On Tabletop Wargaming…

Two caveats for this post.

First, a caveat for those who don’t play tabletop wargames. This post is exclusively about them and how we can leverage modern technology into them. I will be using a lot of acronyms but the first use will be full named, with the acronym in brackets after.

Second, for the gamers themselves. The post and its contents are my own view points, and not the solution, just my ideas on certain aspects. I’m not offering a magical band-aid, just my thoughts on how we could present a unified front and grow all aspects of all systems, making more gamers. For those wondering, it is primarily aimed at the Irish Tabletop Wargaming Scene, primarily located online at W-Ired.org

Now, onto the post itself, read on.


Firstly, some background is needed. While I’m not a Warhammer Fantasy Battles (WHFB from here) player, I do understand that they face the same difficulties in being a niche hobby in a a time of recession. Recently, I was reading a thread on W-Ired here, that made me think we as an overall community can do so much more.

Full disclosure: Tabletop Wargaming Rules Systems I own:

  • Games Workshop Warhammer 40,000 (7th Ed.) (40K)
  • Games Workshop Warhammer Fantasy Battles (7th Ed. Starter Box) (WHFB)
  • Privateer Press Warmachine (Current Version) (WMH)
  • Ambush Alley Games Force on Force (Current Version: 2011-present) (FoF)
  • Warlord Games Bolt Action (Current Version: 2012-present) (BA)
  • Battlefront Miniatures Flames of War (3rd Ed.) (FoW)

Of course, if we look at painted and played, the list gets small… 😀


1. Fragmentation and apparent demarcation between systems plagues the tabletop wargaming scene. Ask someone who plays Warhammer 40,000 (40K) exclusively to take a look at a Flames of War (FoW) tournament and they will say they are lost or they “don’t get it”, despite the similarities. There is this idea that because the rules seem different, like Warmachine / Hordes (WMH) or they don’t like the setting as in Bolt Action (BA) that the game is either lesser or unimportant.

It’s natural that we want to promote what we like, to get more people to join us so we can play more. This is a central point I will come back to later.

2. Pro-hobby VS Pro-competition:
There are many who will come down on either side or in the middle. The only topics more divisive are ranking, comp and army choice. For many, painting and modelling is where they get the joy from the hobby. For others, its the generalship of beating an opponent on the tabletop. For yet more, it’s the background and the research they do about their chosen factions. For many, its a combination. There is a further breakdown:

2a. Ranked VS Unranked:
In the Irish scene there is currently, in the big two systems at least (WHFB and 40K), an ongoing narrative discussion regarding ranked events and unranked events. Rather than rehash the arguments and wade in with my own comments, the best thing to do is agree that there are persuasive arguments for both camps.

3. Promotion and growth of the hobby as a whole.
We also seem to be content to stick to our own little corners and only advertise for things we want to go to at things we are already at.

This ties back to the first point. We all want to grow our chosen system. I know many 40K players who’ve migrated to FoW for whatever reason. Some also play WMH. In my case, smaller skirmish games like BA or FoF appeal, due to either setting or small model count or space needed. I know I picked up WMH because of Daves in Other Realms. (Old Dave and Dave Malone). I picked up BA due to enjoying the WWII setting and watching a game being played. The same for FoW.

I think the issue is that we seem to think that because a gamer plays one system that he is forever lost to playing other systems. We want to poach players from other systems, because our system is the “one, true way”. Again, this will be addressed.


Here are my ideas to help address the points I and others have observed.

1. Fragmentation & Demarcation:
I alluded to this in point 3. Essentially, we need to see the Tabletop Hobby as a whole.
We will have a larger, more vibrant, more accomplished and attractive scene if we present ourselves as a loosely cooperative, friendly Hobby, rather than as 40K, FoW, WMH, etc.
We need to stop putting up fences. Some people prefer WWII, others 40K, others like the system for FoW.
Whatever the reason, we all chuck dice in one form or another. We all buy plastic and metal crack. We all build and paint toy soldiers. We all stress about terrain, lists and cheese.

An analogy to better illustrate my point. Rugby. Whether it’s Union, League, Tag, Touch or 7’s. It’s all played on the same or similar pitches, they all use the same ball. I’ve spoken to advocates of all of those who would have no problem advertising their events at other rules events.

I’ll put in an aside note here: This is a generalisation. This does not take into account such fragile things as personalities, egos and any issues people may have with others. That is not something I’ve been involved in, nor should it have any place in our hobby. This is why I’ve deliberately chosen to ignore such in this discussion.

2. Pro-hobby VS Pro-competition / Ranked VS Unranked / Comp
This is a topic fraught with pitfalls, almost religious fervour for positions and entrenched viewpoints. The only thing I can and will add, is that the market will right itself. Offer what you can, be mindful of the market. That’s the only way we’ll see what happens. We have to remember, no one way is better than another on these.

3. Promotion and growth of the hobby as a whole:

This is the sticking point to me. We stick to W-Ired and the few other forums. There are fragmented interest groups on Facebook. There is nothing central. We make no use of Twitter.
We aren’t quite the digital old timers asking kids to get off our lawns, but we haven’t deviated from the Warseer / DakkaDakka paradigm in any way.
We have some entertaining, well known names. We have a podcast. We have the tech available to do Vidcasts at Cons and Events. To put these on YouTube and the like.
We can use these to promote and entertain, as well as inform.

Expansion, based on Point 3:
I’ve seen on the W-Ired thread people positing using Facebook to promote WHFB.
I’m proposing an overhaul based towards federating what the Irish scene is.
It isn’t just 40K, WMH, FoW or Fantasy.
It’s not just the same 500-odd people. We’ve all seen wide eyed kids and teens looking on in awe as we play. Yet, we rarely see any of those join in and play.
This can be put down to parents or cash, but quite often, looking in at the wargaming scene is confusing, there are so many options, and on top of that, the people they see playing week after week have been playing years and years!
It’s daunting. We don’t present a friendly face. Some of this can be levelled at the FLGS’ and GW stores. (Let’s not beat around the bush GW got most of us into the hobby.)
More of it can be levelled at us. How often do people give intro games? How often do we properly explain things? These days, more kids find info on Facebook than they do through Google.

If we promote a landing for Irish Wargaming, and someone says “I like rayguns and aliens! But I don’t want to buy loads and loads of models, but I like painting!” we can guide them to a system that would suit them, while also introducing them to the hobby part of the scene.
If someone says “I like taking part in competitions”, we can guide them similarly.

The issue is, as a whole, we aren’t promoting Irish Wargaming.

I’d love to set out ideas for redesigns for W-ired, to give it hubs for the different systems, for hobby and for tournaments and news.
I don’t just mean the forums as we currently have them. (This isn’t a dig at W-Ired, by the way.)
I like the idea of some central hub where the different systems and clubs can come together and promote the hobby. Once we have a gamer, we can then see if they want to branch out. And often, once someone becomes a gamer, they usually try to get like-minded friends interested.

Anyway, that’s been a massive wall of text from me.
What would you think?