What is Miniature Wargaming?

By: Kitbasha Jay

How many times have you found yourself trying to explain your hobby to someone who has never heard of it before? Personally it’s been quite a few times throughout my life. The truth is it’s not an easy thing to do. Especially if the person you’re talking to has never even heard of anything like this.

Sometimes we mention it and they’ve actually heard of it. “Oh like Warhammer.” they say. Other times they have never heard of anything like that. At which time we are stuck trying to describe how we collect toy soldiers, paint them and then have a war game with them on a table top that we’ve also constructed and painted. Sometimes we’re left looking like fools. Other times they actually think it’s really cool and want to know more. Usually the former rather than the latter.

Today I’ll talk about some of the strategies I’ve used to explain this hobby to “muggles”. I’d like to also discuss ways we can better explain what wargaming is so that we don’t look like fools or wierdos. Finally, I’d like to get your feedback on how you have confronted this hurdle and what that means to you. So let’s start off with some personal anecdotes.

When I was in college I started dating a girl who I really liked. At the time I had been out of the hobby for a bit and only dabbled in it on occasion. I wasn’t playing much, but was still assembling and painting when I found the time. We dated for about a month before I even mentioned Warhammer to her.

It was kind of a weird way of telling her too. I was living with my parents at the time and they were out for a while so we had the house to ourselves. At that time I had a workshop in the back room of my parents’ basement where I did all my painting. The rest of the basement was a finished living room.

We were making out, and it was getting pretty heated and clothes started coming off. Then my parents came home. We jumped into the back room as quickly as we could so that they wouldn’t catch us naked and that’s when she saw it. A wall of miniatures on shelves.

Luckily for me she thought it was wicked cool. Once we had composed ourselves she was legitimately interested in what it was all about. Not the best way to tell someone you’re into the hobby but it could have worked out a lot worse. Especially since I had never mentioned it to her before.

Another anecdote I’ll mention is the complete opposite. After I got laid off from Games Workshop I began to work in a wood shop. I was learning to become a cabinet maker. That being said, the guys I was working with were generally the beer and hockey type of guys. Not the nerdy type for the most part.

One day I was talking with a couple of my co-workers while having a cigarette outside and they asked me what I used to do before this. I told them I worked at Games Workshop. For people who have never heard of this stuff their minds immediately thought I sold video games.

Once I explained to them that it was fantasy and science-fiction miniatures that you assemble and paint in order to play a table top war game with, they looked at me like I was nuts. Obviously without a frame of reference it just sounded like something completely foreign to them. Needless to say the topic was changed relatively quickly.

The third anecdote I’ll throw out there is when I told my current wife about my hobby when we were first dating. At this point I was living on my own. We had only been dating for a few weeks and she came to my place and saw the desk I had in the corner covered in miniatures and paint. I quickly explained to her what it was and to my surprise she said her dad was into that stuff.

My jaw dropped. Never had a dated a girl, especially one who was as hot as her, that had any idea what miniature wargaming was. Her father was into Napoleonic War miniatures and had a basement full of regiments and terrain. Talk about an easy time telling someone you are a massive nerd. At least she had a frame of reference and didn’t think it was really weird. It wasn’t something she was into but she had an opinion of the hobby that it was healthy and constructive.

So what can we do to make it easier for people to understand this strange hobby? I think the first thing we can do is be precise. Don’t give any illusions as to what it is or isn’t. You have to be descriptive. Especially when the person has never heard of it. Also don’t act ashamed of it. Some of us feel reluctant to explain it to people because they may look at us like we’re crazy. Explain it with confidence and they’ll give it the respect it deserves.

My automatic go to phrase is: “It’s a tabletop war-game that uses model miniatures as game pieces. You collect and paint your own armies and then use them on a miniature battlefield against other peoples’ armies that they have also collected and painted.” I feel that is about as concise one can be with as little words as possible while still doing it justice.

Sometimes this is responded to with positive feedback. Sometimes with further questions. Sometimes they look at us like we’re out of our minds. I’m interested to hear what funny stories you have about explaining your hobby to someone. What have you done to help them understand? What strange reactions have you received? What strange ways have you introduced someone to the hobby? Have you had anyone actually want to get involved after seeing it for the first time?

Give me your anecdotes in the comments below, comment on Facebook or email me at encounterwargaming@gmail.com

Until our next Encounter!

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