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Why is it that Skirmish Games Dominate the Gaming Scene?

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This topic contains 20 replies, has 15 voices, and was last updated by  limburger 1 month, 1 week ago.

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    Cult of Games Member

    The Fumble in the Jungle is back this Wednesday, , and to start the show show we are asking this question, Why is it that Skirmish Games Dominate the Gaming Scene?

    This is not a question about what is better, but that might be part of the answer but rather there are some many skirmish/warband style games out than why is it?

    So why do you think this is?

    Wednesday Night Mumble 2


    Cult of Games Member

    What is ‘the Gaming Scene’ in this context? I can think of three categories:

    • The competitive gaming scene.
    • The casual gaming scene.
    • The home gaming scene.


    And then there’s a fourth gaming scene which is:

    • The non-gaming scene(s).
    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  totsuzenheni.
    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  totsuzenheni.

    Cult of Games Member

    Actually I am thinking of all the different wargaming scenes from casual/club games to competitive play and all scenes between.

    Its why there is a prevalence of these style of games


    Cult of Games Member

    I cam think of a number of reasons, some linked.

    • For a lot of gamers, who are cash rich and time poor, the idea of collecting a skirmish force of 15 miniatures is more attractive than a game requiring tens to hundreds of miniatures
    • Smaller games with smaller commitments allow casual gamers to collect mutltiple games or multiple skirmish forces for a single game for the same overhead as a single army in a large wargame.  This allows gamers to experience several genres or settings.
    • People who enjoy painting can paint each miniature as a unique individual and still reasonably expect to get their full force painted.

    Many small skirmish games os part of the reason that we see such a fantastic variety of games at the moment.  The market probably couldn’t sustain that number of games if they were all the same size as 40k.  I would also say that the rise of the miniatures boardgame is also linked to similar reasons



    Based on what evidence?

    Sales data?

    Number of players?

    What you have seen at local club/store?


    Cult of Games Member

    As an aside i think that Warhammer 40000 could be considered a skirmish game with more miniatures, depending on how the term ‘skirmish game’ is defined.


    Cult of Games Member

    @tankcommander based on good ol’ fashioned gut feeling and probably personal bias 😉

    But you’re right … without any hard data we don’t know if they actually do dominate.
    However they do seem to be the ‘hot new thing’.
    The majority of rules that hit the limelight appear to be small team/warband sized skirmish games.

    Maybe they appear to dominate because they are easier to sell to people ?
    Here’s a picture of a half dozen minis painted by experts … doesn’t it look sexy ?
    Try doing that with a mass battle system and see if you can create interesting pictures …

    I’m not saying it can’t be done, but even the likes of Flames of War tend to focus on small groups of minis.
    Then again … maybe FoW can be classified as a ‘skirmish game with tanks’ because you’re not exactly painting a hundred minis (unless you’re crazy and do a soviet infantry horde ;))

    I’d also argue that things tend to run in cycles and ‘skirmish’ is the hot new thing at the moment.
    Maybe things will change if someone managed to be lucky with marketing their mass battle system and the rest of the industry followed suit ?
    The industry goes were the money is … (or at least the ones that survive do).

    Time is definitely a factor that shouldn’t be underestimated. Especially when you consider that other hobbies offer more direct rewards.


    Cult of Games Member

    I would say its almost definitely a skirmish game.  Individual figures with Individual stat lines and Individual combat resolution is what I consider a skirmish game



    Hi all

    I am new here, I play small skermish games as my house is only large enough for a small table. I cannot leave it set up, so I have to think about the set-up time and time to put it away afterwards.

    If I had a spare room then a slightly larger table could be set up.

    I am currently playing old version Shadespire, Tanks, D&D, some card games as well. 🙂



    I’d tend to agree with @limburger on this one in that they appear dominant. Stargrave, Frostgrave, Infinity (I think that counts…), a lot of the space games like Billion Suns (in such confusing scales as this game :P), Muskets and Tomahawks (and other variants of such) are what I would think of as ‘from the ground up’ skirmish games and they have that allure of low model count/range agnostic/’each mini is a character’ that draws in a good crowd. There’s also a series of games designed to act as skirmish ‘versions’ of other games like Warcry, Necromunda (though that’s a little different I suppose), hell even games like Blood Bowl could be thought of this way.

    These other games act as low mini count ‘starting zones’ for getting into the bigger games. I think every single Warcry team now has rules in mainline AoS, for example. Even the Shadespire/Underworlds/Whatever the damn name is… teams are done that way. While I wouldn’t say that makes those games dominant they do tend to attract a good whack of gamers to them. Think of it like this; with those types of games it’s dead easy to build multiple forces so you can con your mates into playing…which grows the field. How many of us have built multiple bands for these sorts of games? I think my brother has collected pretty much all of the Shadespire teams between him and his fiance because it’s not too ridiculous to do.

    Cycles are a fact of life and things change with time. I don’t think it’s likely for some time, but more complex rules may become a thing that is popular again someday. Personally, I hope not because I like simple easy games myself, but I know there are others who enjoy a level of complexity to their games and I’m sure they’d welcome such a change. 😛


    Cult of Games Member

    The lower entry point in terms of model numbers and table size makes skirmish games more accessible to new players or those with limited time and/or space.

    As to why they seem to be popular at present, I wonder if it partly reflects the growth in both board gaming and RPGs? Small warband style skirmish games can easily have a narrative feel that is a small step away from RPGs, and some miniature based board games look like they only need the boards swapped for a mat and some terrain added, and you’re almost there. So there’s likely a crossover market ready for skirmish games, but that might be deterred by larger fare.

    I suppose another way to ask the question is why are game designers very active on these types of games at present? (accepting the assumption that this is a real trend).

    Do skirmish style games offer more freedom to experiment with game systems? The lower model count helps make taking a punt on something less mainstream a lower risk in terms of cost, particularly for mini-agnostic systems.



    Cult of Games Member


    1. Cost of entry : fewer models for full game experience

    2. Time per game: generally achievable in a club evening. Ability to get several rounds in a day’s competitive play.

    3. Variety: more games and more factions for your bucks.

    4. Narrative opportunity: fewer mini characters have more personality and build a game memory, often of those narrative moments that turn a game.








    Skirmish games are quicker to complete in our time poor modern world.


    Cult of Games Member

    Well its a bit of a subjective question as 20+ years ago and for a fair while, 40K was considered a skirmish game. Anything less then 100+ figures a side – skirmish game!

    So its a variable scale, also roll out with a naval game with only 2 or 3 ships a side and thats a wargame, same with aircraft fighter games. They don’t get pitched as a skirmish.


    As regards ‘hard’ data then a few years ago this was quite a bit of discussion albet in a limited context with a review of GW starters from 40k to Kill Team and asked which is there favourite, and amongst the BoW Team skirmish games got the most votes.

    When asked the community within the GW starter criteria, also voted for skirmish games:

    Weekender: Mass Battle Games Are Dead!

    I think the prefered scale range of 25-30mm tends itself to fun games being capped at reinforced platoon level or smaller.

    Smaller scale, generally counts as a larger size.

    Just to caveat, these are generalisations and exceptions can occur, so appreciate there’s an element of it depends on the context of the observer.


    Cult of Games Member

    I kind of doubt that ‘mass battle games’ need to be time consuming to play, but they can be time consuming to build and paint unless you ‘cheat’ like KoW rules allow by only painting enough to represent the unit instead of all the soldiers in said unit (kind of like how wargames from the dawn of time functioned out of sheer necessity …)

    You’re still pusing the same amount of things around (ten soldiers or ten blocks with soldiers isn’t *that* different).

    Where it gets ugly is the apparent need to throw dice pools in order to represent those blocks … which is were certain skirmish games tend to slow down too. Abstract that away … and you get a game that is as fast as any skirmish game.

    I think the narrative potential in skirmish games is indeed much higher.


    (with everyone more or less agreeing I think we can now skip the show ;))

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