Wargame (video games)

Wargame (video games)

Wargames are a subgenre of strategy video games that emphasize strategic or tactical warfare on a map. Computer wargames are generally classified based on whether a game is turn-based or real-time and whether the game's focus is upon military strategy or tactics. These distinctions divide computer wargames into four categories: real-time strategy, real-time tactics, turn-based strategy, and turn-based tactics.

Comparison with traditional wargames

Many contemporary computer strategy games can be considered wargames, in the sense that they are a simulation of warfare on some level. The mechanics and language have little in common with board and miniature games, but the general subject matter is popular. That said, most war-themed computer and video games are generally not considered wargames by the board gaming hobby. Considering that computer games regularly include much more detail than the most complex board or miniature games could ever have, this may seem counter-intuitive, but most computer 'wargames' are not nearly as realistic as their boardgame counterparts.

Tabletop wargames are usually categorized according to the scale of the confrontation (e.g., grand strategy wargame, strategic wargame, operational wargame, tactical wargame or man-to-man wargame). The qualifiers "real-time" and "turn-based" are not taken into account as all tabletop wargames are, by necessity, turn-based. However, sometimes video war games are described according to the scale of conflict.


The computer gaming industry generally evolved with minimal reference to board games, so the term "wargame" is not traditionally used in the context of computer games. However, the wargaming community saw the possibilities of computer gaming early and made attempts to break into the market, notably Avalon Hill's Microcomputer Games line, which lasted from 1980 to 1987 and covered a variety of topics, including simple adaptations of some of their wargames.

Strategic Simulations, Inc. (SSI) and Strategic Studies Group (SSG) were computer game companies that specialized in games that borrowed from board and miniature wargames. They enjoyed a certain popularity throughout much of the 1980s and into the 1990s. TalonSoft started in 1995 with a similar focus, until purchased and later closed down by Take-Two Interactive in 2002.

The popular direction of the current market is towards real-time strategy games exemplified by "Starcraft" and others. It should be noted that these games are "strategic" in the gaming sense, but "tactical" in the military sense. These are generally high-action games that include a number of conveniences that enhance gameplay, but ignore reality.

Notable computer wargames

*"Panzer General" - (Strategic Simulations, Inc., 1994) - probably the most widely popular computer game that is recognizably a traditional wargame next to Close Combat. It spawned several sequels, some of which explored different subject matter.
*"Steel Panthers" - (Strategic Simulations, Inc., 1995) - an early tactical wargame on the same scale as "Squad Leader", which led to two sequels, and a complete revision of the title for free release.
*"Close Combat" - (Microsoft, 1996) - not the first wargame to break out from hexes, and still presented in a 2-dimensional format, "Close Combat" nonetheless uniquely addressed factors such as individual morale and reluctance to carry out orders. The original title led to five very successful sequels for the general public, as well as being developed into a training tool for military use only. "Close Combat" stemmed from an early attempt to translate the "Squad Leader" boardgame to the computer.
*"Combat Mission" - (Big Time Software, 2000) - not the first 3D tactical wargame (titles such as "Muzzle Velocity" preceded it), but a groundbreaking game series featuring simultaneous order resolution, complete orders of battle for numerous nationalities, with three titles based on the original game engine. As of 2006, a campaign layer is in testing as well as a revised game engine to be released before 2007. "CM"'s genesis was also as a failed attempt by Avalon Hill to translate "Squad Leader" to the computer.


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