Great War Games?
October 24, 2010 7:40 PM   Subscribe

What are the best board-and-dice war games? Specifics inside.

My stepson and I have been enjoying War of the Ring. And we've been learning a lot about Gettysburg.

Back in my day, I was a huge fan of SPI's war simulation games, with their elaborate rules intended to recreate a battle or a war accurately. Terrain, units, morale, zones of control, combat results table, I loved all that stuff. I hated Risk with its completely arbitrary rules. I loved Napoleon at Waterloo.

We're both big fans of turn-based and real-time strategy computer games (Civ, Starcraft), but we'd like a board game.

So, two related questions:

What are some great board-and-dice war games in the fantasy genre? Emphasis on really feeling like you're really commanding an army (or a division/regiment/battalion/platoon) in a fantasy world, not just a fun game that pretends to be about a battle.

What is a great Gettysburg game? Great meaning fun, but also an accurate recreation of a civil war battle. (We don't have time for Terrible Swift Sword!)

And what are your favorite dice-and-thick-rule-book simulation war games overall?
posted by musofire to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Axis and Allies for WWII? Careful, it can take HOURS.
posted by Night_owl at 8:24 PM on October 24, 2010

Nthing Axis and Allies. Beware, you WILL become a rule nazi (dur hur) in that game. It gets fairly intense, but crazy fun.
posted by liquado at 9:00 PM on October 24, 2010

the top wargames on BGG is going to be useful

my favorites are: rommel in desert (any columbia game is good or better), europe engulfed, eastfront II, bonaparte at marengo.
posted by paradroid at 9:58 PM on October 24, 2010

For hardcore naval simulation there is the orginal board version of Larry Bond's Harpoon (you might be familiar with the many computer versions of it). IIRC it used by Tom Clancy used it to map out naval engagements for Red Storm Rising and Hunt for Red October.

It can be very tedious as it tries to be hyper-realistic, the companion book that came with it had (has?) the reputation of of having the most accurate specs for all sorts of naval equipment - ever wanted to know what are the odds that an Aegis Cruiser's main radar could pick up a MIG 21 at 100nm out?
posted by cftarnas at 10:06 PM on October 24, 2010

I'm a big fan of the Command & Colors system, which has a good mix of randomness and strategy and is well suited for two players.
  • Ancients is the deepest, but the most complex.
  • Memoir-44 is more streamlined.
  • Battlore sits in between. I like this one best as a beer and pretzels kind of game. (Though, maybe that's not appropriate for a father-son session).

posted by ikaruga at 12:01 AM on October 25, 2010

Battle Cry is the original Command & Colors game, and it's a Civil War game, and it's being re-released in November. Throw in BattleLore or the new variant Battles of Westeros for a slam dunk for this question. All C&C games are loads of fun and very light, but they still feel like wargames.

If you also want something a little bit heavier, GMT's card-driven strategy games such as Washington's War and Wilderness War are fun. See also Hannibal: Rome Vs. Carthage among others.

Still in the 'light wargames for two' genre, two block wargames from Columbia Games are also worth mentioning: Hammer of the Scots and Richard III. You can learn and play through them in one sitting, but they also evoke chit games of the past. And if you like them, Wizard Kings is sort of a kit for building a fantasy block wargame--the scenarios are weak, but the maps, armies, and rules are all there.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 1:42 AM on October 25, 2010

Here's the thing: many of the best pen 'n paper dice-based war games are generally held to have been published by Avalon Hill in the 1960s and 1970s. We're talking Panzerblitz and Panzer Leader, simulating Eastern and Western front armored combat, respectively. Squad Leader does the same for infantry combat. Afrika Corps is a little simpler, and covers Rommel's campaign in North Africa. Wooden Ships and Iron Men is a fantastic simulation of Napoleonic-era naval combat.

These are all similar to Terrible Swift Sword in that they take hours and hours to play. Unless you're running a no-sleep, all-weekend marathon, it's almost impossible to complete any but the smallest scenarios in a single sitting. I mean, seriously, if you're simulating the Battle of Kursk, the largest armored engagement in human history, down to the platoon level, this is just going to take a while.

But they actually made a game called Gettysburg, based on Tactics II, and so should only take 4-6 hours. I think that looks pretty much exactly like what you're looking for.
posted by valkyryn at 4:42 AM on October 25, 2010

I've played a bunch of Avalon Hill games, but lost them to a garage sale. The rules take a little while to work out, but worth it.
posted by mearls at 5:46 AM on October 25, 2010

For the fantasy genre, I would recommend the Game of Thrones board game. I think it's a good game and quite faithful to the books. Although if you're not familiar with them, you may find some of the rules and gameplay arbitrary.
posted by heatvision at 2:36 PM on October 25, 2010

My absolute above all favourite, with a quite high realism factor but still playable (unlike, say, Europa) would have to be World in Flames, 5th edition.
posted by wilful at 5:34 PM on October 25, 2010

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