The Theme of 2012: The Year of the Block Wargame
Robert B
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Parsons
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I've been gaming since the 1980s and somehow I missed out on the block wargames until recently. Well, in 2012, I've made up for lost time. Below are the block wargames I've played this year.

I've been impressed with Columbia's titles. Many of them have similar mechanics (such as A/B/C combat), yet each title has its own tweaks so that it conforms to the theme of the game. I've tried to highlight a few of them below.


Please add your personal favorites, or ones that I should consider for 2013.
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1. Board Game: Julius Caesar [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:737]
Robert B
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Parsons
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Of course, the theme from this game gives me some extra tilt. This ranks as my favorite for 2012. The event cards are the only thing that prevent this from a perfect "10" in my book. A volcano (Vulcan) appears in Alexandria and causes losses to all units. Ugh. The event cards could easily been designed to fit with the ancient theme (pestilence, instead of a volcano, for example).

Thematic Tweaks: Roads are the factor that limit movement. Leaders can be captured for VP. Key ancient cities are VP targets. Legions must be started in specific cities, but auxilia can be levied anywhere.
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2. Board Game: Caesar's Gallic War [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:5809]
Robert B
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This one is published by Worthington Games. Very asymmetrical sides. Romans have superior units, yet are outnumbered in potential hostile territory.

Thematic tweaks: Native units can switch sides and do so frequently, providing an ever shifting landscape. Roman units must return to their base or pay supply, the German player can initiate revolts, causing the Roman player to constantly have to stomp out fires.
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3. Board Game: Richard III: The Wars of the Roses [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:1274]
Robert B
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It took me a few turns to learn the geography, but that was a small issue. The King and Pretender have different ways to go about their goals - staying the King by avoiding costly battles and protecting heirs or eliminating the heirs/nobles (respectively).

Thematic Tweaks: Treachery rolls and loyalty ratings allow nobles to switch sides. Death of an heir and appointment of a new senior heir. The King is dead; long live the King!
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4. Board Game: Quebec 1759 [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:2079]
Robert B
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Parsons
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Quebec doesn't use the A/B/C rounds of battle, but you setup your units in firing lines. Routing and dummy units are also part of the mix. This game prompted me to research the actual battle. Quebec introduced me to block wargames, and after that I knew I wanted to see more.

Thematic Tweaks: Hidden movement orders, bluffing, Indian hit and run raids, firing lines and try to break the line.
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5. Board Game: Rommel in the Desert [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:1090]
Robert B
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Parsons
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I'm currently engaged in my first session. The game appears to do a good job of modeling stronger German units, yet giving them mobility/supply difficulties.

Thematic Tweaks: Rommel bonus movement, supply cards, bluffing with supply, on-going battle hexes rather than resolve all combat in one turn.
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6. Board Game: Liberty: The American Revolution 1775-83 [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:2178]
Robert B
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Parsons
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The American Revolutionary War can be difficult to properly model on a grand scale. The game that AirJudden and I played featured some strange card draws that really changed the complexion of the game (British drew a large number of supply cards, and they must be on the attack, French didn't come into play until late in the game).

Thematic Tweaks: British rule the seas and can move easily by sea. American units appear throughout the map, while British units (generally) must appear in the Atlantic box.
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7. Board Game: Wizard Kings [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:1793]
Robert B
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I'm more of a historical wargamer, but I found this for a nice price and couldn't resist. With different scenarios and map configurations, this game offers a high amount of replayability.

Thematic Tweaks: Wizards have spells, flying units.
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8. Board Game: War of 1812 [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:2077]
Robert B
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I wanted to get a few War of 1812 games to the table for the 200th commemoration. The War of 1812 also predates the A/B/C battle mode of other Columbia titles. This game only models the Great Lakes region and focuses on the American invasion of Canada. Unlike many other Columbia titles, lost units cannot be brought back.

Thematic Tweaks: Building boats, control of the Great Lakes.
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9. Board Game: Hammer of the Scots [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:309]
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This is my friend Seth's favorite. One of the advantages of this game is that its easy to play in a single sitting. It also has a fairly simple ruleset. He's going to be running a tournament at Gamestorm next year, and has been told by Columbia that they'll support it.
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10. Board Game: Crown of Roses [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:4868]
"L'état, c'est moi."
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One thing I like about Crown of Roses is the combat system has a nice tweak to it in that units use dice of different colours - so a blue die hits on a 5-6 and green die only on a 6.

This allows blocks to keep the same number of dice but use less effective ones as they lose steps. The Warwick unit has a red (4-6) and two blue (5-6) dice at full strength, but goes to two blue and a green after a step loss [this is from memory, so if that's not 100% correct don't waste your time correcting me - it's the point that's important]

I recommend this one. Fun.
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11. Board Game: EastFront II [Average Rating:8.02 Overall Rank:1322] [Average Rating:8.02 Unranked]
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This is my favorite. The European WWII East front. It took me about 1/2 dozen games to be adequate at this. It has a surprising long learning curve, mostly because I had to unlearn the traditional attack and grind approach. It's about maneuver and supply, similar to Rommel in the Desert. After a few games it's easy to play the first six months of Barbarossa in 4 1/2 hours.

When learning the game I really encourage switching sides after each game because you look at the game entirely differently as the Russians or the Germans. Many might not enjoy playing the Russians for the first 6 months of the war, but to me its an interesting puzzle, much more so than the German side.

I favor the strategic scale over the operational scale. This lets me factor in economic considerations, and unit building. One of my favorite games. I've got over a dozen games in, and wouldn't necessarily rate myself a intermediate level player yet.
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12. Board Game: EastFront II [Average Rating:8.02 Overall Rank:1322] [Average Rating:8.02 Unranked]
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One of my favourite games full stop.

I have a slight preference for the first edition because the map is smaller so it makes it easier to play (unless you have a GeekChiq table of course).

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13. Board Game: Strike of the Eagle [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:1385]
Matt Brown
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Covers a lesser known war between Russia and Poland. 10 page manual so it's easy to open and get playing. Fog of war aspect is increased with the order placement giving you one bluff type of order. Cards can be played four different ways so mulligans are hard to come by, but yet you will pretty much play as many as you can so you have to manage how they get played. I know this was on one list for how intense gameplay could be. I saw one comment from a player saying they felt like they needed a drink after playing and probably needed one beforehand.

Also designed in part by Uwe Eickert of Conflict of Heroes fame. Currently ranked #56 wargame. marnaudo's #3 game from 2011. It tied Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan(also should be on your list) but won out in a tie breaker due being 2-4 players and having more scenarios.
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14. Board Game: Asia Engulfed [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:2054]
Judd Vance
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Wichita
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If push comes to shove, I would say play Victory: The Blocks of War instead of Pacific Victory. Both are very similar other than the historical/non-historical aspect. And instead, play this instead for a historical WWII Pacific block game.

This is my favorite block game. It's more complex than Eastfront and Rommel, but it somehow keeps from going too far. It is a logical system, so it is easy to figure out.

The only bad thing is that with our time limitations, we could only set this up and play about 3 turns just to see how it plays. It is a bit clunky in VASSAL unless we did like Hannibal and worked out a system where we played the battles live.
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15. Board Game: Blocks in the East [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:4191]
Wendell
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Yellow Springs
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This big WW2 block game was released just a couple of weeks ago. The map looks cool. Don't have it though I'm tempted.
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16. Board Game: Pax Baltica [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:2814]
Derry Salewski
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Augusta
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I'm really excited to get the GMT edition of this game when it comes out!

A topic that seems interesting, and isn't covered very often.

And the components are pretty.
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17. Board Game: Kriegsspiel [Average Rating:8.07 Unranked]
Timothy Burke
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You forgot the original block game.



edit: forgot the photo
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