Miniature wargaming is a form of wargaming which incorporates miniature figures, miniature armor and modeled terrain as the main components of play and which was first invented at the beginning of the 19th century in Prussia. Like other types of wargames, they can be generally considered to be a type of simulation game, generally about tactical combat, as opposed to computer and board wargames which have greater variety in scale.
While such games could also be played with counters on a table with colored paper to denote terrain types, the visual attractiveness and tactile satisfaction of painted miniatures moving around on a table with model trees, hills and other scenery has such an alluring power to convince many wargamers to prefer model/miniature games over the cheaper and easier board-and-chits alternatives.
The miniatures and scenario items at the core of the model wargaming experience are available in different scales, and many sets of rules are written with the assumption that a particular scale is being used.
The hobby got its start around the beginning of the 20th century, with the publication of Jane's naval war rules and H. G. Wells' Little Wars in 1913. A similar book titled Shambattle: How to Play with Toy Soldiers was published by Harry Dowdall and Joseph Gleason in 1929. Commercial products just for miniatures wargamers and awareness as a single community of people with similar interests date back to the 1950s with the efforts of Jack Scruby. Major developments in the field since then include the rise in the 1960s and 1970s of fantasy and science fiction wargames as an alternative to games based on historical conflicts, and the emergence of companies like Games Workshop, Privateer Press, Catalyst Game Labs, Corvus Belli, Spartan Games, Warlord Games, Wyrd, Hawk Wargames, Battlefront, Foundry, and many others.
Miniature wargaming is a recreational hobby where players simulate a battle, which is played out using small figurines to represent the land, sea and/or air units involved. Many miniatures games are played on a floor or tabletop, with terrain represented by miniature scenery (hills, forests, roads, fences, etc.). Movement of the miniatures is regulated using a measuring device such as a ruler, tape measure, cut sticks or other prepared standardized-length instruments. However, like boardgames, miniature games can also be played using gridded terrain (demarcated into squares or hexagons) or even gameboards.
One of the main reasons for playing miniature wargames, in both these respects, is because it offers players more freedom of play and a more aesthetically pleasing tactical element over traditional games or computer games. Additionally, many hobbyists enjoy the challenge of painting miniatures and constructing scenery. In many ways, miniature wargaming may be seen as combining many of the aesthetics of tabletop train modelling with an open strategy game predominantly, though not exclusively, with a military theme. There is also a large social component to wargames as very often games are played with several participants on a side.
The miniatures and scenery used vary greatly in scale, from 6mm figures up to 54mm or larger (90 mm for example). The miniature figures are typically plastic or metal and are often sold unpainted. Scenery is often home-made, and figures are painted by the players, who will sometimes even "convert" shop-bought figures to better represent the units they are trying to depict.
There are any number of sets of miniature wargaming rules, some of which are available without charge on the Internet. Scenarios may depict actual historical situations and battles, or they may be hypothetical "what if?" situations. There are also fantasy and science fiction games with attendant wizards, spacecraft and other genres. Rules also vary in the scale they depict: one figure to one soldier is the most common for fantasy and some historical rules, but many historical systems presume that one figure represents hundreds or even thousands of men.
Generally, these games are turn based strategy, like chess.