The world of miniature wargaming is massive. Today, it’s a multi-million dollar business that spans the world. I myself have been a miniature wargame player for about 25 years. I began with Warhammer 40,000 just as the second edition launched and to this day have the first miniature I purchased (an Ork Goff Nob). I consider myself well-versed in the industry so went into the documentary Miniature Wargaming: The Movie intrigued with what I might learn.
It’s an interesting documentary that does an admirable job in condensing the massive industry and vast amount of games into a 1 hour and 46 minute film. And, impressively, it does it quite well.
What’s interesting about the film is that it has a clear thematic arc in the various phases of miniature wargaming, pre-World War II, Post World War II to Games Workshop, Kickstarter/e-commerce, and then YouTube. There’s a fantastic focus on not just the world but also how the time impacted the industry.
But beyond an overview of the industry, the games, the publishers, the film also dives a bit into the “scene”. Two individuals plan for a tournament they’re attending. Another two individuals talk about UK Games Expo that they’ll be exhibiting at. While much of the movie is an overview, its these segments that deliver a bit of heart, especially as one developer struggles to get his board game to audiences. There’s also some dips into what the games and community gives back to individuals. Some interviewed hint at dark times in their lives and that gaming helped get them through it by connecting with others.
And that’s the unexpected thing about the film.
There’s a focus on how this fun hobby has members who struggle and it’s the hobby that helps them get through that. The first half of the film gets you caught up about the world but the latter half brings the heart. It’s a pivot that hits viewers as it creates a human element to the film. It takes what is a documentary about a commercial venture that one can argue is superficial, and shows that it’s anything but. This is a hobby that means so much to so many and it’s a hobby that involves connections with others.
What starts, and was expected to be, a documentary about the miniature wargame community turns into something so much more. It’s a touching film about a community brought together through a shared love of something. There’s highs and lows… and a lot of heart. It doesn’t attempt to do much. There seems to be a recognition you could do a full length film on any of the topics it touches upon, so it doesn’t attempt it.
Miniature Wargaming: The Movie is an impressive introduction to the hobby but it’s so much more. It brings a human aspect to it all. It brings emotion to an industry ruled by rules. While not a perfect film, I walked away knowing more about the industry and its history and also recognizing why the hobby means so much to me as a player. It’s something I’ve struggled with during the pandemic and general isolation for the entire time. Miniature wargaming is an escape from the stress of things. That can be the modeling aspect of it, getting immersed in the world, learning new rules, or playing the game. Any and all of those achieves that. It’s a way to connect with others over a shared love of something. Most importantly, it’s a way to have fun.