A wargame is a strategy game in which two or more players command opposing armed forces in a realistic simulation of an armed conflict. A wargame must have a setting that is based on some historical era of warfare so as to establish what armaments the combatants may wield and the environment they fight in.
A historical setting accurately depicts a real historical era of warfare. Among recreational wargamers, the most popular historical era is World War 2. A fantasy setting depicts a fictional world in which the combatants wield fictional or anachronistic armaments, but it should be similar enough to some historical era of warfare such that the combatants fight in a familiar and credible way. For instance, Warhammer Age of Sigmar has wizards and dragons, but the combat is mostly based on medieval warfare (spearmen, archers, knights, etc.). Some are also set in the future, where there is a "World War Three" going on.
A wargame's level of war determines to the scope of the scenario, the basic unit of command, and the degree to which lower level processes are abstracted.
At the tactical level, the scenario is a single battle. The basic unit of command is an individual soldier or small group of soldiers. The time span of the scenario is in the order of minutes. At this level, the specific capabilities of the soldiers and their armaments are described in detail. An example of a tactical-level games is Flames of War, in which players use miniature figurines to represent individual soldiers, and move them around on a scale model of the battlefield.
At the operational level, the scenario is a military campaign, and the basic unit of command is a large group of soldiers. At this level, the outcomes of battles are usually determined by a simple computation.
At the strategic level, the scenario is an entire war. The player addresses higher-level concerns such as economics, research, and diplomacy. The time span of the game is in the order of months or years
- Warhammer 40,000 is a popular grimdark, sci-fi wargame played with hand-painted miniatures.
- Art de la Guerre or ADLG is a tactical-level miniature wargame that simulates battles from the ancient to late medieval period.
- Flames of War is a tactical-level historical miniature wargame that simulates land battles during World War 2.
- TACSPIEL is an operational-level military wargame developed in the 1960s by the US Army for research into guerilla warfare.
- The Sigma war games were a series of strategic level games that sought to predict the outcome of the Vietnam War.
- Hearts of Iron IV is a strategic-level computer wargame set in the mid-20th century.
- Wings of War is tactical-level historical wargame that simulates World War 1 aerial dogfights.
- Star Wars: X-Wing is a fantasy wargame whose rules are based on Wings of War.