War has made us what we are today: History by Wargames
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There have been many "history of the world through games" lists. Defining history through only war games is not new either. My hope is to put forth the best war game from each defining era. There are many games for nearly all events and eras in history. Many are good. But my focus is the best war games and major defining moments in history.
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1. Board Game: The Peloponnesian War, 431-404 BC [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:3092]
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The Peloponnesian War: 431 - 404 B.C

One of the first great conflicts that set the world of empires in motion.

The Peloponnesian War from 431 - 404 B.C by Victory Games is not a great game. It is however the best on the subject. The more recent offering in 2006, from Clash of Arms, left one wanting.
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2. Board Game: The Great Battles of Alexander: Deluxe Edition [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:1287]
 
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Conquests of Alexander the Great: 335 BC - 323 BC

Alexander was perhaps the greatest conqueror of all time. If he had not died early, who knows what the world would be like today.

The Great Battles of Alexander by GMT is easily the best game of this era, though it is no small task to learn.
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3. Board Game: Successors (second edition) [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:2393]
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The battles for the remains of Alexanders Empire: 322 - 281 B.C.

The wars over the collapsing empire built by Alexander defined the direction for the ancient world.

Successors, by Avalon Hill, is a terrific CDG that has great historicity and endless replayability. GMT's upcoming re-release will bring this game back into play for another generation of gamers.
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4. Board Game: Pax Romana [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:1687]
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The Rise of Rome: 300 B.C. - 50 B.C.

Rome rises to defeat many worthy foes including Greece and Carthage to become the definition of empire.

There are many very good games that cover this era, as it deserves. Pax Romana, by GMT, offers great components, game play, and replayability while giving all players the opportunity for victory.
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5. Board Game: Britannia [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:540]
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Rise of Britain: 43 - 1066

As the Roman Empire crumbles and falls, the power moves West to England.

Britannia, by Fantasy Flight Games, provides a tense and fluid game depicting the struggling birth of what would become the most far reaching empire in history.
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6. Board Game: Samurai [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:3867]
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Power in the East; Japan: 1336 - 1573

While Europe would take the center stage of world power as the later middle ages evolved, the powers of the east still struggled for position and strength.

Samurai, by Avalon Hill, is a struggle for dominance of the Japanese Kingdoms in Feudal Japan. It has interesting mechanics that give some of the mystery that more modern games create with block games. There is much that happens in the East during this era but I am not aware of games that depict it.
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7. Board Game: Onward, Christian Soldiers [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:4238]
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The first great conflicts of faith: the Crusades: 1095 - 1278

The beginning of the great conflicts of faith between Muslims and Christians.

Onward Christian Soldiers, by GMT, is the best recreation of these conflicts. Allowing for 2 - 7 players with all being engaged gives this game an added appeal.

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8. Board Game: Here I Stand [Average Rating:7.94 Overall Rank:165]
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The Reformation: the second great conflict of faith in Europe: 1517 - 1555.

Martin Luther's posting of the 95 theses on the Wittenburg door started a Catholic / Protestant conflict that would divide Europes religion and politics for centuries.

Here I Stand, by GMT, is expansive and engrossing. It covers not only the military conflicts but the political and religious struggles that defined the times.
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9. Board Game: Thirty Years War: Europe in Agony, 1618-1648 [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:2391]
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Thirty Years War: 1618 - 1648.

This conflict between the old Catholic regime and the rising Protestant powers would devastate Europe and hamstring its progress for years after the wars ended.

The Thirty Years War: Europe in Agony, by GMT, is a very tense game that depicts the intensity of the conflict as well as the devastation that the wars inflicted on the continent.
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10. Board Game: Friedrich [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:469]
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The Seven Years War: Prussia moment in the sun: 1756 - 1763.

The first global war, fought on two continents, that would begin an ongoing struggle for dominance in Europe that would last for nearly two centuries. Frederick would be the first German (Prussian) leader to develop the aggressive and costly German style of warfare that would set the stage for the devastation of the World Wars to come.

Friedrich, by Rio Grande Games, is a unique and intriguing game system that takes some time to adapt to for those of us that are used to hexes and die counters. It is worth the effort. Tension and surprise through unusual mechanics make this era come alive in a new way.
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11. Board Game: Empires in Arms [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:954]
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The Napoleonic Wars: 1805 - 1815

Napoleon rivals Alexander the Great as possibly the greatest conqueror of all time. His aggressiveness and tactical genius nearly bring Europe to its knees.

Empires in Arms, by Australian Design Group and Avalon Hill, is perhaps the grandest of monster games. This game brings all the elements of continental politics and conflict to the table. If you have 100 hours to spend with 6 of your best (or worst) friends, this is the game.
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12. Board Game: Paths of Glory [Average Rating:8.00 Overall Rank:100]
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The First World War: 1914 - 1917

This, the war to end all wars, would only be the beginning of two global conflicts that would end with nearly 50 million dead and not much else changed. The war would be defined by trench warfare and months of carnage with little or no military success.

Paths of Glory, by GMT, brings the WW1 to the table in a way that no other game of this conflict has succeeded in doing. The game is engaging, fast moving, and multifaceted. The scripted malaise that is found in most WW1 games is overcome by the usage of station to station moving and the card driven game system. This allows the game to have replayability and to deviate from history in interesting ways.
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13. Board Game: World in Flames [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:943] [Average Rating:7.50 Unranked]
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World War 2: 1939 - 1945

The Second World War was in many ways the pinnacle of military conflict. New technologies combined with exploding populations set the stage for war on a scale that dwarfed all previous conflicts. Larger armies with more destructive capacity clashed to create more destruction and loss of life than at any time in history before or since.

World In Flames, by Australian Design Group, finds itself in stiff competition for best game for this conflict. Among the options of Third Reich and Europe Engulfed as well as Totaler Krieg and others, WiF has the most complexity and variety while remaining accessible to most gamers. All of these games are monster games with a high learning curve but the scope of possibilities in WiF gives this one the nod.
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14. Board Game: Empire of the Sun [Average Rating:7.95 Overall Rank:741]
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World War 2; the Pacific Theater: 1941 - 1945

For a war of this scale, the Pacific Theater deserves its own entry. This war was fought mainly on the seas but still is defined by its intense land battles and fierce nationalism. This conflict between Japan and the Allies would raise the United States to its position as a global super power.

Empire of the Sun, by GMT, brings this expansive and complex conflict to gaming in an accessible and creative way. It maintains the scope of the conflict while allowing the player to direct the campaign. The tension of the island wars and the urgency felt by the Japanese is well preserved in this game.
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15. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.35 Overall Rank:4]
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The Cold War. The Rise of Communism and its Clash with the West: 1945 - 1991.

This conflict, known as the Cold War, would be the foremost maker of history in the second half of the 20th century. While primarily a clash of ideologies, and never a direct war between it's principal players, the United States and the Soviet Union, this "Cold" conflict would lead to many sideshow conflicts and threaten the existence of humanity itself.

Twilight Struggle, by GMT, brings this diverse and at times bizarre conflict to gaming in a creative and engaging fashion. Adapting the Card Driven System into a game that is not a traditional war game puts it in a class by itself. It is both playable and replayable, and replayable, and replayable.
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16. Board Game: Kremlin [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:851]
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The inside of Communism: 1945 - 1975.

Communism and its clash with the West would define the later half of the 20th century. The inner working of communism would keep it as foreign to the western democratic minds as moon dust is to a star fish.

Kremlin, by Avalon Hill, is not a true war game. But it would not be possible to depict the history of the world without addressing the impact that the rise of communism would have on the world we now live in. To understand the Cold War one must understand the system that is communist political intrigue.
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17. Board Game: Vietnam 1965-1975 [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:1750]
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Vietnam War: 1965 - 1975

The Vietnam War was the conflict that most defined the clash of the Cold War. This conflict taught the world (or didn't but should have) how difficult it is to fight a war in a foreign land over principles that are not held by the populace. This war, more than any other, showed the limitations of the Super Powers and the difficulties of fighting a war that is not supported at home.

Vietnam; 1965 - 1975, by Victory Games is a game that conveys the political and military difficulties of the Vietnam war for both sides. It is a long game, as it should be. The mechanics of the game take a war that is difficult to translate into gaming and make it accessible and replayable.

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18. Board Game: A House Divided [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:947]
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The American civil war was the bloodiest war until that time - but out of it all the USA was strengthened and picked up a isolationist streak that would not die out for seventy five years.

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19. Board Game: The Korean War [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:2162]
Wolfgang Kunz
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Netphen
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I might close the gap in the 50s with this one here...
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20. Board Game: Pax Britannica [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:2445]
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I love this game though it is hard to find 5 players that will take the time to both learn the rules and play the game to completion. It is a good representative for its genre
 
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