Testing the water
One must assume that if you are showing the slightest interest in playing wargames that you have been exposed to some aspect of the hobby. This may be through computer strategy games like Age of Empires or by glancing through magazines, or even knowing people who play. Whatever, your interest has been sparked. What can you do to find out more?
The easiest solution is to approach someone who already plays wargames. They will have access to rules, miniatures and a gaming table, All you need to do is try and get your head around the instructions. But if such a person is not available, you have a problem. Wargaming requires, as the Americans put it, socialization. You will communicate avidly with the opponent. This, as a rule, does not happen during competitive board and computer games – there is either deafening silence or a barrage of highly abusive insults. In comparison, wargaming has a social aspect which suggests beer, pizza and conversation, not necessarily in that order. At the very least you will need one like-minded person with whom you can share the fun. With Internet access, a printer and possibly some dice or a pack of cards, you’ll have everything else you need to get started. It’s always important to find out whether you’ll enjoy something before you make any serious investment.
Wargames require an agreed set of rules – even the most amicable game can turn nasty if there is a disagreement. Remember those school yard arguments when playing cowboys and Indians: “You’re dead” … “No I’m not, you missed me!”. At freewargamesrules you can find a wide range of rule sets, mostly in pdf format, that you can use for free. Spend a bit of time and look at the game mechanics – find one you understand and that is not too complicated or obscure. The only other thing you’ll need is figures. So take inspiration from all those old strategy board games and use counters. Cut up some card (say an old breakfast cereal box) to the required size and write appropriate titles on one side. Now you’re ready, clear the table and get down to some serious gaming.
At this stage you could improve the aesthetics of your game by enhancing the quality of the counters. Adrian Delves of White Metal has created a couple of DBA Cutout Armies which feature top-down images of Ancient Brits/Gauls or Polybian/Early Imperial Romans. Alternatively you can buy a box or two of plastic, 1/72 scale soldiers produced by Revell or HäT Industrie and stick them on your previously created card counters. If you are truly evil you could raid your kid’s (or a younger sibling’s?) toy box for Playmobile or lego figures.