Thanks for the language/cultural explanations.
I realize that, when talking to English-speaking people, I’ve always assumed (perhaps wrongly) that the term “wargame” is always understood. In fact it’s the case with most British people I meet, who either are wargamers, or re-enactors, or many of my neighbours here in centre Brittany – none of them are wargamers but many are military retirees so at least they have heard of it.
For native French-speaking people “jeu de figurines” is better understood. Wargame can be translated by “jeu de guerre” but most people would run away when hearing this, it sounds even worse than “jouer aux petits soldats”.