The Museum of Culpeper History will host a series of programs on the tabletop wargaming hobby Saturday mornings this summer.
The wargaming hobby takes many forms, from board games to computer simulations, with players fielding soldiers based on the historical past or an imagined future. The scale of combat also varies, from huge armies to one-on-one duels. Rule sets exist in the thousands for different types of games, and can include factors such as speed, terrain, weather, troop experience, types of weapons and more depending on complexity and the desired game experience. Modern militaries often use wargaming as part of their training and planning techniques.
On July 24, game designer Peter Schweighofer will present “Fire When Ready,” a presentation about the wargaming hobby followed by a short game demonstration. Audience members will be invited to participate in the demonstration. “Wargames help us engage with history,” Schweighofer said. “We learn something as we play a game, and perhaps that experience inspires us to further explore history on our own.”
On Aug. 7, Schweighofer will return to the museum to teach examples of simple tabletop games to attendees of the museum’s Historic Wargaming Club program. He will then act as a referee as participants face off in simulated combat with Civil War era ironclads.
John Christiansen, executive director of the museum, hopes that the club will be a monthly offering at the museum. “Culpeper has a rich military history, particularly from the Civil War era. We hope that will draw people’s interest.” According to Christiansen, wargaming offers an opportunity to understand historical events by testing different decisions and outcomes. “Of course, there’s always the element of chance. You can’t really account for luck.”
The programs and games are open to players of all ages. “We’re really hoping to attract younger players, even elementary school age,” says Christiansen. “We’re presenting some games that are both easy to learn and can be played pretty quickly.” Christiansen believes that some potential players have a misconception that these games are too complicated or too slow. “Many kids are playing basic strategy games online, where a lot of the rule mechanics are built-in. Having to use those rules manually offers a whole new level of thinking. And there’s the physical enjoyment of opening a box, taking out tiny soldiers, and setting them up on a board.”
Both programs will begin at 10 a.m. Those interested in the wargaming club on Aug. 7 are encouraged to register in advance to guarantee an opportunity to play. Both programs are free with museum admission. Non-vaccinated museum visitors, including children under the age of 12, should follow the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines on masking and social distancing. For more information or to register, visit the museum’s website at www.culpepermuseum.org or call 540-829-1749.