Gaming World War II

It all started this morning as I began to ponder the point at which a skirmish tabletop miniatures wargame might become a tabletop roleplaying game scenario. The result of those thoughts got recorded and shared with the Swordbearer patrons, so I’ll not repeat them here. Suffice it to say that one thought led to more, and the theme was World War II.

I think that World War II is the iconic wargaming era for me. Given that I grew up the son of an military man, surrounded by tales of my grandfather’s heroism during World War II, and exposed to all manner of World War II media – ranging from film to novels and through to non-fiction books and wargames – it’s no surprise.

Through all of my youth, I became fascinated with two major themes of that war: the use of armoured fighting vehicles, from the Blitzkrieg onwards – and most of all, studying the literature from Guderian and other iconic tank theorists; and also the small unit raid, which I picked up interest in from Rommel’s experiments during the First World War and then the various writings from him and other “commando”-style leaders.

I’ve written before about my love of hex-and-chit tabletop wargames, such as Panzer (shown above, alongside the thoroughly un-WWII Battletech). But my love of World War II wargames extends across all of the genres of games that I generally engage with. My favourite computer game? That’ll be the now-ancient Steel Panthers: World War II (aka winSPWWII) from Shrapnel Games.

Today, I spent the afternoon playing a solo battle with Lew Pulsipher’s Stalingrad Besieged, a very nice board wargame that’s playable inside about an hour… when you know the rules. Despite getting my Russian butt handed to me by the German solo AI, I was chuckling happily as my forces tried desperately to hold the line.

With all the recent reading about tabletop wargaming, I was also flipping the pages of my copy of Bolt Action, the 28mm wargame from Warlord Games. No matter what you might think of the game rules – although I enjoyed them last time I dusted them off – the miniatures are stunning and truly fire up my desire to get back to the tabletop.

At last, I arrived back at the roleplaying games that I love so much. Despite considering digging out my copy of Savage Worlds and knocking around with some skirmish-style raid missions (perhaps even using some miniatures), I did arrive at my favourite World War II RPG product: GURPS WWII. There is something about the thoroughly researched and thoughtfully composed collection that really tickles my fancy.

Perhaps it’s time to return to my all-time favourite theatre for gaming, combining as it does my love for tabletop wargaming with my passion for traditional roleplaying games. Who knows what joy awaits rediscovery upon the battlefields of the last World War? In the end, it’ll all depend on whether I can recruit some friends to join me upon the landing fields into that period of history.

Today, at least, I had an enjoyable time revisiting a period of history that as fascinated me for more than 40 years.

Game on!


  1. For World War 2 role playing games I still have my 1982 FASA Behind Enemy Lines 1e which is still an outstanding “Adventure Wargame.” More recently I discovered Firelock Game WAR STORIES (free QuickStart at ) that uses the Year Zero Engine that powers Twilight: 2000 and ALIEN from Free League Publishing.


  2. One of my favorites was the Golden Age Champions supplement for Hero Games Fifth Edition Revised (AKA FRED). They made it clear that the ’40s was not a time of sunshine and rainbows, but that there were some good things about the era (and how a lot of the heroes of the era came from the pulps and radio shows).

    Gear Krieg is a good alternate history game, wishing that DP9 could actually get its act together and actually make games.


  3. I am pretty happy with the GURPS WWII line, especially as the technology and game mechanics have seen 4E updates (Fairbairn Close Combat Systems!). I just wish that we could have a print/POD version of Red Tide, and that they’d have gotten around to covering Japan and the Pacific (and, of course, a definitive conversion system for the vehicle designs to 4E; but things like minor powers books for Australia, India, China, the Philippines, and such would be pretty nice too).

    The Kings and Generals channel on YouTube has been covering WWII island warfare, mostly Guadalcanal and New Guinea, and it seems like units in those island-hopping campaigns are nearly the exactly perfect scale for military roleplaying gaming.

    Liked by 1 person

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