Why Skirmish Wargaming?

Today I would like to elaborate on my idea of skirmish wargaming, the kind of games I like and why I like skirmish wargaming.

In my own definition a miniature wargame is a skirmish game if one model depicts one individual on the table. The number of models involved is secondary really. It can be as few as 20 models a side up to numbers of 120 or more per side. I have a hard time calling that a ‘battle’. Of course personal definitions may vary and especially nowadays more than ever before distinctions are somewhat blurry.


So, are skirmish games inherently any more tactical than other wargames? I don’t think so. There are so many different rule sets around – good, bad, simple, complicated, tactical, seemingly tactical due to rules, on the gamey end of the spectrum or more interested in simulation.


Are skirmish wargames cheaper? Well, for some I am sure they are. But in general in my experience people always spend about the same amount on their wargaming hobby. The fact aside that miniatures for most Fantasy/Sci-Fi skirmish games published lately often will cost you around €10,00 or more, I have yet to see anybody sticking with just one warband/gang/faction for long. I think that people invest as much time and money in their hobbies as they like, with the kind of hobby only being secondary.


Are skirmish games faster to play? Yes, they usually are. The question about how memorable single games are are an important part of the whole experience though and of course fewer big games, possibly involving several players will stick in one’s memory more than one game amongst four played in a night in which everybody rushed to “get it over with”.


All things said, I like skirmish games, I like those low-level “brawl” games with 10 or so models a side, I like proper big battles. It all just depends on how it’s done, with whom and if the rules are any good. I can see how skimish games usually outsell games which aim to produce battle games. First, skirmish games usually go for the 28mm+ size of miniatures which of course look very sexy in pictures on the internet and sell like hotcakes, not the least because people coming from the GW end of things are used to the scale and feel right at home. Second, they seem to be cheaper at first glance. Or at least the initial investment in terms of money, time and attention span is much lower, which probably goes well along with the requirements of our time.


Especially now that the wargames market seems to work mostly as a series of flashes in a pan. Games are ‘the hot thing’ for three months prior to release and a week thereafter and then other three things have popped up which grabbed the attention of people who seem to be desperately looking for new things to throw money at. There certainly is a boom time (I’m a bit cautious about calling it a ‘golden age’) going on in the world of miniatures wargaming. At the very least it means that there is a lot to pick and choose from, which is always good.


Why skirmish wargaming? Because it’s there, there is plenty of it and it would be a shame not to enjoy the variety or skirmish wargaming we get these days. So pick your poison. Be it big battles, skirmish games, warband/squad level games, 40mm, 28mm, 20mm 15mm, 10mm or even 6mm figures.

What is your take on skirmish wargaming? What do you like about it, what do you not like about it? Share your thoughts in the comments and on the forums!


Sigur Squirl

Sigur is the painter behind "Battlebrush Studios" and a familiar face in many wargaming circles online. Plays a metric ton of skirmish wargames and shares his experiences here on the blog.

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