Really Old School Miniature Wargames

I do have an interest in vintage wargaming. I don’t always find the games super exciting, but as a historian I like to study the history of my silly little hobby. One of the oldest miniature wargames was Polemos, which you can find out more about here:

I find the cover art very interesting:


I think this is from the 1888 edition of the game. Polemos was sort of a cross between a board game and a miniatures game in that it featured a table cover with squares, which functioned like modern hexes in board games, and it used miniatures, which look like painted flats in the link to the blog that discusses Polemos. What I note the most in the picture is that playing wargames hasn’t changed that much since 1888. You have the slow player (in the civilian attire) who must be taking too long to move. On the far left you can see his opponent is just tired of waiting for the first player to just move and get the game going. Finally, in the middle is the guy who seems to not be playing but is probably full of endless “useful” advise.

The picture also reminds me of how reasonable old school wargaming was. The table is a reasonable size, not some giant 6′ x 24′ nightmare. Also the number of figures was manageable. I have noted that by the 1990s (if note earlier), wargames started to require thousands of figures (ever play Fire and Fury or Empire III?). That made wargaming more of a figure painting hobby and less of a playing a game hobby. Of course Polemos came with painted figures as no Victorian gentleman probably painted his own figures; he had better things to do like be a lawyer, doctor, captain of industry or command a real regiment! That probably made wargaming a rich man’s hobby back in the 1880s (sorry, unemployed guys who live in their mother’s basement need not apply to play back in 1888). However, the reasonable number of units and reasonable table size made Polemos a reasonable game to play as the players were not burdened with running 50 units (after about 30 units I really start to lose my interest). So thinking about wargaming as a reasonable hobby for gentlemen is good food for thought for me.

A fun bit of history to share and you can learn more via the above link about Polemos.

2 Responses to Really Old School Miniature Wargames

  1. Bill Owen says:

    Since nothing exceeds like excess, it’s good to see that I am devolving to 1888 which explains why I recommended the wisdom of smaller being better. My “big” game has been the River Plate battle.

    For which I have produced a “trainer wheels” hyper-synopsis of GQ3 at — even comes with counters for ships). Set up in 5 minutes: blue cloth optional (but ideal) and 4 ships. Try out the rules and actually them without being taught or graduate-level study.

    Combo GQ3/GB mini-campaign of Narvik to come.

    Or Arira via Great Battles for which I wrote up a play by play to illustrate why GBoWWII is the ideal game, the wargame equivalent of he best MPG: RPE, Realism Per Effort expended.

    CD:TOB is good if you can keep it Small enough. That small thing again. Painting is so 20th century and I’m planning a new route to “armies in a fortnight”. I already lost one wargaming buddy to “paint fumes”!


  2. Chris Johnson says:


    I agree fully with you, except for Fire and Fury. Although people tend to use the rules for big (even huge) games, they can also be used for smaller battles like New Market 1864. There was an article in (I think it was) Wargames Illustrated that presented 3 smaller scenarios for use with F&F.

    Best regards,

    Chris Johnson


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