Top 10 Wargames

I was introduced into the board gaming hobby at large by hex and counter-esque Wargames.  I got my first Bachelor’s Degree in history, so seeing battles take place on the table in front of me always was a selling point (which is why I probably have too many Normandy wargames).

There are a lot of people who think Wargames are super involved and detailed and the rules take forever to learn and twice as long to play.  And they are partially right.  There are definitely wargames that I have tried to read the rules for, was unable to understand them remotely, and (at the time) didn’t have YouTube tutorials to look up, so I passed on them.  But there are also very accessible wargames as well.  The games on this list present both a wide range of complex options and entry points into the wargaming hobby.  I think I’ll probably do a “wargaming primer” post for people who are interested but don’t have any idea what ZOC means (zone of control) and what the difference between tactical and operational level games are.  For now, I’ll try to keep the jargon limited or explain if I use a term that doesn’t translate well to overall gaming.  Also, some of these games are solitaire only, where you play against the game system itself.  A lot of them are, actually, because most of my gaming group aren’t that into wargames.  I’ll note those as well.

One final point before we get to the important stuff:  These all fall in to my definition of a wargame (which is I know it when I see it).  These may not fall in to your definition, and that’s okay.  We can disagree on things.  What I absolutely hate is people using a game like Memoir ’44 or Twilight Struggle as a litmus test for people who want to enter into wargaming and having people say “Oh, that’s not a wargame, you aren’t a real wargamer”.  I’ve had it happen to me, it sucks and it’s not a good way to introduce and grow the hobby.

If you are new to wargames, check out this helpful geeklist on Boardgamegeek: Wargames??? YES YOU CAN!

With that out of the way, here are my top 10 Wargames, [with the publishers in brackets]

Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear (2nd Edition) [Academy Games]

This is a 2 player World War II tactical game (rough idea is that it’s a very focused scale; usually a small part of one battle or one battle, depending on the time).  It uses an action point system, where each player gets a certain pool of points that they can use to do various things like move, fire, assault (moving into a hex with an enemy unit and fighting).  It also includes cards that allow you to do various things.

I have really enjoyed my few plays of this system.  There is also a solo expansion that lets you play against the game, and while I own it, I haven’t had the chance to sit down and digest the rules for it.

I like it because it’s simple and the narrative that can develop really gets me into the action.  I feel it’s rules light and the rules start simple and gradually add complexity with each new scenario, so you can take your time with it if you are just starting out.

Silent Victory [Consim Press]

Silent Victory is a solitaire WWII game where you control a submarine crew.  This game doesn’t look like what many people think of when they think of wargames.  There isn’t really a map, and there are a lot of charts.  Some people argue that there aren’t many meaningful decisions to be made in this game because you are left to the die rolls on the charts and that’s about it, but there are some decisions you can make:  how to load out your sub, at what range to fire, what targets to fire on and what ones to leave alone.

This game is in my top 10 because it is quick to play a patrol or two and the story that develops is absolutely phenomenal.  You get attached to your submariners and your commander, and it always leaves you wondering “maybe I should have taken a shot at that last convoy when I had a chance”.

The level of detail is also astounding; there is an entire chart of Japanese capital and warships that you can sink, as well as tons of charts with various smaller ships.

Memoir ’44 [Days of Wonder]

This was my first wargame.  This is a 2 player variable scale WWII game.  It’s primary mechanic is that it’s card driven, and each card allows you to activate certain sectors of the game board.  There are certain scenarios that have objectives you can hold, but usually you are just trying to eliminate a certain number of enemy forces to win.

There are tons of expansions for this, and I own just about all of them.  I don’t get this played nearly at all, but you can play everything from one battle on one map to a campaign over a series of battles, to the D-Day landings over 6 maps that when put together don’t fit in my game room (Seriously…I haven’t done it yet but I will one day).

There are minis for each unit and each nation has a different color.  Seriously, the amount of content that has been released for this system is astounding….dang, I really need to get this to the table again.

The Greatest Day: Sword, Juno, and Gold Beaches [Multi-Man Publishing]

This is the first game I haven’t actually ‘played’ on this list.  I have set it up on a computer program called VASSAL because this thing is huge.  It is part of the Grand Tactical Series and it’s a bit of a zoomed out tactical look at the D-Day landings on the British and Canadian beaches.

This is what’s known as a monster wargame because there are a lot of counters and a lot of map space.  You can play a single map scenario, or you can combine them to play the whole enchilada.

This is probably the most ‘traditional’ hex and counter wargame on my list.  I have two other games in the GTS series, and every time I see them on the shelf, I go onto YouTube, look up a play list on how to play the system and get excited…then don’t commit.  Maybe this year is the year I actually play a scenario of this.

Ambush! [Victory Games]

This was my first solitaire wargame, and it’s one of the few games I’ve purchased twice.  Ambush! was published in 1983 and was designed by one of the highest regarded solo wargame designers, John Butterfield.

Ambush! is a tactical WWII (do you see a theme here?) solitaire game where you control a squad of American soldiers in different scenarios in Europe.  The counters each are an individual soldier, and much like an RPG, they each have different skills and weapons that you can roll on tables to create.

Ambush! is similar to a choose your own adventure book.  You have a paragraph book that you consult whenever your squad does something (outside of combat) that drives the action forward; you might hear a bullet whiz by your head, you might see a plane going down in the distance, who knows?

There are quite a few expansions for this, and since the game is out of print, they can be hard to find.  Luckily, I own them all, as well as the Battle Hymn game (which is Ambush! set in WWII Pacific theatre) and it’s expansion.

Since it’s paragraph driven, there can be limited replayability since you know what will happen each mission, but if you are like me and take your time between scenarios, that shouldn’t be an issue.

I normally don’t rank games, but Ambush! is without a doubt my number one Solitaire wargame.

Thunderbolt/Apache Leader (TAL) [Dan Verssen Games]

TAL is a solitaire game where you control a squadron of close air support aircraft.  There are tons of campaigns to choose from, and each campaign has a bunch of different situations you can play.

There are two parts to this game.  The first is actually choosing your squadron.  You get to choose both the aircraft that comprise your group and the pilots who actually pilot the craft.  Each pilot has different skill levels and at each of those levels, they have different ratings for different ways to fire weapons, removing stress, and they can gain XP to level up to get better stats.

Once you’ve done that, you actually fly missions where you are taking out enemy battalions that may have special abilities that hinder you in the earlier mentioned portion of the game.  You load out each aircraft with specific weapons for the enemies you’ll face, and then you fly the battle out on a map comprised of various hexes with varying degrees of cover that you and your enemies can use.

The RPG/campaign type elements and the story that evolves as you play this game make it replayable time and time again

Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection [GMT Games]

Liberty or Death is a COIN game set in the Revolutionary War period.  COIN games are relatively new in the hobby, but COIN is an overall system that focuses on “guerrilla warfare, asymmetric warfare, and COunterINsurgencies around the world – in both historical and contemporary conflicts” (taken from http://www.gmtgames.com/c-36-coin-series.aspx).

There are tons of settings currently, from Cuba in the 1958 revolution to present day Afghanistan to Roman Britain.  The thing about COIN games is that there are usually 4 sides, and while they may work together they each have their own specific goals on how to win the game.  You can also play these solo as GMT provides flowcharts for each side that you can use as AI players.

The first game I tried in the COIN series really didn’t click for me, but Liberty or Death came strongly recommended by a few wargamers I follow on Twitter.  I ordered it on a whim, set it up, went through the example of play and I was hooked.  For some reason, it just clicked.  I am looking forward to my first 4 player playthrough of this next month; it’s how I’m celebrating my birthday this year!

Commands and Colors: Ancients (CC:A) [GMT Games]

Commands and Colors: Ancients is in the same system as Memoir ’44, but instead of WWII you get a wide swath of ancient history, mainly focusing on the Mediterranean.  It doesn’t have miniatures, but stickered blocks (that the buyer has to sticker themselves) that represent various units.  There are tons of expansions that have art that reflects the timeframe for each expansion (for example, Republican Roman blocks are grey, while Imperial Roman blocks are Red).  It’s also a bit more complex than Memoir ’44 because the different unit types can do ranged fire or close combat and have some other special rules.

When I want something quick to play, but want it to have a bit of oomph to it, CC:A is pretty much my go to.

D-Day at Omaha Beach [Decision Games]

D-Day at Omaha Beach is a tactical (there’s that word again..) solitaire game of storming Omaha Beach during the D-Day landings in Normandy.  This one is also designed by John Butterfield, and it’s probably the oddest looking map of the bunch.  The reason for this is the game system uses different color coded dots to determine who can fire at you and how deadly it is, and so there are different dots in each hex.  This is a game where cards drive a lot of the action, and so even though it focuses on one segment of one battle, I haven’t had two games that have played out the same way.  This too generates a great narrative, and was successful enough that they published two more games in the series for the landings at Tarawa and Peleliu.  I would say it’s a step up from entry level, but there are plenty of playthroughs and player aids online that help get the flow of the game down.

Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations (HL: CAO) [Dan Verssen Games]

Last and certainly not least is Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations.  This game is in the same ‘Leader’ series as Thunderbolt/Apache leader, but instead of close air support you are flying fighters and bombers off of air carriers.  This is my favorite Leader game, and I don’t think anything will come along to unseat it (unless someone happens to buy me a pledge level of the Corsair Leader Kickstarter that’s running at the time of this writing).  Growing up I was enamored with the F-14 Tomcat, and in this game that is one of the major planes you can take on missions.

The game is structured much like TAL, so it would be pretty repetitive to dive into that again, but the aircraft and armaments are different, and the way you play the battles out are different as well; in HL:CAO you are focusing on one target and the anti-air emplacements around it.  There is even a Cthullu expansion which I own, but haven’t had a chance to play ( I want to get through the base game campaigns, and since it was released in 2010 I have some work to do).

 

Well, there you have it.  My Top 10 Wargames.  Are you a wargamer? What’s your favorite game or system to play?  If you aren’t, do you have any interest in trying out a wargame? Leave me a comment and let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Top 10 Non Solo, Non Wargame Games

My Top 10 Non Solo, Non Wargame Games

Finally! My first real top 10 list.

Originally I thought I was going to do my top 10 gateway games…but then I realized I haven’t ever sat down and thought about what my top gateway games are.  I thought about doing top 10 wargames, but that’s definitely going to take more time to write about than I have, especially if I am keeping myself to my Wed. night deadline.  II was going to do my top 10 overall games, which I am sure I will do at a later date, but I am equal parts wargamer, solo gamer, and euro game (and yes I am sure there are other distinctions that people could make but I’m already writing so we are just going with it).  So, I figure I would go with my gut picks for my top 10 games that are not designed for solo play (co-op games that can be played solo are fine) and that aren’t wargames.  I’ll also add that these are in no particular order (because I don’t need to make things harder for myself) and that for any of my top 10 lists, I have to own the game unless otherwise stated).

So, here you are, my top 10 non solo non wargames games:

Imperial Settlers

As a former history major, I love anything with a civilization component to it.  I also love games that let me develop an engine, and that have variable player powers or strategies.  Imperial Settlers has all of these.  The first time I played it seemed to take forever, and that soured me for a while but once I played again and really wrapped my head around the gameplay, I knew I had to have this game.  I don’t think I’ve ever turned down someone wanting to play a game of this, and with various expansions that can be added, I still haven’t explored all this has to offer.

Viticulture Essential Edition

The first time I played this, I wasn’t sold on it.  A friend convinced me to give it another try, and after I did, I really, really came to enjoy this one.  A worker placement game where you are in charge of a vineyard, Viticulture has a ton of extra content you can add with the Tuscany expansion, which I am told makes the game better.  I think it’s pretty great as is.  It employs a ‘wake up early’ mechanic for turn order, which I really thought fit well, and you have to strategically save your workers as you place them on different halves of the board for different seasons (meaning If you place all your workers in summer, you can’t take any winter actions).

I have everything in the Essential Edition line, and haven’t played this a ton, but this is actually my wife and I’s game this week, thanks to the Deck of What Should We Play (see my earlier post) so it gets to hit the table this weekend, and I am excited.

BrewCrafters

I know, I know, another game about beverages.  Well this one is just as good, especially because I am a craft brew fan.  This worker placement game has each player running their own brewery and the biggest thing I remember about the first time playing it was that it’s tight.  With tons of different beers players can choose from, this is one of the best Kickstarters I have been a part of.

Castles of Burgundy

I am a sucker for anything with dice.  This has dice and tile placement and tons of different boards that you can choose from.  I think I’ve played with the ‘starting player’ board most times, so this is one I need to revist often.  It’s thinky, but not so thinky that you don’t want to play anything after it.

Trains

I am not a fan of most deckbuilders.  For some of them, it just seems like you are cycling through a deck to score points, which doesn’t do a whole lot to draw me in.  Trains, though, is a deck builder that is also an area control game, of sorts.  Adding in that extra mechanic, so I have something I am actually doing with the cards is what makes this game perfect for me.  Again, I have tons of expansion maps for this one that don’t get played.  I should probably remedy that.

Suburbia

Just like I’m a sucker for anything civilization themed, I am also a sucker for anything city building related.  This was the first city builder I played, and I actually think it was the first game I ever preordered.  I’ll also associate this game with the first Con I went to, as it was in the Hot Games room that year, and it was my most played game at that Con.

It’s a bit fiddly, but theme fits perfectly with this one (i.e., airports by suburbs are a bad idea).  This is one I haven’t played in quite some time…I should remedy that soon.

Marvel: Legendary

Yes, I know this is a deckbuilder.  But it’s a deckbuilder with Superheroes!! Marvel Superheroes!!

Seriously, I love this game for the situations it puts you in.  I don’t think I’ve ever played a bad game of it, even after getting my butt handed to me 3 times over the course of 3 hours.  We sort of overplayed this one when I was first introduced to it, so I cooled on it, but I don’t think I’d turn down a game of this if someone asked.

Legacy: The Testament of Duke De Crecy

This is a ‘worker’ placement game about making your family tree.  I kid you not, you literally build your family out with cards from the game.  This was a very surprising game to me that is sort of cutthroat (easy for people to play their workers where you need it) but the game even gives you a way to mitigate that.  It’s set in the late 1700s, so seeing some of the history come into play between the different nationalities is pretty cool too.  Oh, and the art is amazing.

Fair warning though:  this game does involve the potential loss of a child or a mother in childbirth.  I didn’t fully explain that the first time I taught this, and while none of us playing had children or had been in that situation, it was still sort of jarring, so this is one of those that you might want to give your game group a heads up on before you start playing if there are new players.

Castle Panic

This is a co-op tower defense game.  It’s light, there’s strategy involved, and you can have giant boulders that come through and crash your 3-D castle.

When we got this game, I played it 3-4 times in the first 48 hours we had it.  For me, that speaks very much to the replayability and enjoyability of the game.

Silverton

This is a game about train railways, mining, and prospecting in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.  Sounds like a real barn burner, eh?  It involves building routes, staking claims to mines, and manipulating the market in various cities. The few times I have played this, I have always emjoyed it and I think part of that is because the group knew that this game definitely takes a time investment.  So long as you can devote the time and take this game as an experience, it’s always fun

So there you have it.  My top 10 non-wargame, non-solo games.  Have you played any of these? Would any of these make it into your top 10?

Top 5 #Murica games

Tomorrow is the 4th of July in America, which means people will be blowing stuff up, eating and drinking too much, and probably chanting USA.

With that in mind, I wanted to present my top 5 #Murica games, because America is number 1!

(Authors Note:  This is a joke list.  I really do like all these games, but thought this was a neat way to write about them.  Work was hard, so I didn’t feel like doing a real blog post.  #Sorrynotsorry)

With that out of the way:

Number 5:  Pandemic

Pandemic is all about America saving the world from impending doom, and if every Hollywood movie I’ve ever seen has taught me anything, it’s that there might be some people from other countries who help, but it’s American ingenuity that saves the day.  Besides, you start in Atlanta, which is in America.  Need I say more?

Rating:  3 American Flags

Number 4: Food Chain Magnate

There is nothing more American than running ad campaigns so that people indulge themselves on burgers and beer and other things.  Ensuring you make the most money is the cherry on top of the freedom sundae that is this game.

Rating:  4 Burgers and a Beer

Number 3: Washington’s War

It has THE Father of our country in the title.  It could have been Washington’s Unicorn Fairy Monopoly Jamboree and it still would have been considered for this list.  You get to beat up on the British if you are the lucky player and that is really what Independence Day is all about.

Rating: 1 Cherry Tree, 1 Set of False Teeth, and 1 River Crossing

Number 2: Baseball Highlights 2045

It has our national pastime in it AND robots.  How can this not be good?  It combines names of famous baseball players in the past which is important too.

Rating:  3 Balls, 2 Strikes in the bottom of the 9th with bases loaded.

Number 1: Scythe

I’m probably going to get a lot of flak for this decision, because you are probably saying to yourself “HEY! AMERICA ISN’T EVEN IN THIS GAME?!?! WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO PULL?!?!”

This game has former Soviet Bloc countries fighting amongst themselves for control of resources and stuff.  If that isn’t the American dream (from, like, the 80s or something) then I don’t know what is.

Rating: 1 Giant Bald Eagle

So there you have it.  The top 5 games about #Murica as seen by me.  I’ll be playing one of these on the 4th and am really looking forward to it.  Feel free to share your top 5 from wherever you come from!