2022 is now complete! Well, it has been for a few months, but now comes the impossible task of distilling an entire year’s worth of gaming down into a list of the 10 games that we most enjoyed. I hate doing this. I love writing about, thinking about and sharing my experiences about the games but hate having to make choices over which is better and which games should even be considered. The first comment I would have is that not all games are the same. Not the same scale, the same play time, the same mechanically or event historically. Each game is unique and in my opinion, all games have something objectively good about them. But, I have to make a list and this is my best effort at doing just that!

In 2023, we played nearly 50 unique titles from 27 different publishers. Some were solitaire only games, some were operational, strategic or tactical scale. Some used counters. Some used cards. Some used wooden bits and some used miniatures. Some were only card games with no other components and some were cooperative. We played a lot of games! And here I present to you my list of the Top 10 Wargames of 2022!

10. A Victory Awaits: Operation Barbarossa 1941 from Multi-Man Publishing

Sometimes good, old fashioned hex and counter wargames are the best! You line up your counters in long lines and attack, pushing the enemy back, having your own forces fall back after an attack, waiting for your opportunity to pounce. And these kind of games on the East Front are always interesting for various reasons. Last summer, we bought a brand new, hot off the presses copy of A Victory Awaits: Operation Barbarossa 1941 from Multi-Man Publishing. The game uses a modified version of the A Victory Lost Series game system. The game tells the story of Operation Barbarossa from the period covering June 22nd to mid-September, 1941. The system was very approachable and the rules were well written so we were able to get up and running very quickly. The system uses a chit-pull to activate different formations and plays very quickly with some hot and heavy action. One of the best parts of the game is that players can decide to play either the full campaign game which contains 3 beautiful maps, or can choose to focus on any of the 3 fronts involved, including Army Group North and their push on Leningrad, Army Group Center focused on Smolensk or Army Group South and its focus on Ukraine. While we didn’t play the game this way, players can also play multiplayer with different players controlling forces on the different fronts and having to communicate and coordinate their attacks to work together.

The best part of the design and the situation is the logistics and supply. As you can see from the pictures below, the landscape is crisscrossed by rail lines that connect to major cities and towns in the Russian countryside. These rail lines serve two purposes. First, they can be used to strategically move reinforcements from the rear up to the front where the action is. They have to be kept open and must also be protected as having these lines blocked by an interloping Soviet counter can cause delays in the German push on Leningrad and time is precious as you only 10 turns to get to your goal in the first scenario.

Second and most importantly is the supply aspect of the rail lines. Supply is always tied back to a rail line and you have to keep those connections protected or risk losing your troops as they sit and suffer attrition each turn while not in supply. So this double edged sword of having to push hard and take risks to get your troops moving ahead for the Germans is complicated by the fact that the Russians also have reinforcements coming in from the rear and can utilize the rail line similarly to move troops ahead to the front. You have to take your time in looking at the situation and making decisions about how to use your security forces to stop Soviet troops before they can threaten your rail lines and supply sources. This is one aspect about East Front games that I do really enjoy and A Victory Awaits does this extremely well while keeping the process simple and understandable.

The chit pull is also well done as some of the formations have multiple chits and can be activated several times per turn. This is especially important for the Germans who have to use their best Panzer units to punch a hole in the Soviet defensive lines and put pressure on them to give up ground or be surrounded and cut off.

Overall, this is a really solid game. Well produced, with good and understandable rules and mechanics that most of us wargamers know by heart. We had a great time playing it and also got into some of the theme as well by listening to Shastokovich’s Symphony #9 as we played.

Here is a link to our unboxing video to get a good look at the components and map:

If you are interested in A Victory Awaits: Operation Barbarossa 1941, you can order a copy for $88.00 from the Multi-Man Publishing website at the following link: https://mmpgamers.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=9

9. Zurmat from Catastrophe Games

Long ago, I was told that if you want the truth you go straight to the horses mouth! Well, in a wargame, the horse is usually a veteran who participated in that war or battle and in the case of Zurmat the designer was there and has a very intersting and unique take on the war in Afghanistan.

Zurmat (named for a district in Afghanistan) is a well designed two-player game played across month-long turns with players trying to achieve their commander’s objectives while always trying to gain control of the peoples’ hearts and minds. Each month/turn begins with a random event, then the Coalition player takes their turn, followed by the Taliban player. Each turn you will take an action and play cards. The game ends when winter arrives. Since winter cards are part of the deck of random events, the exact ending of the game may not be known until perhaps even the last turn of the game.

The really great part about this design is how you take those actions. You cannot just select what you want to do, you have to “pay” for it and as you take an action it goes to the end of the line and the cost is greater than you can afford turn after turn. This represents the command and logistical issues of the war and really creates an interesting experience where players have to really think about their plan of attack.

The game is an area control style game where each side is fighting over the control of tiles that form the map. Some of these tiles are worth more than others and sometimes what you need to do that game is unknown to your opponent and you have to hide your intentions while going for what will score you the most points. You will also draw random soldiers or supporters from a bag and place them and sometimes what you pull has no value and simply act as decoys.

Here is a link to our preview video:

If you are interested in Zurmat, you can order a copy for $70.00 from the Catastrophe Games website at the following link: https://catastrophegames.net/zurmat/

8. Imperial Tide: The Great War, 1914-1918 from Compass Games

Gregory M. Smith is a great solitaire wargame designer! He has designed some fantastic narrative driven solitaire games that nearly every wargamer has played including such titles as Silent VictoryThe HuntersThe Hunted and more recently Nightfighter Ace and Interceptor Ace amongst others. His system just works and because it works he has been able to start from the same point in his designs and simply add new mechanics and gadgets where needed. He has really reached the pinnacle of that solo game hill!

He has also recently started working on designing more traditional 2-player wargames including Pacific TideOstkrieg: WWII Eastern Front and most recently Imperial Tide. We played Imperial Tide this year and had such a fantastic experience that I simply wanted to share my thoughts with you on this game as it was surprisingly good, not that his other 2-player games are not good but they didn’t grab me the same way that his solo games had…..until now with Imperial Tide.

The game uses cards as your currency and these cards are used to activate various stacks found on the board or used for events to bring additional units on the board, move units or gain specific benefits during combat. This strategic level game is very well put together and creates some interesting choices for players as to how they go about fighting the war, what cards they include in their decks by wisely spending their number of points to get the cards they need, and how they use those cards.

The combat is also fairly simple and uses a CRT where you consult the column that includes the number of units you are attacking with and then rolling 2d6 and the consulting the CRT to see the number of losses. Really quick combat resolution that keeps the game moving but most importantly represents the attritive nature of WWI combat and the focus on trenches which absorb the first hit. The game is just so solid and interesting and really was a surprise to both of us.

We posted an interview with the designer Gregory M. Smith on the blog and you can read that at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2020/05/11/interview-with-gregory-m-smith-designer-of-imperial-tide-the-great-war-1914-1918-from-compass-games/

Here is a link to our video review:

If you are interested in Imperial Tide, you can purchase a copy for $50.00 from the Compass Games website at the following link: https://www.compassgames.com/product/imperial-tide-the-great-war-1914-1918/

7. Undaunted: Stalingrad from Osprey Games

In case you are unaware, David Thompson and Trevor Benjamin have created a very unique and interesting tactical scale wargame with the Undaunted Series. Probably their finest collaboration, Undaunted is a card based small squad tactical game that uses deck-building and a modular board with scenarios to tell the story of various historical battles, theaters of war and specific Infantry Regiments. The first game in the series, Undaunted: Normandy, debuted in 2019 and was quickly followed by a stand-alone game called Undaunted: North Africa. With the series success and broad appeal, a third entry was released that would support the first two games in the series that is called Undaunted: Reinforcements which adds cards and scenarios to both Normandy and North Africa along with a solitaire mode. Now the 4th installment in the series called Undaunted: Stalingrad takes the game in a bold new direction using the Battle of Stalingrad as a backdrop. Undaunted: Stalingrad is not just the same old same old slapped together to keep the money train going. This one is a totally new animal that includes some Legacy style mechanics, where conditions and cards change over the course of a campaign. It is also huge, having well over 375 cards, 129 map tiles, 204 various tokens, 4 dice and 4 booklets, including the rules, a German scenario book, Russian scenario book and Campaign book.

I have played many individual scenarios in the Undaunted Series, with a bulk of them coming from Normandy and North Africa. The system does several things really well while other elements of tactical combat are abstracted for game play purposes. But, the thing that this game does really well is it creates tension and angst about decision points during the game. Let me explain. The game is a card game where the players have a small starting deck that they can add to by Bolstering new cards from their Supply into their deck. Each hand has just four cards and there is the opportunity to possibly get a few additional cards in your hand if you happen to draw one of your special leaders called the Platoon Sergeant or Squad Leader who will allow you to Command (or draw) two additional cards to place into your hand for that turn or to Inspire an already activated unit to activate again in the same round. These cards are used to activate your units and you cannot guarantee that you can activate a unit all that often. The only way to improve your chances of activating is by adding cards to your deck and then cycling through that deck to draw them out. So deciding how to build your deck is very tense. The more cards you add of a particular unit, the more effective and resilient it will be, meaning that the card will come up in your draws more often and allow you to use those units more. If you want to concentrate fire from a Machine Gunners team, then bolster all that Machine Gunners team’s cards into your deck so you’ll draw it more frequently. If you want to make a move for an Objective near your A Rifleman, then Bolster copies of that Rifleman into your deck. And this focus of building will have to change throughout the games as objectives are secured and conditions change. I love the deckbuilding and think it adds so much to the design.

The next source of tension is the Initiative bid. At the outset of each turn, players will choose a card in their hand to use during the bid for initiative phase. Each card has a specific initiative value listed in the upper left hand corner. Going first is sometimes very important, based on the current conditions and the objectives of the scenario. It also is important based on the makeup of the other three cards in your hand. I love the fact that you have to choose one of these cards to use for this initiative bid…whether you really care about going first or not. So there are really tough decisions. You might have a hand full of bad cards, such as the space eating Fog of War cards that have no other purpose than to slow you down, but you might also have a hand of great cards that you desperately want to use…but you have to get rid of one. Choices, choices, choices. This is what makes the tension so important.

The other great thing about the design is the campaign or legacy part, where you units will change over time as they are killed and replaced with replacement units who are green and less skilled than their veteran counterparts. The terrain also can change as buildings are bombed or demolished by engineers. Their defensive value and benefit can disappear and all of a sudden your safe position becomes very vulnerable. The campaign system is really very cool as well as it will change based on the outcome of scenarios. During the course of the campaign, players can play through up to fifteen branching scenarios, with each path driven by successes and failures. With over 35 different scenarios in the game, every campaign experience will be different than the one before. Each player in Undaunted: Stalingrad has their own mission briefings booklet, which is really one of the best parts, providing players with a story tailored to their perspective of the battle. We love to read these aloud prior to each scenario and see what the story that is unfolding entails. These narratives lend the game some atmosphere and assist in immersion into the scenario and also give you a bit of insight into what you can expect.

Undaunted: Stalingrad shares the same scale as Undaunted: Normandy where each counter represents a small number of soldiers. The game also excels at creating an environment to reflect the cramped spaces of the Stalingrad battlefield, with real, lasting impacts. The game uses actual locations around 9 January Square as the setting for these scenarios and if you lay out all the tiles you will get a complete picture of the battlefield and see where each scenario takes place.

Undaunted: Stalingrad is just so fresh and so much fun as the players will have to commit to the entire experience to get the full joy of playing.

We posted an interview with one of the designers David Thompson on the blog and you can read that at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2022/12/12/interview-with-david-thompson-designer-of-undaunted-stalingrad-from-osprey-games/

Here is a link to our unboxing video to get a good look at the components:

If you are interested in Undaunted: Stalingrad, you can pre-order a copy for $120.00 from the Osprey Games website at the following link: https://ospreypublishing.com/us/undaunted-stalingrad-9781472852670/

6. Brothers at War: 1862 from Compass Games

Recently, we have been on a bit of an American Civil War kick and Brothers at War: 1862 from Compass Games is a really solid and interesting lighter brigade level game. We had a chance to see this one in the wild at WBC and had a great discussion with the designer Christopher Moeller who has plans to take this series into new directions by covering additional American Civil War Battles.

This is a quadri-game or set of four games, each which features a full-size, 22×34″ game map and cover battles from the year 1862 including:

  • Antietam, 5am-9am, September 17th
  • South Mountain, 9am-6pm, September 14th
  • Mill Springs, 7am-12pm, January 17th
  • Bloody Valverde, 10am-5pm, February 21st

The Command rules are simple and abstracted and combat is also very simple with everything being boiled down to rolling a number of D6’s depending on range and unit firepower and then adding DRM’s for terrain, unit condition, etc. This means there are no combat results tables. A of 5 or 6 scores a hit and then the defending unit gets a numbers of saving dice that deflect hits on a 5 or 6 which is very reminiscent of miniature games. Brigades activate via chit pull, with their units moving and fighting individually. Stacking is limited to two units per hex and the game board has very large hexes that will allow two 3/4” units to fit side by side which makes for easy reference of the counters information.

The game feels light but has a great pacing and the activation element keeps you on your toes as you just never know when and who might get to activate this turn or when exactly the turn might come to an end. We really enjoyed our plays of this one and realized that it is more of a game than a simulation as the mechanics work together to create a fun and interesting exchange with lots of dice and the effect of cards making for some good attacks and some not so good attacks.

The scale also was very refreshing as counter density is on the lighter side but provide some of the crunchiness with formation activations, command range, and the varying types of units including skirmishers, cavalry, artillery and foot soldiers. Lots to like here and I look forward to playing more of this game as well as diving into the future offerings when they are announced.

Here is a link to our video interview with the designer Christopher Moeller at WBC:

Here is a link to our video review:

We posted an interview with the designer Christopher Moeller on the blog and you can read that at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2023/01/03/interview-with-christopher-moeller-designer-of-brothers-at-war-1862-from-compass-games/

If you are interested in Brothers at War: 1862, you can purchase a copy for $79.00 from the Compass Games website at the following link: https://www.compassgames.com/product/brothers-at-war-1862/?sfw=pass1668016536

5. BCS Arracourt from Multi-Man Publishing

I had not played any Battalion Combat Series (BCS) games until we found Arracourt. Part of that was that I was just never really attracted to the system nor the production values of the games. But now that I have played it, I can cay that this was a real wargame. An enjoyable wargame at that. A game that used lots of familiar concepts, along with some that were new, such as the dreaded SNAFU roll, but created a game that was very playable yet meaty enough to fulfill my hunger for a good old fashioned hex and counter game. The combat was not odds based so that was also very different and it was really refreshing to be able to play a system that I feel wasn’t simply a clone of other successful systems out there but that attempted to try some new things and do them in a unique and interesting way.

Finally, I admit that me turning my nose up at some of these venerated and well established systems was not justified and I publicly proclaim here that I am through judging a wargame by its cover. There is still a lot to learn about this Battalion Combat Series and I hope to play other games in the system to compare and contrast them to share with you.

Arracourt is very straightforward even for someone who is a beginner and has no experience with the BCS system like me. The game comes with just one map and most of the scenarios included use only a specific portion of that map. This leads me to believe that Arracourt will serve as a very good entry point and starter kit to the series. Players can cut their teeth on this one while getting comfortable with the rules and system before they attempt one of the larger games in the series. I also feel that the game requires somewhat of a paradigm shift before playing. What I mean by that is really two fold.

First, I really feel that usually these big hex and counter wargames are set in their combat methods, namely focused on odds based Combat Results Tables and counting up combat factors to get the perfect odds, and require a bit of calculation. But BCS doesn’t use a traditional CRT (more on this a bit later) but breaks the combat down into more of a collection of DRM’s based on many factors.

Second, the game also has very low counter density, with the scenario we played having about 30 counters per side on the map at any given time, and stacking limits are just 2 combat units with other counters also allowed such as support units or HQ’s. There are not enough counters here to create the long contiguous line or wall of units that are typical in some of the larger systems, which lends this one to a bit more maneuvering of units to get into good position while using terrain to attempt to isolate and cut off units from supply or to prevent the enemy from doing the same to your units. This created somewhat of a back and forth dance for us that kept my focus and attention and was really quite entertaining. Supply is important to the system but not as focused on it as say the Operational Combat Series (OCS). The players must manage their HQ’s and their combat trains to keep their units in full supply and this becomes somewhat of a different type of dance that sees players cautiously keeping their units in a loose perimeter to prevent a freak breakthrough or run around to get to the back of the formations to take out supply sources and cut off units. I really liked the scale and feeling of this BCS system and had a very good time in trying to learn and understand it and also trying to figure out the best strategies to engage.

I wrote a First Impressions post on the game and you can read that at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2022/08/17/first-impressions-bcs-arracourt-from-multi-man-publishing/

Here is a link to our video review:

If you are interested in BCS Arracourt, you can order a copy for $86.00 from the Multi-Man Publishing website at the following link: https://mmpgamers.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=342

4. Barbarians at the Gates: The Decline and Fall of the Western Roman Empire 337 – 476

I have always loved a good game focused on the Roman Empire. Whether it is the rise of the empire or its fracture and fall, the subject is just truly interesting to me and also makes for a compelling game. When Barbarians at the Gates was announced a few years ago, I knew that I would be interested. The game is a card-driven game for two players set during the final hundred plus years of the Western Roman Empire as the Barbarian tribes in the north, and other climes, came down with a vengeance as they clashed with civilization and carved out their place amongst it. The time period covered in the game is from the death of Constantine the Great (337 AD) to the deposition of the last Western Roman Emperor by Odoacer in 476 AD. The Roman player will command the Roman legions loyal to the failing central authority and those Germanic peoples who have settled peacefully inside the Roman Empire, while the Barbarian player leads Usurper Emperors, and controls the migrations of the savage Germanic peoples, who are the Barbarians at the Gates.

I really enjoyed our play of Barbarians at the Gates! Even though the game was a Card Driven Game, it really felt like a true wargame as stacks were continually fighting and coming into contact. As we played, I truly felt the angst of having to react to the fires caused by Barbarian attacks, raiding and Usurpers turning on me. They were coming from all directions. I truly never felt safe as the Romans and I loved that feeling. It also impressed me that the game seemed to be fairly balanced toward its goal of demonstrating that the Barbarians were at the gates and that the fall of the empire was imminent. But I never felt hopeless. I felt that all I needed was the next great card, or to hold out until the next round. That feeling of just one more turn is a rare thing in a one sided historical simulation but it is real here. The Romans have a chance to hold off the hordes and win, not by total domination of the invaders, but the Barbarians also have lots of tricks to use to make life difficult for the Roman player. A really great back and forth and really well produced as well. Fantastic pre-rounded counters, thick cards, great art and a fantastically multi-colored board. I would recommend this one to anyone who loves the Ancients and want to be tested.

I wrote a First Impressions post on the game and you can read that at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2022/11/08/first-impressions-barbarians-at-the-gates-the-decline-and-fall-of-the-western-roman-empire-337-476-from-compass-games/

Here is a link to our video review:

If you are interested in Barbarians at the Gates, you can purchase a copy for $65.00 from the Compass Games website at the following link: https://www.compassgames.com/product/barbarians-at-the-gates/

3. Salerno ’43: The Allied Invasion of Italy, September 1943 from GMT Games

Mark Simonitch is a pretty amazing designer. He has a talent for distilling conflicts down to a simple, but not simplistic, understandable and playable system that models the important points of its history. This is especially true with his ZOC Bond System more commonly known as the ‘4X Series of hex and counter wargames. The ZOC Bond System is a combination of the traditional concept of a Zone of Control or ZOC with the additional concept of a Bond that extends along the hex spines from one unit to another creating an area that cannot be exploited by enemy units. In a normal Zone of Control, a unit will generate a ZOC in the hexes they are adjacent to that forces enemy units to stop when they enter. These units can on a later turn move through the ZOC, usually with a movement penalty or cost of some kind, and get at non-combat units in the rear such as HQ’s, artillery or disrupt supply.

The main difference with a ZOC Bond is that the area between 2 units that are separated by only one hex is considered to be impassible., with the exception of certain terrain features that will nullify this ZOC Bond. As an added kicker, this ZOC Bond also will prevent free retreats through the area and also will stymie supply from reaching units on the other side of an enemy ZOC Bond. This system is the perfect situation for a low counter density game. Because you don’t have as many units to create a long, unbroken line of units preventing enemy units from getting through, these smaller scale units use their maneuverability, fire power and positioning to create the same effect.

We have played several of the games in this series, including Holland ’44Stalingrad ’42 and now Salerno ’43. We also own, but have yet to play, Normandy ’44Ardennes ’44 and Ukraine ’43. I personally really enjoy this system and find that Mark does a fantastic job with adding the bits and pieces from history, including the historical OOB, and providing interesting and competitive victory conditions. We found this to hold true for Salerno ’43

Salerno ’43 is a well designed game that has a short scenario of 8 turns and a full campaign game of 22 turns. I think that this game is very good and will be one that you can play over and over again until you get the strategies down and can really stretch its legs at that point. But the game plays fast and furiously and was frankly a very good way to spend a Friday evening for 4 hours. If you are a fan of the ZOC Bond System, then this is a no brainer for you as it carries out that system well. If you are wanting to get into that system, this is probably the very best place to start as the situation is a bit more clear as to what your objectives and moves should be and there is a bit of a lower counter density.

The good news is that there are two more games planned that will link with Salerno ’43The Gustav Line (Italy 43′) will take the fighting through Naples, across the Volturno River, and up to Monte Cassino. Anzio ’44 (Italy ’44) will cover the Operation Shingle invasion and the fight at Cassino. Here is a map that can be found on the game page on the GMT Games webpage showing the general locations of the two follow-up volumes. These games are still a ways off though as Mark has been busy with a few other designs.

I wrote a First Impressions post on the game and you can read that at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2022/05/18/first-impressions-salerno-43-the-allied-invasion-of-italy-september-1943-from-gmt-games/

Here is a link to our video review:

If you are interested in Salerno ’43, you can order a copy for $42.00 from the GMT Games website at the following link: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-868-salerno-43.aspx

2. Donnerschlag: Escape from Stalingrad from VUCA Simulations

East Front games have been done to death in our hobby! There are literally hundreds of them. And generally, they are all the same with long continuous lines of units stacked up in gridlock with the German player making attacks up and down the lines and the Soviet player simply sitting there and taking it for hours. There is nothing wrong with this but it is what has become expected on the subject. Each time that we crack out an East Front game, we are ready for this same experience. But occasionally when a game does something that creates a different experience, an unexpected experience, we are very pleased and love trying to understand how the unique take has changed the feeling.

Such was our experience a few weeks ago when we played Donnerschlag: Escape from Stalingrad from VUCA Simulations. Our playthrough was simply exhilarating. We were caught off guard and really didn’t expect this situation to change so much and feel so different. Now I realize that the scale of these game is very different from the scales of most of the other East Front games we have played, but this system and its implementation really created some opportunities for maneuvering of units, used cards in a very unique way that gave some real opportunities to the players and also was based in hard core hex and counter style with a very small CRT that accumulated lots of shifts and a few DRM’s from card play that made each roll seem to be life or death.

Donnserschlag is a two player game which is playable in roughly 1 hour per turn. This means that a full 7 turn game (or 8 if Donnerschlag is called in Turn 4) will take less than 8 hours. In fact, we felt like as we got into the groove of the game and became more comfortable with the sequence of play and combat procedure that turns would be able to be completed in 40-45 minutes on a 2nd play. I do want to point out that this is more of a game than a true simulation and was designed to create a high level of player interaction and replayability.

The historical situation is From December 12 to December 23 in 1942, “Unternehmen Wintergewitter” was in progress. This was the code name for a relief attack by Heeresgruppe Don to free the trapped 6th Army in Stalingrad.

The Axis formations entered with 50,000 men and 250 tanks, while the strength of the Soviet formations was reported to be about three times that. For the enterprise to have any chance of success, the troops in the encirclement had to break out and meet the advancing Axis troops. The breakout had to be precisely coordinated with the advance of the relief troops and was to commence on the cue “Donnerschlag”. The breakout was never ordered and the troops in Stalingrad were never able to be relieved. This sealed their fate.

Players will be recreating this episode, with the Axis side attempting to secretly establish and reach a meeting point, thus effectively freeing the 6th Army, while the Soviet will try to impede such outcome.

We posted an interview with the designer Patrick Gebhardt on the blog and you can read that at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2022/08/02/interview-with-patrick-gebhardt-designer-of-donnerschlag-escape-from-stalingrad-from-vuca-simulations/

Here is a link to our video review:

If you are interested in Donnerschlag: Escape from Stalingrad, you can order a copy for $74.00 from the VUCA Simulations website at the following link: https://vucasims.com/products/donnerschlag-escape-from-stalingrad

1. A Most Fearful Sacrifice: The Three Days of Gettysburg from Flying Pig Games

Over the past few years, Hermann Luttmann has released a new series of games using a new system similar to his famous Blind Swords System to model combat in the American Civil War called the Black Swan System. The first game with this new focus was The Devil’s to Pay!: The First Day at Gettysburg from Tiny Battle Publishing. Then came along a big game, with lots of big maps, and counters called A Most Fearful SacrificeThe Three Days of Gettysburg and it is simply glorious. The game has sold out and Flying Pig Games just completed a 2nd Edition Kickstarter campaign so it should be available again shortly.

One of the reasons for the development of the new system was to allow for larger scale games with lots of units to be more playable and to cut down on the time it takes to play. I know that some of you are groaning at this but to me this is a good innovation that will get larger games back to the table for additional plays. How is this shortening of the game done with out taking out units and formations? The elimination of chit pull, which is a mechanic that I really and truly love but it has been replaced by cards in this one. Also, players will trigger activations by Corps instead of by lower-level formations so it really condenses the game but still provides the tactical decision-making choices by simply requiring the player to determine which of their Divisions will be activated. The necessary Corps Activation, Event and Fog of War cards will be seeded into a common pile and shuffled. Players will draw them just like they pulled chits before. The two keys to this change are that cards take less time to draw off of a pile than it takes to draw chits from a cup and I can put important game information right on the cards. This saves a lot of time not having to look up information in the rules or on the tables. 

The other thing that I liked, and have liked about all of Herm’s wargames, is the inclusion of the three “FOW’s” of war. The best of these is the activation portion and really keeps the game tense while providing some real simulation of the difficulty of command. The Black Swan events are also a really nice addition to the game as they create a great narrative element proper use of them can make or break your efforts. Players can normally choose two events to seed into the deck – the rest of the Event Cards are random. The cool thing about this game is that the Event rules are written right on the card – no looking them up on a separate table. The Fortunes of War are brought about through the variable results that can be achieved on the CRT and Cohesion Test Tables, with players not being guaranteed of any result. It is also built into the “Fortunes of War” marker, which can be used to re-roll any dice roll. Finally, the Friction of War is simulated with the difficulty in units being able to rebuild their strength in the middle of battle and with the “Friction of War” card, which is introduced as the battle wears on (literally). This card will cancel the next card drawn and thus shows the overall fatigue and chaos that results from extended combat.

We have really enjoyed playing the game. We found it to be totally engaging, very interesting with how the chit pull activation has been removed but is replaced by the cards but also beautiful to look at. The map is phenomenal and is probably the late Rick Barber’s finest work. The entire experience was glorious. Now we just need a bigger table to be able to play the entire campaign game of the three days of the battle. Some day. Some day soon. This one is going to be in my Top Games of 2022 for sure and might even vie for the top spot! More to come on this soon!

We posted an interview with the designer Hermann Luttmann on the blog and you can read that at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2021/04/06/interview-with-hermann-luttmann-designer-of-a-most-fearful-sacrifice-the-three-days-of-gettysburg-from-flying-pig-games-coming-to-kickstarter-today/

Here is a link to our video review:

If you are interested in A Most Fearful Sacrifice: The Three Days of Gettysburg, you can order a 2nd Edition copy for $110.00 from the Flying Pig Games website at the following link: https://flyingpiggames.com/products/a-most-fearful-sacrifice

Honorable Mentions:

Each year I feel compelled to tack on some games to this list just because they were so very interesting or dealt with unique settings that I feel are worthy of mentioning.

Kaiserkrieg! The Great War 1914-1918 from White Dog Games

This one is simply fantastic. A solitaire treatment of The Great War using the States of Siege Series model but with a change to a horizontal rather than vertical layout of spaces where enemy forces can build up and perform an “Over the Top” move if you don’t destroy their troops before then. The player takes the side of the Central Powers and must deal with events that replicate the history of the period and the tumult of various revolutions, threats and opportunities. Well done game by Ben Madison that uses chit pull to activate the enemies and cause events. Lots of chaos. Lots of tough choices. Lots of history. And it always seems to come down to the very end. The only draw back to the game though is that it is long, taking 3-4 hours to play through an entire game. Each chit drawn has lots of information and there are always lots of things to do each turn with your very limited actions.

Here is a link to my video review:

Lanzerath Ridge: Battle of the Bulge from Dan Verssen Games

Lanzerath Ridge is a solitaire wargame that takes place on the first day of the Battle of the Bulge December 16, 1944 during World War II. In the game, the player takes control of a small group of American soldiers who must defend against the attacks of German paratroopers and fusiliers. The goal is simple but very difficult as the player has to attempt to do as well or better than the historic defenders by holding the attackers from taking the town of Lanzerath, Belgium to delay the advance of an entire SS Panzer Division. With limited actions each round, the player has to utilize their limited resources to attack the advancing German forces while also trying to accomplish objectives such as denying the Germans their equipment and strategically withdrawing to live to fight another day. The game lasts four rounds and each round has its own Assault Deck from which enemy counters are drawn along with nasty surprises such as mortars and MG42’s. I loved this one and wanted to put it on the list but just couldn’t find space.

Here is a link to a the first part in a 4-part playthrough series where I also offer my thoughts on the game play and strategies as well:

Wars of Religion: France 1562-1598 from Fellowship of Simulations

A very cool and very unique design on a period of history that I don’t know a lot about but that has been gamed in games like Here I Stand and Virgin Queen in some macro aspects. 3-player design where two players start out working together but alliances will switch in the middle of the game and you have to keep on your toes to understand what your victory conditions are and how you might achieve them. Very interesting game that seems to be two games in one with one aspect being the struggle for control of cities and towns but also then a wargame with sieges, battles and forced marches to take out resistance and overtake territory. Very unique card driven game for sure that we really enjoyed playing and would love to take to a convention to get some more plays in.

Here is a link to our video review:

There I am finally done. My list of the Top 10 Wargames published in 2022. I had fun playing them and putting this list together as I got to revisit each of the games and think about why they were included on this list.

Please let me know what your top games of the year were and what you think of my choices.