In yesterday’s Toy Soldiers, Part 1, I told of my history with Warhammer in particular, and with tabletop wargaming in general.

Here, let me tell you the four things that keep me coming back to this hobby:

Measuring!

Measuring!

1. THE GAME

Chess is a fun game, but it’s limited. Yes, you have to outplay your opponent, but you both have the same pieces, they do the same things, and there are only so many squares on the board. Wargaming is a lot like chess, except add to it the ability to customize your army. I could have a pawn horde to rush across and swamp my opponent, or an elite troop of knights, or a mix of my favorite pieces. This adds the capability to create a force that suits my style of play. Suddenly, you have to play the odds, as most games use dice or a similar system to determine who wins combats, who lives, who dies. So you are not only out-maneuvering your opponent, but also setting traps and stacking the odds in your favor. It really makes you think, enough that it really hurts your brain at times. Without set squares on the board and a wider variety of pieces, it adds levels of complexity that really stretch you.

2. THE BACKSTORY

Pretty much all of the companies that produce these games create extensive backgrounds and worlds against which these battles take place. There are libraries of novels, stories, and fiction that you can recreate, but still create your own unique heroes and forces if you would prefer. We all like the moment in a movie when the poor defenceless farmer manages to strike down the evil warlord whilst defending his family and, incidentally, saving the realm. The underdog overcoming the odds, it’s all very epic. So when that happens, when the result of a game hangs on the roll of a single dice, the suspense… it’s fun.

How to paint your dragon

How to paint your dragon

3. THE ARTISTRY

There’s something to be said for taking a model from bare plastic or metal and slowly creating a beautifully painted piece. Or creating an entire army with their own colours and squad markings and seeing them deployed on a table of carefully made terrain, bunkers, forests, rivers and fortresses. Finishing a project like that is pretty crazy. And seeing other artists’ work, talking to them about how they managed to paint armor to make it look like it was rusting, or a torch to make it look like it is glowing, is all about getting inspiration for your next project. It’s not easy to paint something of that scale to a high quality; it’s just as hard to paint a hundred figures to complete your army, but finishing that project? Pretty awesome.

4. THE CAMARADERIE

Going to wargaming tournaments is as much about playing a game I enjoy as it is about catching up with mates for a beer. I am now lucky to have friends all over the country that I’ve met at tournaments; we get to catch up, talk about new projects, rehash games we’ve had and let our hair down for a weekend of games. There’s the lead up — where everyone goes on about how well we’re going to do, how many games were going to win, and bets are laid over whether we’ll get that new army painted in time. But in the end it’s just a game, and they are only ever as fun as the people you play it with.

So that’s Tabletop Wargaming in a nutshell. There are multitudes of different games, and there are a bunch of different companies making different models. Curious? Google is your friend. Or ask away here. I’ll even make an attempt to sound like I know what I’m on about.

It’s just a hobby. I like it, and maybe you will, too.

And I promise that lots of wargamers know what deodorant is.

Really.

About the author

JASON MURDOCH

Jason Murdoch is an occasional contributor to Geek Speak Magazine, ninja, wargamer, lover of breakfast, co-creator of the Unfauxcast Malifaux podcast, master of his own underwear.