My area-impulse games
Sean McCormick
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Philadelphia
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For a long time, I've been attracted to the area-impulse family of games. In no small part, it is because I think they do a fabulous job of naturally forcing players to make scale-appropriate decisions in a way that you don't necessarily see from hex-and-counter games in the same way. A-I games encourage you to move your forces in formations, to keep reserves, and to look at battlefield decisions as a succession of force commitments rather than as maneuvering to count up attack factors here or there. They also very naturally depict urban combat, which is of course where the genre started.

That said, I've been struck by just how many different variations there have been on the basic system, with shifts up and down the spectrum from platoon-level games all the way up to massive operational campaigns like Stalingrad or Normandy. With all that said, let's take a walk through my collection:
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1. Board Game: Thunder at Cassino [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:2772]
Sean McCormick
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The second of AH's four games, but the first one in my collection. The MG rules provided for a nice tactical feel, and it was an interesting design decision to split the map to incorporate both the fighting down in the town and up around Monte Cassino itself. It boasts two excellent smaller scenarios, each of which really encourage a planned approach.

The downside to this one is length. With no sunset die roll mechanism, the campaign game can often degenerate into a tit-for-tat series of small activations as you try to wait your opponent out before delivering your main blow. A game and situation I would very much like to see re-designed at some point in the future.
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2. Board Game: Storm over Arnhem [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:1614]
Sean McCormick
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After enjoying TAC, I went back to grab its predecessor. I confess, SOA never really grabbed me in the same way-- for starters, I had no idea how the British were supposed to defend against armor (that's because I didn't know much about the battle at the time--now I know that they couldn't).
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3. Board Game: Turning Point: Stalingrad [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:1834]
Sean McCormick
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This one really jumped out at me, as I prefer the Eastern Front and the situation detailed--the opening assault on the city--is perhaps tenser and certainly higher stakes than the earlier two AH titles. The map is a work of art, and it introduces the concept of the Sunset Roll to keep the action moving at a fast clip, an innovation that basically all future A-I games will mimic in one form or another. The downside here is that the Soviets have very little punch, so whoever plays them needs to have a particular disposition.
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4. Board Game: Breakout: Normandy [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:1000]
Sean McCormick
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The most popular of the AH A-I family, but also my least favorite. Normandy always struck me as such a dull campaign, which was part of the problem, but I was also troubled by the way in which a system that was designed to model platoon-level urban combat had morphed to cover a large operational topic. I've since come to peace with the elasticity of A-I, but it permanently imprinted my feelings about BK:N.
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5. Board Game: Counter-Attack! Arras [Average Rating:5.80 Overall Rank:11806]
Sean McCormick
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After a long time away from the system, I dipped my toe back in with this Mike Rinella design featured in Battles.
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6. Board Game: Breakthrough: Cambrai [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:4245]
Sean McCormick
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This is the design that really showcased how well the system had developed. You have an unusually interesting situation with a large-scale British attack and a German player who will fall back, build up reserves and then counterattack to try to win back enough areas to skate under the VP wire. Great graphics, and a clean, stable system with some nice rules to reflect the quickly degrading impact of the tanks on the battle.
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7. Board Game: Birth of a Legend [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:8601]
Sean McCormick
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Seven Days always struck me as an interesting battle, but I never picked up On to Richmond or any of the other operational-level depictions of the campaign, so I was happy to grab this one. Plays quickly, gives the Union player the option of trying to smash into Richmond before Jackson cuts in behind him or of fighting the historical phased withdrawal. Plays quickly.
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8. Board Game: Not War But Murder [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:4470]
Sean McCormick
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Had to pick this up in the wake of BoaL. The leader rules don't seem quite as well integrated--Grant and Lee in particular are bizarrely handled when they are on the board--but it's still an engaging game. I've gotten my head handed to me whenever I've played, regardless of side.

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9. Board Game: Operation Battleaxe: Wavell vs. Rommel, 1941 [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:5325]
Sean McCormick
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I really don't care much for the North African campaign, but this seemed like a worthwhile pickup for the price. Has notably different rules from several of the other A-I games, with only a 4 unit stacking limit. It's a tough go for the British, but I've gotten my money's worth from it.
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10. Board Game: Deathride: Mars-la-Tour 1870 [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:6085]
Sean McCormick
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It's a different designer's take on the same A-I system, and it handles a relatively neglected battle in a neglected war (Franco-Prussian). I haven't gotten it to the table yet, but the rules are quite different from your standard A-I fare, with special rules for Chassepot beaten zones and what looks like a fairly different way of resolving combats.
 
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11. Board Game: Circle of Fire: The Siege of Cholm, 1942 [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:7346]
Sean McCormick
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A good game to demonstrate how far the A-I system has come, as it harkens back to Storm over Arnhem but does so with a far cleaner, simpler system that provides a game that can easily be completed in 1.5-2.0 hours. I don't love the graphic choices for the counters, but I've had a good time with this every time I've played it.
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12. Board Game: Kawaguchi's Gamble: Edson's Ridge [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:9762]
Sean McCormick
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I've been looking forward to this one for a long time, as it returns to the tactical roots of the A-I system while covering the largely neglected PTO. The rules are a bit more involved than most of Mike Rinella's recent designs and I don't quite have my head around them yet. Hoping to get this on the table soon.
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13. Board Game: What Price Glory? [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:5926]
Sean McCormick
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This is one that I haven't gotten to the table yet. I'm guessing from its lineage that it hews closer to Storm over Stalingrad in its mechanics than it does the more traditional AH impulse games.
 
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14. Board Game: Last Battle: Ie Shima, 1945 [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:5770]
Sean McCormick
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Adding one more to the list. I haven't had a chance to sit down and push the counters around yet, but I'm looking forward to doing so.
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