Gaming the Past: Tips for Designing Historical Wargame Scenarios

Ever wanted to rewrite history, one battle at a time? Designing historical wargame scenarios lets you do just that. It's a chance to take legendary battles, get to grips with their tactics, and then bring them to your table in a way that's both informative and exciting.

But before you begin, you should know it's not all about setting up soldiers and rolling dice. You’ll often need to mix solid research with a bit of creative guesswork to make things interesting. And be ready to tackle the scale of modern battles, which requires cleverly condensing sprawling conflicts into a playable format without losing their intensity.

In this post, we've put together tips and advice on how to navigate these challenges. We'll help you design scenarios that are not only historically accurate but also engaging and fun to play.

1. Know the Past

When you're creating a historical wargame scenario, first get the basics straight. Who's fighting who? What are they fighting for? How did it end? A quick search online for a solid article or summary can set you up with these facts.

2. Explore Different Viewpoints

Now, with the basics in hand, it's time to make your scenario real. Find first hand stories ‚Äď maybe letters from soldiers or reports from the scene. These give you the actual feel of the battle. Then, throw in some history books or expert analyses. They add different angles, sort of like zooming out to see the bigger picture. A trip to your local library or bookstore can turn up some gems.

3. Choose Your Battle

After researching, it's time to decide which battle you want to recreate. Look for one that intrigues you and has enough depth for a good game. Consider the complexity of the battle, the strategies involved, and its historical impact. This choice is crucial as it sets the foundation for your scenario. Think about what elements in a battle excite you and use those as your starting point.

4. Lay Out the Map

With your battle selected, the next step is designing the battlefield. This involves translating the geographical and historical details into a playable map. Consider the key features that influenced the real battle ‚Äď hills, rivers, urban areas, and how they shaped the conflict. The layout of the map is vital as it directly affects game strategies and player decisions. If you‚Äôre crafting a fictional scenario, ensure the terrain is realistic and offers varied tactical opportunities.

5. Balance the Forces

Balance is essential in historical wargames. You need to make sure both sides have a fair chance of winning. This might mean slightly altering historical facts for gameplay's sake. The goal is to create a scenario that is challenging, engaging, and offers various strategic possibilities. Testing and tweaking will likely be necessary to get this balance just right.

6. Consider Pacing and Game Flow

When you're creating a historical game, you want to give players a taste of those epic, drawn-out battles. But here's the thing: you gotta keep it interesting. Mix in some unexpected elements like night attacks or sudden weather changes. These bits of history make the game feel real and keep everyone on their toes without dragging it out too long.

7. Set Time and Turn Limits

Setting limits on time and turns really brings out the pressure commanders felt in real battles. Let's say there's a famous battle where a key objective needed capturing by dawn. Use that in your game. This way, players get the thrill of racing against time, balancing the historical challenge with keeping the game exciting and playable.

8. Incorporate Tactical Flexibility

Historically, battles weren't always won by the biggest army. Sometimes, it was the smarter army that won. Translate this into your game. Create scenarios where players can use the environment to their advantage, like ambushes in a forested area or holding the high ground for better defense. Remember, sometimes retreating or regrouping can be a smarter move than an all-out assault.

9. Focus on Supplies and Logistics

In real battles, keeping your troops supplied was a big deal. Put that in your game. Players should worry about more than just fighting. They need to think about keeping their soldiers fed and armed. How about this: if a unit gets cut off from its supply line, it starts losing steam. This makes players plan their battles and their supply lines, adding a whole new layer of strategy.

10. Make it Interesting

Now, let's spice things up with some real history. Say there's a famous general from the battle you're recreating. Give the player who's leading that side a special move or a bonus, something that general was known for. And if there was a key moment in the actual battle, throw that into your game as a wild card moment. This does two things: makes the game more exciting and sneaks in a little history lesson about what made these generals and moments so important.

11. Test it Out

Finally, playtest your scenario. You never really know how it'll go until it hits the table. Watch how players react, what strategies they use, and where they get stuck. Use this feedback to fine-tune your scenario. The more you refine it, the better it’ll get.

Living History

Designing historical tabletop wargames is all about bringing history to life. Mix solid research with creative gameplay, balance realism with fun, and always keep tweaking. Remember, each game is a journey through history, made thrilling and engaging on your tabletop. Play, observe, refine‚ÄĒand most importantly, enjoy the battle.



Have you ever wished to rewrite history, one battle at a time? With historical wargame scenario design, you can do just that. It's an opportunity to delve into legendary battles, understand their tactics, and bring them to life on your tabletop in a fun and informative way. Check out this infographic for tips and advice on designing historically accurate and engaging scenarios for your game.

11 Historical Wargame Tricks Infographic

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

Join our online gaming community and get updated with our latest releases, contests and giveaways!

Sign Up Here