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.

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

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://mikemonaco.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/old-school-wargaming/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

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


    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!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This Stuff is REALLY Cool

Young scholars enthusiastic to tell you about COOL RESEARCH STUFF

Fail Squad Games

Tabletop games and adventures

Cigar Box Battle

An online resource blog for gamers and geeks focused on wargames miniatures and board games and role playing games

terribleminds: chuck wendig

Chuck Wendig: Freelance Penmonkey

Save Vs. Dragon

"We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."--Kurt Vonnegut


Old School Roleplaying and related musings

Hobgoblin Orange

My return to the world of miniature figure painting and RPGs


The Book Reviews You Can Trust!

Dawn of the Lead

Miniature wargaming and the occasional zombie

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.


Miniature Motivation

Take On Rules

Jeremy Friesen - a poor soul consumed by gaming.

Age of Dusk

Roleplaying, reviews and associated paraphernalia.

Roll to Disbelieve

"We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."--Kurt Vonnegut

A Book of Creatures

A Complete Guide to Entities of Myth, Legend, and Folklore

Making the Past

Diary of an apprentice swordsmith

Ancient & Medieval Wargaming

Using De Bellis Antiquitatis, with the odd diversion...

Riffing Religion

Prophets should be mocked. I'm doing my part.


An encyclopedia of the Cirsovan empire, thoughts on Gaming, Music and more.

2 Warps to Neptune

Surveying the Gen X landscape and the origins of geek

Inside the Shadowbox

Rolling the dice. Writing the words. Pushing the buttons. Eating the bacon. Smiling and waving.

Dagger and Brush, Daggerandbrush, dagger brush

Miniature painting, wargaming terrain tutorials, reviews, interviews and painting guides


A lair for gaming, sci-fi, comics, and other geekish pursuits.


I bought this stuff and read it so you don't have to.

Role Play Craft

Crafting ideas, options, and modules for your role playing campaign.

The Rambling Roleplayer Archives

This site is no longer being updated. Check out the new site at www.rpgrambler.com

Sheppard's Crook

The occasional blog of a closet would -be wargamer and modeller

10 Bad Habits

Probably not the Justin Howe you were looking for

The Weekly Sift

making sense of the news one week at a time


Just another WordPress.com site

Lost in Time

"What happened to Claw Carver?"


gaming, graphics, and genrefication

Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead


Role-Playing Games, Medieval History, Assorted Legends and Myths, and My Stupid Life.

%d bloggers like this: