June 6, 2023

Design x Dragoons: Fantasy Wargaming?

Each week, our #DesignXDragoons panel will offer their thoughts on a talk about game design, game development, or gameplay.
You’ll see what they have to say, and get a chance to chime in yourself, either in the comments below, or in our forums

This week’s question:

How do you get your RPG buddies to play a ‘wargame’ with you? Make it a fantasy wargame! Bust out Battlelore, or a Warhammer title, or, well, darn near anything from Fantasy Flight Games. Heck, even Columbia Games’ Wizard Kings looks an awful lot like any of their block wargames. What fantasy wargames do you enjoy for their tactical nuance? What fantasy wargames give you nice strategic depth? Absent the magical wonder-weapons, what fantasy wargames give you the best cross-over experience with ‘real’ wargames?

David Thompson, (Award-winning!) designer / Undaunted Normandy, Undaunted North Africa, By Stealth & Sea, and plenty of others

This is a tough one for me. I fall in the camp of preferring RP-heavy theater of the mind experiences when I roleplay, clearly separating that from the tactical gameplay elements of skirmish games (whether they be boardgames or minis games). I will say that I found the Frostgrave system very, very interesting. I’ve only played it a couple times, but I’d like to experience more of it.


John Gorkowski, designer / In The Trenches series, Balance of Powers, plenty of others

For me, the better question would be, “How do you get your wargame buddies to play an RPG?”  In my town, active adult wargamers outnumber active adult RPGers.  I would like to strike up a game of 1st edition AD&D with the panzer pushers.  I know they played as teens, decades ago.  This question is linked to the previous one about using the coop mechanism for wargames.  RPGers are more open to cooperative mechanics, wargamers less so.


Pete Bogdasarian, designer / Tank On Tank, Corps Command series

I mostly play miniatures game when I want a fantasy fix, with one exception: FFG’s Runewars, which is a personal favorite when I’m looking for a 4X experience.  What I like about Runewars is you have certain real world concerns (feeding armies, managing the seasons, etc.) married to exciting fantasy archetypes (dragons, things that are not dragons, and more dragons) in a package that can be played to completion in about three to four hours.  Conquest of Nerath, by Wizards of the Coast, was a pretty reasonable interpretation of Axis & Allies to a fantasy format and had asymmetric forces with different strategic postures and armies.  But what doesn’t get made anymore are games strictly fit to model a specific fantasy setting at the level of detail common to the “typical” hex-and-counter wargame (thinking here of games like Dragon Pass or Greyhawk Wars).

Over on the science fiction side of the ledger, I see more innovative work being done.  Some of this may be because the crossover between miniatures and boardgame designs feels closer thanks to the shadow cast by the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  Speaking of Games Workshop’s efforts, The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth was a pretty interesting game of small-level firefights and somehow flew under the radar because many purchasers were just buying it for the Heresy-era miniatures inside the box.  The sequel, The Horus Heresy: The Burning of Prospero, wasn’t a bad game either, although it is less innovative with a more straight-jacketed sequence of play.  On the purely hex-and-counter side of the ledger, Ars Victor might be the best of the games inspired by the Commands and Colors system, despite not being designed by Richard Borg or published as a C&C design.  And, of course, I would expect that pretty much every gamer who will watch a science fiction movie has spent at least one afternoon with X-Wing.


Russ Lockwood, Staff Developer / Against the Odds

I guess I have a more egalitarian set of gaming buddies – most switch easily between gaming genres and types – although we’re mostly historical wargamers. We really liked Risk Legacy – brilliant concept, although it takes a while to play 15 games, but everyone knows the essentials of Risk and it redefines the concept, so that gets my vote. Second is Thanos Rising, a cooperative game with cards and dice. 


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Brant G

Editor-in-chief at Armchair Dragoons

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