Old School Wargaming is a very nebulous concept. It is a mistake to think that all its members do nothing except march simple Spencer Smiths across an elegantly plain table, though some of us occasionally do. Each to their own, surely?

In its purest form, it is epitomised by the two games put on by The War Gamers at partizan 2006 and 2007: Sittangbad, from Brigadier Peter Young’s book Charge! or How to Play Wargames; and Mollwitz, from Charles Grant’s The War Game. You can read about these games in issues 4 and 8 of Battlegames.

The point is not to say that anyone should throw away their gorgeous dioramic figures and terrain. Quite the opposite. OSW members admire skill in painting and modelling as much as the next man and, here’s the thing, the two are not mutually exclusive. I personally have a large collection of Spencer Smiths that I use for my fictitious 18th century campaign, but also collect gorgeous, modern castings, in several scales, from many manufacturers that fight across the most ‘realistic’ terrain I can muster. These armies demand a degree of attention to detail in their painting to do them justice which is always a challenge.

What OSW did for me personally was rekindle my enthusiasm for the hobby after a period when I had become pretty depressed about the trend towards over-complex rules and the level of bickering that seemed to have become prevalent during what should have been relaxing games! It reminded me that we’re supposed to be having fun, and talking to each other. The irony is that the retro-nature of OSW gave me enough enthusiasm about the future to start a new magazine and feel evangelical (in a moderate kind of way) about wanting to do everything I can to bring new blood into the hobby, whilst recognising the contribution of our illustrious forbears.

Another factor has to do with your age, and how you first got involved in the hobby. For me, it was Charles Grant’s The War Game, Charlie Wesencraft’s Practical Wargaming and Don Featherstone’s Advanced War Games, all in the very early 1970s. People who read these books at that time, and some of Don’s stuff even earlier, or Brigadier Peter Young’s Charge!, have happy memories of the style of games they produced, at a time when you often had to cast – or certainly convert – your own figures. Naturally, if your wargaming started later, or with different rulesets, these things won’t mean as much to you, which is fair enough.

What is OSW? You’ll have to ask everyone for their individual opinion. So far, the only consensus arrived at is ‘simple rules and a fun game’. I might also add that I want a game where the participants work together and play fair to have fun, rather than going out to win at all costs at the expense of friendship and good company. What’s wrong with that?

The Old School Wargaming Yahoo! group site has extensive photos, files and polls sections for you to browse, as well as a friendly and lively chatroom. Naturally, like all online groups, it has grown far beyond the original, evangelical membership who mostly began their wargaming in the early days of the hobby, to become a forum with more than 1,500 members, though activity has dropped off in recent years compared to its 2005-2009 heyday. As a result, the original purpose has become somewhat diluted, with many members who weren’t even born when the key works the group is based upon were written and published! As a result, I tend to think that a distinction needs to be made between the Old School Wargaming group, which often discusses matters that have little or no relevance to what I am discussing here, and the pursuit of what Phil Olley calls ‘classic’ wargaming, with its simple and elegant design aesthetic, of which I am very much a fan.


  1. I am like the author an old school war gamer ——-massive 50 plus year collection of Wild West/alamo and Acw 54mm/60mm figures and interesting to read your thoughts on these matters——i solo war gamed for past 32 years out of choice i will add. I am on a mission ———-trying to find a set of World war 2 rules A5 set i had in the early/mid 70s and lost in a subsequent house move, they were terrific rules based on 4 phase moves each of 15 seconds duration —-each total move equating to one minute and with good detail down to hand to hand skirmishes. I would love to find a set of these to show my grandson who amazingly 57 years after granddad first gamed is huge on 54mm World war 2 stuff———-can anyone assist please?——-mike ——online user name—-Ulzana.

  2. Good day, I have a set of old miniatures that I am trying to identify. They look like maybe Mongolian or Arabian fighters? 28mm I believe. They are unmarked. Can I send you a couple pictures to see if you or anyone in the community recognizes them? Thanks in advance.

  3. Nice to see the OSW concept analized in detail. I agree it’s a broad concept but an useful one to offset overdetailed rules, excessive argumentation and the increased burden of painting the details of larger than 25mm figures and the larger degree of miniatures incompatibilities.

  4. Being and old school gamer myself it is fun to see it still alive. I still enjoy pulling out old copies of “Battle” and re-reading those articles and photos of whole wargame tables. I game here in northeastern Connecticut as BattleGroup Boston/South. We are a splinter group ( …in a good way!) of the much larger battle Group Boston in Massachusetts. I have been gaming 30 years and it is heartening to support and encourage younger guys passionate about keeping World War II history alive. Several of the guys I game with are in their mid 20’s and they are as passionate about the period and hobby as I am! Long time fan of Don Featherstone, Ian Weekly of battlements, Duncan McFarlane, and I sorely miss Practical Wargaming. We here and the state saw our 2 best magazines retire when we lost “The Courier” with the delightful, dedicated, creative Dick Bryant and MWAN (Midwest Wargamers Association Newsletter) which was packed with gaming stuff. I am delighted to have stumbled onto this site and look forward to more!
    Vic Gregoire/BGB-South

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