy)
- Dwarf Wars (Fantasy)
- Eight Hundred Fighting Englishmen (Colonial)
- Epic Armageddon (Sci-Fi)
- Ever Victorious Armies (19th Century)
- Face of Battle (WWII, Modern)
- Final Argument of Kings (SYW)
- Fire and Fury (ACW)
- Forlorn Hope (ECW)
- Flames of War (WWII)
- General Quarters (WWII Naval Combat)
- Guns of Liberty (AWI)
- Habitants and Highlanders (French and Indian War)
- Heavy Gear (SciFi Mecha)
- Hey You in the Jail! (Westerns)
- Hordes of the Things (Fantasy)
- I Ain't Been Shot Mum (WWII)
- In the Name of Glory (Napoleonics)
- In the Heart of Africa (Colonials)
- Iron Stars (Post-Victorian space fleet combat)
- Jovian Chronicles (Sci-Fi "Gundam" like setting)
- John Company (Colonials)
- Johnny Reb 3 (American Civil War)
- Koenig Krieg (18th Century European)
- Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game (Fantasy)
- Mage Knight (fantasy)
- The Men of Company B (Vietnam)
- Mindstalkers (fantasy/Sci-Fi)
- Mordheim (Fantasy)
- Mr. Lincoln's War (ACW)
- Necromunda (Sci-Fi)
- Nuts! (WWII)
- Panzer Marsch (WWII)
- Patrols in the Sudan (Colonial)
- Piquet (Multiple periods)
- Pirates of the Spanish Main
- Poor Bloody Infantry (WWII)
- Principles of War (17th Cent.-WWI)
- Rapid Fire (WWII)
- Rally Round the Flag (ACW)
- Reaper Warlords (Fantasy)
- Regiment of Foote (ECW)
- Red Actions (RCW)
- Republique (Napoleonic)
- Rocket's Red Glare (War of 1812)
- Rough Riders (SCW)
- Santa Anna Rules! (MAW)
- Senso (Samurai)
- Shako (Napoleonics)
- ShockForce (Sci-Fi)
- Sons of the Desert (FFL in North Africa)
- Spearhead (WWII)
- Square Bashing (WWI)
- Starship Marine
- Starship Troopers
- The Sword and the Flame (Colonial)
- Tigers and Stalins (WWII Armor Skirmish)
- Trench Storm (WWI)
- Trench Wars (WWI)
- Triumph of the Will (RCW, SCW)
- Warfare in the Age of Discovery
- Warfare in the Age of Reason
- Warhammer 40k (Sci-Fi)
- Warhammer Ancient Battles (Ancients-Medieval)
- Warhammer English Civil War (ECW)
- Warhammer Fantasy Battle (Fantasy)
- Warlord (Fantasy in the world of Adon)
- Warmachine (Steam Powered Fantasy)
- Warmaster (Fantasy)
- Warmaster Ancient Battles (Ancients)
- Warzone game (Target Games AB)
- Whites of Their Eyes (American War of Independence)
- Simulation game
- Nation-simulation game
- Grand strategy
- Fantasy wargame
- Role-playing game
- Tabletop game
- Computer and video games
- Computer-assisted gaming
- Warhammer Tabletop
- The Miniatures Page, the web magazine for miniature wargamers. Hobby news, manfacturers and painting services directories, forums, and more.
- Civil War miniature gaming, a large photo gallery of 15mm Civil War miniature wargames.
- NeoKaw miniatures and hobby games, is a growing resource devoted to the expasion of the hobby game community.
- TinyWars.com, is one miniature wargame hobbyist's (sporadically updated) attempt at providing a useful collection of tips and tricks of the trade to the online wargaming community. Looking for a particular article? Go to the "About" page for contact information.
- The Wargames Journal
- The Wargames Directory, A comprehensive directory of wargames traders with detailed information on the products and services they offer, plus links to wargaming and military history web sites, product reviews, rules directory, gallery, articles, forum and noticeboard.
- MiniatureWargaming, A listing of free online wargames resources, including free wargame rules, paper figures and terrain, painting tips, terrain modeling tips, articles and more.
Rules / Scenarios
- Brikwars, a freely available wargame, built using the customizable and adaptable environment of Lego.
- BlitzkriegCommander, fast-play tabletop wargame rules for combined-arms operations, 1936-45.
- Enduring Valor: Gettysburg in Miniature and Undying Courage: The Antietam Campaign in Miniature, regimental-level scenarios for refighting the American Civil War battles of Gettysburg and Antietam in miniature.
- Free wargame rules, free wargame rules for a variety of periods
- Free Wargames Rules, a website that hosts and links to rules for games of all periods. All the rules on the site are free.
- CHARGE!, a quarterly newsletter of the Johnny Reb Gaming Society. Offers regimental-level ACW scenarios, painting guides, terrain tips, uniform guides, and historical articles.
- , Miniature accessories for 25mm wargames terrain. Includes furniture!
- Manufacturers Directory at TMP Listing of manufacturers
- The Wargames Directory, A comprehensive directory of wargames traders with detailed information on the products and services they offer.
- DeepFriedHappyMice A site featuring side-by-side comparisons of miniatures from over 30 different manufacturers. Also includes book and miniature reviews, how-to articles, and much, much more.
- Battlefront 15mm WWII
- Britannia Miniatures 20mm WWI, WWII, Vietnam
- Copplestone Castings 28mm Colonials, RCW, CCW, Sci-Fi
- Gammazon Publisher and distributor of historical miniatures rules and associated items, from World War Two to Modern.
- Eureka Miniatures Manufacturer and distributor of quality gaming miniatures and associated items. Full online store. 2, 6, 10, 15, 20, 25, & 28mm ranges. Features the 100 & 300 Clubs were purchasers can specify new figures and have Eureka's sculpters produce them.
- GFI / Minifigs Historical and fantasy wargaming figures and accessories / rules sets. 10mm, N scale, 15mm, 25mm scales.
- Musket Miniatures Rustic Rails (HO) Structures (HO Buildings) Rustic Rails(N) Structures (N Buildings) Scenery and Terrain. Wild West. American Civil War. American Revolution. Mexican-American War. British Colonial. WWII.
- Old Glory 25mm Ancients, Medieval, Renaissance, ECW, League of Augsburg, Seven Years' War, AWI, Napoleonics, ACW, Colonials, WWI, WWII
- Peter Pig 15mm Ancients, Renaissance, ECW, ACW, Colonials, WWI, RCW, SCW, WWII, Moderns, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
- Reaper Miniatures 28mm Fantasy, 10mm Mecha/Science Fiction, 72mm Collectibles
- Renegade Miniatures 28mm English Civil War, Punic War, World War 1, and American Civil War.
- Miniatures 28mm Balkan War 1911 - 1913, Colonial German, Spanish-American War. Dutch Colonial.
- SHQ 20mm WWII, Vietnam, Gulf War
- Via Ludibunda 28mm Fantasy old school miniatures and resin accessories and scenery
- Wargames Foundry 28mm Ancients, Medieval, Renaissance, ECW, Thirty Years' War, League of Augsburg, Seven Years' War, Napoleonics, Crimean War, Colonials, WWI, WWII, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
- WTJ Naval 1/3000 Scale Naval Miniatures
- Xyston Miniatures 15mm Ancients
- Dragon Models USA U.S. importer of Zvezda's Age of Battle and King of the Rule series.