Table of Contents
"Tabletop wargames as a civilian hobby," which are different from military simulation by professional military personnel, can be divided roughly into two types: "miniature wargames that originated in Europe in the 19th century" and "board wargames that originated in the United States in the 1950s."
Both were played exclusively in Europe and the United States until the 1960s, but in the 1970s, Airfix, a British model maker, published articles related to miniature wargames in the model magazine Airfix Magazine. After the articles were published, both spread outside of Europe and the United States.
Therefore, the tabletop wargaming situation in Asia can be divided into three broad categories: advanced regions (Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore), where wargaming was introduced from Europe and the United States in the 1970s; emerging regions, where the market has expanded rapidly since the beginning of the 21st century; and other regions. Furthermore, the situation differs depending on population and economic conditions.
For details, see A Brief History of Tabletop Wargaming in Japan.
Hong Kong has developed as an international trading port of the British colony in Asia, so wargames have been played since the 1970s, and articles related to miniature wargames were also published in the local magazine Model World (模型天地). In addition, there are still many foreign wargamers, mainly from the Commonwealth of Nations, as well as local Hong Kongers.
In the early 1980s, although only active for a few years, a manufacturer called Wargames Research Center Ltd. (戰棋研究中心) published several board wargames, and even held a wargame design contest once in 1983.
At that time, the grand prix-winning strategy-level game Long Live the Sacred War (聖戰千秋) based on the 2nd Sino-Japanese War was never published, but the designer Leonard To (杜駿聰), who was a junior high school student at the time, continued designing games with the same theme intermittently, although he emigrated to the United States for a while with his parents who were afraid that Hong Kong would be affected by the Tiananmen Square Incident, and just 30 years later, in 2013, he published War of the Suns (天無二日) as a culmination.
Until the 2000s, wargamers in Taiwan and the People's Republic of China, who had no local shops, often used Hong Kong shops, both online and offline. In addition, Hong Kong wargamers often translated English and Japanese rules into Chinese, making Hong Kong the most advanced region for tabletop wargames in the Chinese-speaking world.
In the 2010s, the power balance was reversed, but some HKSW members traveled to miniature wargame tournaments in Europe, and in 2019, volunteers designed Glory Recalled: Hong Kong 1941, themed on the defense of Hong Kong, raised funds on Kickstarter and published it. Hong Kong still maintains a certain amount of influence.
Like Hong Kong, wargames have been played since the 1970s in Singapore, which has also developed as an international trading port of the British colony in Asia. It's not well known, but it has some connection with Japan. Elijah Lau registered quite a few Japanese board wargames with BGG in the 2000s, and Wei Jen Seah supervised the map for The Tide at Sunrise. However, perhaps because the population is even smaller than Hong Kong's, and the blank due to military service is a handicap, currently in Singapore, tabletop wargames are practically only played on an individual basis.
However, it is not that there is no bright topic, in 2009 a manufacturer called WorldsForge published Field Command: Singapore 1942, and in 2017 another manufacturer called Falling Piano Games published The Impregnable Fortress. In 2014, the first Asia-Pacific ASL Tournament "Malaya Madness" was held, and at this time, taking advantage of the geographical advantage of being located in the center of Southeast Asia, besides the local Singaporian, Hong Konger, Filipino and Australian ASLers participated in. In 2019, the Asia-Pacific ASL Tournament "Malaya Madmen 2019" was held again.
In Taiwan, Taipei's JOOL Boardgame Club (JOOL桌上遊戲俱樂部) and Alchemy Boardgame World (艾客米桌上遊戲世界) had sold imported wargames after the 21st century came, but the turning point was in 2009.
A physical therapist Wei-Cheng Cheng (鄭偉成), who finished military service and worked at Taipei's Tri-Service General Hospital, studied in the University of Southern California in order to acquire biomechanics, joined a board game club in the university, met wargames and aimed to design wargames. In 2009, he went back to Taiwan and immediately established Formosa Force Games.
At first, Formosa Force Games made some postcard games: Sediq Song, a game of Musha incident, etc. In 2010, Formosa Force Games started Board Wargame (戰棋), the first magazine on tabletop wargames in the Chinese-speaking world, in collaboration with Zhi Bing Tang Publishing (知兵堂出版社) (current Cang Bi Publishing (蒼璧出版有限公司)) that publishes magazines on military history: Der Sturm (突擊) and Battle Field (戰場).
Up to 2013, ten issues of Board Wargame magazine were published. Each issue included games on the Chinese Civil War, the 2nd Sino-Japanese War, etc. It increased Taiwanese wargamers and created a great sensation overseas. In Hong Kong, The Hong Kong Society of Wargamers does group buying. In Japan, a-game sells them. Tanaka Kensuke, a producer of Kantai Collection, said that he purchased a copy whenever he went to Taiwan in an interview by 4Gamer.net. In France, 800 Heroes and Growling Tigers Under Siege were republished as issue games of Battles, an English language magazine on wargaming.
In addition, Formosa Force Games published a box game The Everlasting Glory (英烈千秋) in 2012. The game designer was Leonard To in Hong Kong, the graphic designer was Itakura Sawshun in Japan. It was the first Asian collaboration board wargame. Originally, it was designed as a light version of War of the Suns, but the publishing of War of the Suns was postponed many times (because the components were huge and the manufacturing costs were high), so The Everlasting Glory was published earlier than War of the Suns.
Besides Formosa Force Games, in the early 2010s, 2Plus, that had published many casual board games and card games, developed games for children's study of history in collaboration with Academica Histrica, an official institute studying Taiwan's history.
Since the mid-2010s, Wei-Cheng Cheng got married and had children, so the pace of publishing new works by Formosa Force Games has slowed down significantly, but the company is still active in the 2020s, and published the 14th issue of Board Wargame for a long time in 2023.
The number of clubs has increased since the mid-2010s, and since 2017, a wargame camp for two nights and three days have been held in Kaohsiung and Taipei every spring.
Yang Nanzheng (杨南征), who had developed military simulators for military exercises in the People's Liberation Army for a long time and had developed a PC wargame Magic Eagle (神鹰突击队) after retirement from PLA in 1993, established Oriental Flagship (Beijing) International Technology Co., Ltd. (远东旗舰（北京）国际科技有限公司) (current Nanzheng Wargame Deduction (Beijing) Information Technology Research Institute (南征兵推（北京）信息技术研究院)) and published a board wargame Storm over the Taiwan Strait (台海风云) in 2006. In 2007, Yang Nanzheng published Virtual Military Exercise (虚擬演兵), a guidebook on wargaming from PLA Press. These were based on professional wargaming by the veteran, but they also had a considerable influence on amateurs.
Shortly before that, in 2005, three board gamers in Beijing began playing Diplomacy, and in early 2006, they purchased Axis & Allies and played it for the first time during the Chinese New Year holidays. At the end of the day, they started holding a game meeting at a cafe, and soon after, they started calling ourselves "Beijing Board Game and Wargame Club" (北京桌上游戏和战棋俱乐部). By the summer of 2006, the number of regular members exceeded 10, and the number of games played exceeded 10.
Beijing Board Game and Wargame Club held the 1st Oriental Flagship Cup Wargame Tournament in collaboration with Oriental Flagship International Technology Co., Ltd. in October 2007, established "China FOW Club," an official group of Flames of War in November. Many media came to interview them and a collection of games became over fifty.
In 2008, Beijing Board Game and Wargame Club was divided into two groups: "Beijing Board Game Club" (北京桌游社) and "Beijing Wargame Party Club" (北京战棋党). Members of Beijing Wargame Party Club became over twenty and many people out of Beijing came to join official BBS. And the members came to make localized DTP components of imported wargames.
After that, Beijing Wargame Party Club changed its name to "Beijing Wargame Hall Club" (北京战棋堂兵棋俱乐部) (perhaps because it was considered inappropriate to call itself "party"). Due to the closure of the cafe that had been used as the venue for regular meetings since Beijing Board Game and Wargame Club, they moved from venue to venue such as the members' private homes under the name of "Long March." The official website server crashed frequently.
Despite all these twists and turns, they had held regular meetings every weekend and on consecutive holidays such as the Chinese New Year and the National Day, and translated more than 50 rules. However, their activities cannot be confirmed after the COVID-19 pandemic. By the way, the president David Han (韩肇鹏) had written articles for Board Wargame magazine from 2010 to 2011, and uploaded old AAR videos to Bilibili in 2022.
Meanwhile in Shanghai, TianChen Xiao (天神降下作战) who is a regular on the Baidu Tieba, frequently imports board wargames from the United States and Japan and posts reviews and AARs, had held "Shanghai Wargamers Party" (魔都战棋村) almost every weekend since 2015, but it was also forced to stop due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Until the former half of the 2010s, the domestic market was weak, so there were quite a few people buying games from shops in Hong Kong, and some people purchased games while traveling or studying in Japan. In addition, information about free PnP wargames was shared on online forums. Quite a few AARs of Valor & Victory a.k.a. poor man's ASL were posted, and some people created their own components from the downloadable data of the Japan Wargame Classics version of Task Force: Carrier Battles in the Pacific.
However, in the latter half of the 2010s, the number of makers and the number of publications per year increased sharply, and purchases on Taobao and JD.com became common, so China overtook Japan to become the second largest market in the world after the United States. In game development, funds are often raised through MoDian.com's crowdfunding, and it is not uncommon to collect more than ¥100,000 RMB (about US$15,000).
But, since most makers do not have their own official websites, and many rules questions and answers are posted to online forums, errata and clarifications are not aggregated by individual games. In addition, pirated copies are sometimes listed on Taobao and JD.com, so some people take screenshots and post them to online forums before purchasing and ask if they are genuine copies.
Individual wargamers also rarely have their own sites such as blogs, and most of unboxings, AARs, instructions, rule translations, and introductions to homebrew games are posted to online forums and Bilibili. Posting to Bilibili has increased rapidly since the COVID-19 pandemic, and posting to online forums has decreased relatively, but YouTube videos are often posted without permission. By the way, Yang Nanzheng also open a channel in 2021 and still have influence.
In 2003, there was a nationwide boom in opening board game cafes in South Korea, and among them, there were quite a few cafes that had Axis & Allies, so at that time, the conditions for the spread of full-fledged tabletop wargames were relatively more favorable than those of Taiwan and the People's Republic of China. However, even after 20 years, the South Korean tabletop wargame community has not developed successfully. There are neither domestically produced commercial wargames nor doujin wargames on the market, and even the number of Korean language version of GMT's games remains in the single figures.
Although there are a few stores that sell Flames of War and Bolt Action, board wargames are not even sold in major domestic board game specialty stores such as Boardgame Mall, BoardM and divedice, not sold in online shopping malls such as G-Market either. In other words, there are still no shops that have a wide selection of products and that can be communicated in Korean language. In addition, information on free PnP wargames is not shared, so most board wargames are still purchased online from overseas, barriers to entry remain high.
As a result, there are only a very small handful of board wargamers who are willing to import games privately, lacking a broad base, so there are no wargame clubs that hold regular meetings even in Seoul metropolitan area. Moreover, many of the irregular wargame meetings have a short notice period (mostly around a week), and usually only about 3 people can gather.
In addition, many of the posts to online forums and blogs are the publication of translation rules and summary tables, and there are few important reports of unboxing and playing. Video content and posts with images on SNS are extremely rare, and visual appeal is low. Moreover, some people suddenly delete everything they post on their blog. There were frequent follies of not only stopping new posts, but deleting all existing posts. Even after 20 years, it's hard to say that enough online resources have accumulated.
At last, in 2023, "Wargame Camp" was held several times with about 10 people participating with a relatively long notice period, and multiple AARs began to be posted, but they are 10 years too late.
Unless someone starts a domestic online shop specializing in board wargames as a weekend side business, or organizes a bootcamp with PnP wargames at an event like the annual Boardgame Con in Seoul, there's no hope of further development.
It is difficult to confirm specific wargame activities in the Philippines because there is little information publicly available on the Internet, but at least in Metro Manila, tabletop wargames have been played since the 1990s, so there are surprisingly many Filipino wargamers. In 2016, the second Asia-Pacific ASL Tournament "Mayhem in Manila" was held.
In addition, there are quite a few Filipino wargamers who usually live in the United States to work or study abroad, and such Filipino wargamers in the United States sometimes return to the Philippines to play games, as well as participating in events in the United States, such as Origins Game Fair, Gen Con, Consimworld Expo and World Boardgaming Championships.
Terence Co, who designed Storm Over Taierzhuang and Kenneth Tee, who designed People Power, also spent their childhood in the Philippines, so among Southeast Asian tabletop wargamers, Filipinos have the strongest ties to American publishers.
There is a board game club called IndoBoardGames Group, and a member Adhika Widyaparaga, who played wargames at regular meetings of Gamers in Fukuoka when he was studying abroad at Kyushu University, often holds wargame meetings.
Besides this, a board game club called Mumbai Board Gamers occasionally plays wargames.
A board game club called Dubai Board Gamers occasionally plays wargames.
A club called Doha Wargaming Meetup Group plays wargames.
A board game club called Istanbul Board Game Enthusiasts occasionally plays wargames.