Military gaming
November 22, 2005 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend any interesting historical military simulation games for Windows? There's a ton of titles and reviews out there and I can't figure out where to start. I'm not looking for mindless shoot-em-up action but rather an engaging game that draws its substance from real battles or wars (esp. WWII, Vietnam, or Korea) and gets good marks for historical attention to detail. Ground, air, or both.
posted by rolypolyman to Computers & Internet (19 answers total)
Balance of Power. Geo-political strategy.

The original Windows version ran on Windows 1.0 - some claim it may be the only game for Win 1.0 other than Reversi. The link is to a, uh, "customized" version that claims to run under Win 95. I haven't tried it, but the original game was excellent.
posted by GuyZero at 9:07 AM on November 22, 2005

Sorry, I should add, the link is to the 1990 edition, updated from the 1984 (or something) edition I played.
posted by GuyZero at 9:11 AM on November 22, 2005

X-Play mentioned that Rome:Total War was used by The History Channel to simulate battles. More info here.
posted by sexymofo at 9:28 AM on November 22, 2005

Hearts of Iron II is a WWII grand-strategy game. You can play as the leader of any major country. The simulation is very detailed, and there is a lot of historical content, too. All of the research teams that you assign to projects are historical, so if you're playing as the British, you can assign Alan Turing to do some cryptography research.
posted by yarmond at 9:32 AM on November 22, 2005

Heh. I was a play-tester on the original "Balance Of Power".

It's not a military simulation in the slightest. It's strictly a political strategy game that includes a fair degree of brinksmanship, but no actual warfare or battles. You jigger your politics and diplomacy tactics to sway countries in the Cold War battle of words. Several elements of the game are clearly the inspiration for aspectes of the Civilization series.
posted by briank at 9:46 AM on November 22, 2005

I'll second Rome: Total War. There's nothing better IMHO. I know it doesn't fit your time-period and that there is no air battles, but there is seriously no other game that simulates large military confrontations better. We're talking battles involving thousands of individually-rendered 3D warriors. There's a large diversity of armies and factions so it's never really boring. Historically, it stays pretty close to what actually happened and if it isn't close enough, there are plenty of mods including the fantastic Rome Total Realism. And the game goes beyond just military strategy if that is something you like involving family politics, economics and general town management (if you don't like these things you can set it so that the computer controls this stuff, leaving you to just do battle with whomever it is that you want to conquer). Medieval: Total War is also very good and you can get it for about five bucks at video game stores.
posted by panoptican at 9:53 AM on November 22, 2005

Another vote for Hearts of Iron II (now available on the Mac too btw).

Also any game by the same studio (Paradox Interactive) is worth it: Victory, Europa Universalis II (still the best) and Crusader Kings.

Unforunately some of their games are buggy - make sure you grab the latest patches.
posted by schwa at 9:56 AM on November 22, 2005

briank, ok, uh... cold war simulation?

You're quite right - having downloaded the 1990 version and played it for a few minutes, my memory was a bit fogged. But it's still a fun game.
posted by GuyZero at 9:58 AM on November 22, 2005

There's a WWII game that I remember playing that simulated famous battles between the Russians and the Germans that I liked very much too. But I can't remember the title for the life of me. It didn't have much in the way of air battles but the ground battles were fantastic. Not your typical shoot 'em-up. Lots of focus on strategy, terrain, position. Anyone know what I'm talking about (I think it had the words "Road from" or "Road to" in it)?

If we can figure it out, that's another I highly recommend.
posted by panoptican at 9:59 AM on November 22, 2005

Aha, I figured it out... Road to Barbarossa. However, I can't find it for sale/download anywhere online. Which is weird. I found some mention of it in a forum referring to it as an "indie game," if that means anything. It's great if you can find it though.
posted by panoptican at 10:03 AM on November 22, 2005

Rome Total War is excellent. The Barbarian add on pack is great too. I'd heartily recommend both games to anyone looking for a realistic tactical war game (RTS without the unneeded crap). The strategic portion is good too - more fun that playing Civ 4.
posted by schwa at 10:10 AM on November 22, 2005

the matrix games version of steel panthers is free! ... hit the download button to the left

if you want a bigger scale, try looking for a copy of "the operational art of war - century of warfare" ... matrix games is going to come out with an updated version soon

this site is one of the major news sites of this genre ... lots of information there
posted by pyramid termite at 10:12 AM on November 22, 2005

Panopticon; You're thinking of the Combat Mission games by Battlefront. Also some very awesome games. I had a lot of fun with the original d-day game a few years ago.
posted by schwa at 10:15 AM on November 22, 2005

What about Panzer General?
posted by Captain_Tenille at 11:20 AM on November 22, 2005

If you can get hold of it, Flight Commander II on is a turn-based tactical aircraft sim. It covers the time period from the Korean War to the modern day (ish... It is a few years old). It has numerous missions and campaigns covering every air war over this period (and several fan-written scenarios available on the net). I also would recommend any of the Harpoon series which are fantastically detailed sims of Cold War era "blue vs red" naval battles.
posted by longbaugh at 11:20 AM on November 22, 2005

Grand strategic or small-unit tactical? What level of play do you want? Just military, or politics and economics mixed in as well? Narrowing down your likes (and reasons for them) might be a better place to start.

Re-reading your question, though, I'm a little confused. Especially the "ground, air, or both" part. That makes it sound like you're looking more for a simulator than a simulation.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:25 PM on November 22, 2005

If you like board game wargames, you can play many over the Internet with VASSAL. Any era or conflict you like, really. But you'll need to play with a partner.
posted by Yogurt at 1:12 PM on November 22, 2005

I second (third?) Hearts of Iron2. A real time sink, but I love playing the lesser rung countries. Italy is pretty much destined to lose, but it is fun trying to see if you can do a better job than Mussolini (which I have done).

Also Rome Total war is amazing if you want to get down to the nitty-gritty battle simulation level of things.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 2:09 PM on November 22, 2005

I second the game vaguely described in several posts above whose full title is Combat Mission II: Barbarossa to Berlin. There's also a sequel on the same engine called Combat Mission: Afrika Korps. It would take several hundred hours to finish all the missions included in both those games. As far as historical attention to detail, they are authentic on the surface with respect to their graphics and sound design, and ridiculously hardcore under the hood--the game takes into account the angle of the armor plating for each area of each individual model of each tank when calculating damage, for example.

If you order CMBB direct from you get a sweet 200+ page printed manual.

CMBB and CMAK cover tactical gameplay, by the way (one turn equals one minute of game time; games run for 30 minutes of game time, usually). I read that Battlefront is working on an add-on that will handle strategic gameplay while using CMBB's engine to run tactical battles on the fly, but I don't know when that's coming out.
posted by Prospero at 4:07 PM on November 22, 2005

« Older You look like you've been losing sleep said a...   |   Where did Freyja go? Why? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.