Hot! What to Expect at a Tactical Reenactment

2013-08-16 11.10.22

When people think of reenactments, the image that comes to mind is generally one of masses of reenactors marching around an open field in front of an audience of public spectators.  While this is often the truth of large-scale public reenactments (often also called Living History due to the focus on educating the public), it’s far from the reality of a whole different side of the reenacting world: private reenactments, often called Tacticals.

Tacticals are private, reenactor-only events.  Think of them as a “By Reenactors, For Reenactors” type of event.  The object is often to have a more personal experience of history, though reenactors each have their own reasons for attending a tactical.  Some attend for the immersive experience, some attend because they don’t like answering the often inane and repetitive questions of the public, others attend because they enjoy the increased levels of camaraderie.  Regardless of why the individual reenactors are in attendance, and often regardless of the time period being portrayed, I have found there to be a few universal truths about Tacticals vs. Living History.  As with everything, this is based on my own personal experiences and those of my friends.

1.  Tacticals are generally smaller.

Don’t expect massive groups of troops and big camps.  Expect smaller squads of more tightly-knit soldiers, simpler camps with less gear, etc.  This is what helps to create #2.  The smaller size of the event means that logistics are easier, but it also means that screw-ups are noticed much more readily.

2.  Tacticals are generally, for lack of a better term, more intimate.

Most tacticals are invite-only, which means that everyone there already knows a lot of the other people at the event.  There’s a greater atmosphere of chumminess at tacticals, I find, which kind of mimics the real military.  Since the event is smaller, everyone interacts more with eachother, and relies on eachother more.

3.  Tacticals generally have different standards of authenticity.

Note that I said “different”, not necessarily “higher”.  I’ve found that Living History events often have a focus on authenticity in different areas than Tacticals do.  Tacticals are often all about the experience, whereas Living History events are all about the appearance.  Each event is different regarding what it allows and doesn’t allow, so be sure to ask around before the event.

4.  Tacticals generally have a much more enforced command structure.

This is for both logistics and safety.  There will be people in charge of the event, people in charge of your “side”, and people in charge of your unit.  Not only is there more command structure, people tend to obey it more readily as well.  The flip side of this is that individuals with a tendency toward power trips are often more visible at Tacticals than they are at Living History events.

5.  Tacticals generally have much less in the way of creature comforts.

Living History events are generally held at historical sites, parks, etc.  Tacticals are generally held on someone’s backwoods property.  LH events often have access to real restrooms, parking isn’t too far (and if it is, there’s some sort of shuttle), and water is provided and readily accessible.  Tacticals rarely have even portapotties, require a long trek on foot to the site, and you have to bring in all the food and water that you will need for the weekend.


I know that much of this makes Tacticals sound difficult and troublesome, but I assure you – they can be a lot of fun.  I know many reenactors who don’t do public events at all anymore because they enjoy Tacticals so much.  I enjoy both sides of the hobby for their own reasons, but Tacticals definitely have held some of my most awesome experiences.  I highly encourage all reenactors to try a private event at least once, if they can.

Coming soon: a post with advice for those attending a Tactical for the first time!


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  1. I’ve always wondered, how is it determined who “dies” at these events? Is it sometimes predetermined before the battle or is it generally up to the individual when they take a fall?