In the last article I wrote for Wargame Wednesday I looked at what Wargaming is like as a hobby and today I am going to share a little bit of what makes a good Wargaming environment. Across the whole span of Wargames there are certain commonalities, things you can expect and things that many look forward to as a break from their day-to-day lives. The atmosphere of a game room, or the hobby shop, or the evening set aside to gather with loved ones to play games has long been a special one to myself, having played games my whole life, from cards with my grandparents to my current business designing tabletop games. The environment and mood greatly affects a game.
First, a sense of investment should be cultivated. Put the cell phone on silent, get out of the walkways and busy areas of the house. Separating yourself from serious interruptions by setting aside the afternoon or evening, having things prepared and ready to go like army lists or scenario and the like, and acquiring creature comforts like a standing table or comfortable chairs can go a long way towards improving the experience. Particularly speaking to the parents out there, this sense of commitment and focus can create quite the impression on the young and an excellent opportunity to monitor your child’s maturation. Much like a good book and how once someone is a reader they can read in just about anywhere, or any position, Wargames too can benefit from their investiture by things outside the game itself; a good game and a good book can both draw you out into an altered viewpoint while they continue.
Secondly, a recognition of the mental taxation should be remembered. For the average person, especially a younger person, mental exertion comes in short periods of intermittent frequency. Wargaming is demanding, requiring long periods of attention and calculation; arithmetic and intuition, and certainly imagination as well. This can be excellent exercise for brains of all sizes, shapes, and ages if temperament deigns to make a habit. Bearing as I do a holistic philosophy, I like to have and provide for my guests and friends small objects to associate the mind’s rapid action with the body’s: Extra dice to turn over in the hand, toothpicks to fiddle with or pick at their teeth with, and the like. Chances are they will find their own anyway: Small distractions such as these allow players’ bodies to be active without distracting from the game, much how poker players riffle their chips or card players shuffle their hands around while thinking quickly. This engagement is a good sign of a player starting to hit their stride with the game, able to take a chunk of it to turn over in their minds.
Thirdly, a compensation for the nerves that develop. Wargames are inherently nerve-intensive for many different personalities: The Number Cruncher, waiting to see if reality peels away from the odds; The Adrenaline Junkie, eager to see if the bold gambit pays off; The Unsure, fretting over so much unknown and new subtleties; and so many more. Wargames induce a high-energy state for many, especially the new or competitive, and almost everyone I’ve played with at my local shop supports this in some fashion with munchies or drinks— A good friend of mine ritualistically buys a soda before he shows up to the shop, and it is sipped slowly over the course of the afternoon. I have never sat through a game without a glass or two of water. The animal side of the game is an interesting consideration for the environment, and for persons who have not played sports or competed seriously it may be a new feeling.
Now, a few examples. My local hobby shop has situated its standup wargaming tables all in a row along the side of the shop, separated from the free-to-play tables and the merchandise section with its comic racks and shelves of games and supplies and their tall display cases by the register, where the employees stand ready to reach over the ‘back’ to sell a snack or answer a rules question, with the benefit of having something to watch when there’s nothing to do. At my house, I have an exercise room in which I can clear a space and bring in my table for game night, and I usually have a small bowl of nuts with shells and something sweet as well. Alternately, one friend of mine sets up his games in his kitchen, and while I do not mind I have observed that our games take a good deal longer: His kids make appearances, inquisitive and desiring to sit on his lap; his wife begins cooking and asks how I’ve been which starts a side conversation; He decides to make us some sandwiches while I’m in the tank deciding what to do with an awkward situation I’ve gotten my infantry into (They’re used to it, at this point). These are wonderful things, as is his commitment to the hobby, but the takeaway is that you should be aware of what you’re signing up for with such a large chunk of your valuable time.
A compatriot of mine has already written about some techniques and the benefits of passing on the Wargaming hobby to the next generation and whether you’re in the market for a new hobby, looking for something to do for some quality time with a family member, an outsider looking for insight into the strange gatherings that occur in your basement, or an old hand looking to expand a community you know and love, I hope you find something here that you can put to good use.