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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

    A better description would be “Gang-level games” rather than ‘Skirmish’. Technically Age of Sigmar, Bolt Action, 40K, and Saga (of it’s many varieties) are all skirmish games. They don’t have ranked combat even if the models are arranged that way.

    Gang-level games are quicker, cheaper and easier to store. 5-20 models per gang on a board less than half the size of a normal table means that you spent less cash, hobby time and usually playing time per game than mass combat games.


    Cult of Games Member

    mass battle games in 6mm could be played on a small board too …

    They wouldn’t look as good as the big 28-32mm super heroic scale that certain companies use, but it would work and be as fast to play with a good set of rules.

    I’d argue that the only advantage that Gang-level / skirmish games have is in the perceived lack of complexity and ease of play.


    Cult of Games Member

    Personal engagement and narrative seem to be increasingly popular amongst modern wargamers.
    Back in the day, he said looking back before most of those reading this were born, but without any implied condescension, wargaming was pretty much all historical and full battle based.  Only playing monthly, and spending a year or more collecting and painting an army, were de rigeur. Not an attractive prospect for a newbie.
    Cycle the scene forwards to today and many new wargamers are coming from the RPG, video game and board game sectors. Most expect a quick engagement cycle. Set up should be mere minutes, the rules short and intuitive, play space small (dining table) and time investment limited (<2 hours). They are willing to spend money (have you see board game prices?), so that is not really an issue.
    This is where skirmish games shine, they simply tick all those boxes.
    However, there is another thing. The RPG and Video Game sectors have sold their games by engaging people in an ongoing narrative, and despite the cries of ‘but Charles Grant ran such lovely campaigns’ most traditional wargamers rarely saw or were lucky enough to experience such riches.
    So there you are, personal engagement and narrative. This is how I design my games, as do many other skirmish rules writers.


    Cult of Games Member

    There is definitely an issue in that, as often is the case in any hobby, the term “skirmish” means different things to different people from gamers to game designers. There’s no consensus about what it means. If we’re all using the term in vastly different ways (as seen even in this thread) then the impact of skirmish games on the industry looks dramatic and is virtually impossible to actually built an evidence based statement.

    In terms of anecdotal stories from my gaming group, people just don’t want to paint large armies any more. They might be able to make the time but they don’t want to anymore. If we are only going to get a game in once or twice a month, the effort doesn’t seem worth it for them. There’s also something to be said for quicker games allowing you to get two or three games in on the rare game night.


    Cult of Games Member

    I see that there is no standard to the name, so maybe I will example what I think an skirmish/warband style game is or maybe what it is not.

    To me a skirmish game is a low figure count, up to maybe 60 models per side, there the units or individuals have special rules and character. This means that a lot of the newer games full under this I know.

    So what I think it is not. Mass Battle Battles, like Kings of War, Impetus, Hail Caesar, Black Powder, Under a Lily Banner, where the game is around the stratagems and tactics and it is not on an individual level, the game is not 1 to 1 scale. I would also include company level games Company level games, with 100 plus figures and tanks per side like Flames of War in this too but games like 30/40K, AoS, even Bolt Action not as they are meant for a small Platoon level, around 50 figures per side, size game.

    So Skirmish/warband games are in general games with small figure count, under 50 figures but generally less, can be simple or complex, can be semi character driven and can be played in a couple of hours.

    To me games like Blood and Plunder, Donnybrook, Saga, Mortal Gods, Barons War (drink) fir in here but also warband/gang games like Gangs of Rome, Mordheim, Legends of the Old West also do too.


    Cult of Games Member

    I’d say “short setup” and “quick and easy to play/learn” rules are a bonus for everyone …

    It’s kind of funny to consider that D&D came from a couple of guys wanting to add narrative to their wargames ….



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