Home Forums General General Was there a gap between historical games and fantasy/scifi for you?

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    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    What I am curious about is if you started as a scifi/fantasy gamer, was there a gap before you started playing historical games?
    The same question applies the other way around.

    If there was a gap of more than a year or so, what caused you to “cross over”?

    Avatar photoMcKinstry

    Started as a historical gamer in 1975 and just sort of accepted spaceships and steampunk as natural adjuncts to the games I was already playing and enjoying. I can’t recall when Starfire and Sky Galleons of Mars came out but it seemed they were naturally aligned with the naval games I was already enjoying.

    Strangely enough I’ve never enjoyed fantasy to this day and lack the introspection to delve into the why.


    The tree of Life is self pruning.

    Avatar photoTony S

    I started as an historical miniature gamer (54mm Britain’s ACW and Airfix Napoleonics) as a kid, but would use Warhammer 2nd edition to play my brother in my teens because that’s all he liked to play.  Back then, you could stat out your own Warhammer armies, so human infantry + mail armour + large shield + short sword+ throwing javelin = Roman!  I only ever used historical forces, and of course no magic.  I ignored the fact that my brother used Orcs, and regarded them as barbarians, albeit with a greenish tint.

    Although I rather disliked SF and Fantasy miniature games at that time, I would play the occasional SF boardgame, like SPI Starsoldier or Starforce or Invasion America, or AH’s Starship Troopers.  I did read a lot of SF, with a tiny bit of fantasy here and there.

    Now, I’m almost exclusively a miniatures gamer, but still primarily a historical player.  I do play the occasional SF or Fantasy miniature game now, but of those few, the SF games are in the majority compared to fantasy games.

    Come to think of it – when Oathmark appeared a few years ago, we played a campaign of it, and I enjoyed it, but I just realized I did the same thing I did many years ago as a kid.  My nation was based on the Hyborean kingdom of Corinthia, so I could use my historical Greek Hoplite army!


    First wargame I was exposed to was WAB.

    First rules I owned and first army I collected was DBA (French HYW)

    Then 5 years of RPGs

    Then Dawn of War comes out and all my buddies want to start 40k

    40k for 5 years

    Then I leave for the US. Two years of almost no gaming, betting one game of Saganami Island.

    PhD: return to wargaming towards the end, going into historicals.

    12 years of exclusively historicals in Istanbul.

    Back to the US and mostly 40k

    Avatar photoAndrew Beasley

    Started with fantasy (specifically the old Minifigs LotR and VoFW figures) as that’s what we all were reading at the time. A few of us dabbled with 1/72 WW 2 (Airfix) but more of us were interested in fantasy and it made meeting as a gaming group (as well as school mates) easier to play the same games.

    Most of us added RPG (D&D) till we joined the local club (two years or so after we started) when we reached 16 and they did not let anyone play SciFi / Fantasy. Fortunately, a local shop started stocking 6mm WW2 (H&R) and Napoleonic figures (Minifigs) creating a ‘split’ in the group for ‘real’ games (some where not interested in either) but similar tastes for SciFi/Fantasy kept the group together for many years.

    SciFi crept in from the visits we made to the Star Trek conventions and started with Traveller and a deep deep dive into Star Fleet Battles.

    Though I’m not really in touch with the old gang I do know a fair number are still fans of war-games or RPGs with a mix of Real / SciFi / Fantasy and most seemed to settle on a favourite genre but still dabble with others.

    Over the years I found I felt very uncomfortable (even guilty) playing historical based games (esp 1900+) and other than my ‘imagi-nation’ block games (that may end up low Steampunk or Fantasy long term) I’ve drifted away to solid sci-fi / fantasy so its taken 50+ years to come full circle 🙂

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    I’m wondering how argumentative I can be?

    Nah, we’ll keep it nice, for Michael, and given I’m not really evil, it just looks that way.

    Started historical in 1972 (give or take a few years depending on what you call ‘wargames’ vice toy soldiers), and stayed there.

    Thought about Lord of the Rings, had a bit of a yen for Rohirrim massacring orcs, but – either too easy or you ruin the narrative thread of the novels.

    SF – actually did a little bit of that  but really it was urban decay riots set +50 years ahead. South Side LA, Minneapolis, St Paul’s Bristol type of thing. So not much S and really not much F. Back to ‘war’games.

    I don’t actually think the whole fantasy/sf thing is ‘war’gaming. No problem if you disagree but it isn’t really the same hobby for me.

    I read both genres and I’m happy to game them.

    For example I have created/run rpgs where say the local partisan leader in the modern Balkans campaign was a Socialist aristocrat who would only fight at night and had his own particular way with prisoners who had an unfortunate habit of turning up exsanguinated. I’ve put together a live role play of a country house/horror mystery based very loosely on ‘The Cat and the Canary’, in an actual old country house with graveyard attached. I have taken part in a weird crossover live action Samurai/Ninja quest with added tengu. Enjoyed them all, but they weren’t ‘War’ games were they?

    So, gap? No. Massive unbridgeable gulf? Absolutely.


    Started gaming in 1970 as a 7 year old with AH/SPI boardgames (many of which were miniatures rules without the figs and there were also some MB games that used plastic figs— my first gaming was Bismarck with my dad) the medieval games were quickly made into fantasy variants for LotR inspired battles.  Discovered D&D in 1976  which introduced me to  actual figs for gaming and soon discovered Napoleonic miniatures played at a sci-fi con.  I would say it was roughly parallel always except maybe the first three years.

    Mick Hayman
    Margate and New Orleans

    Avatar photoSane Max

    Not MUCH of a gap… I started out with Historicals, only moved to Fantasy when I went to uni, but it was a short gap, a few months at best.

    Nowadays I play mostly Historicals, rather less SF and Fantasy – still have my all-metal Oldhammer Skaven, plus some not 40k and not Epic stuff.

    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage

    Historical wargaming in 1970.

    We just called it wargaming then, there wasn’t much sci-fi fantasy stuff around anyway.

    Played Call of Cthulhu to death during the 80s, but that’s not what I call wargaming, and nor is board wargames. No, stop, I don’t care if you think I’m wrong.

    I really, really like HotT. It’s much better than DBanythingelse. Barker got that one right.


    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    Avatar photoGeof Downton

    I played (literally) a couple of historical games at school. WWI dogfights and WWII something or other – I can remember multiple Shermans. Also a couple of Avalon Hill board games. Wasn’t inspired, probably because the history was too recent. (Still is, even though it is 50 years further away.) Tenish years later discovered D&D, which which expanded into fantasy battles – Reaper and the first two editions of Warhammer. A group of us took a fantasy game to a show and some were inspired to partake of ancients, in my case Biblicals. So, to answer the question, yes, no!

    One who puts on his armour should not boast like one who takes it off.
    Ahab, King of Israel; 1 Kings 20:11

    Avatar photoShaun Travers

    I started in 1979 with miniature historical games (ancients and ww2) and also boardgames of many periods, and about half of the boardgames were SF (e.g. Starforce, Star Fleet battles, Car Wars). I never really thought about SF miniature gaming for a long time and still not really interested in fantasy at all (in any form of gmaing). I think I started with SF skirmish gaming in about 2015. This is mainly as I found that small skirmish battles (< 10 a side) in ww2 seemed to hard to reflect the reality of small unit tactics but if using SF figures it did not matter so much :-). And even then I have moved on to using SF skirmish as an adjunct to SF RPGing rather than battles.

    So the answer is 36 years for miniatures (my main gaming). Same time for gaming in general.

    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    My wargaming career started in 1971, about the same time as several other correspondents. A lot has changed in more than half a century. At that time, wargaming essentially meant WW2, ACW, Napoleonic, or Ancients.

    “Fantasy” wargaming at that time was pretty much limited to ancients wargaming with what would now be called imagi nations, as seen in “The Ancient Battle of Trimsos” in Featherstone’s “Wargaming”, which also mentioned Tony Bath’s legendary Hyborian campaign. Phil Barker brought fantasy wargaming into the mainstream with the fantasy appendix (with a decidedly Tolkeinish flavour) to WRG 4th edition ancients, published in 1973 and available as a .pdf at http://www.wrg.me.uk/WRG.net/History/OLDWRG/Ancients004.pdf

    Things really took off with the publication of D&D the following year, although it took a couple of years for it to take root this side if the Atlantic; I started playing with “Greyhawk”, “Blackmoor” and “Eldritch Wizardry” in 1976. For all the profusion of bafflingly intricate rules (brilliantly parodied in “the sick kids” in the 1980s on one of the usenet groups), the basic idea of gamesmastering was easy enough for anyone to pick up; my school wargaming group simply dispensed with all the rules other than “the umpire is always right” and conducted completely free kriegspiels. We therefore spent very little of our pocket money on the profusion of RPGs that emerged in the next couple of years, including Tunnels and Trolls, Thane Tostig, Boot Hill, En Garde, Traveler, and, less seriously, Bunnies and Burrows. I played a couple of games of En Garde and Boot Hill, and one of Traveler. En Garde was fun; the others, meh.

    Also at about this time, Phil Barker kick-started another new genre with the first set of WRG modern rules, in 1974. These were as I recall much expanded from a set he had offered in an edition of “Military Modelling” (or it might have been “Battle for Wargamers”), and were the first serious attempt at a set of miniatures rules covering contemporary armoured combat. US boardgames were perhaps a little ahead of the game here. SPI’s “Tank!”, which included current vehicles, was also published in 1974, but there had earlier been “Grunt” (1971), a pioneering game in many respects including being the first squad-a-counter game, covering the Vietnam war, and “Year of the Rat” (1972), also on Vietnam, and unusual in being published while the military operations it protrayed were still running their course. Vietnam games never achieved great popularity at that time, as there was much greater compunction about playing games about wars still raging.

    I read a lot of SF in my early youth, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and Aldiss; I never had much time, and still don’t, for space opera, though my tastes changed for the sillier as I got older (more Sheckley and Harrisson and of course Adams). As a faithful SPI fan I dutifully bought their first two excursions into SF, “StarForce: Alpha Centauri” (1974) and “Star Soldier” (1977), as well as their first fantasy game, “Sorcerer” (1975). All had interestingly-written back stories, but did not really grip me as games (though the maps of “StarForce” and “Sorcerer” are both creations of great beauty).

    Since then I have not had much interest in SF or fantasy wargames. Most seem to me to be derivative and lacking in imagination. Also I find that military history is so chock full of weird and wonderful events that there is no need to be inventing anything. I see from my spreadsheet that F&SF topics make up 7% of my boardgame collection, a smaller proportion than air (10%) or naval (11%) games, both of which are normally considered minority sports. I am, however, prepared to play games on any topic if they are really good games. Some from the F&SF genres that I count as good games above all are:

    Cosmic Encounter
    Illuminati (the card game)
    The Sorcerer’s Cave
    Firefly Adventures
    Awful Green Things from Outer Space
    Time Tripper

    The first two of these are battles for control of the cosmos or the world. The other four are all largely games of individual hand-to-hand combat, something that can be enjoyed in practically any setting.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoMike Headden

    Started Historical gaming with the launch of Don Featherstone’s Naval Wargames book in 1965 using the Fletcher Pratt rules and Airfix ships, on the back lawn for lack of a convenient ballroom 🙂

    Two years later I’d added land and air warfare to the mix. Having consumed the Lord of the Rings trilogy over a long weekend I created Barad-Dur out of papier mache, cardboard from cereal boxes, toilet roll cores and a core from an aluminium foil sheet I pressed my Airfix Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin Hood figures into service as the forces of Gondor and “Red Indians” as Orcs defending the tower.

    I’ve happily played historical, fantasy and sci-fi ever since.

    I would argue that even our supposedly historical games are fantasy unless the outcome is identical to the historical one and for the same reasons.

    There are 100 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who can work from incomplete data

    Avatar photoMartinR

    I started figure gaming in the early 1970s, closely followed by by boardgames. When D&D (proper DnD, White Box, Greyhawk etc) came out, we played that too, along with Tunnels and Trolls. Laserburn and Imperial Commander were more solitary pursuits for me, I used Squad Leader boards.

    The only big gami g break I had was in the 1990s when I moved away from my regular gaming pals and mainly played computer games. I made new gaming pals in the late 90s.

    Ive always played everything, but I view myself more as a historical gamer. It is what interests me. Fantasy and Sci Fi works so much better on the computer, as do Flight Sims, and I’ve put in hundreds/thousands of hours on those, but historical figure gaming is more where I’m at.



    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    Avatar photoRoger Calderbank

    For me, the gap remains unbridged.

    I started at the same time as Guy, give it take a week or two, and Napoleonics caught the interest of my teenage self. As John D Salt notes, the choices then were limited.

    Getting established at work caused me to miss the arrival of fantasy/sf games, and even through the 90s, time constraints meant my games were infrequent and usually solo. I didn’t branch out beyond Napoleonics/French Revolution. I could see from the few shows I attended that there was a much greater variety of games available, but didn’t expand my interests till well into this century. Even now, it is the history which drives my game choices.

    It is odd in a way, because I have been reading SF for as long as I can recall. I can still remember when I wasn’t allowed to borrow ‘grown up’ SF from the local library, but could read the same books in my father’s collection at home. It is just that I’ve never wanted to make a game from the SF I’ve read. I don’t know why that is, except that most novels tend to be about individuals, and I’ve always been drawn to mass battles for games.

    Perhaps some of the ‘historical’ games I play are just fantasies, but I’m happy with what I have. These days, I’d like to play the games I like more often than I get to do, so even now there is no incentive to bridge the ‘gap’


    Avatar photoAlan Hamilton

    I started way back in the 1960s exactly when I don’t know because I cannot remember when exactly or in which order I read and played Don Featherstone’s books, or Charge! or Battle or many others.  I do know that our (brothers’ and mine) armies were Airfix Infantry Combat Group and WW2 Germans supported by Airfix, Roco Minitanks and toys.  When D&D appeared we played that too.  Also Minifigs fantasy and historicals (Napoleonics, ancients mainly) as well as Airfix Romans and Ancient Britons, ACW, AWI, WW2 other theatres and more.  Then I was introduced to a veteran wargamer in the early 70s who wrote his own rules and knew the greats personally (Featherstone, Grant, Bath etc).  This was a revelation and expanded what I did.

    Started in “historical” though many of them are “fantasy” I suppose with Byzantines fighting Ancient Britons or out of era Pharaonic Egyptians or Trojans etc.  In parallel I have played LOTR, fantasy, Dr Who, Stargate, Zombies, giant insects, naval (1:1200 WW2 and pre dreadnaught) and much much more.

    I see no difference – my emphasis is warGAMING.  It is the gaming that matters not the genre.

    So was there a gap? No.  More a continous flow to new things and revisiting old favourites.  As a result I have armies that have not seen battle in many years.  But may do so sometime.

    Avatar photoPaint it Pink

    For me, historical wargaming is just a genre.

    Wargames are simulations of conflict, and can be seriously researched or not.

    When I started playing wargames, I started with Greeks, then moved into `WW2, because that was what everyone was playing. Never fancied Napoleonic, or ACW. I’ve also played WW1 and WW2 aircraft games back in the day.

    So, given I’m an avid SF&F reader, and wargames can be fought in any genre, the divide was mostly down to what rules were available.

    As a a result I dabbled with WRGs LoTR, but the type of wargame this generates doesn’t engage my interest. I then dabbled with WFB, but like WRGs rules for LoTR the games had limited appeal.

    Remember I’m the wargamer who says, “No tanks, no thanks.”

    So I wrote some rules that weren’t very good, found Ogre, SFB, and BattleTech. Played them a lot. Then I wrote the OHMU: War Machine rules that were okay, but went nowhere, and here I am still trying to write the Holy Grail of SF wargame rules with little success.

    Why, you may ask? Because the future holds the promise of being more interesting than the past.

    One is good, more is better

    Avatar photoPatrice

    I began with historicals but for me there is no gap, I try to believe in all contexts.

    I see a gap between different kinds of rulesets, and with boardgames, but not really between historical or fantasy games (although of course I’m usually much more rigorous about accuracy in historical games than in fantasy or SF games where I don’t feel the need to follow any work of fiction).


    Avatar photoPunkrabbitt

    My first game was Dungeons & Dragons when I was nine years old. My next four games were Sandhurst Book Of Wargames. Then Traveller and Striker, Warhamster 401K, DBA, and then it just got out of control. I never really thought about whether something was particularly historical or another genre, I just worried whether I was having fun or not.

    Please visit my OSR products for sale at

    Avatar photoPaint it Pink

    (snip)I never really thought about whether something was particularly historical or another genre, I just worried whether I was having fun or not.

    This is the way.

    One is good, more is better

    Avatar photoChris Pringle

    My trajectory: started with conventional wargaming (Napoleonics, ACW, WWII …); off to university, virtually no wargaming, lots of RPG; post-uni, back into regular wargaming, very little RPG.

    The crossovers were primarily due to external factors, i.e., availability of friends/clubs with relevant interests.

    But the Clausewitzian trinity (“emotion/chance/reason” or “subjective/random/objective”) is also in play. I was always interested in the objective analysis of war – who beat who, how, and why, in terms of numbers of tanks and arrows on maps. Add dice for the random element and voila, I found I liked wargaming. RPGs opened my eyes more to the “subjective” factors of human motivations and aided my understanding of war.

    I did achieve what I believe was a truly successful fantasy/wargaming crossover. (Pace Guy, I think imaginary wars can still be analysed and simulated as wars.) I ran two and a half multi-year, multi-player campaigns, for a mix of wargamers and RPGers. Details here.


    Avatar photoMike

    This is the way.

    So say we all?


    Nah, I think a lot of my historical gaming was far too simulationist to be just about having fun.  I was interested in understanding history first, fantasy can be fun, but as a cadet and later as a professional army officer, I demanded accuracy in historical  games and “plausibility” in sci-fi/fantasy.  A lot of my gaming was about studying warfare with the mindset that i might learn something  from a mistake in a game that may well  keep me alive later. I wanted to understand why things happened on the battlefield the way they did.

    Mick Hayman
    Margate and New Orleans

    Avatar photoPaint it Pink

    This is the way.

    So say we all?

    So say we all!

    One is good, more is better

    Avatar photoGeof Downton

    I just worried whether I was having fun or not.

    I didn’t, but now I do.

    Mike wrote: Paint it Pink wrote: This is the way. So say we all? So say we all!


    One who puts on his armour should not boast like one who takes it off.
    Ahab, King of Israel; 1 Kings 20:11

    Avatar photoMike

    Nah, I think a lot of my historical gaming was far too simulationist to be just about having fun.  I was interested in understanding history first, fantasy can be fun, but as a cadet and later as a professional army officer, I demanded accuracy in historical  games and “plausibility” in sci-fi/fantasy.  A lot of my gaming was about studying warfare with the mindset that i might learn something  from a mistake in a game that may well  keep me alive later. I wanted to understand why things happened on the battlefield the way they did.

    If you enjoy it then it is fun?
    Enjoyable, makes you happy?

    Super detailed simulations if you enjoy them are fun?


    When I was wargaming for professional reasons (training) fun was not a goal.  It was tense, but i am not sure it was fun.  Not with a cadre captain watching your every move.

    Mick Hayman
    Margate and New Orleans

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