What Is Tabletop Gaming?

Hey there! Are you new to the gaming world and wondering what is tabletop gaming? Well, you have come to the right place!

Tabletop gaming is a broad term that refers to playing games on a surface or table, ranging from board games, card games, role-playing games to miniature wargames. Playing usually involves game pieces, dice, tape measures, battle markers, game boards, miniatures, or cards. The number of players can range from party games for a whole group, games geared for two players, and some you can play by yourself.

As you can see, tabletop gaming is a broad genre, and there are many types of games to choose from. Here at Alphastrikes.com, we mainly focus on board games, RPGs, and wargames but you can find more types here. Now let’s look at these different types of games to see which ones you might like.

dominating at board game

What Is A Tabletop Board Game?

Most folks have a pretty good idea of what a tabletop board game is. These are the games most of us grew up with. Generally speaking, board games come with everything in one box. These include a board, pieces/miniatures, sometimes dice and timers, and rules. Meaning you can open the box, read the rules, set up the board, and then play it. 

Some classic examples of board games include Monopoly, Scrabble, checkers, and chess. These games have been the staple in many households for many a generation. But in recent years, there has been an explosion in the board game industry!

Hobby board games have been flooding into comic and hobby shops and have been growing in popularity. Some of these games you can find in your local retail store, like Ticket To Ride and Pandemic, but others like Arkham Horror and Power Grid you may not have heard of.

Even though it has “board” in the name, not all board games have one! Many other games such as deck-building, collectible/trading card games (CCG/TCG), matching games, and even traditional card games like poker fall into the board games.

The great thing about board games is that they range from relatively simple to complex strategy games. That means there is a board game out there for everyone!

What you need:

  1. The basic version of the game — This is the bare minimum for a board game. Some games have add-ons and expansions, but these are optional.
  2. Technology — Some games, such as Mansions of Madness, use tablets and smartphones as part of the gameplay
  3. Humor and sportsmanship — Tabletop gaming is meant to be fun! Never let tempers or competitiveness get out of hand!

How to play:

Because all board games are different, there is no general rule for how to play one. Set-up can take anywhere from a few minutes to longer, especially when there are multiple card decks, currency, tokens, markers, and other game pieces involved.

The number of players will also affect the gameplay. If you play a game by yourself (Mansions of Madness, for example), it is different from playing with others. If you are playing a game that requires two or more people, everything from set-up to how long it takes to finish the game may be much longer.

Each player takes his or her turn until the game objective is met. There may be one winner in a competitive game, or if it’s a cooperative game, the entire group survives or meets a specific goal.

cat game master

What Is A Tabletop Role-Playing Game?

If you were a kid once, then you probably played a type of role-playing game and didn’t even know it! Roleplaying games are a combination of acting, imagination, and board game. So if you have ever played Doctor, Cops & Robers, or Superheros with your friends, then you already have some of the basics down!

What makes role-playing games different from other tabletop games is focusing on a group of players working together to create a cooperative story.  In a role-playing game, the players create and interact with the world of the game as their characters. In tabletop role-playing games, your think about what motivates your character and how they will set goals and make plans for accomplishing them.

When playing a board game, you probably aren’t thinking about why your little plastic piece is doing what it’s doing. You’re not trying to figure out its motivations or its relates to the other pieces. You’re just following the rules as they are written!

Most role-playing games are set in an open world that changes based on the characters’ decisions, so the decisions you and your group make for your characters are reflected in the larger story. Usually, the player characters are on a team working together to accomplish a goal. Think of the Fellowship of the Ring from The Lord of the Rings — a group of heroes bands together, despite their differences, to work toward a common goal.

Your character does not exist solely in their head, however. Your character’s specific background, skills, and abilities are recorded on a piece of paper that you use in the game. You can also have a miniature representing your character, making it easier to visualize how they look and interact with the world.

How much you portray your character by role-playing (talking in a unique voice, acting out a scene, etc.) is entirely up to you, but I encourage you to take the risk to play as your character when possible. It makes the game more entertaining for you, your friends and more fun for everyone!

What you need:

  1. Game dice — These range from a set of the seven standard polyhedral to RPG-specific die used for the specific game you are playing.
  2. Rulebook — Contains info for character creation, an explanation of character abilities, rules, and game mechanics.
  3. Character sheet — This could be either a pre-made character or a blank one to create your own!
  4. Notebook and pen — So you can take notes of details that come up during game sessions.
  5. A miniature figure of your character — This is optional but makes the game more fun.
  6. Imagination — Let your imagination loose with creativity and improv, and allow your character (and yourself) to have some adventuring fun!

How to play:

When playing D&D, the Game Master (or Dungeon Master when playing D&D) is your main storyteller, who sets the main story and its many scenarios. They are a combination of narrator and referee, providing structure and guiding your adventure with background characters (non-player characters or NPCs) and setting challenges.

As player characters, you and your fellow adventurers follow the story presented by your DM/GM. You use your character’s abilities and “play” according to his or her personality, demeanor, and traits. Essentially, you pretend to be someone else while playing, and you use your imagination to weave your way through the campaign.

The game you play can last a few hours or numerous sessions (weeks or even months), depending on the adventure. The longer the campaign, the more your character evolves as you gain experience points and level up!

build only one army

What Is A Tabletop Wargame?

Do you love board games? Do you love arts and crafts? Then wargaming might be for you! Tabletop wargaming, also known as miniature wargaming, combines traditional board gaming and battle simulation using miniatures, dice, and terrain pieces. The use of models to conduct battles and variety of play makes it fun and entertaining for all audiences across the board . . . no pun intended!

Tabletop wargames are different from traditional board gaming in that they do not use a conventional board. Wargaming uses a flat surface and maps or 3-D terrain pieces (sometimes both) to simulate a battlefield where your army will fight. By changing the maps and rearranging the terrain, each game can be completely different.

Miniature wargaming brings people into the community for several different reasons—first, those who like strategy games. Whether you are playing BattleTech, Warhammer 40k, or Axis & Allies, you will have to use strategy in choosing what units will be in your army and the tactics they use. This provides strategy players a multi-layered game that allows them to use their minds to outmaneuver their opponents.

Next are the lore lovers! The most popular wargames not only let you simulate great battles but tell an engaging story as well. Take Warhammer 40k, arguably the most popular miniature wargame available has a story spanning eons. You can spend hours learning about the Imperium of Mankind and not even has scratched the surface of its lore.

Lastly, the hobby side of wargaming. Miniatures are the central pieces of any wargaming army, and how that army look is entirely up to you. The miniatures for your game will either come fully assembled or as parts that require you to build them, reminiscent of the model airplane or car building. Once fully assembled, the last step is painting, and here you get to let your imagination create an army that no one else has.

If you are looking for suggestions on some great miniature wargames to get into, you can check out my article on the 13 best wargames for beginners here!

What you need:

  1. Miniatures — These are your army, representing the side or faction you’re playing, and usually meet a point value agreed to by all players.
  2. Glue and Paint — Some miniatures may require assembly and/or paint, which is the hobby side of tabletop wargaming.
  3. Cards and dice — Sometimes, they come with the game and help determine if your attacks hit or how much damage is dealt.
  4. Tape measure — It’s necessary for wargaming because it measures how far you can move and whether an army is “in range” of an attack.
  5. Some tactical skills — Time to put your “General” hat on and try to outwit your opponent!

How to play:

While you can play on any flat surface, using 3-D terrain, game mats, or maps adds realism. How much area you need depends on the game or scenario you are playing.

You build your army based on the number of points set for the game. You must be strategic when you choose units or ability cards you want to have. It helps to know, if possible, who your opponent is and what armies he or she is playing.

Your dice rolls (and sometimes ability cards) determine your movement and actions, as well as how much damage you deal or take.

A game can last anywhere from 30 minutes to hours, depending on how many points your game is.

game night

Which Kind Of Tabletop Game Is Best For Me?

Now that you know what kind of tabletop games there are, you may be wondering which is the best for you. Now, this may sound lame, but it depends. I know, I know! What kind of answer is that? Well, it is a genuine answer! 

What type of game you will like the most depends on a lot of factors. But as a gamer myself, I can tell you that you should try all of them. There’s an old adage you may have heard before, “You’ll never know you like it until you try it.”

It’s not as simple as “If you want a simple game, then go with a board game” or “If your looking for a challenge, then a wargame is for you.” Sure, there are simple board games, but there are also simple (or at least simpler) wargames. Some board games can be just as complex and require just as much strategic skill as a wargame.

If you want to know more about getting into the tabletop gaming hobby, you have to check out my post here. So, whichever tabletop game you choose is up to you, and I wish you happy gaming!


Hi! I'm Jason, the guy behind Alpha Strikes. I've been in love with miniature wargames for more than 30 years, even more lately. It has become my mission to spread my love of wargames to new players. I hope you enjoy the site!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *