Not a Neo-Grog...A True Grognard's Wargame Collection
J.L. Robert
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The generally-accepted origin of the term "Grognard" in a military sense is a reference to Napoleon's Old Guard, campaign veterans from his earliest successes.

Among us wargamers, a Grognard is a veteran wargamer. One who has been playing wargames for years. One who primarily plays wargames.

Grognards generally were known for their grousing and fondness for "the better days." Wargaming Grognards tend to be the same way, complaining about today's wargaming landscape, and reminiscing about "classic" games of yesteryear.

But how true to that standard are the wargaming Grognards? Do they hold up to their own convictions? Do they stick to their words, and keep shelves full of old Avalon Hill, SPI and GDW Series 120 games? Or are wargamers just as much victims of the Cult of the New? And do these new release enthusiasts...these "Neo-Grogs"...appreciate the games of the past?

I took a look at the top rated wargames here, and they tend to be dominated by designs from the past 10 years. Comparing my own, personal collection to this list, I can uabashedly declare myself a "True Grognard," in the purest sense of the term. While a few new wargames dot my shelves, the boxes remain dominated by the crossed A and H of Avalon Hill, the production spiral logo of SPI and the stylized VG of Victory Games.

As proof, I present the Top 25 wargames in my collection, as listed in the GameBrowser as of 12 September, 2008. For the purposes of variety, game systems with multiple entries in the top rankings will only have the highest-ranked game listed, to allow you all to see the variety of games I actually do own.

EDIT: Are You a Neo-Grog? Find out here!
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1. Board Game: Case Blue [Average Rating:8.23 Overall Rank:2236] [Average Rating:8.23 Unranked]
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BGG Rank: 2

I've acquired this a few months ago. But I've yet to get around to it. I've gorged myself on some older wargames, and the queue just hasn't shrunk to where I can digest this monster.

But, as it is a true monster wargame, I am looking forward to taking a leap forward with The Gamers' latest OCS offering.
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2. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.35 Overall Rank:4]
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BGG Rank: 9

Having studied 20th Century History in college, the Cold War is a far more fascinating subject on a global scale for me than a tactical firefight in West Germany.

This title is the latest treatment of global strategy in the Cold War, and I'll admit that it's a decent system, despite my general indifference to CDG's.
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3. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #2 [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:741]
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BGG Rank: 20

Being an ASL completist (as far as AH/MMP publications are concerned), the Starter Kits were my first targets when I chose to return to the game.

This kit might be the most useful for me, as I've had the least amount of experience using ordinance in the game, compared to infantry and vehicles.

Also own:
Advanced Squad Leader (BGG Rank: 55)
Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #1 (BGG Rank: 56)
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4. Board Game: Grant Takes Command [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:2468]
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BGG Rank: 27

I've recently picked this one up, again to complete my collection of a series I already own, the Great Campaigns of the American Civil War series from Avalon Hill and MMP.

Also own:
On to Richmond! (BGG Rank: 71)
Roads to Gettysburg (BGG Rank: 118)
Stonewall Jackson's Way (BGG Rank: 123)
Stonewall's Last Battle (BGG Rank: 142)
Here Come the Rebels (BGG Rank: 153)
Stonewall in the Valley (BGG Rank: 167)
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5. Board Game: Barbarossa: Army Group North, 1941 [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:3307]
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BGG Rank: 49

I WAS going to collect Vance Von Borries' 9-game Eastern Front Battles series from 3W. I DO own the two games he did get published from them, Blitzkrieg in the South and Spires of the Kremlin.

Returning to wargaming 2 years ago, I discovered that this series was the revived campaign by Von Borries to produce a massive series of games to cover the entire Eastern Front. I'm trying to acquire the first and third games of this series, Typhoon! and Barbarossa: Army Group Center, 1941.

Also own:
Barbarossa: Army Group South, 1941 (BGG Rank: 69)
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6. Board Game: EastFront [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:1340]
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BGG Rank: 51

I just dusted off this game about 2 months ago, and am trying to get some play of it in. I'm not a huge fan of block games, but the subject and scope of this one makes it an acceptable game for me. And buckets o' dice is never a bad thing, IMO.
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7. Board Game: Red Star Rising: The War in Russia, 1941-1944 [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:3127]
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BGG Rank: 54

I wanted to see how this would compare to the group of games designed from the Panzergruppe Guderian mechanic of combat units having hidden values until committed to battle. It seems to be a good modernization of the concept. I've yet to put it on the table, however.
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8. Board Game: Silent War [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:1828]
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BGG Rank: 58

I'm always a sucker for a good solitaire system, and this one has received quite favorable reveiws. I'm not sure if that's the Cult stirring the pot, however, as the logistics for this game seem rather daunting. A solitaire game should be a pleasure, not a chore. I'll need to give it more time.
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9. Board Game: A Victory Lost [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:944]
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BGG Rank: 59

Another game that I allowed myself to buy into the hype. While a chit-pull system can be great, I don't think it benefits a game depicting a counterthrust and near-encirclement action. I don't see how so many people think the Germans have such a decisive edge here (as were the initial reviews last year)...they need the pulls to go just right, and to properly guess the Soviet player's thrusts throughout the game, just to keep it close.
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10. Board Game: Up Front [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:374]
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BGG Rank: 62

Ahh...at last, some olde tyme wargaming goodness! A brilliant system, though it may be tough to wrap your brain around, at first. Since my family flew back and forth across country often in the 70's and 80's, I had plenty of courtesy decks of playing cards, and their tuckboxes to keep cards for games like these in great shape 25 years later!
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11. Board Game Accessory: Wings of War: Miniatures
 
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BGG Rank: 66

Not a bad little game. While I'd still prefer to play Blue Max, this one is admittedly more accessible. Plus the miniature aircraft do make for a more visually-stunning game to watch (though I still liked the aircraft counters from the last version of Blue Max, which had aircraft in historical markings depicted).

Also own:
Wings of War: Burning Drachens (BGG Rank: 199)
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12. Board Game: EspaƱa 1936 [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:1693]
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BGG Rank: 70

Now, this newer game is a really good game that I enjoy. Is a great fusion of area movement, block-style combat and card-assisted play.

This is a new wargame I was actually quite eager to obtain. I hope it stays in my rotation for some time.
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13. Board Game: BattleLore [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:253]
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BGG Rank: 75

This game now collects dust for me, along with the Troll and Elemental promo figures I got with it. It over-complicates the Borg system with its magic rules. And the fantasy creatures just don't do enough for me to justify buying the various expansions which, IMO, were overpriced to begin with.

Also own:
Memoir '44 (BGG Rank: 121)
Battle Cry (BGG Rank: 210)
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14. Board Game: Breakout: Normandy [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:941]
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BGG Rank: 98

While I actually prefer its predecessor, Turning Point: Stalingrad, this is still a really good game. The area movement system lends itself well to the terrain of Normandy, 1944.
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15. Board Game: Panzer Grenadier: Road to Berlin [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:3652]
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BGG Rank: 119

I bought Panzer Grenadier games to see how it a more contemporary look at tactical warfare compares to the venerable PanzerBlitz series of games. The command and control rules make for a much more fluid game than the thrust/counterthrust tactics of the Dunnigan design.

Also own:
Panzer Grenadier: Eastern Front (BGG Rank: 187)
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16. Board Game: RAF [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:1719]
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BGG Rank: 151

Quite possibly my favorite solitaire game. A gripping campaign game, nothing is more harrowing in a solo game than cobbling together enough squadrons to cover the Channel approaches from the various German air groups.
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17. Board Game: Hornet Leader [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:2777]
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BGG Rank: 164

Another great solitaire game. Tactical strike aircraft play much differently than a bomber and its crew, and a few games of this gem will reinforce that fact, for sure!
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18. Board Game: Pacific War [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:1741]
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BGG Rank: 171

A mammoth game, yet infinitely more playable than SPI's War in the Pacific (first edition).

I've played a few battles and smaller campaigns, but have yet to sink my teeth in the entire war in this box.
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19. Board Game: The Civil War [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:910]
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BGG Rank: 174

Another great, innovative grand strategy game for its time. The variable leader arrivals made each game varied enough to force players to balance their troop forces carefully.

I could be talked to getting this game played once again. I'll need to re-read the rules after 20 years, but that hasn't stopped me before.
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20. Board Game: Squad Leader [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:473]
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BGG Rank: 186

I'll give the original Squad Leader a different entry, because it truly is a vastly different game compared to its offspring. I was taught the system in high school by a classmate, and that probably helped me catch the wargaming bug more than any other influence.
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21. Board Game: Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:2331]
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BGG Rank: 212

I'm a loyal Axis & Allies fan, though certainly not to the levels as others. But this one kind of left me a bit out of sorts. I don't at all like the Salad Shaker dice box. And the destroyer mix-up was entirely avoidable. The game is okay, but doesn't blow me away.
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22. Board Game: Risk: Star Wars Original Trilogy Edition [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:1820]
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BGG Rank: 213

There's something to moving stormtrooper figures across the galaxy, plain and simple. I wouldn't have bought this game if it weren't for the theme.
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23. Board Game: Britannia [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:541]
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BGG Rank: 214

A great game that I'd love to play more often. The passage of time and history flows with the counters in this game, and it's a great way to teach history to younger players, or those who are unfamiliar with the region's past.
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24. Board Game: World in Flames [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:943] [Average Rating:7.50 Unranked]
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BGG Rank: 219

I've never been able to find opponents to play World in Flames. And it's now been so long, I'd need a long tutorial to get back up to speed on it. Plus I don't know which of the endless line of expansions are considered vital or pointless.
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25. Board Game: Aliens [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:1764]
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BGG Rank: 225

The theme sold me. But the game is actually very fast-paced and enjoyable, as well. Sadly, my FLGS back then never got in the Expansion Set, or I would have that, also.
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