I get a “night before Christmas” feeling the day before I go wargaming. My mind will race about the games I am going to play, obsessing about army building, where my strengths and weaknesses are, the strategies I am going to use and more. Personally, wargaming is about so much more than the time spent at a table rolling dice and measuring distances. There are the countless hours spent painting models, reading lore and consuming community content which round out the hobby as a complete package of escapism.
As someone who has struggled with mental health issues for over a decade, I’d never really found an effective coping mechanism until I found mini painting and wargaming. Video games felt like a waste of time, TV the same and it was impossible to find the energy to actually leave the house. The feeling I get when I nail a new technique I’ve tried out or I’ve completed the centrepiece model of my army is second to none. The concentration required is absolute and it leaves no space for intrusive thoughts. The work doesn’t feel like a waste of time, it gives a tangible thing to show to others and say, “I did this!” which in turn is motivation to leave the house. The sense of pride when someone compliments your models is always an amazing feeling.
The actual wargaming itself is exhausting, but in a good way. My brain is focusing on the strategies I’ve come up with, trying to execute them efficiently, adapting my plans when the dice gods laugh at me. A close, back and forth game is exciting for both players as these games are often decided by the ability to adapt, and which is a skill that has been immeasurably valuable in staying mentally healthy in the world we live in today. The versatility is also a skill which transfers to the workplace in aspects such as experimental design and process optimisation as all of these tasks rely on the ability to correctly identify issues in the systems used.
There is a strong sense of community in wargaming as well. I’ve seen an ex-military person playing a 10-year-old and both players having a great experience, I’ve been to 24 hour fundraisers for mental health, I’ve met people from all walks of life all with different motivations and drives in life, but all of who have realised the simple pleasure the escapism of strategy brings. A day of duking it out with strangers and making friends in the process is cathartic.
I’d implore anyone to give wargaming a go, as the benefits can be plentiful. I know that companies like Games Workshop have facilities to play trial games in store and allow you to get
hooked started on painting with trial models. Many clubs around the country will also have players excited about new games and be willing to run demo games of systems they’re passionate about. There’s plenty of variety in themes as well. So, whether you favour the dystopian sci-fi settings of Warhammer 40k or Star Wars Legion, small scale historical skirmishes in games like Bolt Action and Test of Honour or even just the violent fantasy football of the Blood Bowl universe, you’ll find your flavour of combat-based escapism here somewhere.
Martin Domville is an Apprentice Scientist with 4 years industrial experience focusing on biochemical and in vitro assay development, screening and characterisation of potential therapeutic molecules. He gets involved in Warhammer Tournaments most weekends.