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Tiny Tin Men :: Archives

Miniature Gaming or Miniature Wargaming?

January 30, 2006 2:38 PM - Posted by Phil - Category: General

I’ve always been fascinated with miniatures - not only military ones. When I was about 10 years old, I had a model train table with a simple track layout, model houses and trees (some of which are still being used on my wargaming table), and later on ventured into model building (mostly planes), before properly settling down on toy soldiers and wargames.

Recently, I cleaned out some old closets in the elderly house (my mom never throws anything out, so there are still toys to find from 30+ years ago), and found a box of plastic miniature animals. These are the cheap kind, 1 euro for a bag of multi-scaled, badly painted, barely recognizable animals. However, I did re-use them before, because some of them were missing heads and legs, which now appear on some of my chaos beastman units — careful converted models when I was a GW-junkie.

Anyway, always looking for weird and unusual games, I was wondering whether miniature animals could be used in a proper miniature game. I’m not talking about putting the occasional pig, goat or horse on the battlefield as a scenery element, but a game about the animals themselves.

Several things are spiking my curiousity: There are of course plenty of cheap toy animals available, making a game with zillions of miniatures possible. But also, there are some very high quality ranges (e.g. Schleich), various 25mm manufacturers make animals as well, there are collectors (e.g. The Zooman), and even flats (e.g. at Berliner Zinnfiguren). And I’m a big fan of Zoo Tycoon, an excellent computer game about managing your own zoo.

So, the question is not, whether an interesting game can be built around miniature toy animals in a zoo (I already have some cunning ideas ;-)), but whether this would still be considered part of the hobby we love?

After all, it would still be miniature gaming, although not wargaming. But is playing with miniatures not the main thing in our hobby? And does it matter whether these miniatures are soldiers, animals or matchbox cars?

Comments on this entry

This touches upon something I’ve been wanting to write about as well (and have referred to passingly before): the taxonomy of miniature wargamers. If you take the term historical miniature wargaming (or fantasy or SF for that matter), there are really three different things involved here:

  • historical miniature wargaming: we study / recreate / make ludicrously uninformed comments about military history
  • historical miniature wargaming: we do this through playing with toy soldiers, or tiny tin men
  • historical miniature wargaming: we do this to play games, which can be further subdivided in playing games in, competitions or just socially

Each of us probably assigns different importances to these factors. For me, the miniatures part is the most important among these two (the painting and modelling of figures and terrain), with the other two following close behind (probably in the order gaming before history).

What you are proposing here is something with a very strong emphasis on gaming and miniatures, but less on history. Nothing wrong with that, I think. It’s all the same hobby: we play games with toy soldiers.

January 30, 2006 8:21 PM - Posted by Robartes

Many years ago I asked a question on several wargaming related newsgroups (that dates it..) about whether playing wargames with counters in place of miniatures was still the same hobby.

The resulting debate was heated.

I’m happy playing games with counters. I’m happy collecting and painting miniatures that I’ll never use in games. I’m happy reading about periods I’ll never play nor collect.

Games like Blood Bowl, Pig Tickler and Futbowel take miniature games away from the battlefield and onto the sports field. At the end of the day aren’t Subbuteo and Scalextrix miniature games?

January 30, 2006 8:48 PM - Posted by Steve Pugh


How about a game based on “animal farm”? Should be fun…


January 31, 2006 12:25 AM - Posted by Rudi

As I have ethical issues with zoos and farm animals, I’d want to play the animals breaking out or taking over the farm.

And in answer to you question, well you might have difficulties in publishing an article in a serious wargames magazine, but who cares what you call it?

You have copy of H G Wells’s ‘Floor games’ (or rather you have an original and I have a copy). I suppose your idea resembles a version of that for 21st century madmen.

January 31, 2006 7:17 PM - Posted by Alan


Hmmm, I didn’t realize people might find a game set in a zoo offensive in some way. You’re probably right, it probably is upsetting to animal lovers.

I still like Zoo Tycoon though! :-)


February 1, 2006 1:42 AM - Posted by Phil

Don’t worry, Phil. I could hardly claim ‘ethical objections’ to playing a zoo game when I’m quite willing to command Panzers, Confederates or the British in India!

February 1, 2006 8:24 PM - Posted by Alan