This website is intended to meet several
objectives with a minimum of duplication of other similar,
provide an accurate and complete
database of tactical titles.
cast light on the timeline and
development of the tactical wargame genre
raise awareness of how developers have
dealt with design issues in the past
keep old favourites in the collective
help gamers find information on older
titles in print and online
Some terms used on the site may be used
uniquely on the site. A list of definitions is provided in the
sidebar at right.
- A -
Report (AAR): In wargaming terms, an article written by
one or more gamers relating their experience playing a specific
scenario or game. The term may also be applied in some PC software
to refer to an actual end-of-scenario report provided to the player.
Elements of an AAR generally include some combination of the
Degree of victory attained/victory
Casualty rates suffered/inflicted
Individual awards granted (if
Status of ongoing campaign
Intelligence (AI): In computer games, the routines that
make the game work, sometimes specifically used to refer to those
that control the opposing player. In Combat Mission, a “Tactical AI”
or TacAI actually controlled human controlled units as well, as
player inputs are limited to take place at one minute intervals
during which all action is paused. After orders are entered, the
game resolves at the discretion of the TacAI without any
In solitaire board games, a form of AI
is usually referred to as a “simulated opponent.” In Ambush!
for example, a simulated opponent was created through the use of a
numbered paragraph book, mission card/sleeve reader and soldier
cards with encrypted instructions.
- B -
Term used in miniatures gaming to refer to a campaign reduced in
scale to better fit the resources available (i.e. number of players,
miniatures sets, game space, etc.) Originally used by
Beer and Pretzels game:
An old board gaming term: "A relatively simple and fast moving game
which can usually be played in one sitting."1
The term is not interchangeable with
one source states: "(many beer & pretzel) games fit the quick & easy
play aspect of being a microgame, though they're often in a larger
format, with better components, and at a necessarily higher price
Borg Spotting: In PC gaming, a
term used to describe a simplistic Line of Sight (LOS) checking
routine. Simply put, when one enemy unit is spotted by a single
friendly unit, all friendly units are instantly aware of the
existence and location of that enemy unit, despite their actual LOS. Named for the villains in the Star Trek universe who
operate as a "hive-mind" or collective consciousness.
- C -
Campaign: A method of linking
individual scenarios and providing them greater context.
A type of systems counter, used for various purposes:
- Randomization (chit-draw), such as
determining the order of play (as in Ambush! or Sniper!).
- Terrain attributes, where terrain
types are redesignated by use of a chit (such chits were provided
in Cross of Iron, for example).
Rules added to add historical flavour or to capture some
individual peculiarity of a situation, individual or piece of
equipment. Sometimes used as a pejorative. The word comes from the
shiny metallic trim that used to be applied to automobiles -
suggesting something that was eye-catching but having no real
The cardboard playing pieces used in board games. A typical
consists of representational (or "unit") counters and system
counters. Counters have traditionally been printed and mounted on
thick cardboard and die-cut to various sizes, with 1/2" and 5/8"
squares being most common.
Countermix: A set of counters
specific to one game.
Table (CRT): The standard method of calculating the
effects of firepower in operational level board games was by
quantifying combat power and applying it as a ratio to opposing
units defensive status with a random element. While some early
tactical board games (such as
Grunt) continued to apply this
traditional system, most have of necessity created more complex
methods of quantifying the various factors of firepower, morale,
terrain, movement and other variables. Advanced Squad Leader,
for example, has an “Infantry Fire Table” (and even an Incremental
Infantry Fire Table) for firepower attacks against infantry, and a
two-step To Hit and To Kill fire resolution process when resolving
attacks against vehicular targets.
- D -
Terrain: In 3D computer games, the ability to change the
environment by modelling the effects of vehicles and explosives on
Design for Effect:
Remembered now as John Hill's explanation for some of the game
mechanics of Squad
Alan Emrich defined it as a game abstracting complex procedures for
the sake of simplicity, or in his words, "so that the players can
get straight to the 'boom'." He added: "That
is, when the designer does all the work so the players can have all
the fun." 3 Emrich contrasted this with
described as a design that has players following "all of the logical
steps and procedures to obtain an outcome."
Design Your Own
(DYO): Term used in board wargames to describe either a
scenario created for one-time use without historical references. The
term can also refer to a system used to facilitate such creation. PC
games often have a DYO capability, but the term does not seem to get
applied. See Mission Builder.
A randomizer. The most commonly used in wargames is a six-sided die.
Clever wargamers have come to know the odds associated of achieving
various rolls with two six-sided dice, knowing that there are only
36 possible outcomes. The first game ever released with a 10-sided
die was Tanktics, a set of miniatures rules covering armoured
warfare in the Second World War.
Plural of die.
A small cup used to jumble dice in before throwing to ensure
An object used to facilitate the throwing of dice; uses gravity to
jumble dice and provides a small flat surface for the dice to come
to rest on and be easily read. Preferable by many to using a box lid
or dice cup so as to save space on the table top and prevent wild
dice from hitting the game board and displacing counters.
An unpopular game or scenario, possibly due to a perception it is
unbalanced or unwinnable by one side, or because it is simply not
fun whether due to poor design or workmanship.
Playing a board game using two identical copies of the game,
with each player able to see only his own copy and those enemy units
that a neutral referee determines he is able to see.
A PC game designed to run within DOS (Disc Operating System);
that is to say, outside of the Windows environment. The disadvantage
of DOS-based games is that other applications cannot be accessed
while the game is running.
- F -
Playing a game in person with another gamer.
A noisy proponent of a particular game at an internet forum. Usually
distinguished from a simple fan by an unswerving loyalty to a single
title or publisher, an unwillingness to discuss criticisms, and/or
an abusive posting style.
The electronic version of the fanzine; unsolicited online material
provided by fans of a particular game.
An amateur newsletter or magazine created by fans of a particular
Shooter (FPS): A style of PC and console game dating back
to the 1980s, evolving through games such as Castle Wolfenstein
into more detailed games such as Medal of Honor. These games
put the player into a first-person point of view but generally have
little emphasis on unit tactics though more realistic military
man-to-man games such as Operation Flashpoint or Band of
Brothers have started to address these issues. The latter may be
considered true tactical wargames; MOH, Call of Duty, etc.,
generally are not given their emphasis on hand-eye co-ordination
rather than tactical skill.
(There are several contenders as to who
the first FPS actually was. In the webmaster’s opinion, the
Dungeons and Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin cartridge for the
Intellivision has a good claim.)
Online message board. A variety of categories of these have evolved
into the 21st Century from their beginnings in the electronic
bulletin board services (BBS). Modern forums may be hosted by game
publishers but these are outnumbered by third party forums catering
to a diverse array of audiences. General interest gaming websites
such as gamesquad.com, for example, cater to board, PC and
console gamers alike.
- G -
Avalon Hill used this term for its additions to
beginning in 1979. Compare to the term “Module.”
Game Console: An electronic device producing a
video display signal for the purpose of permitting interaction for
recreation/entertainment in the home. The term "video game console"
generally distinguishes those devices marketed for playing video
games exclusively, as opposed to personal computers, which have many
other functions, or stand alone arcade machines, which are operated
for profit by third parties. The first game consoles were created in
the 1970s before the advent of affordable home computers and several
generations of technology have evolved in the years following. The
style of game play of console games has meant that that analysis and
textual input on which traditional tactical wargames have relied
have made them poor contenders for console adaptation.
Games for Windows:
In 2006, Microsoft attempted to combat the rising popularity of game
consoles by creating the "Games for Windows" brand. The logo was
intended to be applied to the games of several manufacturers and
identify personal computers as a viable alternative to purpose built
gaming consoles. The first game so branded was Company of Heroes.
The manual for Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord (Big Time
Software) offered a definition of "gamey" when it was released in
2000. Examples of “gamey” play are
any actions taken in the course of a game which would have been
unlikely to be repeated by real world counterparts, in order to
bring about an advantage in game terms. Using unarmoured troop
carriers to draw fire and locate enemy anti-tank guns would be such
a tactic (in PC games this is particularly effective as an AI will
often not recognize this tactic whereas a human player may be wiser
and hold fire in such a case); rushing headlong at an objective
simply because it was the last turn of a game with a fixed time
limit would be another.
- H -
(H2H): See Face-to-Face (FtF).
Traditional unit of measurement on boardgame maps used also to
determine sighting. (diagram – hexside, centre dot) Squad Leader
introduced the concept of drawing LOS using the actual terrain
depictions rather than having the entire hex determine who could see
A magazine published by a game company in order to highlight its own
offerings. The General was the first such magazine, and
carried no advertising (save for Avalon Hill products) and very
limited mentions of the products of other companies. Other house
organs had more open approaches to advertising and discussing
- I -
A term used in PC gaming literature to refer to a game in which
player turns are resolved consecutively rather than simultaneously
(“I go, then you go”).
Term used to refer to maps designed to mate with each other using
common terrain elements on their edges. Sometimes incorrectly called
- L -
A gaming ladder is a listing of players of a particular game who
compete against each other and whose scores are used to rank
themselves against one another.
Line of Sight
(LOS): A reference to determining what units in the game
- M -
Meta-Campaign: A style of free-form
campaign created from an existing open-ended game system linking
scenarios with home-made rules for tracking unit status,
engineering, logistics, air and artillery support, etc., quite
possibly in a multi-multi-player format.
Small, inexpensive game concept pioneered by
Metagaming, adopted by
other publishers such as SPI and
TSR. Later associated with desktop or
other non-traditional publishers, in time, the definition of a "microgame"
expanded to include inexpensive games published on a desktop in a
more conventional 8.5" x 11" format, perhaps with unmounted and
A form of wargaming dating to the late 1800s using physical
models of soldiers and equipment in place of counters, and generally
using model terrain rather than a ruled map surface using hexes or
A program which enables a user to create scenario files for a PC
game. May be referred to by a variety of names; may include any
combination of the following abilities:
Open-ended games or game systems are often broken into modules, of
which one or more are necessary in order to make play of the game
possible. Advanced Squad Leader's core modules differ from
the “gamettes” of the original Squad Leader series in that
while both act as a vehicle to introduce new rules, counters, and
terrain into the system, the gamettes were incremental and each was
a prerequisite for the ones that followed. The core modules have a
lesser degree of interdependence in order to be functional.
Best left to individual interpretation in many circumstances,
generally refers to a board game that takes a concerted logistical
effort to play, meaning it may have a large map area, many counters,
long time limit, or some combination of these. The game itself may
be large, or the term may refer to a single scenario of an
open-ended game. The classic “Monster” game at the operational level
was The Longest Day which portrayed the fighting in Normandy
on a map which required the better part of a regulation billiards
table to set up, and all the forces involved were broken down to
individual companies. “Monster scenarios” are often discussed with
regards to board games (such as “The Last Bid” for Red Barricades
or “The First Bid” for Valor of the Guards) but the term
doesn’t seem to have transitioned into PC gaming.
Mapboard: A playing surface permanently attached to a
hard surface. Avalon Hill was most renowned for providing these; for
example Patton’s Best or Storm Over Arnhem, though
most of their tactical level games included them. The added expense
of mounting the maps was prohibitive for many other game companies,
while including them in magazine games was logistically not
- O -
Layer: Another means of providing context for tactical
level games similar to a Campaign.
- P -
Two 10-sided dice used to generate a random number between 1 and 100
by designating one of the die as the “tens” die and the other as the
Computer): Generally today an “IBM-clone” running a
Windows operating system or an Apple/Mac. Personal computers became
common gaming platforms in the 1980s, and the use of email and
internet have produced increased contacts and community links among
Play by E-Mail
(PBEM): A natural extension to PBM, enabling turn-based
PC gamer to play without the necessity of connecting live via
Play by Mail (PBM):
Postal game systems allowed for board gamers to send
hand-recorded game turns through the mail to each other in the days
before electronic mail made the task much simpler. Systems for
determining dice rolls were created, such as checking pre-determined
stock quotes on specific days in order to find random numbers.
There are those that believe that inexpensive dice produce an
unacceptable variation on the standard distribution of rolls due to
the altered balance caused by differing weights (six spots on one
side of a die produce different mass than one spot on another side).
Precision dice are engineered so as to be equally balanced on all
sides and theoretically produce a more equitable distribution of
dice rolls over time.
Programmed Instruction: Method of
presenting rules in board games such that a series of
gradually introduces new rules a few at a time.
- R -
computer terms, a "reboot" of a computer is a condition in which
power is stopped and then restarted, so that nothing of the
computer's previous operating session has any bearing on its new
session, with the exception of data stored on non-volatile devices
such as a disk drive. The term has extended to entertainment, such
as video games, comic books, and television shows, to describe a
condition in which a popular property is re-imagined from a set of
familiar initial parameters. In wargaming, the term can be used to
describe a game system similarly re-imagined, such as Advanced
Squad Leader, which was a major re-write of four separate games
of the original Squad Leader game series.
In PC games, a type Line of Sight (LOS) checking. Generally used to
distinguish a system improved and distinct from "Borg
Spotting" in which units did not make individual checks.
"Relative" in this case means that LOS checks are made relative to
(in other words, independently of) each other.
Game (RPG): Generally not associated with tactical
wargaming, there have nonetheless been at least two RPG titles
released with an emphasis on squad-level military operations.
meta-campaigns have had role playing elements introduced.
- S -
(Miniatures): An indication of the relative size of the
miniature, expressed either as a ratio (i.e. 1:72 scale means that 1
measure of length on the miniature equals 72 equivalent measures on
the actual object) or in millimetres (i.e. 40mm figures are
approximately 40mm tall when representing a 6-foot tall man standing
to full height).
To convert from one to the other, the
conversion factor is 1717. For example, 1:285 scale = 6mm:
1717 ÷ 285 = 6.02
||"HO" railroad scale
||Common model aircraft
and armour scale
||Common model aircraft
||Common model armour
||"Toy Soldier" scale
Scenario: A specific situation for
an open-ended game, in which order-of-battle, game length, and
victory conditions are outlined to define a single playing. Referred
to by different names depending on game and/or genre, for example:
Battle: Combat Mission
Mission: Solitaire ASL, Ambush!
Scenario: Squad Leader, ASL
Situation: PanzerBlitz, Panzer
Or “screen capture,” an image capturing exactly what the
computer screen is displaying at any specific instant in time during
the operation of a PC game.
Style of play introduced in the 1970s in which both players
plotted moves and resolved turns simultaneously rather than
consecutively, as was traditional in board wargames and miniatures.
An attempt to accurately recreate an event or situation using a
scientific approach, including the replication of variables and
statistics. Wargames are often categorized as either simulations or
games but in actuality are both. Those with heavy reliance on data
and complicated rules are often said to be more rightly considered
"simulations" than games as they may be considered less fun to play.
The term is sometimes used a pejorative in that sense.
(Informational counter) A counter that is not
representational of an individual soldier, group of soldiers, unit,
vehicle or piece of equipment, but used to denote status or
otherwise used for record keeping within a game.
- T -
Used in a variety of manners; originally used to refer to miniatures
gaming to distinguish it from board gaming, may also refer to board
gaming and miniatures collectively to distinguish them from PC
Internet Protocol Suite (Transmission Control Protocol and Internet
Protocol); jargon for a means of connecting a computer to the
internet; in gaming terms, shorthand for playing another player (or
players) "live" or in real time.
Scenario: In board gaming, a description usually applied
suitable for use in tournament play by virtue of a combination of
several factors; high play balance, short length, small number of
units, and/or lack of complicated rules. The term has been extended
into PC gaming also.
- V -
Conditions (VC): A set of parameters used to determine
the outcome of a scenario.
- W -
refers to a style of game in which player turns are resolved
simultaneously rather than consecutively. See also Si-Move and
A PC game designed to run within the Windows operating system,
rather than within DOS. The main advantage is that the game can run
while other applications are being accessed.
- Z -
a 100-sided die, named for its inventor, Lou Zocchi. The
Zocchihedron was introduced in 1985 after six years of design and
development. The original patent ran out in 2003 but an improved
model with additional internal weights for faster braking and more
even distribution of rolls is patented until 2025.
Game vs. Simulation
The age-old problem facing developers of
wargames in general and tactical wargames in particular is how to
trade off the requirement of realistic detail with the necessity of
a clean game system that is easy for players to manage and fun to
play. Titles with reams of statistical data and complicated
procedures tend to be labelled simulations while those that favour
less complexity can be referred to simply as "games" in the specific
sense of being distinct from a simulation.
Levels of Simulation
There are four basic levels of
simulations in wargaming. The levels are defined by what role the
player assumes, as determined by what resources he is given and what
choices he is permitted to make in managing them. These levels are:
Strategic: players control entire nations and have access to diplomatic,
political, and economic resources; military resources may range from
army groups down to corps or divisions depending on the game scale.
players control areas ranging from entire theatres down to
individual sectors of front, with access generally restricted to
military resources, generally ranging from corps down to company
tactical games are generally those in which individual units under
the player’s control are platoons, squads, or individual men though
the latter are often considered a separate category.
Man-to-Man: often considered a separate category of “tactical” gaming.
There are two methods of describing
player control in a tactical game; “(unit)-level” and
“(unit)-based”. The two are not the same thing. For example,
Squad Leader is traditionally considered a company-level,
squad-based game. The basic units each represent a squad, while the
player’s role most closely matches that of a company commander in
real life. In Squad Leader, he directs where the squads
should deploy themselves and their weapons, for example, but there
is no control over where individual men will go or when to fire.
Beginner's Guide to Strategy
Gaming: A Special Publication of F&M, DTI, 1986
Microgame Headquarters website, accessed
Photo courtesy of