So why do a bunch of typically grown men (and ladies too) participate in an old-fashioned hobby that originated with the likes of the Prussian Kriegspiel in the 19th century and H.G. Wells' Little Wars, written in 1913. Isn't such an activity out of vogue in today's sophisticated and electronic society?
There are many reasons. Personally, I have a passion for history. I daydreamed about fantastic adventures throughout history during those boring classes at school. I envisioned the pageantry and the glory of age-old armies of Caesar, Napoleon, and Frederick. I was introduced to history through old war movies, and I guess they just stuck. Waterloo in the early 1970's, as well as classics like The Bridge At Remagen, The Longest Day, and A Bridge Too Far stimulated my boyish imagination like nothing else. Coming from a military family, I was hooked at a very young age.
Still shot of Waterloo
Poster from A Bridge Too Far
It was only as I matured that I realized the true horror and brutality of warfare, which increased my admiration for past (and current) heroes and brilliant leaders even more. Wargaming, in a small way, makes me feel like I am a witness to the glory of battle (without the inherent dangers of dodging bullets and cannonballs, of course). Wargaming also complements my study of history; one truly understands more the science of warfare when viewed, in proper scale, on a three-dimensional table.
I am not typically creative in my everyday life ( I can barely draw stick figures), but when it comes to a wargaming table, I throw myself into the constructing of the terrain and the placing of beautifully painted figures. Wargaming in miniature is surely a creative release for me. I truly get satisfaction from seeing the finished product.
A beautiful table filled with colorful miniatures
And, of course there is the thrill of competition. For many wargamers, this competitive spirit is the primary reason for playing. Wargaming, either in miniature or with boardgaming, is atypical of a very upscale game of chess. To many, the feeling of victory when a plan comes together on a table is a psychological rush that can be addictive. Many wargames, whether historical or fantasy-inspired, are tailored for tournament competitions. One thing I've noticed is that younger wargamers are especially attracted to this competitive mindset.
Warhammer and 40K are especially designed for competitive tournament play
Fellowship with kindred spirits is yet another reason for wargaming. For many years, I thought I was alone in my passion for studying history, strategy, and tactics. It is an incredible feeling to socialize and share great beer, fun, and snacks (especially snacks...) with like-minded fellows who appreciate the same interests as you. Combining the time spent in fellowship with the ability to roll dice and play out history on a table is a very strong attraction to the hobby for many.
Genial fellows interested in flowing beer and clashing armies
The roll of the die is akin to gambling for some. The thrill of beating the odds, without the risk of losing all of your money, can be exhilarating. Who doesn't relish the moment when "boxcars" are rolled, and the opposing enemy unit routs as a result? Many of my fondest wargaming memories are of the times when I defeated Lady Luck and stunned my opponent with a extraordinary roll, courtesy of the dice gods.
My favorite roll !
In summary, there are many particular reasons to wargame. In my humble opinion, all of these reasons can be summed up in one primary category. Why do a majority of people participate in any hobby? Escape...... even for a short while, escape from our mundane, srress-filled lives is why we do it. Any hobby should fill the hobbyist with a sense of fun, without being judged by anyone else, including other hobbyists. Much as a model train enthusiast barricades himself in a basement to work on his hobby, wargamers do it essentially for the same reason. And what's wrong with that?