A Meeting of Miniature Soldiers

Author: Casey Gale       

ILLUSTRATION BY CARMEN SEGOVIA

There’s a chance you’ve never heard of historical miniature gaming before. But the Historical Miniature Gaming Society (HMGS) has been hosting its Fall In! Convention — one of three annual HMGS events dedicated to the art of historical miniature gaming and the education it provides — for 20 years, welcoming more than 1,500 visitors from all over the world to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, each year.

Attendees have the chance to play with fellow hobbyists, find good deals on out-of-production gaming materials at the event’s “flea market,” check out vendors in the exhibit hall, and learn all the skills needed to recreate military battles in miniature form. “Fall In! attendees are gamers first — with a passion for history and military science,” said Heather Blush, director of Cold Wars, HMGS’s springtime event. She quotes H.G. Wells’ Little Wars, a book about war gaming, saying it’s a game for those “from 12 years of age to 150.”

MINIATURE MILITARIES Although Fall In! is focused on historical gaming — this year’s theme was “The Yanks Are Coming!” to mark the 100th anniversary of U.S. entry into World War I — event attendees can participate in one-off games as well as longer tournaments. The games’ diverse themes include sci-fi, fantasy, and history-making modern war. “It’s all about the games and the thrill of out-maneuvering the armchair general on the other side of the table from you,” Blush said. 

AN EDUCATION Fall In! isn’t just fun and games.HMGS is a “nonprofit educational organization dedicated to the study of military history through the art of miniature figure tabletop war gaming,” Blush said. The event’s War College gives attendees the opportunity to learn about military subjects from published historians who just happen to be fellow HMGS members.

HOBBYIST’S PARADISE Miniature figures are typically sold unassembled and unpainted. Those looking to create high-quality gaming figures to place on their table can hit up the event’s Hobby University, a workshop series. “The HMGS Hobby University instructors are volunteers from various walks of life —from physical therapists to police officers, project managers to TSA agents,” Blush said, “all dedicated to teaching others how to improve their painting skills.”