Old school wargaming

To a roleplaying game enthusiast, pretty much any wargame must look sort of “old school”.  But apparently there has been an old school revival among war gamers too!  If you follow that link you’ll see they are just as loosely defined as old school role-players.  The definition seems to encompass both the vintage “flats” miniatures that were popular fifty years ago (or actually: the only thing available) and the particular rules written by early luminaries in the hobby, from H.G. Wells’ Little wars to the Charge! rules written just 40 years ago by Peter Young.

Another interesting thing is that the author at the above link says that Old School Wargaming (OSW) is a reaction against both the increasing complexity of new rules sets and the bickering that goes on among the partisans of them.

Left to my own devices I prefer DBA (De Bellis Antiquitatus) and HOTT (Hordes of the Things).  Both are “old school” in the sense that they are very rules-light. HOTT is also old-school in the sense that it is very open to customization, as the “army lists” are all just suggestions and the only restrictions on a player’s choices are a few limits placed on how many of the most expensive/powerful units one can field.  Best of all, HOTT is still a free PDF online until until it goes back in print.  Check it out — it is a simple, elegant, and very fun set.  DBA version 2.2 is also posted freely, with permission granted to download and print one copy for personal use, at the DBA Yahoo group (you need to join to get at it!)  The “new” DBA 3.0 is expected later this year. The changes among the various “editions” are pretty minor. 

Anyway there is also a Yahoo group for Old School Wargaming which I just joined and from what i’ve seen so far, they are equally interested in preserving the past and forging ahead.  They also been around for quite a while (longer than the D&D old school revival anyway) and it looks like they had their own “one page” contest back in 2005, where members created one page rules sets for wargames!  That is incredibly cool. I have not had a chance to look at anthing in detail but I’ll probably report back on this eventually.

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Published in: on June 21, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (8)  
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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for the links! Good stuff here.

  2. “Both are “old school” in the sense that they are very rules-light.”

    Sorry to quibble but I don’t think this is true as regards old school miniature wargaming–in fact I would say that fiddly rule sets with layers and layers of complicated mechanics (written orders, simultaneous movement, complicated combat matrices, emphasis less on abstract tactical doctrine and more on armor, weapons, and other crunchy elements) are much more of the hallmarks of rules sets of the 60s and 70s than today.

    HOTT and DBA with their abstractness and slimmed down mechanics seem much the new school to me. Which is not a bad thing, I like them for what they are much more than I do new school RPGs.

    • That’s not quibbling. I am probably confounding “old school” & “rules lite” because my tastes tend to favor both.
      DBA was very deliberately designed in response ot the increasingly complex rules of the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s (I think it was first released about 1990).
      DBA & HOTT are also both very ammendable to the DIY attitude of the OSR. Beyond that it probably doesn’t make much sense to call them old school.
      I’m not really sure old school and new school mean anything like the same thing in two kinds of games (RPG & war), now that I think about it.

    • Now that I’m reading more of the “Old school wargaming” Yahoo group posts, I see that element-basing is frowned upon among the self-described “old schoolers” too. (Although I think basing multiple minis on one stand actually goes back pretty far in wargmaing history…as far back as “flat” minis.) So anyway by that measure all the “DBx” games are new school.

  3. “DBA was very deliberately designed in response ot the increasingly complex rules of the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s.”

    Good point. Perhaps mini gaming runs in quicker cycles than RPGs. You could make the case for instance that the newest of games like Fields of Glory are reactions to the rules-lite cycle. Lot to think about there.

    • And Richard Bodley-Scott cowrote both HOTT and FOG! I kinda stopped following the wargaming scene around the time DBMM — the expanded DBM revision — was being worked out. About the same time there was a guy publishing “Warrior” — a revision of WRG 7th ed., which is part of the old school rules heavy camp.
      Someone who knows more about all this needs to do a taxonomy of wargames.

  4. Hello
    In our club we still play dba

    http://amdba.over-blog.com/categorie-127503.html

    any information about dba 3.0

    I play dbm until 2003, after i move to dba

    • The revised army lists, which seem to Sue Barker’s project, are slowly being posted and debated at the DBA yahoo group. There is some speculation about what DBA 3.0 will change over at Fanaticus. That’s all I know about it. 😦

      Those are some spectacular minis & terrain at your site!


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