Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Old School Wargaming - Thoughts

No, Old School wargamers are not forgotten.  
Reading Steve-the-Wargamer's recent post regarding Old School wargaming ( got me pondering how I would define Old School wargaming.  JJ's Wargames ( follows up with a general agreement to Steve's definition.  While Steve proposed a number of reasonable parameters for qualifying what is and isn't Old School, the notion of actually laying down a rigid and defensible definition may prove quite elusive.  What is my position on Old School wargaming?  How will I know unless I write it down! 

First, a distinction between “classic” or “vintage” and “Old School” should be made.  Is Old School necessarily old fashioned as implied by the terms “classic” and “vintage?” Although not explicitly qualifying his position, Steve-the-Wargamer implicitly makes this distinction. Vintage wargaming could be classified as using old figures, old rules, old terrain, and perhaps, even old guys.  In contrast “Old School” could be classified in the camp of “the game's the thing” over all else.  That is, the game is a conduit for channeling like-minded individuals for the purpose of a friendly and enjoyable activity. 

For me, defining Old School wargaming is quite slippery.  Old School can have different meanings to different people and, like much, is often in the eyes of the beholder. Perception could also be distorted by age since each generation may hold its own backward looking view of what comprises Old School.  Since I have been gaming for over 40 years, my generational notions of Old School are likely very different from someone a generation (or two) younger (or older!).  To paraphrase former US Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart, I know Old School wargaming when I see it.  To complicate matters even more, history is how I remember it. 

When I think of Old School wargaming, I envision the pioneers of Morschauser, Wesencraft, Grant, and Featherstone hovering over the gaming table.  For the newer generation, I pin Old School wargamer award onto Ross Macfarlane (  Old School wargamers will not quickly dismiss time-tested rules to be replaced by the latest, fashionable rules.  Perhaps this reluctance to change is due more on the “old” adjective rather than on “school?”  For rules, complexity is decidedly in the “Beer and Pretzels” classification with an objective more towards pushing toy soldiers across the game table than attempting to reproduce a military simulation.  Old School could include vintage gaming but it is not a requirement. Camaraderie, fellowship, and gentlemanly behavior are not confined to Old School gaming alone.  These traits are a requisite for any group game in which I participate. 

Am I an Old School wargamer?  Perhaps it is too soon to tell...


  1. I think of it as minimalist, as you wrote. Bare table, felt terrain, maybe a cloth thrown over books. Rules either inspired by board wargaming or "throw a 6, cause a casualty" simplicity. Staticly posed figures on cardboard bases, which MAY be painted.

    I don't think we are old school. I do think, though, that we have some great games and great times.

    1. Yes! Many great games and great times. We need to figure out how to meet on a more regular schedule.

      When I think "Old School" style, I think of Terry's modus operandi with green painted wooden tabletop, old Scruby metals or Airfix/Atlantic plastic figures and simple rules.


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