The last couple of years have seen a revival in wargaming, due in no small part to the publication of Warhammer Ancient Battles. Based on the popular Games Workshop rules for Warhammer, this set of books (Ancient Battles, Armies of Antiquity and Chariot Wars) provides an opportunity to wargame large campaigns or small scale skirmishes with a range of ancient and dark age armies. It’s effect has been quite astounding. Stalwart historical wargamers, previously determined to ignore the Warhammer phenomenon have tried Ancient Battles and even been tempted to play Warhammer Fantasy or 40K! (see the recent editorial at Battlegames).
As with Games Workshop products, Warhammer Ancient Battles has a particular, closely related, miniatures manufacturer: Foundry. Beautifully painted examples of Foundry models are used as illustrations in the Ancient Battles rule book. Their 25 mm models are of exceptional standard and a widely available in blister packs in wargaming shops worldwide. I have found their mail order service to be helpful and fast, and as a first-time buyer was given a 25% discount on my first two orders. Unfortunately the Foundry online shop sucks. Alternative 25 mm miniatures can be obtained from many sources, but I recommend Gripping Beast for their range of Dark Age figures.
The success of this rule set has meant that the British Historical Games Society runs competitions using Warhammer Ancient Battles during its National Wargames Championships along side the more traditional De Bellis Multitudinis (DBM) and De Bellis Renationis (DBR) games.
Foundry were also behind the somewhat limited (ad)venture of wargaming colonial Africa – I’m not aware of any other manufacturer producing “Darkest Africa” figures, which is a pity because this is a much neglected era and location for wargames. Colonial Africa seems to be otherwise restricted to the Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer war campaigns played by aging, pipe-smoking, cardigan wearers.
A more widespread fad has been the development of Pirates and Cutthroats. Played at skirmish level rather than full armies, Pirates has all the excitement and colour of classic Hollywood movies. A fine range of 25 mm Pirate miniatures is produced by Dixon as well as by others. Suitable scale pirate boats are also available to allow small scale naval battles.
Notice that all of these developments have been at the 25 mm level. It would seem that larger scale miniatures are more attractive to youthful newbies and the now richer and older traditional gamers. Those turning from fantasy and science fiction wargames are used to the feel of individual 25 mm figures. Teenagers often have the time and dexterity to produce finely painted models, and it can not be doubted that such figures show a greater detail and personality than those of smaller scale. Stalwart historical wargamers, previously fixated on 15 mm models, are apparently reaching that stage in their lives when disposable income converts to greater purchasing power. Feedback at wargaming shows suggests that for this particular group of adults, the departure of offspring allows their return to the wargaming fold.