Monday, 21 May 2012

Wargames Illustrated Special: Great Wargames

Whilst I was on my way to the bank, I popped into the nearby branch of WHSmith. Whilst I was casually looking through the various magazines that were on sale I saw a copy of WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED SPECIAL: GREAT WARGAMES on sale ... and against my better judgement, I bought a copy.

The magazine contains photographs of various wargames that have been featured on the pages of WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED, and although some of the historical periods covered are not ones that particularly interest me, the visual appeal was just too much for me to resist.

The periods and topic covered are:

  • The Antonine Wall
Dark Ages
  • The Battle of Clontarf, 1040.
  • The Battle of Pine Wood Tèvar, 1150.
  • The Battle of Verneuil, 1424.
  • The Battle of Tewkesbury, 1471.
English Civil War
  • The Alternative Battle Of Worcester, 1651.
  • Pirates of Durham.
  • The Battle of Corunna, 1809.
  • Reynier’s Assault: The Battle of Bussaco, 1810.
  • The Rise of The Spanish City Of Vincentino!
  • The Battle of Borodino, 1812.
  • The Battle of Leipzig, 1813.
  • The Battle of Waterloo, 1815.
  • The Charge of The Light Brigade, Hell Ride, 1854.
American Civil War
  • The Bloody Crucible of Courage.
  • The Battle of Gaines Mill, 1862.
Nineteenth Century
  • The Battle of Problus Heights, 1866.
  • The Battle of Fröschweiler-Wörth, 1870.
  • Somewhere in The Sudan.
  • Wilkinson’s Campaign Against The Slavers.
World War One
  • Gallipoli, 1915-16.
  • No Quiet on The Western Front.
  • The Big Push.
Twentieth Century
  • The Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935-36.
World War Two
  • Eight Armies in Normandy.
  • A Bridge Too Far.
  • Vietnam.
I must admit that I have spent a pleasant hour or so looking thought this special issue of the magazine, and although I cannot see myself emulating any of the wargames that can be seen on its pages, I can appreciate the skill and work that has gone into producing them.


  1. Oh dear! Wargame porn...

    Should have been titled 'Great Dioramas' - unless one believes that the visual appearance of a wargame is the only criterion by which to judge its quality, in which case both Kriegsspiel and Little Wars are unworthy of the sacred name of 'wargame'.

    It would have been more appropriate for such a magazine to be published by Military Modelling.

  2. I can't see how going to a great deal of effort in painting and presentation is something to be condemned!

    Whilst a good game can happen with minimum scenery and painting of figures, minimalism is taken to its extreme would be playing with coloured markers but then we would be only a step away from playing a board game... (yawn).

    What I like to do is imagine that the toy battlefield is a little world fitting for the Liliputan troops to march through.

    If the wargame magazines were not visually attractive I would not bother buying them. James

  3. Arthur1815,

    I did say that I was tempted ... and gave in to that temptation!

    I know that there are some wargamers who regard the sort of wargames that you and I tend to play as being 'of a lesser breed' ... but in my experience they are rarer than one might expect.

    The wargames featured in this magazine are more like dioramas ... but if the people who create them enjoy the experience of putting them together, then I am pleased for them.

    Most of the games featured are may not be my particular cup of tea’*, but I appreciate the hard work and dedication that has gone into creating them in the same way that I can appreciate a piece of art or music that is not to my taste.

    All the best,


    *The main exception was 'Wilkinson’s Campaign Against The Slavers' which featured a modular terrain that was changed around for each part of the mini-campaign. I loved the concept as it combined aesthetic appeal will a flexible narrative campaign system.

  4. James O'Connell,

    I agree with almost everything that you write in your comment. A lot of my games are rather minimalistic ... but I hope that they have enough aesthetic appeal for me (and any players) to 'see' the battlefield.

    I suppose that what is being compared here is rather like comparing radio and HD TV. I love radio. As it was once said 'the pictures are better on the radio' because they happen in your mind. HD TV shows you everything in glowing colour and fine detail ... but leaves little to the imagination.

    To continue the analogy, I still like listening to the radio ... but just occasionally I really do enjoy watching HD TV.

    All the best,


  5. Bob,
    If I may reply to James O'Connell's comment, I should like to point out that I was not objecting to or 'condemning' the construction/painting of diorama-standard scenery and troops for wargames per se - if people enjoy doing so, that's fine by me.

    What I do condemn - and make no apology for so doing - is the idea, suggested by the title of that special issue and also to be found in many articles/reviews in the mainstream wargame magazines, that the visual appearance of a wargame is significant when judging its quality as a game for people to play, rather than merely observe.

    One could, for example, play one of your games with simply-painted Peter Laing figures or with highly detailed Perry Miniatures [other ranges are also available] painted to an extraordinarily high standard by professional artists.

    The latter might - depending on one's aesthetic tastes - be superior in appearance, but it would not, thereby, become a 'better' game in which to play.

    I wonder whether pictures of such high standard dioramas do not risk discouraging people who believe they lack the skill to produce models of an equally high standard from taking up the hobby. If one looks at the pictures in Don Featherstone's books, one will see many figures that are but indifferently painted as miniature artworks, but are of a perfectly satisfactory standard for wargame purposes - a standard that readers could achieve for themselves.

    Personally, if I had lavished such time and effort on painting a figure, the last thing I'd want is for it be be constantly handled and moved around a wargame table...

  6. Hello Bob,
    I bought the magazine,when it first came out,because it does offer inspiration. What I didnt like, was that the majority of the games contained terrain built by professionals. I felt that was a bit of a cheat. Where were the 'normal' wargamers who can make quality terrain,without paying an arm and a leg.It also struck me that figure/rule producers are now writing the articles, commissioning the terrain,and getting their figures professionally painted. Not a bad advertisement to have splashed all over a wargamers' magazine.

  7. Arthur1815,

    I think that we are all pretty well in agreement here. I do think that there is an aesthetic element to most figure wargames that can enhance the enjoyment of the players ... but that the aesthetic should not dominate the whole thing to such an extent that it is the only criteria for judging how good (or bad) a wargame is.

    Over the years I have been quite disillusioned by the way some judges at wargames shows have 'scored' demonstration games when judging 'best in show'. In one memorable instance I can remember running a demo game next to a 'moving diorama' and being told that there was no way our game would win because 'your game could have been put on at most club nights'. Apparently running wargame that had over thirty participants during the day was not in the same league as the next-door wargame that no one played all day!

    To put this in context, I have judged wargames at a wargames show, and afterwards I told each group their score (it was based on a cumulative score for originality, presentation, information provided to participants and passers-by, and what I termed the 'Wow!' factor) and why the winners had won. Afterwards a member of one group (not the winners) thanked me for the way I had judged the wargames in the fairest and most open way they had ever seen ... and that everyone agreed with my decision as to the winner.

    All the best,


  8. Rob3rod,

    I must admit that I had not realised that almost everything 'on show' in the magazine was specially created by professionals until you pointed it out. (I suspect this comes of not reading the captions properly!) I have seen some wonderful modelling and painting done by ‘ordinary’ wargamers, and I must admit that it does not often seem to make its way onto the pages of magazines like this. I did suspect that this might happen once the magazine changed hands ... and it has.

    Perhaps I should seek my inspiration from the images that I can see for free on the Internet. There are lots of people out there who are blogging about the games that they play ... and obviously enjoy ... using their own figures, rules, and terrain.

    All the best,


  9. Luscious terrain, impossibly well-painted figures, yes. I do not have a problem with that at all. However, not a single photograph had a caption explaining anything about what was happening in the scene or even when it occurred in the battle.

  10. Les,

    You are absolutely right!

    Without captions to explain what you are looking at, the photographs are verging on the meaningless.

    All the best,