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Logically, the only difference between the two is the kind of piece used to represent elements each force. However there is a very considerable difference in culture and tradition between miniatures wargaming and board wargaming. At some risk of caricature, the big differences to me are:
Miniatures games: Donald Featherstone, Lionel Tarr, Charles Grant, Young & Lawson, Phil Barker, Gavin Lyall. Rightpondian, more about fun than simulation, loose rules (apart from Phil Barker), focus on battles. Gave us army lists, saving throws, reaction tests, bathtubbing, and campaign games.
Boardgames: Jim Dunnigan, Frank Chadwick, John Hill, Steve Patrick, Mark Herman, Courtney Allen. Leftpondian, more about simulation than fun, tight rules (apart from John Hill), focus on campaigns. Gave us scenarios, combat results tables, victory points, expansion kits, and opportunity fire.
There is no reason not to steal good ideas from the other community, and I am pleased to see that over the years quite a lot of such theft has gone on. Some of the most popular tactical boardgames (Panzerblitz, Tobruk, Squad Leader) are often referred to as being influenced by miniatures (and in fact Panzerblitz traces its origins to the miniatures game T-34). Miniatures gamers now cheerfully use scenarios and opportunity fire.
I am, as I usually do, thinking mainly about historical wargames here. When it comes to SF&F, though, do you think of D&D as a boardgame, or as a miniatures game?
All the best,