A Look Back – 2017
While I would love to say that I’m going to play every game I buy…I’d be lying to you and to myself. The reality is that I buy wargames because I love the hobby. Sometimes, that means buying games for the sake of completion of a series or because the topic is one I don’t already own. So, as I look back and reflect on the wargame purchases of 2017, I thought I’d share some thoughts.
Eastern Front Tank Leader
This is one that I bought from a sense of completion and nostalgia. Western Fron Tank Leader was the first tactical WW2 game I ever encountered. My friend Chuck bought it and I was totally blown away by the concept of both geomorphic maps and the cinematic style gameplay. We used to go to a game store that carried wargames called Red Dragon Inn up in Otisville Michigan. It’s still open from what I understand. It was there we saw Advanced Squad Leader and began drooling for a tactical game system. West End Games delivered the fun at a price middle school kids could pay!
Same as above!
Rise & Decline of the Third Reich
This is the second or third time I’ve owned this game for some dumb reason… I buy a copy out of an urgency to play it. I then read through the rules and get ready to play it and something newer comes along and I lose track of the rules knowledge. I then decide I don’t need to play it because there are so many great strategic WW2 games and I sell it. Rinse and repeat for the past 7 years.
Advanced Third Reich
See Rise & Decline of the Third Reich. I sold this one last time in 2008 when my wife and I welcomed our son and I thought, “Let’s free up some space in the closet!”
I had a chance to playtest an Asian history version of this game that dealt with Chinese Dynasties that captured my attention. As a result, I bought this Victory Games classic. One of my goals for 2017 was to complete my purchase of every wargame Victory Games ever released. I was successful in that endeavor and now look to get more of them to table as a retrospective on their nearly flawless history (looking at you Open Fire…).
World War 3 speculative games caught my attention late in 2016 and everyone kept coming back to the GDW Third World War series. As a result, I started hunting and found that there are no bargains in this series. So, when I see one pop up…I snag it. Arctic Front was the first “deal” at around $50 so I snatched it.
Axis & Allies Pacific & Europe 1940
Axis & Allies was my introduction to a meatier wargame than what I was used to playing. The big box back in 1985 was pretty “radical.” So, it stood to reason that I would want to own the latest and biggest edition for teaching my son. I got it all set up, the thing took up both banquet tables I have in my game room and then played a game with my son. I think starting with the base game would have been FAR better…this one takes some time to build up steam and get moving whereas the classic 1942 setup and scenario from the original. See Axis & Allison Anniversary Edition later in this list…
Great Battles of Alexander: Macedonian Art of War
I love SPQR (who doesn’t?) and so I was stoked when this one finally made the cut at GMT and then found its way to my doorstep in early 2017. Like a fool, I wanted to finish up SPQR before I dove into Alexander and it is still patiently awaiting its turn on my shelf.
The Siege of Alesia
I was inspired by my acquisition of Alexander and wanted to get as many of the GBOH titles as I could that I didn’t already own from my SPQR fueled purchasing frenzy around this series. Someday, my goal is to play the various Alesia games out there and see which one I like best and do a lengthier article about my experiences with each. Ancient siege warfare games pique my interest.
The Lamps Are Going Out
My friend Jared and I enjoy World War I titles and after resisting the urge to pick this one up for a while, I bit the bullet and snagged it in anticipation of Fields of Despair and Teutons which I’d also be adding in the near future.
This was sitting on Jared’s shelf and he offered it up to me. It is now sitting on my shelf. Sometimes packaging is all you need to sell a game I guess!
Napoleon Against Europe
Hexasim holds a growing place in my heart. Their titles are beautifully produced and they ship from Europe to my door quickly. Not sure how they pull it off, but it’s incredible. Since I had a hole in my collection around strategic Napoleonic era games, this one fit the bill nicely. I did have some buyer’s remorse though as my FLGS had this one in stock the day after I received it…
Fields of Despair
Got this one to the table in early April and loved the gambling elements of the gameplay. The secret “bidding” on technology and those blasted intercepts/retreats made the game incredibly fun even on the first playthrough. This is one of those games that captures the feel and flow of the topic, but maybe not the specific history. I don’t care either way though because it’s easy to teach, plays quickly, and leaves plenty of room for those moments when you scream in despair or delight.
Teutons!: Assaults on the West 1870-1940 & The Scheldt Campaign
I’ll admit, I was a little nervous buying from Hollandspiele at first. However, with the guidance and reassurance of roughly EVERY person who’s purchased a game from Tom & Mary….I was glad I did.
To The Last Man!
Remember how I said World War I games are a particular favorite for Jared and I? This was one I couldn’t let get away. One split corner on the box and the guy was selling it for next to nothing. How could I pass it up? The game has made it to the setup phase a few times and then hurried back into its box for one reason or another sadly. I hope to get this one to the table in 2018.
1812: The Invasion of Canada & 1754 Conquest – The French & Indian War
I am a sucker for Academy Games and I own 1775 already so these were games of great interest to me. I got these as a part of the 1754 Conquest Kickstarter Campaign. They play quickly while maintaining the incredible artwork and feel. I got 1812 to the table, but for my time I’d rather play GMT’s Mr. Madison’s War. I think the game fails to capture the intrigue of Great Lakes naval warfare in quite the same way as Mr. Madison’s War. I suspect these are titles that my son will enjoy because he can learn and get engaged with in no time.
The Hell of Stalingrad
A few years back on Advance After Combat, I heard a description of this game from Marshall who sold it based purely on his emotional investment in the game’s outcome. I knew I had to have it as well. I waited around for this to be ~$20 and found a copy pretty cheap to make it happen.
Elusive Victory: The Air War Over the Suez Canal, 1967-1973
Jared owned this game and I was looking forward to playing it, but he purged most of his wargame collection because games weren’t getting played. When I found out, I started hunting for this one. Terry Simo’s Bloody April is a favorite of ours and so I wanted to ensure we had this one in the library for when we were ready. With Red Storm coming out…I kind of wish I’d just passed on this one because I suspect Red Storm will eat up our time.
Second World War at Sea Collection
A guy on CSW was selling his Second World War at Sea collection (most unpunched even) and I had to take advantage. I ended up getting Bomb Alley, Midway, SOPAC, Strike South, Eastern Fleet, and Coral Sea for like $100. It was too good of a deal to miss and, at the time, I was listening to the excellent Pacific Crucible by Ian Toll so this checked the box for a game series covering a topic I didn’t have already in the collection.
Next War: Poland
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… The resurrection of the Next War series by Mitchell Land and GMT is one of the best things GMT has ever done. The games are insanely well researched, produced, and the rules are perfect. They are clear, concise, and provide sufficient examples. Moving from eastern conflicts to a western conflict was a big jump and the stakes were certainly high for this game. I got it prepped shortly after Thanksgiving and hope to get it on the table over Christmas.
Pericles: The Peloponnesian Wars
The second in the Great Leaders series from Mark Herman is another example of why I contend that Hex & Counter mechanics represents the Luddites view of the hobby. At this point, enough designers and series have proven that great conflict simulations don’t just cover the battlefield experience. They look at politics, logistics, and strategic interpersonal conflict. I am working on transcribing a great interview with Herman and in it, he talks about his widely recognized expertise on this subject. This is a must own for ancient era fans.
Three Days of Gettysburg
My first hex & counter wargame was Gettysburg: 125th Anniversary Edition. Ever since, I’ve been a nut for Gettysburg games so getting my hands on a sub $200 copy of this classic was a grail moment for me. I’ve been stalking eBay for probably 4 years to try and snipe an auction to get this game at a reasonable price. It finally came true and I’ve been reading the rulebook off and on, but it’s conflated in my head with Line of Battle for some reason. I just need to dedicate the time to this one.
Ace of Aces Series
While putting together a podcast team (hopefully we’ll re-convene after Puerto Rico gets power and stability back) I had a conversation with one of the hosts was encouraged me to check out this series. As we chatted, I looked up the game’s marketplace on BGG and found someone selling their collection of books. As a result, I now have the Handy Rotary Deluxe Edition and Powerhouse Series.
Time of Crisis
Strategic dynastic Roman world game from local Wray Farrell? This was on my P500 from the day it was announced I think. Sword of Rome is such a fantastic game that how could I possibly pass up on another Wray inspired Roman game?
Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-62
The COIN series has become emblematic, for me, of the kind of boundary-pushing that the hobby needs to experience at regular intervals in order to grow. Not just the topics, but also the audience. A quick look at Twitter and Volko’s likes or retweets shows the effect of the COIN series beyond the confines of our hobby. These are games you learn about our modern world from rather than just looking at the history. In Colonial Twilight you get a conflict expert in Brian Train revisiting a topic he’s already covered in a two-player format. Cuba Libre is Jared’s favorite COIN title to date and I’m hoping this will dethrone that for him.
The Last Success: Napoleon’s March to Vienna, 1809
As soon as I learned how much I enjoyed OSG Library of Napoleonic Battles games, I knew I had to snatch up as many as possible. While I hate the flimsy and voluminous player aids, the games themselves are awesome. This one is headed for the table in 2018. I finished up a playthrough of the Borodino battle from Napoleon Against Russia in early November. This purchase set of a flurry of Zucker related purchases.
The 6 Days of Glory
The Struggle of Nations
1809: Napoleon’s Danube Campaign
They say a Zucker is born every day?
Brezhnev’s War: NATO vs. the Warsaw Pact in Germany 1980
Some folks got their noses bent out of shape about this one because of the representation of the OOB for non-American national forces. In particular, the British felt shortchanged. I don’t know and, frankly, don’t care that much about it. The game is, at its heart a battle game about bending not breaking. I’m not sure that the historical accuracy matters overly much for it to achieve that goal and the theme is sufficient to give the design credibility. It’s based on the fear mixed with a dose of reality rather than reality mixed with a dose of jingoism.
Baptism By Fire: The Battle of Kasserine
The Batallion Combat Series from The Games & MMP earned instant respect from me with The Last Blitzkrieg in 2016. Getting a Kasserine game less than a year later was a treat. I’m still messing around with Last Blitzkrieg, so once I’m done with that one I’ll move on to the desert. This series is all about harsh conditions to get started I guess!
The American Revolution in the South
I subscribed to Strategy & Tactics this year along with Modern War as a fulfillment of a childhood promise to myself. In order to get the ball rolling, I purchased a few magazine games and this was one that caught my eye. I live in NC after all!
See above! I packed this one for a Thanksgiving trip to see family and then promptly forgot that I had packed it and the thing remained in my laptop bag instead of getting played…
South China Sea
John Gorkowski is building a great reputation for these games. I was perhaps overly critical of his first release, Breaking the Chains. That said, the game series does a nice job bringing the Victory Games Fleet series into the 21st Century. He’s contending with design issues that just didn’t have to be considered because of the immaturity of weapon platforms and the (pardon my pun) sea change in communications technology since the mid-1980s. As a result, Gorkowski has had to streamline these as neatly as possible, so either you’re going to buy into his tradeoffs or you won’t. I think, I understand them better now and do. What attracted me to this game was the political element the precedes any combat (maybe even prevents it).
Antietam: Burnished Rows of Steel
This game came up in a discussion over on BGG about solitaire American Civil War designs. As a result, I went out to find it since it was a consensus favorite. It sat on my nightstand for a while and posited a question from the cleaning lady, but other than that has stayed unpunched and ready for (pun intended) glory.
This one is mentioned in the rulebook for the Next War series and, as a result, I had to pick it up because it was between the Fast Action Battles on the topic or this one.
I bought Asia Engulfed last year, but couldn’t find a suitable deal on this one until this year. As a result, it waited for a while. I got Asia Engulfed to the table and quickly realized my understanding of the rules was so poor, I needed to go back and re-read them which lead to a new game taking its place on the table in the interim. I’m just not sure if I’ll buy another European strategic level WW2 game again. It’ll have to be of the Unconditional Surrender caliber or better which is going to be a TALL order.
Enemy Coast Ahead: The Doolittle Raid
I blame Ian Toll for this purchase as well. His retelling of the raid was harrowing!
Illusions of Glory
Again, this is purely for the sake of completionism. I’ll probably get it to the table at some point, but it’s low on the priority list right now. I have so many other WW1 games in the queue ahead of it.
Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition
WotC did a re-release this fall of this edition and I bit the bullet. The 1940 Europe & Pacific was just too cumbersome for an 8-year-old. This one, on the other hand, I think will be just right and the fantastic production value on it won’t hurt either.
Saipan: The Bloody Rock
I was reading Their Backs Against the Sea about this battle and was well aware of Starkweather’s involvement. That meant an easy purchase. Hoping to get Guam this Christmas and definitely looking forward to the next installment which brings the action to Europe from the Pacific. I will say though, that I’m impressed with the variety of grand tactical options. I think it can be easy to look at ASL or Panzer Grenadier and think that they’re it. That’s just not the truth and ignores some innovative work that is going on from Starkweather and in the series he has entrusted with MMP GTS.
Rifles in the Ardennes, In The Trenches: Devil Dogs, & Cruel Morning Shiloh
I was again trying out a new publisher for me. Tiny Battles Publishing. I picked up this one along with In the Trenches: Devil Dogs and Cruel Morning: Shiloh to get a broad spectrum of their titles. I have to admit that after cutting Rifles in the Ardennes from the frames, I was impressed. The die cutting sucked, but the component design felt great and the layout for the rules looked inviting. Hoping to get this one to the table in the next week or so.
Across 5 Aprils
Gettysburg…check! This was the last piece of the Victory Games library in my collection. I will probably get this one to the table in 2018 when I do a big Gettysburg rundown on a variety of systems for this blog in summer 2018 to celebrate the 155th anniversary.
Target for Today
Legion Wargames has been calling for quite some time and they were the third new to me publisher this year. I’ve been a boring wargamer only treading in Avalon Hill, MMP, GMT, and Compass in the past. It was eye-opening just how awesome this package was and I keep hearing the siren song as I watch the AARs on BGG for this game. I have B-17: Queen of the Skies, but this is a whole new level of awesomeness.
Tactical Combat Series from The Gamers
Again, this was the third massive collection I spotted someone selling and after seeing the planning phase documents I was hooked. I like the orders system in Line of Battle / Regimental Sub Series from The Gamers so I was pretty sure I’d like this too. I’m not so sure how it plays out in person because I have my doubts about telling my opponent he needs to wait while I re-write orders….yuck! That said, the topics are fantastic and the rules are top notch. Again, this is an innovative approach. It’s just sad to see that we’re unlikely to get further titles outside of a new publisher or some kind of zip-lock bagged edition. I was able to snag a copy of Canadian Crucible: Brigade at Fortress Norrey, Screaming Eagles in Holland, Black Wednesday, GD 40, 41, and 42, Leros, Hunters from the Sky, Matanikau, A Frozen Hell, and Bloody Ridge.
Old School Tactical & Stalingrad Expansion
After seeing the stories about this one I bit the bullet and bought into another tactical series. I am a sucker I guess? The GIGANTIC maps were definitely a selling point for me though. These just arrived during Thanksgiving though so I’ve not even had a chance to do much more than ogle the maps.
Nuts Publishing makes its second appearance on the list with their take on modern urban combat. The topics seemed great and I like the idea of a block design for this style game. Just arrived this week though so I haven’t do anything with it other than wish I had more time to check it out.
Back in stock meant I had to grab it. I think this is something I’ll be keen to take to a friend’s house or use to introduce wargaming. The look and tactile feel of this game is appealing and certainly will be a conversation starter. It’s no wonder that a) it’s selling so quickly and b) that it’s hard to keep the wooden bits in stock! Hollandspiele has emerged this year as one of my favorite publishers.
Supply Lines of the American Revolution: The Northern Theater, 1775-1777
Did I mention Hollanspiele on this list yet? hehe . The exhaustive coverage from Katie’s Game Corner, Mark Herman, and others was MORE than enough to convince me so when this went on sale I snapped it up.
Thunder in the Ozarks
I missed out on the boxed version, but I do have the baggie version. Maybe I can buy a box for it someday, but ziplock versions don’t really bother me to be honest. Especially since my collection has outgrown my game room and now occupies all our upstairs closets, cabinets, and a massive built-in bookshelf in the living room.
Wild Blue Yonder
Coming VERY soon (have my delivery notice from UPS) this one is going to displace the older editions…maybe… The new artwork is flat out gorgeous though.
So…goodbye to 2017 and I am looking forward to 2018! I’ll preview 2018 in another article very soon!