I know that we all love lists and that we have a drive to make lists and then complete the things on the list. We use lists for many purposes. Shopping. Tasks at work. “To Do” Lists (also called “Honey Do” Lists) at home. Things to experience before we die (Bucket List). And many more reasons. One of those reasons is also a list that we put together of things we would like for Christmas. I am always asked what I want for Christmas and unfortunately I am bad at making lists, and thinking on my feet, and I am disappointed a lot of times on Christmas morning because I can’t articulate what I want to those who purchase gifts for me. Well, if you are like me, I have a list for you that should make your Christmas morning a little brighter. Here is my list of the 10 Games to Buy Your Wargamer for Christmas. It is a good list with games that I have really had a good experience playing and I am sure that you will enjoy them as well. Just have your significant other, family members, friends, coworkers and acquaintances print off this list and you will be assured of getting something under the tree that makes you smile.
One of the goals that I had for this list was to include all types of games. Hex and Counter, Card Driven, Historically Themed, Solitaire, 2-player, 4-player, Introductory Wargames, Squad based tactical, etc. Really something for every type of wargamer, either the seasoned veterans of thousands of hours hunched over a 1,000 dusty counters or those who have never played a wargame. I hope that I succeeded as I look at this list and think that they are all good but in very different ways and for different reasons.
If you are interested, here are links for the previous year’s editions of this list:
In the end, no matter what presents you received under the tree, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and hope that you have plenty of time with friends and family, and are still able to roll some dice and consult some CRTs for the holidays!
One more thing before we get to the games. If you are looking for something different for your wargamer for Christmas check out our The Players’ Aid merchandise available from TeeSpring at the following link: https://teespring.com/shop/tpa-classic-logo You can find t-shirts, sweat shirts, fleece blankets and die cut stickers with our very fashionable logo. Take a look!
Undaunted: Normandy from Osprey Games
I love a good historically themed game….that also is a bit of a wargame with combat, tactics and the need for planning. I also love it when a designer takes an uncommon mechanic, such as deckbuilding, and builds a war themed game around it that ends up working really well and mimicking some of the difficulties and confusion of the battlefield.
David Thompson and Trevor Benjamin have accomplished just that with his masterpiece Undaunted: Normandy which is a tactical card based game that uses very interesting mechanics to simulate small squads of soldiers from the 30th Infantry Division and their enemies the defending Germans in and around Normandy, France as you battle over Control of various Objectives on a modular board of the French countryside.
The game play is very smart and really strategic as you have to assess the overall situation, determine what units under your control you need, add them to your deck to increase your chances of drawing them out when you need them and then figure out how to foil your opponent as you chase control of objectives for victory points.
This is the perfect filler type wargame as it is a more casual play experience with most scenarios playing in 30-45 minutes and can be a great introduction into historical themed games for children or your friends that aren’t huge gamers.
Here also are links to a series of Action Points on the various aspects of the game:
If you are interested in Undaunted: Normandy, you can purchase a copy from the Miniature Market website at the following link: https://www.miniaturemarket.com/ospgam029.html
Castle Itter: The Strangest Battle of World War II from Dan Verssen Games
Recently fulfilled off of a very successful Kickstarter campaign, Castle Itter is on this list because it is just a very good solitaire wargame with great narrative and very understandable and interesting mechanics. In Castle Itter: The Strangest Battle of WWII, players will take on the role of a makeshift force that is defending a medieval castle nestled in the Austrian countryside from a Waffen-SS assault near the end of World War II. The force consists of an American tank crew and infantrymen, Wehrmacht infantrymen, a former SS officer, French prisoners, and an Austrian resistance fighter. There is a reason this game has the subtitle The Strangest Battle of WWII.
The game is played as the defender has five actions each round and must move his units in the form of counters around the board to take actions to attack advancing German Waffen-SS counters as they progress up various colored assault tracks. If the enemy breaches the walls of the castle and enter the grounds you lose; simple as that. Scoring is based on how well players did in defending the castle, and for bravery (did the Besotten Jenny get blown up?), and running away (as you get extra points for escaping the French tennis player).
I recorded a two part playthrough video to give you an idea how the mechanics work.
We also did an interview with designer David Thompson that you can read on our written blog at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2018/11/05/interview-with-david-thompson-designer-of-castle-itter-the-strangest-battle-of-world-war-ii-from-dan-verssen-games-coming-soon-to-kickstarter/
If you are interested in Castle Itter, you can check out the Kickstarter page at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/11606594/470124123?ref=ei8axk&token=bf85ac93
Crowbar! The Rangers at Pointe Du Hoc, June 6th, 1944 from Flying Pig Games
At Origins 2018 we got to sit down with Hermann Luttmann, designer of such games as At Any Cost: Metz 1870 and the illustrious Dawn of the Zeds series. You can head on over to YouTube and see a video interview we were lucky enough to do with him at Origins 2018 talking about Crowbar!
Crowbar! is primarily a solitaire game that deals with the American Rangers landing at Pointe du Hoc on D-Day and their mission to find and put out of action artillery pieces that were covering Omaha Beach. You’ll go all the way through their mission, from riding in on landing craft and wading onto the beaches, firing grappling hooks, scaling the cliffs and then searching the fields and emplacements for the guns. While the game covers not only D-Day but also D-Day plus one and two, you’ll pretty much need to get it done on the first day in order to succeed. It’s no good finding the guns after they’ve pounded the beaches all day and night.
The game can be played cooperatively as well, if you wanted, where you end up splitting the three companies between up to three players. When you do that it’s important to keep each of the companies in good supporting battle lines to gain bonuses. But let’s be honest, we’ll all be doing this one solo!
So, finding the artillery is the end goal, and atop the cliffs are an array of around 20 hidden counters, only a few of which actually house the guns you need to capture and destroy. The rest represent decoys, wasted resources and bad intel. This adds to the replay value, and also makes the task a little more daunting as well. Crowbar! is a push-your-luck style game as you throw units forward, risking wounds or getting pushed back. The hidden markers give a real edge to that risk as you might end up killing yourself to capture basically nothing.
Crowbar! uses a dice mechanism for movement. There are four different dice, each with different odds on them. The green dice, is nice and safe. You’re less likely to take hits, but you won’t move nearly as much. Remember, time is of the essence in this one. So you might pick up that yellow, or red dice and risk taking much heavier fire but being able to bound forward toward the cliffs and the eventual gun emplacements. The other thing you need to remember is that you have rally points, which move up the beaches as your units do. It is from these rally points that you will move your units out. And to which they will fall back if necessary. So the game ends up as this cool simulation of trying to bring up proper battle lines, but doing it quickly and effectively. As with all of Hermann Luttmann’s designs, you can rest assured that with the dice rolling and hidden objective markers there is plenty of battlefield chaos to be had, which makes for a game that is highly replayable.
The game had a successful Kickstarter last year and should be being fulfilled over the next few months. If you are interested in Crowbar! The Rangers at Pointe Du Hoc you can order a copy for $95.00 from the Flying Pig Games website at the following link: https://flyingpiggames.com/products/crowbar-the-rangers-at-pointe-du-hoc-june-6th-1944
Brave Little Belgium from Hollandspiele
In Brave Little Belgium, you assume the role of either the Germans or the Entente (Belgians, French, and British) at the start of World War I. This introductory wargame is designed to be quick-playing and uses a point to point map and a Chit Pull mechanism, one of our very favorite mechanics, to simulate the beginning of World War I on the Western Front. The game takes place over the period of time between August 4 and August 27, 1914 and each turn represents three days.
The goal for the Germans is to quickly smash the Belgian defenders before they can be reinforced by the French and British, destroy the forts at Liege and Namur and occupy a city on the other side of the Victory Line with an Infantry unit. The Entente simply need to stop the Germans from accomplishing their goal by slowing their advance down. As I said, a fairly straightforward wargame with some of our favorite mechanics.
There is lots to like in Brave Little Belgium. We really like the Chit Pull Activation as it creates a lot of uncertainty about when your units will be able to take actions. I really think that the hidden Garde Civique units (or roadblocks as I have referred to them as) are a nice historical touch to the design that adds in some uncertainty and I like that you have the choice to push your luck with activations as the Germans by taking your chances with the Atrocities Track. All in all, a very clever yet straightforward introductory wargame on the early days of World War I.
Here is a look at our video review of the game: Video Review for Brave Little Belgium
Here also are links to a series of Action Points on the various aspects of the game:
We also did an interview with designers Ryan Heilman and Dave Shaw that you can read on our written blog at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2018/09/25/interview-with-ryan-heilman-and-dave-shaw-designers-of-brave-little-belgium-from-hollandspiele/
If you are interested in Brave Little Belgium you can order a copy for $40.00 from the Hollandspiele website at the following link: https://hollandspiele.com/products/brave-little-belgium?_pos=1&_sid=e8b5752cb&_ss=r
The Dark Sands: War in North Africa, 1940-42 from GMT Games
Ted Raicer has designed a lot of great games that have fantastic mechanics. His Chit Pull Activation system used in The Dark Valley has been carried over into a more recent design in The Dark Sands: War in North Africa, 1940-42 from GMT Games which takes a look at World War II in North Africa.
The Chit Pull Activation system is such as great tool for wargames as it allows for the fog of war without hidden units or simultaneous movement. Each of the chits will activate a players’ entire force or only portions of that sides units and will limit what actions can be taken during that turn for say either movement, combat, and sometimes both together but with a penalty because you are shooting on the move. The game also balances out these activations as there are limits on the number of chits one side may play in a row. In the designers notes for the game Ted explained that this limit was typical of the smaller armies and more limited battlefields of North Africa and meant the armies were better able to quickly react to one another’s actions.
Another great element of the game is that it has a focus on the more operational/tactical aspects of the game, which really gives you the feeling of control as a commander. And of course as with all games on North Africa, supply is very important but is streamlined as there are not supply depots or counters to worry about but supply is traced a set distance to a road or trail and then back to a supply source located in a major city or port. Supply is very important and with the chit pull you never really know when the supply chits will be drawn. There are two Logistic Chits where supplies are checked for both sides each turn so you have to be aware of this and try to maintain supply at all times in case the chit is pulled. We also really liked the effects of terrain on zones of control and movement and had a great time trying to decipher the supply/movement code in order to launch effective attacks and make progress toward our goals.
If you are interested in The Dark Sands: War in North Africa, 1940-42 you can order a copy for $55.00 from the GMT Games website at the following link: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-509-the-dark-sands.aspx
Gandhi: The Decolonization of British India, 1917-1947 from GMT Games
We love the COIN Series of games around here and always look forward to the next iteration. Gandhi: The Decolonization of British India, 1917–1947 is Volume IX and delves into nonviolent resistance for the first time in the series.
From the game page we read:
Gandhi takes us to the subcontinent of India, the jewel in the crown of the British Empire, for a detailed look at the final decades of the British Raj. 1 to 4 players compete to determine the future of India; will the transition to home rule be a peaceful one, will India be split apart by partition or civil war, or will it remain firmly in the grip of empire?
Gandhi offers a fresh perspective on the history of insurgency with the addition of a new type of faction to the COIN Series, the Nonviolent (NV) faction, while retaining the multi-faction, asymmetrical, card-assisted system of earlier titles in the COIN Series. COIN veterans will be able to jump right in.
This game is very different from other COIN Series games and adds in some very interesting elements including Gandhi as a leader pawn that moves around the board and incites demonstrations and protests and non-violent factions that don’t try to remove the government pieces. There is a huge focus on the transportation network and trains and we enjoyed the fights that this caused. We still need to give this one some more table time but it is a beautiful and very interesting addition to the COIN Series.
We were able to do an interview with the designer Bruce Mansfield that should give you a good idea about the background of the game.
If you are interested in Gandhi: The Decolonization of British India, 1917–1947, you can order a copy for $81.00 from the GMT Games website at the following link: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-630-gandhi-the-decolonization-of-british-india-19171947.aspx
The Wars of Marcus Aurelius: Rome 170-180CE from Hollandspiele
This year I was introduced to this little solitaire wargame called The Wars of Marcus Aurelius: Rome 170-180CE from Hollandspiele and really have enjoyed the game as I have played it 11 times over the last few months. That’s the good news. The bad? I have only won the game three times….and even though that is the case, I can’t stop thinking about the game and playing it. It is really good!
The Wars of Marcus Aurelius: Rome 170-180CE is a solitaire only game that uses cards similarly to a CDG to simulate the strategic level struggle of the Romans led by Marcus Aurelius to stave off the invasions of Germanic tribes and Sarmatian raiders as they encroach on Roman territory across the Danube River.
That’s the history. And it is really well integrated. The game play is very fun, strategic, with lots of decision points about what to do and what cards to use, and it is really challenging.
Here also are links to a series of Action Points on the various aspects of the game:
If you like a good solitaire game, with great components, that plays in about an hour and is very challenging (code for hard to win), then this one is for you. I fully endorse this game and give it my highest marks for a solo experience. I have shot a review video and a playthrough but Alexander has yet to post it to our YouTube channel.
If you are interested in The Wars of Marcus Aurelius: Rome 170-180CE, you can order a copy for $40.00 from the Hollandspiele website at the following link: https://hollandspiele.com/products/wars-of-marcus-aurelius
Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel, Kursk 3rd Edition from Academy Games
Conflict of Heroes is a fantastic system that simulates really well the difficulties with small arms fire and squad level tactical action during World War II. With Storms of Steel Kursk 1943, lot of new tanks are added to the game and the entire system has been overhauled to enhance the play experience.
In case you don’t know, Conflict of Heroes is a tactical war game of platoon-sized engagements, with each counter representing a squad of infantry, a crewed gun, or a vehicle. The engagements are presented as firefights with different objectives. During a firefight, players use their army’s units to fight for these objectives, which are worth victory points (VPs). The player with the most VPs at the end of the game wins.
Storms of Steel covers one of the largest tank battles in history. German Panzer and Anti-Tank hardware had caught up with the Soviets, allowing the Germans to destroy most Soviet tanks from great distances. But the Soviets countered this advantage with mass production of tanks, which were thrown at the Germans in an attempt to overwhelm them.
Storms of Steel includes 4 new geomorphic map boards (including river, hill, and city overlays), 72 card action deck, hundreds of new units including Tiger tanks, Soviet rockets and strafing airplanes.
Here is a look at our unboxing video so you can get a good look at the components: Unboxing Video for Storms of Steel
If you are interested in Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel, Kursk 1943 3rd Edition, you can order a copy for $80.00 from the Academy Games website at the following link: https://www.academygames.com/products/sos3rded
Interceptor Ace: Daylight Air Defense Over Germany, 1943-44 from Compass Games
Interceptor Ace: Daylight Air Defense Over Germany, 1943-44 is a solitaire, tactical level game which places you in command of a German fighter during World War II. Each turn consists of several days, during which a combat mission will be flown from one of many bases in Europe, attempting to intercept incoming American Bombers.
Interceptor Ace is based on the popular, action-packed Nightfighter Ace game system by Gregory M. Smith with a strong narrative around the pilot as you look to increase your prestige, earn skills, and rise in rank through promotion and receive awards.
The objective of the game is to conduct numerous sorties in the role of a German interceptor pilot and rack up kills. Pilots may use the experience gained to improve their odds of success by purchasing skills. As their prestige increases, they may request a transfer to other fighter bases in an attempt to get “closer to the action” or request a newer type of fighter. Awards and ace status help to narrate the player’s eventual goal – to become the top “Viermot” killer of the war.
Greg Smith is an incredible designer who really knows how to design a good solitaire game as he has put out such titles as Silent Victory, The Hunters and The Hunted. He also is a stickler for research and does a great job including historically accurate elements that get you into the game and the time period.
We were able to do an interview with Greg last year and it contains good information about the design process.
Here is a look at our unboxing video so you can get a good look at the components: Unboxing Video for Interceptor Ace
If you are interested in Interceptor Ace: Daylight Air Defense Over Germany, 1943-44 you can order a copy from the Compass Games website for $75.00 from the following link: https://www.compassgames.com/preorders/interceptor-ace-daylight-air-defense-over-germany-1943-44.html
Front Toward Enemy from Multi-Man Publishing
You know how we love tactical games and also games on the Vietnam War. Front Toward Enemy incorporates both of these in an intense company- and platoon-level game which is focused on the perspective of a company commander. The game uses a fast-playing system that provides the feel and unpredictability of small unit combat.
Front Toward Enemy is a simulation that recreates tactical engagements during the Vietnam War at the scale of 50 meters per hex and five minutes per turn. Units represent fire teams, heavy weapon sections, leaders, vehicles, and helicopters. Eight scenarios with set-up options recreate twelve missions that typified company-level engagements during the Vietnam War, including airmobile insertions, assaults on fortified positions, and classic search-and-destroy operations, among others.
This game has a bit of everything in regards to the Vietnam War and there are rules that cover helicopter gunships, armored vehicles, artillery support, snipers, sappers, civilians, booby-traps, medics, evacuation of the wounded, prisoner interrogation, tunnels, hidden caches, and more.
If you are interested in Front Toward Enemy, you can order a copy for $70.00 from the Multi-Man Publishing website at the following link: http://www.multimanpublishing.com/Products/tabid/58/ProductID/318/Default.aspx
Here are some additional games that are ideal for “Stocking Stuffers”:
Watergate from Captsone Games – a fantastic fast playing 2-player game covering the Watergate Crisis of the 1970’s. One player takes on the role of the President’s camp as they try to intimidate and bully witnesses into not cooperating with the investigation while the other player takes the role of the editor of the Washington Post trying to get to the bottom of the scheme and uncover the truth. A tense back and forth card driven game experience from Matthias Cramer. Here is a link to our unboxing video: Unboxing Video for Watergate
Rifles in the Pacific from Tiny Battle Publishing – we treally liked the first game in this series Rifles in the Ardennes and are glad to see this new version taking the action to the Pacific Theater of Operations. A simple solitaire system recreates small firefights (five to ten units per side) over a wide range of scenarios, including beach assaults, riverbank defense, random jungle patrols, raids on AA Gun emplacements and radio stations, and a campaign linking the missions together. Blind chit draws and die rolls, combined with charts create a simple yet effective artificial intelligence. Here is a link to our unboxing video: Unboxing Video for Rifles in the Pacific
Tango Down: Man to Man Urban Combat from Tiny Battle Publishing – small unit actions in an urban environment with some fun mechanics that come together to create a very interactive and tense game. We really enjoyed playing one scenario and then immediately flipping sides and having another go to experience the difficulties that the other side offered or had to deal with. Another example of a very high quality mini game from Tiny Battle Publishing. Here is a link to our unboxing video: Unboxing Video for Tango Down as well as our video review: Video Review for Tango Down
D-Day Folio Series from Decision Games – 4 separate poly-bag titles taking a look at the D-Day Landings at Normandy during World War II focused on the challenges of each beach with their own game. They can be played individually or linked up to form a campaign game. Each game comes in a folder for easy storage. Games included in the series are Utah Beach: Landing & Linkup, Omaha Beach: Beach to Bocage, Gold & Juno Beaches: Across the Orne and Sword Beach: Onto Caen. Here is a link to our unboxing video: Unboxing Video for D-Day Folio Series