If you’ve spent any amount of time at a wargaming and miniatures convention, you’ve likely seen the room crowded with tables, the air heavy with thought as players tactically plan their next move. The games unraveling in these spaces typically take hours, with each player revolving between cans of caffeine and frequent bathroom breaks. Traditionally, wargaming has been a hobby for those with time on their hands. Or, at the very least, those that like to pretend they have time on their hands. But that tradition has been slowly chipped away at as we entered the age of “always on the go” mentalities. Suddenly, players that once gathered around the table for hours found themselves burdened by responsibilities, long shifts at work, and a nagging need for sleep. This gave rise to wargames that condense once drawn out gameplay into games with fast combat resolution.
The list of games that can be played within an hour isn’t long. Many of them take an hour just to set up. But titles like De Bellis Antiquitatis, Battle Cry, and Napoleon: Waterloo Campaign 1815 allow players to sit down, set up, and resolve an entire scenario typically within 60 minutes. More recently, _Echelon Software released a 28mm-scale wargame designed specifically for fast-paced combat with a possible resolution within 30 minutes of sitting down.
The trick? Don’t overcomplicate the preparation and allow players to play without too many components. When _Echelon designed Black Powder, it didn’t want to bog players down with a massive playing field that takes up space in the garage or attic. Instead, practically everything is broken down into a miniaturized scale perfect for the highly detailed 28mm figures. And that includes the battleground the conflict will unfold on
So long as you have a flat surface, you have what’s needed to lay out the waterproof and weather-resistant terrain tiles. And they’re not even necessary if you prefer to make things run even faster. The point is, when crafting Black Powder, _Echelon knew that not every player would have the time to spare for a long and drawn-out setup.
But preparing the battleground is only a portion of the time spent. _Echelon then had to create a set of rules and supplements to allow players to set their figures down and come to a resolution within as little as 30 minutes. The street-level combat within Black Powder’s modern warfare setting favors quick decision-making and encourages players to move quickly and strategically. It’s not an easy balance, but _Echelon was able to capture it fairly well.
All of this culminates in a game that’s accessible – and that’s really what this is all about. Wargaming as a hobby is relatively closed off. It’s intimidating to outsiders, and the idea of sinking hours into the painting of miniatures and the games themselves can really turn players away. However, the more prevalent fast-resolution wargames are, the more likely it is that players will feel like they can enter the fray.
That’s not to say it’s time to retire the five-hour-long scenarios. It’s just time to start considering the time crunch some prospective wargamers are in, and the benefit fast-play games like Black Powder Red Earth provide.