- Fantasy is D&D!
- Fantasy has dragons and wizards!
- Fantasy is ancients with magic!
- Fantasy is ancients as the ancients themselves believed the world to be!
- Romans vs Aztecs is fantasy as well! (I blame DBA :-) )
- Actually, any non-historical army list is fantasy!
- If you invent your own orders of battle, it's fantasy!
- Any "what-if scenario" is fantasy!
- Operation Sea Lion is fantasy!
- Any battle that did not take place in history is fantasy!
- Since we are playing with toy soldiers, it's all fantasy!
- We are all playing fantasy!
- "I'm not!"
Let me explain:
- Although I do understand people could be confused about the nature of fantasy wargaming when it gained popularity several decades ago, should we not all know by know that the "fantasy" in wargaming has the same meaning as the "fantasy" in "fantasy literature". To quote from Wikipedia:
Fantasy is a genre of fiction that uses magic or other supernatural elements as a main plot element, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic and magical creatures are common.Yet, many wargamers bend the discussion about fantasy often in the direction of a different meaning of fantasy, indicating anything that has not actually happened (see bullet list above). This is always weird - as if people do not know fantasy wargaming is based on an established literary genre. It's difficult for me to believe wargamers do not know that difference. Actually, I do think they do know, but enjoy bending the meaning to make some sort of point and cause confusion. Sci-fi wargaming, btw, does not suffer from this.
- Fantasy wargaming has been a genre in wargaming since at least the 70s with rules and figures based on Tolkien's Middle Earth - although Tony Bath fought his games back in the 50s in the imaginary continent of Hyboria, based on the Conan universe. Perhaps Bath's wargaming was not fantasy as we know it today (we would call it imaginations these days), but anyway, it's not as if fantasy wargaming is the new kid on the block. Why does fantasy wargaming still evoke such emotions? Isn't it an established genre by now?
- Fantasy wargaming became big in the 80s (Warhammer!), and many wargamers of my generation (I'm turning 50 later this year) have enjoyed fantasy wargaming tremendously as youngsters. Actually, I still like playing fantasy games, although I heve evolved beyond Warhammer. Fantasy wargaming is part of the DNA of many, by now "older" wargamers, and the Oldhammer phenomenon clearly illustrates this. I am therefore still surprised there is a faction of gamers that still want to question the validity of fantasy wargaming as being "real" wargaming.
- Usually, the sentiment is raised by historical gamers whose games are firmly rooted in historical research, and base their games on a methodological approach about the period in question. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that - I have done this myself for some of my favourite periods - but it is by itself not the "one and only true" approach to wargaming as many want others to believe. This particular brand of wargaming also only came to the foreground in the 70s. If you read the wargaming literature of the 60s, you see quite some liberal interpretation of history as well. Look at the writings by Grant and Featherstone. Although their wargaming is inspired by history, it does not try to replicate history. Grant is famous for his 18th century imaginations, and Featherstone was the one who condemned the "Staff and Command Boys" in War Game Digest in 1962, arguing against an "aura of pseudo-science of what is a pastime" (look it up - you can find info about this debate online!).
- Although one's motivation might be different to play with toy soldiers (historical research vs exploring an imaginary universe), the end result is surprisingly the same: same props, same rules, same army lists, ... This is of course not surprising since much of fantasy literature is based on (often medieval) history. But - and this is not unimportant - the enjoyment or fun one gets out of it might be different. One wargamer enjoys seeing an historical plausible military encounter developing on his table (and perhaps gaining some insights in militory history), while the other enjoys seeing a military encounter in an imaginary world coming to live on his table (and perhaps gaining some insights in the fictional universe). Hmmm, perhaps not so different after all?
- Many wargamers do not limit themselves to pure historical or pure fantasy. Almost every wargamer I know plays - or has played - various genres next to each other, and this even extrapolates to other gaming hobbies such as roleplaying games or card games or computer games ... So, if people switch with ease between different spectra of gaming, why insist on hard divides?
|Me playing a game of Warhammer - one of my earliest wargaming photos, probably late eighties. As a historical gamer, fantasy wargaming is a significant part of my gaming DNA.|