We all have our favorite series in the wargaming world! Sometimes these are some of the first wargames that we played and they just feel comfortable so we keep playing them. Sometimes a respected member of the community has touted them so much that you dive in and feel an instant connection. And sometimes you are just lazy and don’t want to learn a new rule set and just want to play what it is that you know and understand. All of these things are reasons that we love Series Games. There are series out there that specifically speak to each of us and seem to highlight the aspects that we most like about wargaming. But, sometimes we end up shortchanging ourselves due to our loyalty to a brand, genre, designer or system and don’t take chances with other designs. There are many reasons we all play the games we play and there are things I love about familiarity with a series and things that I don’t. At this point in my wargaming life, there are 6 series that I really truly love and will play every game in them. These include the COIN Series, Combat Commander Series and Levy & Campaign Series from GMT Games, the Standard Combat Series from Multi-Man Publishing, Valiant Defense Series from Dan Verssen Games and the States of Siege Series mostly published by White Dog Games and Worthington Publishing. There are others that I love to play for sure but I cannot mention them all as this introductory paragraph would end up being longer than the piece itself. So please come along with me on this look at what I love and hate about Series Games!


First, I love Series Games because I feel like I already know the rules and don’t have to spend an hour or more listening to Alexander read over those rules and trying to figure things out. Having played previous games in a series gives me the head start I need to get a game on the table and played quickly. This comfort with the rules also allows me to get more into the nitty gritty of the system and understand more quickly some of the nuances of play that might be harder to pickup upon a first play of a game that you have never experienced before. I have felt this with some of the more revered series on my list such as the COIN Series. The COIN Series has so much depth that the first couple of plays of any of the volumes in the series is needed to just get comfortable with the mechanics and the concept of “How do I do what I know I need to do?”. After familiarity with the rules and a working understanding about how the different Commands and Special Activities work together, players can begin to build their strategy and have confidence in what they are trying to accomplish. This is something that is a benefit from playing Series Games as they do generally have the same structure and the same rules, or at least the same focus of the rules, and this familiarity breeds a better play experience.

Another great advantage to playing Series Games is seeing how a specific system can be applied to different situations. An example of this is the ‘4X Series from GMT Games designed by Mark Simonitch. This series deals with large scale World War II battles/campaigns but has dealt with very different situations each with their own challenges and unique characteristics. Seeing how the designer tried to address these issues is really fascinating to me and helps me to understand a bit more about some of those challenges. This ‘4X Series has games on the Battle of the Bulge (Ardennes ’44), the Normandy invasion (Normandy ’44), the Allied airborne invasion of Holland (Holland ’44), the German advance on Stalingrad during Operation Barbarrossa (Stalingrad ’43) and most recently the Allied invasion of Italy (Salerno ’43). All of these ‘4X Series games use the ZOC Bond System that allows the games to have lower counter density and greater playability while taking into account large scale invasions and the problems inherent in holding a static line of defense. For example in Holland ’44, there are Traffic Markers which are used to simulate the trouble with Allied tanks and vehicles stacking up on Highway 69 during the initial hours of the battle.

The main event in Holland ’44 is the race of 30th Corps up Highway 69 (affectionately referred to as Hell’s Highway) to attempt to connect with and take Eindhoven Bridge and then on to the more northern bridges over the next few days of the operation. 30th Corps consists of some very powerful armored units, led by Vandaleur’s 2nd Irish Guards battalion, and supported by two equally powerful Artillery units (5 AGRA and Gds Div Artillery) along with a cadre of other support units including Engineers, Bridging units and Motorized Infantry. Their goal is simple, attack and keep moving up the highway, doing all that they can to advance. But, if the Allied player doesn’t do some early planning, like properly over stacking units to allow for Breakthrough Combat and Advance After Combat, they will find themselves in an overcrowded quagmire being clogged up by the infamous German Traffic markers.

Holland '44 Traffic Markers

Single lane roads jammed with lines of tanks, trucks and other vehicles, worked against the Allies and their meticulous plan. This is modeled in the design with Traffic markers. During the Traffic Marker Phase, the German player will be able to place any number of Traffic markers that are located in the Traffic Marker Holding Box. At the beginning of the game during Turn 1, there will be three available markers and they can be placed by the German according to very specific rules. They cannot be placed on or adjacent to another Traffic marker and cannot be placed in a hex north of the advance of 30th Corps.

These markers cause any mechanized unit entering them to increase the Movement Cost by +2MPs. This has the effect of simply slowing down the advance. The markers cannot be removed by the Allied player. Each of the markers are numbered 1-6 and after placement of new markers, the German player will roll 2d6 and remove the appropriate numbered marker according to the dice roll. So, if the German player rolls a 1 and a 4, if Traffic marker number 1 and 4 are placed on the map, they will be removed and relocated to the Traffic Marker Holding Box. At any given time, there will be at least 1 Traffic marker on the road after Turn 1. If the Allies are unlucky, there can be as many as 5 active markers on the board, in the case where all markers are present and doubles are rolled. Then only that numbered marker will be removed leaving the rest languishing on the board slowing down the Allies.

Another aspect of Series Games that I really enjoy is the opportunity to experience the same system but with a new designer’s take on not only the historical battle being simulated but also the system itself. From the point of view of a new designer to a system, I have read where they spend time just getting the basics of the system down and ensure that they are correctly applied from previous games in that series. A new designer coming into an established system is most likely going to have lots of ideas about the theme and mechanics and how it should be applied in the system. I think that the real challenge though is to be able to use those ideas as a start to give rise to interesting dynamics and captivating game play that create a new and exciting experience with the established system. I don’t think that this means lots of change or even large sweeping adjustments, just experimentation that engenders creativity to address problems.

Working with a pre-existing game framework gives designers an established, generally successful and ready-made framework for the creation of opportunities for player decisions regarding how the tried and true mechanics work and how dynamics can be changed or enhanced. Creating an entirely new system is very challenging, especially for newer designers, and relying on an already proven model can create some really spectacular outcomes. An example of this is with Vez Arponen’s take on the COIN Series with All Bridges Burning. Such a unique look at the system that created some really interesting dynamics between the factions and how they interact with not only each other but with the outside powers exerting influence.


Hate is a really strong word but there are some things that can be quite perturbing about Series Games. Nothing that has ever stopped me from enjoying and playing those series but that just give me pause and creates the need for a great level of attention.

One of the things that I really don’t like is the inherent difficulty with keeping the system rules straight with the addition of new exclusive rules as a part of a new entry. The way a lot of the Series Games deal with new topics and battles is to use the base system rules but then add in exclusive rules for the new entry that model the designer’s focus on the historical situation and how that needs to be modeled. These exclusive rules can be quite different from the base system but typically are fairly minor in areas such as attack, objectives or victory conditions.

A good example of this principle is what I experienced with Merrill’s Marauders: Commando’s in Burma, 1943-1944 from Decision Games. This game is a part of the Commando Series and deals with leading covert missions into enemy territory to accomplish objectives and disrupt the enemy. Each game comes with a set of mission cards that define objectives and operations cards that define enemy actions. The games in the series are also defined by their ambush style combat when enemy units are not present on the board during play and only appear as the result of cards. Other games in this series include Long Range Desert Group: Special Operations Against Rommel 1941-1942, Border War: Angola Raiders and Congo MERC: The Congo, 1964.

When setting up, the rules listed the KIA = 4+ in the mission section. This means that I have to have a score of 4 or higher on the KIA track in order to complete the mission. This is much harder than it seems though as you will receive only 1 KIA point for each Japanese unit you eliminate but will lose 2 KIA points for each Commando unit that is killed and 1 point for each unit that is panicked. This is the only part about the design that I had a problem with. Or so I mistakenly thought as this was commentary before and during play, until I realized during my 2nd playthrough, that there was a clarifying rule in the Merrill’s Marauders exclusive set of rules that stated that the Commando system rules would be overruled and that you will only lose 1 KIA on the track for each of your US units that are killed and panicked and will not lose any KIA. This definitely changed the outcome of my games and made it infinitely more possible to win. This was an error that came through the process of using an overarching set of rules for the system while then also having to read and digest the contradiction/exception in an exclusive set of rules for this module. Simple error that was corrected but really could have changed my mind about this Series Game system and whether it was good or not.

One other issue that can plague some Series Games is the staleness that comes from multiple similar volumes. This can happen and has happened for me with several series. I have found that this typically comes because the system is not designed as an evergreen series though and relies too much on ensuring that the same game is created every time with only a token look at or consideration of the elements that make that conflict unique. These type of Series Games become a cash cow for publishers and even designers and there is a great temptation to just continue straight ahead with no deviation because you know the game is going to sell well and will have more future volumes. I get this temptation and understand that publishers are in it to make money, at least enough money to keep the doors open, and it must be really easy to continue to green light projects that you know will sell. This was one of my fears early on with the Valiant Defense Series from Dan Verssen Games. Once I played the first entry in the series Pavlov’s House, I knew that the system worked really well to create a very interesting and engaging experience for the solitaire gamer but I had concerns once more volumes were announced. I wondered if they would just be the same framework with a new title. But, once I played the 2nd volume Castle Itter, I quickly realized that while the system was generally the same the take was totally different. The scale had changed, the conditions had changed and the objectives had even slightly changed. You still had to survive but now you had to make sure that the tennis pro escaped to bring reinforcements as the reinforcements gave you a great chance of success. You also had a cool Sherman Tank (the Besotten Jenny) that was immobile but was really important to suppress as many attackers as possible and was frankly very fun to try and keep protected for as long as possible.

Finally, for the collector in me, I hate feeling a need to get the next volume. I have the desire to be a completionist and collect each and every bit of the series that I like. I just cannot help myself! Whether those volumes are good or not, well thought of or not, even available or not. There are times that I sit on my couch, just looking at that blank space on my shelf in between volumes of a series that I really enjoy and just salivate over the chance to find and acquire that one last game to complete my collection! This was the case with the COIN Series. I had every volume with the exception of Volume II Cuba Libre. Each time I would pass by this section of my collection, I felt the tractor beam of that missing volume. I would ignore those feelings and tell myself that it was good enough that Alexander had a copy and that I could play it anytime I wanted with him. But, that only lasted for so long until one day Alexander presented me with my very own copy. As I placed it on the shelf in its rightful and proper place, I can tell you that I had an immense feeling of satisfaction and frankly felt complete. The desire to collect is real and I am currently in therapy to address this concern….but it isn’t helping!

My complete COIN Series collection with all 10 released volumes!

So I hope you enjoyed my look at the topic of Series Games and felt that my points of both love and hate were insightful. I do really love Series Games and would rather play a great Series Game than a new game any day. Until that is I find that next great series and cannot live without each and every volume! What are your thoughts on the matter?