What’s a blog for if you can’t be controversial once in a while :) Luckily, so far the readership of this blog has not yet exceeded the number of authors, so we can poke a stick into the anthill once in a while. Todays stick is a realisation I had, which became the title of this entry: DBM, the most popular ancients wargame, is not a miniature wargame.
Of course, this depends entirely on one’s definition of miniature wargame. If you define the term purely linguistically, as a game simulating warfare and played with miniatures, then DBM is a miniature wargame, for it simulates ancient warfare and uses miniatures as a means to do so. Wikipedia defines miniature wargaming as
a form of wargaming designed to incorporate miniatures or figurines into play
This is essentially the linguistic definition. However, later on in the entry, the author also adds that the main attraction to miniature wargaming is that
many find the tactile element of soldiers and scenery on a tabletop to be aesthetically pleasing; additionally, painting miniatures and constructing scenery can be a rewarding challenge
And that is my definition of a miniature wargame. It is more that just a wargame played with miniatures. It also engages ones aesthetic and creative aspects, and that is what sets it apart from board or computer games. Therefore, the creative aspect of painting, modelling etc. is an essential part of miniature wargaming, without which it would not be miniature wargaming; so that aspect is a part of the definition of the term.
And by that definition, DBM is not a miniature wargame.
Allow me to illustrate with an example. In our group, we have one player who adamantly refuses to even consider playing any other game than DBM (not that he’s obnoxious about it or derisive of other games, he just only plays DBM). I had a hard time understanding this, until I realised that this player is not playing a miniature wargame, he’s playing DBM. He’s also an avid Advanced Squad Leader player, and I think for him, DBM is a similar sort of game that just happens to be played with miniatures. This last fact is incidental to the game however, it is not essential in any way. As a result he, and players like him are not into the whole painting and modelling part of the hobby — to wit, he buys his miniatures fully painted, they’re part of the investment, not part of the game or hobby to him.
We can generalise this particular players’ attitude towards DBM to the rule set as a whole: DBM is a tactical wargame that just happens to be played with miniatures. It is a game upon itself, not really connected to the larger world and meme pool of miniature wargaming. This explains why it is so successful as a tournament game (it is a game upon itself, with an internally consistent rules framework not tied to anything else), and also why it often draws such extreme reactions from the miniature wargaming crowd.
So, to sum things up, in my opinion DBM is not a miniature wargame as I, and I think most people who identify themselves as miniature wargamers, conceive of the term. It is a good and succesful tactical wargame system by itself, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it is not a miniature wargame.
If there’s anyone reading this, comments have been activated here on TTM, so I’m inviting you to make full use of the interactivity of the blog medium to comment on this entry!