Help support TMP

"When did points and tournament play come into the hobby?" Topic

23 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

Please do not use bad language on the forums.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the General Historical Discussion Message Board

Back to the Tournaments Message Board

Back to the Historical Wargaming in General Message Board

Areas of Interest


Featured Hobby News Article

Featured Link

Featured Showcase Article

Stan Johansen Miniatures' Painting Service

A happy customer writes to tell us about a painting service...

Featured Profile Article

Pegboards at Dollar Tree

Pegboards can be used for wargaming campaigns.

Current Poll

Featured Book Review

1,065 hits since 24 Apr 2023
©1994-2024 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Kiama Kriegsspieler24 Apr 2023 1:02 a.m. PST

For me, competitive tournament play, points systems, and the obsession with killer lists are a major downside of our hobby.

But was it always like this? Are these an import from Warhammer or some other fantasy system?

If wargaming evolved from military training aids, then clearly having 'fair' or 'balanced' sides wasn't an issue, since war is rarely 'fair', and most Generals, rather than agree a points total with the enemy, actively seek an 'unfair' advantage…

Even in the early days of recreational wargaming, Greats like Donald Featherstone or Brigadier Peter Young rarely, if ever, worried about points list or making a game competitive it was about the history….

So when did this change?

martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Apr 2023 1:37 a.m. PST

Good discussion Kiama. Thank you for starting it.

I would think that wargaming is a very partitioned hobby.
Wargaming as most of us know it has not much to do with military training. It is very much a hobby .

It is unfortunate that the same term is used by professional soldiers when they are doing a very different activity ( ie concentrating on analysis/simulation rather than intellectual GAMES with a strong visual part.

For myself i wish to fight games using model figures. I do not see that as playing with children's toys but then neither do I assume it is very comparable to any real life warfare. It is somewhere in between?

Personally I want to take a full part in the game. I do not want to move some figures around in order to follow a pre set narrative laid down by an alpha player who has chosen the scenery, troops, scenario, layout etc.

This is where competition games can be a good thing. Players usually get a choice of what force, what scenery and what tactics they use.

I attended many ancient WRG competition days from 1973 onwards. These were probably the first competitions that would span the length of the country with a common set of rules. The joy of this is that a player can travel 300 miles , meet new people, use his own figures and scenery. Most enjoyable.

Since then, other sets have generated competitions which are greatly enjoyed.
Competitions are a great part of the hobby . The wonder is that players who choose to not take part in competitions suffer no reduction in their hobby enjoyment. Maybe just fewer potential opponents?

Just my thoughts. No offence intened.


PS If a killer army list is possible then that is a problem with the rules and/or the competition organiser? Not something I have experienced over 20 different sets of rules used in competitions.

Prince Rupert of the Rhine24 Apr 2023 1:45 a.m. PST

Can't blame Warhammer for this one. Warhammer didn't really bring in competitive army lists and points until the end of 2nd edition with the Ravening hordes book in 1987.

War Games Research Group Ancient rules certainly had points and lists before Warhammer came on the scene. According to wiki WRG released their first army list book in 1977

Army Lists For use with rules 3000 B.C 1250A.D. War Games Research Group, 1977.

If anything Warhammer imported it's ideas from the historical gamers inside the 2nd edition rulebook is a dedication to Donald Featherstone for his inspiration.

John Armatys24 Apr 2023 1:59 a.m. PST

The first UK "Nationals" were organised by Donald Featherstone and held in Southampton in 1966.

I started club wargaming in 1973. At that time points systems were common. Prior to WRG publishing "official" army lists in 1977 the organisers of the Nationals used to produce army lists which were normally written by "period umpire", who might or might not be the author of the rules in use.

Timbo W24 Apr 2023 2:04 a.m. PST

While historical were first, Warhammer v1 did have a points system.

Eumelus Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2023 3:49 a.m. PST

Wells' "Little Wars" has a point system for selecting "fair" armies for a balanced game, so it's fair to say that it has been part of the hobby since the beginning.

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2023 3:54 a.m. PST

As others have said way back in the mists of time. In the "modern era" of gaming (post-1960) as soon as there were inter-club competitions a point system was needed to ensure "fair" armies. So back in the 1960s, long, long, long before GW even existed and even longer before they had a game of their own to promote. Reaper (the forerunner of Warhammer) had points and seriously undervalued Elves with bows and their long-range "nuclear strike" capability. Elf archers on a hill at the other end of the table and with a reasonable LOS? No point playing. evil grin

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2023 4:08 a.m. PST

There are point values in an early Grant "TableTop Teasers" article as well. And They were already using points when I started playing Column, Line and Square in 1968/9. There's something in Morschauser, too. It is, truthfully, had not to unless the possible units are extremely limited, or you're re-creating a historical roster.

For myself, I don't think "infantry cost a point a man and cavalry two" is a fundamental problem. It's actually the sophistication that's the killer. The combination of army lists for every type and sub-type of every national army, and rules which might allow 10 different types of AT gun make constructing an army a separate skill and bargain-hunting a portion of miniature warfare. Once things reach that stage, the whole conversation stops being about tactics and recenters on which army or troop type are undervalued in the current edition.

And at that point, I play something else. I am a historian, analyst and miniature wargamer. I am not a professional shopper.

Arjuna24 Apr 2023 4:32 a.m. PST

Some sort of scoring system was already implied in the hit points for various units in Reisswitz's Kriegsspiel.

Fun fact:
Much more like a balanced chesslike boardgame was its precursor, Hellweg's kriegsspiel,which is rarely remembered today.
It was also not intended for military use per se, but for a wider market.
To the masses…
…of the aristocracy, that is.

Johann Christian Ludwig Hellwig On Wikipedia

shadoe0124 Apr 2023 5:55 a.m. PST

If wargaming evolved from military training aids, then clearly having 'fair' or 'balanced' sides wasn't an issue, since war is rarely 'fair', and most Generals, rather than agree a points total with the enemy, actively seek an 'unfair' advantage…

Last July, I retired from 36 years of military operational research, so I think I can speak somewhat to the use of wargames in the military.

While it's true that any commander would seek to overmatch an enemy (i.e., "seek an 'unfair' advantage"), that has little to do with the use of wargames in the military.

Broadly speaking wargames are used in the military:

1) As a training aid,
2) To assist in operational planning (i.e., using the force you have), and
3) To assist in defence planning (i.e., designing the force you want to have).

Training: Wargames will be structured not to win or lose but to reinforce educational objectives. Typically less experienced players will be up against more experienced instructors. An exception might be a competition game that's really more about building team spirit, etc. than about educational objectives.

Operational Planning: Whether it's for a near future potential, imminent or current conflict a commander will have to make to with the force they have. Gaming will be used to assess various courses of action against potential enemy courses of action for a "best" overall course of action. The key objective is for planners to gain insights into the various advantages and deficiencies of each course of action against different enemy courses of action. Not a lot of faith is placed on the ability of a wargame to predict who will win or lose.

Defence planning: Wargames are used here to assess force design options equipment, doctrine, etc. This is probably the closest to the design of "killer" lists. However, that's more related to how much of the government's budget the military can get or how much of the defence budget each branch can get. When it comes to using wargames in force design one wants a little "gaming" by players as possible since the purpose is collect data and insights as to which design option is better.

Through my career I've experienced all three of the above applications of wargames for the land and maritime environments. There's more exchange of ideas on the maritime side (e.g., games like Harpoon have been used naval staff) than the land side. I don't know of any significant use of commercial wargames by army staff. I suspect this is because (1) there fewer combat elements involved and (2) the ease of (mathematically) modelling the technical aspects of maritime warfare this is especially true when it comes to modelling "morale".

shadoe0124 Apr 2023 7:33 a.m. PST

A couple of additional points about wargame tools and defence planning:

1) As you might imagine, companies really don't like to lose lucrative defence contracts. The sore losers will moblize an army of lawyers to contest every part of the decision making process. So when a wargame is used in that process it's very important that it has met all the requirements of VV&A (verification, validation and accreditation).

2) Must of the real game is for of the defence budget or a bigger defence budget. In this game, curiously enough, losing in a wargame is a winner since it implies you need a better force and more money (i.e., more "points" for list builders in the hobby). So, you can be a little bit skeptical of any thing in the open media about "wargame shows our country loses in a war with country xyz". You can be sure that no military ever would publicly announce to their foes that, "hey, if you attack you could beat us in a couple of days." LoL

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2023 10:10 a.m. PST

Tarquinius, it depends on how you define "the hobby."

Personally, I never sat down in an evening and thought "what mechanism can I devise so my historical armies can fight people they'd never even heard of in real life?"

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2023 10:21 a.m. PST

Whereas to all intents and purposes that's exactly what Tony Bath – founder of the Society of Ancients – did for his Hyboria campaign.

On the very sensible grounds that he had all those different armies and he wanted to use them more often.

Martin Rapier24 Apr 2023 1:35 p.m. PST

As noted above, points and competition games started as soon as people wanted to have wargaming competitions, which was in the 1960s.

Striker24 Apr 2023 3:10 p.m. PST

I am at the point that I'm really not interested in games using points (mini X=Y amount of points), tournament or not. Probably end up dumping a bunch of minis. I'm seeing more "play the period" being "play for the points".

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2023 3:38 p.m. PST

Both valid points, 20th, Tarquinius. But there are other ways to look at the matter.

I have mixed feelings about point systems. So much of my early wargaming was CLS that when I die, probably the majority of my games will still have involved point systems. I still use them myself with things like Lion/Dragon Rampant--at least to ensure armies are in a rough balance. Sometimes a fixed roster just isn't feasible, or, since the game designer is also a player, would make the game even less historical.

But I also keep in mind that point systems are critical for Viking vs Hoplite battles, which as far as I'm concerned not only aren't historical but give fantasy gaming a bad name. Do we really want a system in which New Kingdom Egyptians with bows and chariots could slaughter 16th Century Samurai trudging across a desert? I'll defend point systems to a degree, but not on that basis. You say "feature" I say "glitch."

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2023 8:42 p.m. PST

In the group I belong to, they all love points. I am the only outlier. My games are either based on an actual battle or are period correct for the conflict. One of the guys asked me; how can you have a balance game without points? I just stared at him. Then he said oh, right.

Before a battle, the two sides don't get together to discuss how to balance their armies with each other. 'I think that heavy cavalry is over the limit allowed. Okay, I will replace it with some light artillery.'

Battles are never equal. Historical unequal battles will test a player's skill more than any tournament will.

Striker24 Apr 2023 9:55 p.m. PST

+1 OC

John Armatys25 Apr 2023 1:31 a.m. PST

OC's piece reminds me of the letters from the ambassador to Nurdistan in the early Nuggets (the journal of Wargame Developments). As well as ensuring that the armies were balanced the terrain had to be symmetrical to ensure fairness…

UshCha25 Apr 2023 5:38 a.m. PST

Interesting discussion this, but it misses a key Issue. Points systems don't even come close to working without other artificial departures from reality. Points systems only work in a sterrile terrain enviroment. Put horses in a swamp and they are useless. The real world has lots of examples, where facing cavalry I recall the Romans took to bad ground when facing hores armies, then the horses were worse than useless.

In the English civil war the cavalry were defeated as the enemy was in enclosures which are not suitable for horses.

Torniments are artificial forces AND artificial terrain. Barker did in DBM, add some limited scenarios but most competition players avoided them as they could invalidate there carefully defined "killer" army.

Blutarski30 Apr 2023 9:00 a.m. PST

Fred Vietmeyer's Column, Line & Square (dating from the 60s) was founded upon Army Lists with "per figure" purchase point costs and purchase limitationd enumerated for each troop type permitted to each army listed in the rules.

Phil Barker's WRG Armour & Infantry rules of all editions also included extensive point cost systems for every element type recognized by the rules.

IMO, as cumbersome and restrictive as point-based army purchase lists appear to be, they have served a purpose by encouraging (some might argue "forcing") use of historical force structures on the tabletop. Given that they can always be ignored or modified at will by the gamers themselves, I don't see purchase points and army lists as an issue of much consequence.

Strictly my opinion, of course.


Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2023 10:01 p.m. PST

Note that Fred Vietmeyer was not organizing tournaments but recreating historical battles using points to help balance the games.

I have read much on the history of wargaming and I can find no examples of tournaments at conventions using points before Phil's WRG Ancients 1. Early 1970's.

I do not understand why some people object the the way others enjoy their way of playing with toy soldiers. What is " our hobby" that Kaima refers to in the first posting. Is there an "our hobby" or is there each person's hobby. Play and let play is the way I view playing with toy soldiers from highly restricted points based competitive tournaments to shooting toy cannons at figures. I have done pretty much all on that continuum and enjoyed it all.

Blutarski01 May 2023 6:33 p.m. PST

Hi Bobgnar,
I do agree that it was Barker's WRG Ancients convention tournaments that really put army lists and point-based armies on the miniature wargaming map in a large way.

Our club-based CL&S activities were very humble by comparison. However, we did rely upon Fred's points-based army lists to manage a long-running Austrian vs French competition monthly 2,000 point games between two teams with set memberships.

Certainly nowhere close in scale to WRG's impact, but similar in nature.



Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.