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POLL: Reasons for Playing Miniature Wargames

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Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP writes:

Or, if you prefer something more accurate, I give you the OED:

war game, noun
A military exercise carried out to test or improve tactical expertise

Now, I don't have my complete OED to hand right now – but I'd be rather surprised if that were the full definition. No citations of first use ? No etymology ? I know that the internet has brought us to dark days, but that the OED should fall so low is hard to credit.

For what it's worth the on-line version of the OED says this :

war-game n. = kriegspiel n.; also attrib. and fig.; also used of any game simulating war, esp. an elaborate game played with model soldiers, or of any exercise by which a military strategy is examined or tested.

1828 A. B. Granville St. Petersburgh II. 75 The ‘war-game' table, on which the present Emperor, when Grand-duke, used to play.
1891 Tablet 17 Oct. 613 A struggle more serious than that of any mere clerical war-game.
1910 H. G. Wells New Machiavelli (1911) i. iii. 84 The spectacle of volunteer officers fighting the war game in Caxton Hall.
1951 D. Knight In Deep (1964) 92 The cadets..carrying out one of the prescribed war games under the direction of student squad leaders.
1966 Punch 6 July 26/2 Entertaining incidental scenes (the children's war games, the husband's home movies, haggling over the junk) keep interest always alive.
1967 Guardian 16 Oct. 8/5 The National Wargame Championships organised by the British Model Soldier Society.
1970 Time 5 Oct. 13 At one point Nixon told Kissinger: ‘Let's you and me war-game this,' and they worked the plans over to see, as Nixon put it, ‘where the weak points might be.'
1975 Times 2 June 13/1 Politicians of all parties cooped up in..Westminster have become so absorbed in their own war-games that they have lost touch with the wider world.

war-game v. (trans.) to examine or test (a strategy or the like).

1981 Washington Post 8 Nov. l1/6 ‘Well,' Wakko said, ‘I've got to go back to work. We're war-gaming an LNW in Monaco.'

war-gamer n. one who plays a war-game.

1967 Guardian 16 Oct. 8/5 One thing only is causing the wargamers concern. There are so many different societies in the field.
1982 M. Leapman Yankee Doodles IV. 208 War-gamers are not the only people undertaking such simulations.

war-gaming n. the playing of war-games; the use of such games to examine or test strategies.

1954 J. F. McCloskey & F. M. Trefethen Operations Res. for Managem. I. 15 They used the technique of war-gaming to develop models of possible operations, then ‘tested' various tactics and weapons.
1970 Daily Tel. 30 Oct. (Colour Suppl.) 43/2 Today war-gaming has reached a point of sophistication where one almost needs a computer to play.
1980 J. McNeil Spy Game ix. 96 War gaming is like that, dashed unpredictable.

And nary a mention of Featherstone. 'Twas ever thus.

It's interesting to note that "wargame" is not defined but is used in the text (a citation). I suspect the full OED does have it. But you won't get that for free on the internet, by jingo no.

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Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP proposes:

The larger gaming industry has given a lot of thought to why people play games. Of course, most of the interest is in creating games that people will buy, but it is a pertinent question for our hobby.

Depending on the designer or company doing the market research, they generally have come up with the following matrix:


People play for many reasons, but often one or more of the quadrants is the primary reason:

The player enjoys being immersed in the game narrative, the pretending. They want to experience another time, cultural or challenge apart from real life.
The player enjoys the social aspects of playing games, the comraderie. It may not matter what game is played as long as there is good company.
This is about accomplishment, but not necessarily winning a competition. It can be mastering the game system, finishing that 2,000 figure army or setting up a beautiful table or painting an outstanding stand of miniatures.
This is about winning. Tournament play looms large in this quadrant, but simply playing the game to win is a large part of the enjoyment. This doesn't mean 'win at any cost' or 'rules lawyering', but simply playing the game as a competitive challenge.

And as shown by the black terms, some game preferences will involve few people, while others will want a larger number of participants. The top two quadrants will be more focused on the quality of the experience, much of it unquantifiable, while the lower quadrants will 'keep track' as part of the enjoyment of game play, whether that is counting victory points, trophies, army points or wins, is it the quantitative that describes the experience.

While it is obvious that wargamers can and do enjoy games for all those reasons at one time or another, the question here is:

Which of the four quadrants is most important or the biggest reason for playing wargames for you?

It will be interesting to compare wargame responses to the aggregates computer games and the larger game industries have developed.

Poll set up by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian, based on this pre-poll discussion.