For most of us, wargaming is a leisure activity, a hobby, something which is chosen to indulge in, rather than being something required, ordained or made necessary. There is a distinction here between what is necessary and what is chosen. It is (sadly) necessary for me to get out of bed from time to time and go to work. Not to do so would, eventually, have undesirable consequences, such as my work not being done, being rendered unemployed, unable to feed my family and so on. However, I choose to get out of bed. There may be some constraints to persuade me that getting out of bed is a good idea, but (assuming that humans do have some sort of free will) I do choose a particular course of action.
What, however, do we make of leisure activities? I am not constrained to do them, by definition. A leisure activity is something which we choose to indulge in. if this were not the case, it becomes work, possibly drudgery. But a freely chosen leisure activity is, almost by consequence of that set up, something that we choose which, we think and believe, is a good for us. Our leisure activity might not, of course, ultimately turn out to be good for us. Our whiter water raft might capsize and we might drown, or a mountain yak might push us off a Himalaya to our detriment, but nevertheless, we chose that activity because we believe in its good for us.
Given that we are not all the same, our choices of leisure activity vary. Some people seem to find riding bicycles up hills with gritted teeth and sweat by the bucket load a pleasurable activity. I can only imagine that the pleasure here is in looking back and thinking ‘I’ve done it’, but who am I to criticise someone else’s leisure activity? I can only, by definition of the term leisure activity, assume that they enjoy it somehow.
Nevertheless, humans are fairly practical people. In our work we are often presented with practical problems which we respond to with a plan, a course of action, and some activity such as laying bricks or writing computer programs. One of the hall-marks of this sort of activity is a certain degree of efficiency. My line manager is perfectly happy to see some scrawl on my desk which does contain a plan, the kernel of an idea or something of that sort, even though a doodle would probably make them suspicious that I am not really doing anything.
But the project, the plan, the efficient execution is not really a part of leisure activity as leisure. It might, indeed, be part so such an activity, but it is not the point of it. Leisure activity is a point in its own content. There is (or, perhaps should be) no point to the leisure activity except that it is an leisure activity. It is an end in itself.
Thus, I might have (and, in fact, do have) a plan for my wargaming in the short, medium and / or long term. I am painting armies. I plan to have wargames. The armies are of such a type, the wargames are between such forces, and so on. The point here, surely, is that as these plans refer solely to my leisure activity, no-one is going to get hurt, grumble or throw a wobbly at me if they are not done. The plan is a plan but it is not a serious plan. The fate of millions (no matter what my wargaming megalomania might suggest otherwise) is not in the balance according to whether I complete this next base of Thracians or not. Which is just as well, as work on the Thracians has stalled a bit.
Wargaming, however, is something of a creative activity. Something is created by our efforts in our leisure. If we have a wargame, the creation is a wargame, a narrative, a series of connected events. The events are connected, and connected to us, by our decision making processes. This process might depend on plans (formal or informal) but is also completed in the concrete, the wargame itself. A wargame throws at us a series of decisions we have to make to move it forward. That move, of course, might well (and probably is) driven by a pre-existing context. For example, a mile wide cavalry unit belonging to my enemy might just have appeared over the hill. This context drives my decision to, say, concede that the game is lost.
In some senses, that decision making context is the same as my need to remove myself from my slumbers and do some commuting, but in another sense it would be different, because the drivers for making the decision are different. In leisure activity, no-one would mind too much if I failed to make a decision, or, indeed, made the wrong one to the detriment of my army. In real life it might matter rather more, unless you are a highly paid bank executive in which case they simply increase you bonus the more bad decisions you make.
We can, of course, in a leisure context, simply make a decision arbitrarily. I can attempt to turn my grand battery to pound those horsemen, just to see what happened. I might even get away with it and blow them away while the rest of my army is busy winning the battle elsewhere. The point here is surely that my decision does not have that great an impact on the real world; it can be treated as something of a thought-experiment. No people or horses were, in fact, hurt in the preparation of this post.
So wargaming as a leisure activity actually has no point at all. And that is the point of it. If everything humans did had a point we would all be workaholics and very, very, boring. But perhaps we do need other activities as well. After all, someone who had an infinite quantity of leisure time and spent it wargaming might, in due course, be regarded even by fellow wargamers as being a bit dull.